The first few months of the 2021-22 season for the Los Angeles Lakers have been filled with frustration. The Lakers are playing far from a team with a realistic chance of vying for an NBA title. It’s led to significant criticism dumped upon Russell Westbrook as trade chatter is becoming a massive part of the conversation. The star point guard has now responded sternly to the outside noise.
Russell Westbrook is struggling to find his path with the Lakers
When the Lakers acquired Westbrook, the hope centered on him becoming the missing backcourt piece that could lift the franchise into NBA title contention.
The nine-time All-Star has put up all-around numbers, averaging 19.0 points, 8.2 assists, and 8.1 rebounds. However, he is committing 4.5 turnovers per game and shooting only 29.8% from beyond the arc. His failing outside shot combined with his often poor decision-making in late-game situations has only further compounded the Lakers’ issues.
All that has amounted to ever-increasing trade chatter around him, leading him to deliver a firm response.
Russell Westbrook fires back against Lakers trade rumors affecting his play: ‘I never worry’
As the Lakers continue to fall south down the standings, Westbrook remains the primary target of criticism.
It’s guided the conversation over to his long-term status with the franchise, especially as the trade deadline is sitting less than a month away. Westbrook’s name is routinely tossed around the rumor mill, but it hasn’t led to substantial chatter.
In a recent interview with The Athletic‘s Sam Amick, Westbrook voiced that he’s accustomed to the constant chatter while stating that it doesn’t impact his performance.
“I never worry,” he fired back. “Do the job. Be professional. Every year, my name is in trade (rumors). It never, never, never seeps into how I approach what I do. It’s kind of what I was mentioning back there (during the press conference). I see this game so different (in terms of) how to use it to be able to impact things
“Regardless of if (a trade) did happen or if it didn’t happen, nothing’s going to change my mentality or my purpose. I feel like I have a purpose that’s bigger than basketball and I always keep that as my forefront regardless of what happens inside of pro sports.”
Since Westbrook’s trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder, long-term stability hasn’t been one constant as he’s playing for his fourth team in as many seasons. The nine-time All-Star has routinely brushed away at the notion that the outside noise is affecting him, but his inconsistent production suggests otherwise.
His struggles to provide reliable scoring coupled with turnover issues have made him an offensive liability, especially as of late. Westbrook isn’t one to add more to the outside criticism by letting his performance speak for itself. Until his play drastically improves, the criticism and trade chatter will remain.
Lakers are lack significant trade interest for Russell Westbrook
The trade chatter around Westbrook isn’t entirely outside noise as the Lakers have explored their options.
Los Angeles reportedly attempted to engage in talks for three-time All-Star Ben Simmons, but the Philadelphia 76ers quickly shot down any interest in acquiring the former league MVP. Meanwhile, a recent report from Amick stated that a deal to move Westbrook is “unlikely” due to his massive remaining contract.
The 33-year-old is in the fourth year of his $206.7 million deal that pays him $44.2 million and holds a $47 million player option for the 2022-23 season. He will likely pick up the last year as it may become difficult for him to get a starting salary in his next contract.
All that points to the Lakers riding the rest of the season through with Westbrook in what could be a career-altering stretch ahead.
Contract figures courtesy of Spotrac.