Russell Westbrook Says It 'Wasn't True' That Lakers Let Him Be Himself

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVApril 11, 2022

Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook (0) controls the ball during an NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans in Los Angeles, Friday, April 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
AP Photo/Ashley Landis

The 2021-22 NBA season might be over for the Los Angeles Lakers, but the drama in L.A. isn't subsiding anytime soon.

Throughout the year, one message from the team, including Anthony Davis and LeBron James, was that Westbrook needed to have the freedom to be his usual self on the court. The 2016-17 MVP contended Monday that that plan wasn't put into action:

Kyle Goon @kylegoon

When <a href="https://twitter.com/DanWoikeSports?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@DanWoikeSports</a> mentions that LeBron and AD said many times throughout the year, "Let Russ be Russ," Russell Westbrook immediately responds: "Yeah, but that wasn't true. Let's be honest."

Kyle Goon @kylegoon

Russell Westbrook said "top to bottom" on coming to L.A.: I just felt like I was never given a fair chance to be who I needed to be to help this team.

From the jump, bringing in Westbrook to play with James and Davis was a questionable fit.

Sure, acquiring a ball-dominant playmaker could theoretically ease the offensive burden on LeBron and AD, but there was the small matter of how the three would actually function together.

Westbrook is used to having the ball in his hands a lot. His 32.1 percent career usage rate is second all-time behind Michael Jordan.

A 30.5 percent shooter from beyond the arc entering this season, the 33-year-old wasn't going to help space the floor, either.

To Westbrook's point, trading for the nine-time All-Star and expecting him to suddenly take on a secondary role is trying to fit a round peg in a square hole. If he hasn't changed his game to this point in his career, it probably isn't going to happen.

The issue is that Westbrook is clearly no longer the player he was during his prime run with the Oklahoma City Thunder. He averaged 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.1 assists, and his win shares per 48 minutes declined for the sixth straight season, per Basketball Reference.

According to NBA.com, Los Angeles had a minus-3.5 net rating when its Big Three were all on the court. The team's net rating fell to minus-7.5 when Westbrook was on the floor and Davis and James were on the bench.

The dynamic guard can't be the No. 1 or 2 option on a team with championship ambitions, and his critics will contend that has been the case for some time.

The Lakers painted themselves into a corner. They weren't empowering Westbrook to the degree he wanted, but doing so might have made the team even worse.