Russell Westbrook‘s homecoming with the Los Angeles Lakers hasn’t exactly gone as planned. The star point guard has struggled to help elevate the franchise toward an encouraging trajectory, with questions arising around his long-term fit. Westbrook’s path to the Lakers sits rooted in an unselfish promise made to LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Russell Westbrook is struggling to adjust with the Lakers
Westbrook’s brief tenure in Los Angeles hasn’t unfolded anywhere as hoped.
The Lakers are sitting at the bottom of the Western Conference playoff picture after splitting their first 48 games. Westbrook has struggled to find his footing despite his all-around production, averaging 18.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 7.7 assists.
The 33-year-old has struggled with decision-making, especially in late-game situations, while shooting 29.3% from beyond the arc, marking the fifth-lowest percentage of his career. Westbrook’s shortcomings have led trade chatter to emerge, but his massive contract will likely keep him in Los Angeles.
The conversation has also unearthed how he pushed his way to the Lakers in the first place.
Russell Westbrook’s unselfish promise convinced LeBron James and Anthony Davis that he could fit in with the Lakers
Westbrook’s path to the Lakers is well-documented as he played a big part in pushing the Washington Wizards to allow him to move.
However, it went much further than that as the former league MVP went to extra lengths to convince LeBron James and Anthony Davis that he could fit into the mix. ESPN‘s Ramona Shelburne recently detailed the process, stating that Westbrook persuaded James and Davis that he could do whatever was necessary to help the franchise win an 18th NBA title.
“Statistically and individually, Westbrook told them he felt he’d done everything in his NBA career,” Shelburne wrote. “All that was left to accomplish was win a title. And doing so in Los Angeles, where he could see his family every day, meant so much to him at this stage in his life.”
Westbrook’s comments come after averaging a triple-double for the fourth time in the last five years. He has also become the league’s all-time leader in triple-double performances. His numbers speak for themselves, but his words made it clear he wants to put that aside to become the third option behind James and Davis to vie for an NBA title.
Beyond that, Westbrook voiced that he would lean on the four-time NBA champion if things became rough.
“He’d never played with someone as accomplished as James and was excited to learn from him,” Shelburne wrote. “If things got rough, he’d lean on him.”
It comes to no surprise that James played a significant part by internally pushing the Lakers to trade for the nine-time All-Star. Los Angeles moved off a potential deal for Buddy Hield to acquire Westbrook.
The 33-year-old got what he wanted by garnering his teammates’ trust to play for his hometown team. The pressure is on him to figure out how to make it work.
Russell Westbrook must play a pivotal part in the Lakers’ playoff push
As frustrating as the first few months have been for the Lakers, the team is trekking forward, with Westbrook serving as a pivotal piece to their NBA title push.
Meanwhile, Anthony Davis’ return gives Los Angeles a significant boost as he will anchor their defense while providing the offensive firepower they have lacked. Although Davis scored only eight points in 25 minutes played in Tuesday’s win over the Brooklyn Nets, he showed plenty of encouraging signs.
The eight-time All-Star showcased tremendous activity defensively with four blocks while his pair of alley-oop dunks exemplified that he’s back physically.
James continued his offensive tear with 33-points, marking his 18th straight game with at least 25 points. Westbrook filled the gap with 15 points and six rebounds.
The Lakers may have cruised past a shorthanded Nets team missing Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, but the win demonstrated what the Los Angeles’ big three could be capable of if they remain healthy.