The Los Angeles Lakers shook up the offseason after acquiring star point guard Russell Westbrook. The move quickly elevates the Lakers among the NBA title favorites for next season. However, Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonis issued a strong verbal parting shot directed toward the former league MVP.
Lakers acquire Russell Westbrook
Entering the offseason, the Lakers desired to add a playmaking guard alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
The front office exceeded those expectations by acquiring Westbrook. The 32-year-old immediately helps the Lakers form a Big 3 to construct the rest of the roster around while elevating the team’s NBA title chances.
Westbrook remains one of the league’s best backcourt talents and top players. He’s coming off averaging a triple-double for the fourth time in the last five seasons. However, the move hasn’t been met with complete positive reactions.
Wizards owner Ted Leonsis fires parting shot toward Russell Westbrook
Westbrook’s arrival to the Lakers hasn’t been met with complete excitement as criticisms toward the former league MVP continue to emerge.
Wizards’ owner Ted Leonis added to the chatter as he voiced his displeasure with the 32-year-old pushing his way out, unlike Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin, who recently inked a five-year, $47.5 deal to stay with the team.
“We had a superstar player with the Wizards, he had an opportunity and wanted to be traded to the Lakers,” Leonsis said via ESPN. “And I was dealing with that as we were announcing Alex. I couldn’t help but self-reflect on what a difference it is. Here’s a great player in Russell Westbrook, played in OKC, wanted to be traded, went to Houston, wanted to be traded, came to D.C., wanted to be traded and is now in L.A. He’s an unbelievably great person and an unbelievably great player. But that’s the difference between the NBA and the NHL, I suppose.”
It’s a completely different situation for Ovechkin as he’s spent his entire career with the Capitals, including winning a championship. Westbrook is coming off his first season with the Wizards, playing on a team that is nowhere near a title-contending team.
Yes, it’s hard to look past the fact that this marks Westbrook’s third different team in as many years. However, the star point guard wants to take advantage of his best remaining years to compete for an NBA title. The Lakers offer that opportunity along with the chance to play close to home.
It’s only natural for the Wizards to feel disappointed, but it’s what Westbrook wants at this point in his career.
A promising future lies ahead in Los Angeles
The outside noise aside, it’s hard to ignore the promising potential with the Lakers‘ newly formed roster.
Westbrook’s addition sets the tone while drawing concern due to his playing style and 3-point shooting struggles. However, the front office worked efficiently to add depth, shooting, and defense throughout the supporting cast.
General manager Rob Pelinka brought aboard several proven players on veteran’s minimum contracts such as Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, Trevor Ariza, Wayne Ellington, Malik Monk, and Kent Bazemore. Meanwhile, the Lakers snagged Kendrick Nunn on a two-year, $10 million deal while re-signing promising swingman Talen Horton-Tucker.
Los Angeles possesses a revamped roster with several shooting options and plenty of versatility defensively. Questions will arise regarding the team’s defensive capabilities, but the Lakers are clearly pushing all the chips toward contending for an NBA title next season.
It all sets up what will be an extremely intriguing 2021-22 campaign in Los Angeles.
Contract figures courtesy of Spotrac.