Gary Payton goes in on Russell Westbrook and Lakers, says 2003-04 team was much better

Peter Dewey
3 Min Read

Hall of Fame guard Gary Payton believes that the 2021-22 Los Angeles Lakers are nothing like his Lakers team in the 2003-04 season.

Payton joined “The Draymond Green Show” to discuss LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis and the current state of this year’s Lakers team.

“I don’t think this Laker team is nothing like our team in 2003 at all,” Payton said. “I think we had players that knew their role, and I don’t think Russ is playing the way he should be playing.

“It’s a new thing to go and be the man so long, and then you gotta go with A.D. and LeBron. And you gotta give them the ball. He’s so much dominant on the basketball, that he’s not doing the things he did. I think he’s thinking too much.”

While Payton’s criticism of Westbrook is warranted, he doesn’t believe that the blame falls solely on the former MVP.

Payton, who was a nine-time All-Star during his NBA career, explained to Green that the Lakers don’t play like the Golden State Warriors do, and that they may lean on James a little too much.

“And they rely on LeBron so much that they’re watching him,” Payton said. “They don’t play the way that you guys play, like with people cut and move and do that. They are watching the basketball too much.

“But I don’t think this team that the Lakers got are nothing like us. I think we were more in our prime. A lot of us was way more in our prime. They’re just hurt right now, and it’s just a struggle. And it’s hard to put a team like that together, and you guys are not healthy.”

While this year’s Lakers are just 20-19 on the season, they have dealt with injuries to both James and Davis.

Even with Davis still out, the Lakers have won three straight games to get back over .500 and will look to continue that success as they make a run up the Western Conference standings.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.