When the Los Angeles Lakers traded for superstar point guard Russell Westbrook to form a “Big 3,” with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, all the oohs and ahhs and possibilities of what they can accomplish were talked about on every news and sports outlet.
— Gregory A Crawford (@ASinGleWordLPG) September 28, 2021
What many fail to realize is that Westbrook will be making the biggest sacrifice going to the Lakers and joining a duo that’s already won a title together.
In addition, the uber confident Westbrook may not have a realistic view of exactly where he ranks among the games elite at this juncture in his career.
Espn & SI ranked Russell Westbrook 29th & 33nd??? 😂 i dont wanna hear s**t this season about having a super team when the Lakers win it all pic.twitter.com/yhswGMHI09
— David Portillo (@D_Portillo_0) September 24, 2021
Developing Championship Chemistry
One thing for certain is that the Lakers aren’t HIS team. He’s a significant piece of the puzzle but Russ must figure out how to fit into the Lakers’ championship system.
Prior to the trade there were rumored meetings between the potential “Big Three” in L.A. Westbrook was born and raised there and has always said he’d love to play for his hometown Lakers.
When the Wizards came to him about a possible trade, Westbrook told them that he’d love to go home, but if not he’d be content with staying in D.C. He was dealt for Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
Can Russ Shine As Third Option?
This move can work, but it’s going to take Westbrook toning down his game and becoming a third-option — something he’s never been in his career. He will need to do what James Harden did when the Nets traded for him last season.
Upon arrival, no one knew just how a Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden trio could or would co-exist.
After a few games of experimenting, it was clear that the team ran better with Harden handling the ball and setting up the offense while KD and Kyrie hunted shots and scoring opportunities.
Another factor is Harden’s efficient and innate scoring ability from many spots on the floor.
The beard's got his dancing shoes on 💥
Another MVP season loading?
— NBAIndia (@NBAIndia) September 27, 2021
Westbrook can score but he’s nowhere near as efficient as Harden is.
In fact, teams at times completely disregard him at the three-point line, something you’ll never see them do with Harden.
Also Kyrie and Durant are range shooters, which keeps the floor spaced for Harden’s downhill drives. On the other hand, AD and ‘Bron do their best work around the rim or about 15-17 feet from the basket, which is where Westbrook operates best as well.
A possible dilemma awaits the Lakers as they try to fit Westbrook in.
Frank Vogel The Chemist
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel will have his hands full trying to get a guy like Westbrook — who believes he’s the best player on the floor no matter who else is out there with him — to conform and become a facilitator.
"I think when you are authentic to who you are, everything will fall into place."
— Religion of Sports (@religionofsport) September 29, 2021
Just ask Kevin Durant. When he and Westbrook starred in OKC together, the Thunder were marred by bad shot selection and late-game mismanagement by Westbrook.
How will LeBron handle it when they have disagreements and Russ tunes out ‘Bron?
That’s the stuff no one is talking about, but personality conflicts are highly plausible as this Lakers team which features new players like Dwight Howard, DeAndre Jordan, Carmelo Anthony, Malik Monk, Kendrick Nunn, and Wayne Ellington, tries to mesh.
The game plan is for Westbrook to wait until ‘Bron and AD go to the bench for a breather and that will be Westbrook’s time to hunt for buckets.
However, we won’t believe that Westbrook can make those adjustments until he actually does it. Westbrook’s never been chastised by a coach for his style of play and has never shown any desire to tone it down, so it’s a stretch to think he can switch his game up as dramatically as Harden did with the Nets.
The Western Conference is loaded, but how Westbrook handles being a third option will go a long way in determining how this entire conference unfolds in the 2021-22 NBA season.
If he wants to win that elusive championship, which is the only thing lacking from his stellar NBA résumé, he’ll have to be willing to accept a secondary role.
It sounds feasible in the offseason and in practice. If this were a video game, the Lakers would be unstoppable.
Carmelo Anthony says Lakers not winning title would be like Team USA losing in 2004 Olympics https://t.co/1YNvmTlPq2
— Kurt Helin (@basketballtalk) September 30, 2021
But this is real life, and it remains to be seen if Westbrook is even willing to adjust his game once the arena lights come on in the city that raised him.
He only knows one speed and that’s 100 mph. He only knows one way to play and that’s with his heart on his sleeve.
"You see 8 and 24 and I know he is looking down…I’m going out and playing for him and through him as I compete in this uniform”
– Russell Westbrook on Kobe and wearing the Lakers uniform pic.twitter.com/F8b0F1iiYK
— Kobe Highlights & Motivation (@kobehighlight) October 1, 2021
The Lakers have big plans this season, and their success starts and begins with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The key to a championship run, however is Westbrook and how he fits his emotions and skill set into the Lakers’ overall team goals.