This season’s collapse by the LA Lakers has been placed heavily at the feet of point guard Russell Westbrook. A Los Angeles Times article by Dan Woike and Broderick Turner spoke about what could have been the causes of the disastrous race.
The authors used a quote from an anonymous Lakers staff member, who said Westbrook and coach Frank Vogel got off to a rough start early in training camp. The authors wrote:
“’Russ never respected Frank from day one,’ said a Lakers staffer with knowledge of the situation. exactly the way the NBA plays these days, Russ said, “No, I’m the point guard. Give me the ball. Everybody run. …
“From then on, in training camp, it was over, because now Russ is a fish out of water. He doesn’t know what to do. That’s how it started. “
It was clear from the start that Westbrook didn’t fit in with the Lakers and that trading for him could prove to be a huge mistake. In an opening night 121-114 loss to the Golden State Warriors, Westbrook totaled just eight points on 4-for-13 shooting, with five rebounds and four assists.
The quote showed the fit was already wrong before the Lakers with Westbrook even played an NBA game alongside stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
How much can you really blame Russell Westbrook for?
The dysfunction within the Lakers’ origin spread through the media long before Russell Westbrook put on the purple and gold. The cracks showed up long before LeBron James even signed with the team. They have only been exposed more to the struggles of the team over the past two seasons.
When James signed, Earvin “Magic” Johnson was in the front office, had a scandal with basketball operations, and had general manager Rob Pelinka quit at Magic. Prior to hiring Vogel, the Lakers struggled to find someone to fill the position due to front office issues.
On top of that, Anthony Davis and James have struggled to stay healthy over the past two seasons. This led to them being dropped in the first round last season and missing the playoffs this season. Westbrook was brought in to be insurance if the other stars got hurt. He had a winning track record on his own, but it didn’t work out.
Westbrook still played a part in the Lakers (31-49) falling short of their goals this season. It was evident throughout the season that he wouldn’t change his style of play. That style earned him an MVP award but no playoff success since playing with Kevin Durant. On the contrary, the quote above proved that Westbrook would never change for the good of the team.
Westbrook isn’t the only cause of the Lakers’ problems. Poor roster construction and injuries didn’t help, but his high salary and discomfort with playing a role were still a big part of the problem.