I’ve never seen a player in my 25 years of watching NBA basketball get mentioned in more trade rumors than Russell Westbrook, yet he remains a Los Angeles Laker as training camp nears and based on the packages that have been thrown around for Russ I’d much rather just give it another shot with him than to bring over Buddy Hield and Myles Turner who yes would be better complimentary pieces to LeBron James and Anthony Davis but neither player really moves the needed for the Lakers in a Western Conference which will be a bloodbath this upcoming season. Starpower counts and Westbrook brings that along with LeBron and Davis, anyone who followed the Lakers closely last season could see that when Russ,LeBron,and Davis were on the floor together it brought back memories of LeBron’s Heatle days when Wade,Bosh, and Bron himself were a triple threat every single night.
I like what Darvin Ham has preached about Westbrook, he sees Westbrook has the tools to be an adequate defender and he’s not jumping over the Empire State Building any longer like he did in his Oklahoma City Days but he can still get his head over the rim just ask former Jazz center Rudy Gobert who was a victim at the rim when Russell attacked it like it owed it some money in a game at Staples Center last season. There has been friction in the past between Russell and newcomer Patrick Beverley but it will be rather enticing to see how head coach Darvin Ham juggles both Patrick and Russ together through out games, they could really be two ferocious pitbulls in the backcourt defensively and be arguably the best defensive backcourt in the league next season if they both put winning ahead of their personal egos.
Surrendering both the 2027 and 2029 draft pick attached with Russell Westbrook isn’t going to net the Lakers anything that would improve their title chances unless Kyrie Irving grows sick of Kevin Durant in Brooklyn by the trade deadline and wants out. Westbrook deserves a second chance, Frank Vogel never really gave him a chance last season and benching him out of the blue definitely did not help matters. Anyone who has watched Russ his entire career in the NBA knows that he plays better and becomes more and more engaged throughout a game when he has the vote of confidence from his head coach. In Westbrook’s lone year on the Washington Wizards he single handedly practically carried them to the playoffs after a slow start in the first half of the 2020-2021 season and ramped it up to 2017 MVP Russ mode putting up 30+ points,10+ rebounds, and 10+ assists like it was nothing.
Mike D’Antoni had to switch up the Houston Rockets’s starting lineup in The Bubble to cater to Westbrook’s skillset. They ran a ultra small-ball lineup with PJ Tucker at the center position and provided Westbrook enough 3 point shooting to keep the floor spaced out for him. Ultimately they lost at the hands of Westbrook’s current teammates LeBron and Davis but the point is Westbrook was successful in Houston and Washington. He’s played with some great players throughout his career all the way from Durant to Beal,Harden,Melo, and George but it’s a whole different experiment with LeBron and Davis being that he never was asked to take a backseat or sacrifice like he has to in Los Angeles now. Some feel the solution is for him to become a 6th man and have him play more with the Lakers young unit of Bryant,Brown Jr,Toscano-Anderson,and Walker while others just want him boycotted out of the NBA but I believe he should continue to start and allow new head coach Darvin Ham to put him in the best position for him to succeed.
Russell Westbrook has been League MVP,scoring champion,won all-star game MVP’s,made 1st Team All-NBA, and has started in all-star games. He’s accomplished everything a superstar in the NBA could accomplish he is just in Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony territory, both former superstars who lit up the NBA but never quite made the sacrifices needed in order to win a championship. In a league were Giannis,Curry,Durant,Luka,Kawhi,Embiid,and Jokic are competing for titles LeBron at this point in his playing career needs to play on a team where if he takes a breather, he can trust that the team can stay afloat until he returns to the floor and I believe Westbrook and Davis were capable of providing that it was just short lived due to Davis being in and out of the lineup making building any sort of rhythm practically impossible. Like they say it’s not the car but the driver and Frank Vogel had no clue how to drive Russell Westbrook last season, maybe Darvin Ham is the coach who can unlock all of Westbrook’s features and help him raise a shiny gold trophy for the first time next June? Stay tuned Russellmania has just begun.