Russell Westbrook is trekking through a disappointing first season with the Los Angeles Lakers. Although his lackluster performance has unsurprisingly diminished his league value, the writing is on the wall that his homecoming is moving toward a close.
However, the Lakers’ pathway toward finding a resolution will be quite challenging given his massive remaining contract, holding a $47 million player option for next season. Those factors have eliminated the New York Knicks as a possible landing spot for the former league MVP.
Russell Westbrook’s homecoming disaster
Westbrook’s homecoming hasn’t panned out anywhere near what he hoped.
Instead, the former league MVP sits as one of the primary reasons for blame for the Lakers’ disappointing shortcomings. His inconsistent performances have underlined his struggles to find comfort playing in his hometown.
Injuries to LeBron James and Anthony Davis have impacted the situation, but Westbrook hasn’t shown the ability to adjust to the role the Lakers need him to play. He’s maintained his headstrong approach of playing the fast-paced style that earned him nine All-Star selections and a regular-season MVP.
Westbrook remains a liability shooting from beyond the arc (29.4%) while he’s hitting at only a 32.8% clip on jump shots, according to Basketball-Reference. As he pushes toward the close of his first campaign in Los Angeles, one possible offseason landing spot remains scratched off the list.
Russell Westbrook can eliminate the Knicks as potential new NBA home
As much as Russell Westbrook is attempting to salvage the rest of the 2021-22 season, the writing is on the wall that his Lakers’ tenure won’t go beyond one year.
However, Los Angeles may have a difficult pathway toward moving on from the star point guard. One potential landing spot has remained out of the picture since before February’s trade deadline.
During a recent interview on New York Times‘ Marc Stein’s podcast, Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer voiced that the Knicks have zero interest in acquiring the former league MVP.
”I pitched the idea to Knicks people time and again going back to the deadline, and they have no interest,” Fischer said. “… Everything I’ve heard is that New York is trying to grow this group as it is and mix and match a few parts and move forward.”
The Knicks’ lack of interest shouldn’t come as a surprise as the franchise hasn’t moved toward expressing a desire to acquire Westbrook. New York would provide the star point guard with a fresh start, but the team doesn’t want to take on his $47 million salary next season.
The Knicks are in rebuild mode, hoping to shift the roster around some to recapture their momentum in the 2020-21 campaign that pushed them to the playoffs. In other words, New York doesn’t view Westbrook as a piece that can move them toward that desired upward direction.
Beyond that, it further underlines how challenging it will become for the Lakers to move Westbrook next summer.
Los Angeles needs the star point guard to be the x-factor
The Lakers made their bed when they traded for Russell Westbrook instead of addressing other areas of roster need.
However, Westbrook’s tenure remains an open book as he can help the franchise reach the playoffs. The pathway will need them to win a pair of play-in tournament games, but the opportunity lies ahead.
Over the last four games, the Lakers have found a strong sense of direction through playing with consistent effort. Westbrook has picked up his play through that, averaging 22.0 points, 9.3 assists, and 8.5 rebounds on 52.2% shooting from the floor.
LeBron James will lead the charge, but the Lakers need strong play from Westbrook to guide the franchise forward. Anthony Davis’ imminent return will provide a significant boost, but it’s the 33-year-old’s chance to prove he can be the x-factor the franchise needs to lift them toward the playoffs and potentially further.
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