Russell Westbrook Was Lakers' Most 'Consistent' Player Last Season, per Jeanie Buss

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVAugust 30, 2022

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Los Angeles Lakers governor Jeanie Buss paid embattled point guard Russell Westbrook a major compliment this week.

In an interview with Sam Amick of The Athletic, Buss surprisingly called Westbrook the Lakers' "best player" last season:

"All I can say is that, from my point of view, [Westbrook] was our best player last year. He played pretty much every single game, showed up, worked hard. You know, I would have loved to have seen what this team would have looked like if they stayed healthy. It's really tough to win when Anthony Davis isn't on the court. LeBron [James] was hurt a lot of the season. But Russ showed up every game and played hard every night. And, you know, I just really appreciate him for who he is and what he brings to the team."

Buss clarified her comments when Amick reached out via text afterward, saying: "The word I should have used was 'consistent.' He played 78 games last season."

L.A. acquired Westbrook from the Washington Wizards last August in a five-team trade that included Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, forming a Big Three with James and Davis.

It didn't seem at the time like it was a long shot for the trio to be successful, given that Westbrook is a nine-time All-Star, two-time scoring champion, one-time NBA MVP and likely future Hall of Famer.

Also, he was hugely productive during his only season with Washington, averaging 22.2 points, 11.7 assists and 11.5 rebounds per game, marking the unprecedented fourth time in five years that he averaged a triple-double.

Westbrook's counting stats with the Lakers looked decent, as he averaged 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.1 assists, but he shot just 44.4 percent from the field and 29.8 percent from beyond the arc and turned the ball over 3.8 times per game.

Availability was Westbrook's greatest asset in 2021-22, as he missed just four games, whereas LeBron and AD were often on the shelf.

James missed 26 games and Davis missed 42 games, meaning Westbrook was the lone star in the lineup at times and the Lakers needed him to perform at the level he did during his heyday with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

That was far from the case, and since L.A. lacked depth, it didn't have anywhere near enough firepower to win without James or Davis.

As a result, the Lakers finished 33-49 and missed the playoffs, one year after a first-round playoff exit and two years after winning the NBA championship.

L.A. is set to enter the 2022-23 season with Westbrook after he exercised his $47.1 million player option.

The Lakers made a coaching change by replacing Frank Vogel with Darvin Ham, but because much of their payroll is tied up with James, Davis and Westbrook, they haven't been able to do much to the roster aside from make smaller additions such as Patrick Beverley, Lonnie Walker IV, Damian Jones, Juan Toscano-Anderson and Thomas Bryant.

The health of James and Davis will likely be the biggest key to L.A.'s success during the upcoming season, but improved play from Westbrook isn't far behind.


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