Lakers fans are a bit vexed to see Russell Westbrook get a second season in LA.
With a near $40 million due to Westbrook in 2022-23, moving him off the roster proved to be an impossible task over the offseason.
The Lakers made it evident they were looking to trade Russ, but both sides find themselves prepping for a new season together once again.
Westbrook was asked about his strained relationship with the team and fans during the Lakers’ media day Monday.
In a blunt delivery, a Lakers reporter asked Westbrook if he thought the Lakers want him on the team. Westbrook’s response was fairly direct.
“Whether they [Lakers] want me here or not, doesn’t really matter. My job is to be a professional and show up to work like I’ve always done,” Westbrook said, taking on the saltiness of the offseason controversy head-on.
“We all have jobs that sometimes people at our jobs don’t like us or don’t want us there,” Westbrook added, as relayed by NBA’s Mark Medina.
Westbrook absorbed a healthy slice the blame when the Lakers missed the postseason last year.
He put up a solid season stat line but struggled to maintain chemistry among the Lakers’ dozens of starting rotations. At one point, Westbrook was benched in favor of Malik Monk.
Last season, Westbrook averaged 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.1 assists in 78 games, shooting 44 percent from the field.
Though Russ’ ardent supporters are few, the veteran guard does have one guy in his corner: rookie Lakers coach Darvin Ham.
Ham has reiterated in his first offseason that the Lakers will work to incorporate Westbrook into their game plan for success. However, that does not guarantee him a starting role in the offense.
“We’re a ways away. I mean, we have several options,” Ham said regarding his starting lineup in 2022-23. “You know, obviously we signed Dennis, we signed Pat Bev, we got a healthy Kendrick Nunn, along with Russell himself Austin Reaves, we have a variety of options to fulfill in our backcourt.”
Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka previously met with the Houston Rockets to trade Westbrook’s fat contract in exchange for John Wall, but talks fell through. Wall was eventually traded to the Los Angeles Clippers.
LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Lakers face another season of playoff expectations without a singular identity to their roster.