The Los Angeles Lakers sent expectations skyrocketing when they brought Russell Westbrook to partner LeBron James and Anthony Davis in the summer of 2021.
Despite many concerns over Westbrook’s fit with the Lakers, fans and analysts initially seemed convinced L.A. would be competitive in 2021-22. But the opposite turned out to be true, as the Lakers ended the season with a 33-49 record and failed to qualify for the playoffs.
Although Westbrook, James, and Davis only played together in 21 games due to injuries, the three stars seemingly lacked chemistry when they shared the floor. And Lakers legend Magic Johnson told The Athletic’s David Aldridge that he thinks their failure to make the Big 3 experiment must be “driving them crazy”:
“See, we, you had expectations, right? Everybody was saying the Lakers, with Russell (Westbrook), man, we’re talking about NBA Finals. We’re going to be one of the favorites. So, it’s definitely got to be driving them crazy — it should be driving all three of them crazy. Because we didn’t meet those expectations. We failed. Now it’s, what are we going to do to make sure it doesn’t happen next season? To your point, which is the biggest point, who’s going to lead that effort, coaching-wise? And then, so once a coach is in place, what are we going to do now about the roster? It’s really important that they get the right person, and then make, hopefully, the right roster moves. We know it can’t be a lot, but it can be something. I guess they’ve got to make those decisions.”
Many Lakers greats, including Johnson, publicly criticized the Purple and Gold for their uninspiring performance in 2021-22. In January, the 62-year-old tweeted “we deserve more than a lack of effort and no sense of urgency” after L.A. suffered a blowout 133-96 loss against the Denver Nuggets.
Johnson thinks only the right coach can make Westbrook work on Lakers
The Lakers are yet to make a decision on Westbrook’s future with the team. Recent reports suggest L.A. still prefers to part ways with the 2017 NBA MVP, although the franchise’s leadership reportedly asked head coaching candidates during interviews how they would utilize the guard next season.
If Westbrook eventually remains with the team, Johnson believes only the right coach can make him work on the Lakers.
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