When the Lakers initially traded for Russell Westbrook, hopes were high that he would be able to help the team make another championship, although some questioned the fit. That hope quickly faded, as it was quickly realized that the team would struggle that season. After many issues, the Lakers failed to make the playoffs.
Westbrook is a former league MVP and averaged a triple double four seasons in his career. He is clearly a future Hall-of-Famer. He is really good at basketball. When you are that good, the fit shouldn’t really matter that much.
Still, there was a hope that Russell Westbrook would eventually fit into the Lakers’ system. There is still a chance that could happen, but the chances of him ever fitting in with the Lakers seem more like fantasy than reality at this point. Here are two major reasons why Russ will no longer be able to fit in with the Lakers.
Lack of Continuity
Westbrook is the type of player who needs some time to get used to the team around him. We saw this on nearly every team he played with; two examples in particular were his seasons with the Rockets and Wizards. Once he figures it out, he shines individually, and that can often help his team win lots of games late in the regular season.
That is why we often see Russell Westbrook start to pick things up after the All-Star Break. In fact, during his season with the Wizards, he helped lead the team to the best record for the second half of the season and led them to the playoffs.
The reason why that never happened with the Lakers is that there was no continuity around him. The lineup was changing all season, either due to players not living up to expectations or injuries. The biggest issue was that the stars did not play enough games for Russ to get used to playing with them. Anthony Davis missed 42 games last season.
He is a key part of the way the Lakers play. Even LeBron missed more games than ideal. When two players who completely change the shape of the team miss multiple games, it is at least understandable why Russ wasn’t able to get into a rhythm. He needed to constantly adjust to new lineups.
The problem is that there is no reason to believe the lack of continuity is going to stop. Anthony Davis often struggles to stay healthy. There will inevitably be more injuries. It just isn’t a great recipe for a team with Russell Westbrook on it.
On top of that, the Lakers are openly trying to trade Westbrook, and he knows it. That will certainly affect his mindset heading into the season.
Speaking of what will be on Russell Westbrook’s mind this upcoming season, money is going to be a major factor. Whether players admit it or not, money is always a factor in the NBA. Being an NBA player is their job, and for that reason they want to make as much money as they can before they retire.
Russell Westbrook will earn $47 million this upcoming season, but his situation after this season is in jeopardy. There have been rumors that if Russ were to end up on another team besides the Lakers, he would struggle to earn another opportunity to play another game in the NBA.
Think of the Carmelo Anthony situation a few years ago; when he refused to take a lesser role, he eventually found himself without a job for a whole season.
Obviously, Russell Westbrook does not want this to happen to him. But Russ would rather prove his value than sacrifice his minutes and opportunities on the floor. Expect Russ to take as many opportunities he can this season to try to prove that he is still deserving of a solid NBA contract.
The reason that could become an issue is that if Russell Westbrook focuses on himself, that could come at the expense of the success of the team. Russ has been accused in the past of putting individual success over team success. Whether or not that’s true, if there was ever a season for Westbrook to put himself first, it would be this season.