Lakers News: Russell Westbrook Talks Homecoming; Talen Horton-Tucker's Offseason

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistAugust 16, 2021

Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook poses for a photo with his jersey at an introductory NBA basketball news conference in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)
Kyusung Gong/Associated Press

While the Los Angeles Lakers won the Larry O'Brien Trophy last year and may have only been held back by injuries this year, overhauling the roster this offseason was necessary.

LeBron James and Anthony Davis make for a tremendous core, but both missed significant time last season because of injuries. Los Angeles didn't have the depth or the supporting cast to thrive without them, which resulted in an early playoff exit.

Counting on both James and Davis to stay healthy would be a mistake.

The Lakers decided to add a third superstar to the mix and traded for Russell Westbrook, parting with Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in the process. They then rounded out the roster by adding the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Wayne Ellington and Trevor Ariza.

Westbrook is the third centerpiece, though, and the chance to win a championship with the returning two certainly played a role in his homecoming.

According to Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard, the Lakers were the one team with which he was happy to facilitate a trade.

"If there was ever an opportunity with the Lakers, that would be the one place," Sheppard said, per Chase Huges of NBC Sports Washington. "I look at his Hall of Fame career and all he did for us...certainly for me, I will try to help a guy as long as it helps the Wizards. In this case, we could do a deal and it did help the Wizards."

It wasn't all about the chance for Westbrook to win a title, though. The Long Beach native and UCLA product wanted a chance to impact the Los Angeles community.

"That was kind of the most important thing about being back home, being able to inspire and impact people, especially our youth in our communities and especially underserved communities especially in the city of L.A. kind of where I grew up at," Westbrook said, per Matt Peralta of Lakers Nation.

While Westbrook is now on his third NBA team, this marks his first stint with one of the Los Angeles franchises.

While Westbrook's fit alongside James and Davis isn't clear, they three met to possibilities before the trade was negotiated—according to Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times.

"James and Davis talked about the two of them changing positions if that was best for the team—James moving from small forward to power forward and Davis from power forward to center."

So, it appears that joining the Lakers will be a win-win-win for Westbrook. He gets the chance to come home as well as an opportunity to chase a championship, and he can do both while playing a role with which he is comfortable.

As for the aforementioned supporting cast, at least one returning contributor has been busy this offseason putting in some on-court work. Shooting guard and 2019 second-round pick Talen-Horton Tucker recently made an appearance in the Dreamville Chi-League tournament in Chicago:

Ballislife.com @Ballislife

20 year old @Thortontucker back home in Chicago playing at Dreamville Chi-League 💪🏽 #LakeShow 🎥:@WEGOTNEXTHOOPS1 https://t.co/cemkloIy8v

The pro-am tournament made its return after a four-year hiatus.

"This is something that's been a landmark. I can just remember back as a kid being a ball boy in this league at 10-12 years old," three-time NBA All-Star Antoine Walker said, per WGN 9 Chicago.

Horton-Tucker emerged as a key player last season after appearing in only six games during the 2019-20 season. He appeared in 65 games and averaged 9.0 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists.

The Lakers and Horton-Tucker agreed to a three-year, $30.8 million extension this offseason.