Russell Westbrook is Playing With Fire With His Possible Subtle Shot at LeBron James

Russel Westbrook‘s first few months with the Los Angeles Lakers haven’t exactly been smooth. The star point guard has struggled to find his footing back home in Los Angeles, making him a prime target for criticism. All that may have led Westbrook to deliver a potentially unwise subtle shot at LeBron James.

Russell Westbrook is struggling to find his path with the Lakers

Westbrook’s return home hasn’t exactly been a joyous experience.

He has struggled to find his footing in Los Angeles due to his fluctuating role and inconsistent performance. Westbrook is putting up all-around productive numbers, averaging 19.0 points, 8.2 assists, and 8.1 rebounds, but he’s committing 4.5 turnovers per game and shooting an atrocious 29.8% from beyond the arc.

Meanwhile, the Lakers’ ongoing issues have only compounded criticism directed toward Westbrook while creating uncertainty around his long-term future. All those factors may have pushed the star point guard to air a subtle shot at LeBron James.

Russell Westbrook is playing with fire with his possible subtle shot at LeBron James

Westbrook’s brief Lakers tenure certainly hasn’t unfolded how he and the franchise hoped.

Injuries and COVID-19-related issues have played a notable factor, but his play hasn’t had the impact it should have. His struggles, combined with the Lakers’ lack of consistent success, have made the internal frustration more publicly apparent.

After Sunday’s loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, Westbrook let genuine emotion spew out for a second. As ESPN’s Dave McMenamin asked the nine-time All-Star about the “point guard’s perspective” regarding Ja Morant’s play, he scoffed at being asked to give his opinion with that framing.

It isn’t much to go off, but it shows that Westbrook isn’t happy with his role as LeBron James remains the primary ball-handler. The 33-year-old is used to having the ball in his hands. He did experience reduced responsibility playing with James Harden and Bradley Beal, but his time with the Lakers has taken that to another degree.

Beyond that, Westbrook is functioning as a third scoring option for the first time in his career. Although he holds a more prominent spot with Anthony Davis sidelined, that hasn’t led to him finding any consistency alongside James and the rest of his teammates.

Westbrook may not have voiced much, but it’s another instance that points to his unhappiness with the situation. His stock is arguably at its lowest point in his career because of his inability to play effectively alongside James. The frustration is mounting, and Westbrook may soon find himself in a more troubling spot.

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Although the Lakers may have quickly come to realize Westbrook may not be the missing piece, the team likely won’t be able to operate with a clean slate.

The Athletic‘s Sam Amick recently reported that Los Angeles had gauged the trade market for the 33-year-old. However, Westbrook’s struggles, combined with his massive contract, have put a significant damper on trade talks.

“A deal appears extremely unlikely before the Feb. 10 trade deadline, if only because his deal that was once seen by so many as untradeable is such a massive obstacle,” Amick wrote. “But inside the Lakers, it seems, there is some recognition that this hasn’t gone as (James and Davis had) planned.”

Westbrook is in the fourth year of a $206.7 million deal that pays him $44.2 million, and he holds a $47 million player option for the 2022-23 campaign. He will likely exercise the contract option as he may find plenty of difficulty getting a team to commit to that type of salary.

In reality, the Lakers will have to stick with Westbrook for the rest of the season. Time is still on Los Angeles’ side, but the clock is ticking, especially when it comes to the prized offseason addition.

Contract figures courtesy of Spotrac.

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