Despite endless trade speculation around Russell Westbrook, the LA Lakers have publicly backed the point guard to return to his best next season. Both general manager Rob Pelinka and coach Darvin Ham have said all the right things in support of the embattled 2016-17 MVP.
Rob Guerra of Fox Sports Radio, however, said the Lakers’ move is nothing more than a weak pretense of what’s really going on. Here’s Guerra on the Straight Fire podcast:
“It’s clear that the Lakers have been lying to us this entire offseason. …Darvin Ham has done a slew of podcasts and media interviews where he said that he’s committed to making Russell Westbrook work alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis, that he’s excited to work with him.
“If you read Chris Haynes' report, none of those things that they listed as the four key factors for the upcoming season sounds like they have any intention whatsoever of making it work with Russell Westbrook.”
Yahoo! Sports' Chris Haynes came out with a report on a meeting between LeBron James, Klutch Sports’ Rich Paul, Ham and Pelinka. The quartet outlined four critical things the Lakers must do to bounce back next season.
Those points were competitiveness and cohesion, accountability and selflessness, Ham’s authority to bench players and the offense running through Anthony Davis. Guerra said that none of the points support the idea that the Lakers want to keep and make Westbrook work.
The FSR producer said that Westbrook gets more credit than what he deserves when it comes to being competitive. He noted that the triple-double king refused to do his part, particularly on defense, to help the Lakers stay competitive.
Here is what he said about accountability and selfless points that will be major goals:
“There is nothing selfless about Russell Westbrook. … Russell Westbrook, according to Second Spectrum, Cleaning the Glass, pick your favorite advanced analytic website, does not set ball screens.
"And that may be one of the most selfless things you can do in the NBA, because there's no guarantee once you set the screen, you’re gonna get the ball in any capacity. When Russell Westbrook does not have the ball in his hands, he does next to nothing. When’s the last time you saw Russell Westbrook flash back door?”
Guerra’s arguments are based on the premise that the nine-time All-Star will refuse to adapt to the Lakers’ new strategies.
Darvin Ham’s task to change Russell Westbrook may be too much to ask
Westbrook’s career has largely been defined by his incredible versatility, nuclear athleticism and stubbornness. While his athleticism and ferocity have taken a step back, his stubbornness has made his miserable fit with the Lakers more glaring.
Westbrook’s versatility isn’t also going to stand out in the Lakers’ system, where he’s practically the third wheel on offense. He isn’t the primary playmaker, and the offense will never get through to him as long as LeBron James and Anthony Davis are around.
Here’s Guerra on the futility of trying to adapt “Brodie’s” game to the Lakers’ future strategy:
"Darvin Ham warns that players will have to play new roles and if he senses reluctance, wouldn’t hesitate to bench him. Russell Westbrook has been playing the same style of basketball since 2016, 2017, when Kevin Durant left. He’s only played one style."
If the former OKC Thunder star remains in Hollywood, one of Ham’s biggest jobs is to convince Westbrook to buy into the Lakers’ concepts.