As the NBA summer progresses, the Lakers will be less and less likely to take the easy route when it comes to recovering from one of their biggest headaches of last season: point guard Russell Westbrook, who struggled at both ends of the floor and could not seamlessly adapt to star forward LeBron James.
Efforts to move Westbrook by attaching a draft pick have failed, and a potential deal to bring Buddy Hield and Myles Turner from the Pacers for Westbrook fell through because the Lakers would only include one prospective first-rounder, not two. Other teams linked to Westbrook and his expiring $47 million contract have also appeared to have moved on, such as Charlotte and New York.
There are still possibilities — the Knicks could come back into the picture and the Jazz could be ready to take him — but the Lakers’ refusal to add more than one first-round pick to a Westbrook deal is halting any progress.
For some in the Lakers organization, and perhaps the most important addition the team has made this offseason, that’s not a bad thing.
The key addition, of course, is coach Darvin Ham, who has been hired to replace the sacked Frank Vogel. Many within the Lakers and Ham himself would like LA to keep Westbrook on board as it feels like Westbrook’s fractured relationship with Vogel last year was the real problem and not, as you know, his shabby defense or wild shot selection.
Heavy Sports NBA insider Steve Bulpett noted this in a recent video chat. Westbrook has nowhere to go for the Lakers, and that’s on Ham. Bulpett said:
And there’s a certain logic to Ham’s reasoning about Westbrook. His numbers last season were in line with everything he’s done lately in his career, averaging 18.5 points, 7.1 assists and 7.4 rebounds. He struggled to shoot from the perimeter, making 29.8% of his 3-pointers but shooting 44.4% overall, slightly more than his career percentage of 43.8%.
In other words, the Lakers got exactly what they should have expected from Westbrook. He also played 78 games for a team that was miserable for most of the year.
Ham could be the right man to get the best out of Westbrook.
“He’s a really down to earth guy,” a coach told Bulpett earlier this month. “There’s a lot of old school in him, but he understands how the game has changed over the years and what you need to do to embrace it and be successful – from the way the game is played to how it’s played to the players themselves and what they do. re employ. I think Darwin will do it his way, his own way. He’s an interesting guy.”