Lakers No Longer Seem Sold on Russell Westbrook as He Struggles to Mesh With LeBron James and Anthony Davis

The Los Angeles Lakers have pushed through a tough start, creating doubt concerning their NBA title chances. The Lakers’ inconsistent play has resulted in questions concerning the fit of the revamped roster. The discussion has now pivoted toward star point guard Russell Westbrook‘s future in Los Angeles.

Lakers are working through a tough start

Following a busy offseason, the Lakers headed into the 2021-22 campaign quite aware that a massive adjustment period laid ahead.

Los Angeles has stumbled through the first 28 games, holding a 15-13 record. The sluggish start is attributed to significant injuries impacting the team’s play, while their lackluster play defensively hasn’t helped. James has missed 12 games, leading the offseason additions, especially Westbrook, to take on roles they wouldn’t if the four-time league MVP were on the floor.

Those factors alone have forced the Lakers into a longer process of finding their identity. Los Angeles remains focused on the bigger picture ahead, but it hasn’t stopped the conversation from moving toward possible roster changes centered around one of their new key players.

Lakers no longer seem sold on Russell Westbrook as he struggles to mesh with LeBron James and Anthony Davis

The Lakers’ shortcomings have guided the conversation toward the fit of the revamped roster.

Los Angeles hasn’t had any consistent cohesion, putting the focus on Westbrook’s play alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The former league MVP has predictably struggled to find his comfort as the third scoring option, which is a role he hasn’t played in his career.

It’s led to a report surfacing from Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report that the Lakers have held internal conversations regarding potentially moving the star point guard.

“The trio of LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook simply hasn’t blended as well as Lakers figures hoped, and Los Angeles has held internal discussions on trade scenarios for Russell Westbrook, league sources told B/R,” Fischer said. “But moving Westbrook and the two years, $91 million remaining on his contract does seem unlikely. 

Even if the Lakers held those conversations, it’s hard to imagine the team pulling the plug that early. Meanwhile, the trade deadline isn’t for two more months, while James’ injury struggles haven’t allowed the 33-year-old to develop stronger on-court cohesion.

It’s also difficult to envision another franchise taking on Westbrook’s massive $44.2 million salary. He also holds a roughly $47 million player option for next season, creating significant uncertainty regarding his long-term future. He’s a highly talented player, but the massive financial commitment would be a big ask for any team, especially during the season.

Ultimately, these discussions shouldn’t have much credence regarding Westbrook’s future as the Lakers are still figuring out their identity. The star guard is very much a part of figuring that puzzle out, and his play will be vital in pushing the team toward NBA title contention.

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It’s easy to fall into the narrative that the Lakers may not have the roster to compete for a championship.

The early-season struggles provide the basis for that discussion as Los Angeles isn’t playing like a title-contending team. However, the Lakers are taking progressive steps forward, winning five out of their last seven games.

After posting his 101st career triple-double in Sunday’s win against the Orlando Magic, James voiced that getting more minutes on the floor together will be the most significant factor.

“Continue to log minutes on the floor. We learn each other and we get better and better with one another and obviously, communication is the most important thing, but as you continue to learn each other and log minutes you’re able to do things out on the floor without even saying anything,” James said via Lakers Nation. “You can close your eyes and know where your guys are going to be on the floor. We want to continue to log minutes and continue to do what we need to do and follow the game plan and we put ourselves in a position to be successful.”

The Lakers would have preferred a better start, but it’s a marathon and not a sprint toward the playoffs. There remain 54 games left in the regular season, giving them plenty of time to figure it out.

Contract figures courtesy of Spotrac.

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