Even though the NBA season has just started, the Los Angeles Lakers issues that plagued them last season continue to drag them downward. They are 0-3 after a close home loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, ranked dead last in the league in three-point and overall field goal percentage, and seemingly very little hope to turn things around. At the center of all this is guard Russell Westbrook. The Lakers’ continual dance of player and team feels like a couple who knows they are about to break up and won’t admit it.
The Lakers’ problems should not all fall on Russ, though. This Lakers team isn’t constructed well to build around their two stars, Lebron James and Anthony Davis. Historically, James has had a bunch of shooters around him, and Davis doesn’t like to play the center spot. Westbrook likes to play with the ball in his hands—which is something he can’t do with the Lakers.
The uncomfortableness is around Westbrook, who is being asked to be a spot-up shooter (he’s a 30 percent three-point shooter over his career), which is not his strong suit. So far this season, Westbrook is shooting 28% from the field and has been 0-12 from 3 the past two games. He doesn’t fit what the Lakers need, and it’s messing with his confidence.
Head Coach Darvin Ham elected to take Westbrook out of the game in the closing minutes on Sunday and didn’t feel dismayed by his decision. The Lakers had briefly tried to play Westbrook off the bench during the pre-season, but he said that contributed to a hamstring injury.
“We don’t have time for feelings or people being in their feelings. Like, we’re trying to turn this thing around,” Ham said after the Blazers’ win dropped the Lakers to 0-3 on the season. “For one person to be in their feelings about when and where and how they should be in the game, I don’t have any time for that.”
If we’ve seen anything from NBA moves this summer, teams value expiring contracts and draft picks. The Lakers only have two first rounds they can trade (in 2027 and 2029, for now). Lebron is not getting any younger, and AD will need another star to play alongside him eventually. GM Rob Pelinka has been back and forth on whether the Lakers would trade those picks. However, time is running out. Will the Lakers be a somewhat respectable playoff team, or will they miss them again for the second straight year?
We can all see that Westbrook doesn’t look happy being there. The Lakers seem to be treating the All-Star guard as a problem they must manage until his contract expires at the end of this year. Maybe Westbrook is not the triple-double machine he used to be, but he can contribute to a team suited to his style. If not, you’ll have nights where teams sag off him and dare him to shoot. It’s beyond time to end this. It’s not fair to Russell’s legacy or the Lakers’ season. Somebody out of the two has to say enough is enough.