When the Los Angeles Lakers brought in Russell Westbrook to form a Big 3 alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the hope was that he would be the missing piece to a championship.
Now that a full season has gone by though, things obviously played out differently as Westbrook’s play underwhelmed and James and Davis both missed significant time due to injury, resulting in the Lakers missing the playoff altogether.
With the season coming to an end, the Lakers now must figure out what is best moving forward, whether that be keeping Westbrook for another year and hoping better health and a new coach will change things, or trading him, which will be no easy task given his large $47 million expiring salary for next season.
Speaking during his exit interview, James says he has started thinking about potential moves that can be made this summer, but those decisions will ultimately not be up to him.
“It’s human nature to automatically start thinking about the roster and what it could look like and how we could obviously have a roster that brings in more wins. That’s the most important thing. That’s the job that we in,” James said.
“I’ve started to think about it a little bit, but it’s not solely on me, obviously. We definitely want to be better. We want to be better next year and that’s the most important thing for the summer.”
When asked about Westbrook specifically, James again emphasized that decision will not be up to him and he will play with whoever is on the roster next season.
“I mean that’s not my decision. It’s not my decision to sit here and say ‘this is who we should bring back on the roster.’ That would be the front office’s decision and obviously I may have some input, but at the end of the day like I said earlier, they will make the decision that they feel best suits this franchise going forward. Listen, if I come back and that’s the team, and whoever the team is, I’ll be ready. If you [Dave McMenamin] want to dust off your orange Syracuse jersey and you happen to be on the roster, then you, me and Austin Reaves will get some things done. We’ll figure it out, let you take a charge here and there.”
As far as where James, Davis and Westbrook failed as a Big 3 though, James believes it came down to health, which leaves open the possibility of running things back next season.
“I think the areas where I saw that we could complement one another is Russ being the push guard that he is being able to create tempo, me being the wing threat on the run and then AD being a lob threat. I thought that we could every successful in that and then also with our length and defensive prowess too, we could be really good.
“At the end of the day, the reason why we were night very good together is because we weren’t on the damn floor together. That is the No. 1 thing. You guys know, how many games did we play together? We played 21 games, that’s a fourth of the season. I played more games with my high school teammates in a season and we only played 27 games. So there it is.”
To conclude, James emphasized that he enjoyed playing with Westbrook and is sorry that things didn’t work out in their first season together.
“I don’t put any expectations on anything,” James said. “It’s all about coming in and putting in the work and go from there. One thing about Russ that I love and I will always love is his competitive spirit. What he brings to the game every single night and when you are in a profession where so many injuries happen and so many things go on and to have a guy that’s reliable and put on a uniform every single night, that’s something I respect out of everything.
“I’m not going to sit here and make decisions for the front office and things of that nature, but I love being a teammate with Russ. It’s just the way it is.”
James will defer to front office this summer
It’s no secret that the Lakers front office has collaborated with James when building the roster the last few years, specifically when making the Westbrook trade.
While he will still give his opinion when asked, it sounds like he plans to defer to them a bit more this summer compared to previous years.
“I think the front office is going to do whatever it takes to have this ball club become a better ball club from top to bottom,” James said. “They ask me my opinion, I give my opinion but at the end of the day, they’re going to the decision they feel is best for the franchise and it’s my job to make sure I’m ready at the start of training camp and ready to lead the franchise and lead the team that’s put on the floor whoever that may be.
“That is my focus. My focus is get rid of some of these injuries. Time heals all, so wait for these injuries to go down and then be ready in September when training camp starts again. And it’s my job to lead the group of guys that the front office has decided that will be part of this franchise.”
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