Last offseason, the Los Angeles Lakers believed acquiring Russell Westbrook would be the big-splash move that would push them back into NBA title contention. However, Westbrook’s return to Los Angeles has been anything but an encouraging experience.
The Lakers are on the brink of falling out of the play-in tournament, leading to the growing expectation that Westbrook will be part of the roster blow-up next offseason. The star point guard’s latest comments further suggest that fate lies ahead.
Russell Westbrook’s homecoming disaster
When Russell Westbrook headed home to play for his childhood team, he envisioned the pairing would result in sustained success leading toward NBA title contention.
However, the situation has failed to live up anywhere near those lofty expectations. The 2017 league MVP has struggled to find his footing in his first campaign in Los Angeles. His inconsistent performance has received significant blame for the Lakers’ disappointing shortcomings.
Injuries to Anthony Davis and LeBron James have played notable factors in the team’s substandard play, but Westbrook’s struggles are hard to look past., The star point guard is experiencing an expected drop in production, averaging 18.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 7.1 assists. Those numbers don’t hid his considerable issues with his shooting, hitting only 29.5% from three-point range while making only 33.2% on jump shots, according to Basketball-Reference,
Westbrook’s headstrong approach to his playing style with the Lakers also hasn’t helped. He’s ventured through stretches where he’s been an offensive non-factor while being unplayable late in games due to his shooting struggles and poor decision-making.
He’s attempted to push through the outside noise to get the Lakers into playoff contention. However, it’s hard not to see the writing on the wall that his tenure in Los Angeles likely won’t go past one season. That’s especially the case after his latest comments.
Russell Westbrook’s latest remarks prove he won’t last the summer with the Lakers
Amid Westbrook’s struggles, he’s received strong criticism from some of the Lakers fan base.
The 33-year-old has pushed back on many instances while trying to focus on helping the Lakers reach the playoffs to keep their NBA title hopes alive. However, there have been stretches where he’s voiced blunt responses that don’t necessarily give off the best tone.
After the Lakers fell to another frustrating loss on Friday to the New Orleans Pelicans, Westbrook voiced that he ignores the crowd.
“I don’t pay attention to this crowd, to be honest,” Westbrook said via Dave McMenamin of ESPN.
The nine-time All-Star has dealt with ridiculous chatter from people on social media, including death threats to him and his family. He has tried to avoid feeding into that noise, but he addressed the matter last month by pushing back at the “Westbrick” name-calling.
Westbrook has struggled to brush aside that dialogue that has led him to lash back a few times through the media. He may say he ignores the crowd, but his comments over this season demonstrate otherwise.
If anything, his comments showcase that he has moved past his breaking point with the fan base. In his brief Lakers stint, his reputation has taken a significant hit.
The homecoming hasn’t been what he hoped, and departure looks to be what will get his career back on track.
Lakers remain focused on the playoffs
As easy as it is to look beyond the 2021-22 campaign, the Lakers have an uphill battle ahead.
Los Angeles has five remaining regular-season contests. They are sitting a game behind the San Antonio Spurs for the 10th and final play-in tournament spot. Their remaining schedule is brutal, facing the Denver Nuggets (twice), Phoenix Suns, Golden State Warriors, and Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Lakers’ play-in tournament fate is out of their hands as they need the Spurs to falter. Regardless of what lies ahead this upcoming summer, Westbrook holds the chance to help push his team to the playoffs.
Los Angeles needs plenty to work in their favor, but playoff aspirations remain possible.