The final straw for Russell Westbrook with the Los Angeles Lakers was over him taking criticism personally and walking off the floor slowly in a recent game, according to The Athletic’s Sam Amick and Jovan Buha.
The Lakers traded Westbrook on Wednesday in a three-team deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Utah Jazz. Westbrook ended up in Utah in the deal while the Lakers received D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt.
Los Angeles also gave up a first-round pick in the trade that is lightly protected. The move gives the Lakers a lot more depth this season, and it puts the relationship with Westbrook to an end.
It seems like things between the Lakers, including head coach Darvin Ham, and Westbrook were deteriorating as Thursday’s trade deadline approached.
“But when Ham turned his attention to Westbrook and his specific individual struggles, sources say the future Hall of Famer appeared to take it personally,” Amick and Buha wrote. “As had been the case so many times before, when the coaching staff struggled with Westbrook’s unwillingness to be held accountable for his play, Westbrook wasn’t hearing it.
“Ham, sources say, was upset at a number of on-court developments from the first half. But the final straw, it seems, was Westbrook’s choice to walk off the court so slowly after he was replaced late in the second quarter. For both parties, the topic of great disagreement centered on respect — or lack thereof. In the end, with the tension in the room adding to the toxicity of their environment yet again, they agreed to disagree.”
Westbrook took a smaller role in the 2022-23 season, agreeing to come off the bench in order to stagger his minutes a bit with LeBron James. That allowed Westbrook to be the team’s lead ball-handler at times, and he was thriving, for the most part, in that role.
This season, Westbrook is averaging 15.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game while shooting 41.7 percent from the field and 29.6 percent from beyond the arc.
Westbrook was never a perfect fit alongside James and Anthony Davis, as he is a ball-dominant player that has struggled with his outside shot.
However, it seems like his response to criticism from Ham was not in the way that the organization would have liked.
Ultimately, it is probably best that the Lakers and Westbrook are going their separate ways at this point in the season. Westbrook, at times, had become the scapegoat for the Lakers’ struggles over the past two seasons, even when everything was not his fault.
Still, he did not live up to the expectations that the team had when it acquired him prior to the 2021-22 season. The former MVP now has a chance to prove that he can still contribute to a winning team ahead of hitting free agency this coming offseason.
For the Lakers, adding Russell, Vanderbilt and Beasley gives them more depth and players that fit better alongside James and Davis on the roster.
Right now, the Lakers are the No. 13 seed in the West, and they’ll need to make a run in the final months of the 2022-23 season to grab a playoff spot. Los Angeles is hoping that Wednesday’s deal is enough to push the team at least into the play-in tournament in a crowded Western Conference.