After a disappointing 2020-21 season that was decimated by injuries, Rob Pelinka and the Los Angeles Lakers front office were determined to make a splash to get the franchise back into championship contention. They would make that move on July 29, 2021, when they acquired Russell Westbrook from the Washington Wizards in exchange for Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and their 2021 first-round draft pick.
LeBron James and Anthony Davis had reportedly met with Westbrook beforehand with the three discussing how they were willing to sacrifice in order to work together. And after the Lakers struggled mightily when Davis and LeBron were injured in the previous season, the franchise believed Westbrook would be the perfect addition to help carry the team when the other two superstars were out.
This trade also caused some controversy as the Lakers reportedly had a deal in place with the Sacramento Kings for Buddy Hield. In fact, Harrell opted-in to the second year of his contract believing he was headed to the Kings and Kuzma has also confirmed that he was told he would be traded to Sacramento. But the Lakers ultimately changed course and brought in Westbrook.
Westbrook was coming off an impressive season in which he averaged a triple-double for the third time in four years and helped the Wizards make an unlikely playoff run, showing he still had plenty in the tank. Unfortunately, his return home did not go the way he or the Lakers hoped it would.
The fit between Westbrook, James and Davis never quite gelled together, something that wasn’t helped by injuries suffered by the two Lakers’ superstars. Additionally, Westbrook’s shooting struggles and turnovers did nothing to endear him to his hometown fans with the Lakers crowd eventually booing him at times and the negative reaction did seem to affect Westbrook mentally as he seemed hesitant during different times throughout the season.
The 2022 offseason has been filled with rumors about the Lakers looking to trade away Westbrook, but nothing has come to fruition just yet. If he does remain in the purple and gold, however, Westbrook will undoubtedly be looking to prove the Lakers made the right move in bringing him in.
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