Right as the final buzzer sounded after the regular season finale for the 2021-22 season, it was reported that Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel was going to be fired. A season that had lofty expectations with Russell Westbrook, LeBron James and Anthony Davis blew up right in front of their faces.
It was clear after one season that these three stars could not co-exist with one another due to varying play-styles. Lakers fans expected the front office to move off of Westbrook at some point during the summer, but nothing materialized.
As training camp neared, it felt like deja vu with another subpar roster surrounding three max players. New head coach Darvin Ham had to try to make things work with his stars and to start the 2022-23 season, Westbrook was the starting point guard.
Westbrook and the team struggled mightily to begin the season, so Ham had to make an adjustment. He moved the 6’3″ guard to the bench to play a sixth-man role and essentially run his own unit when James and Davis were resting. That led to some improvements, but ultimately it still was not good enough as the Lakers held the 13th seed in the Western Conference when they traded Westbrook at the deadline.
Now that time has passed and people can look back on how that portion of the season went, former Lakers guard Patrick Beverley chimed in on that move and seemed to not be a fan of Westbrook come off the bench, via Gil’s Arena:
“They should’ve started me, Austin [Reaves], [Russell Westbrook], [LeBron James], and [Anthony Davis]… All the beef about Russ, maybe none of that happens… It’s ways that you have to operate your team without over-managing it, or over-coaching it. Sometimes you just have to put the dominoes out there.”
“I thought it was. I thought it was bad for Russ. He was the heartbeat of the team.”
Regardless, it’s clear that the Lakers needed to move on from Westbrook at the deadline and they eventually did that when he was traded to the Utah Jazz, where he would get bought out and sign with cross-hall rivals, the Los Angeles Clippers. The Lakers would go on to put pieces that fit around James and Davis, translating to a Western Conference Finals appearance. Beverley was another player they traded away at the deadline.
That season-and-a-half were the dark days for Lakers fans, but it is relieving to know that the team is back in contention this upcoming season.
Early expectation is Christian Wood will come off bench for L.A.
Rob Pelinka has had a masterclass the past few months with the trade deadline and free agent signings this summer. He’s added onto to that by coming to terms on a deal with center Christian Wood, who will provide a dynamic offensive punch for the team. With some uncertainty on if Wood would start or not, it seems that the expectation is he’ll be coming off the bench for the Lakers similar to Westbrook last season.
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