Westbrook was added to the squad prior to the 2021-22 NBA regular season, and it became apparent rather quickly that the move was a major mistake. Not only did the Lakers part ways with some key rotational players and draft capital, but they also took on Westbrook’s massive deal.
Beyond that, Westbrook was a shell of him former self with the Lakers. Considering all that and more, one source close to the situation described removing Westbrook as getting rid of a “vampire from the locker room.”
ESPN’s Dave McMenamin relayed the information on NBA Today.
“As one source told me, ‘you remove a vampire from the locker room’.”
Dave McMenamin spoke on the Lakers moving on from Russell Westbrook. pic.twitter.com/l4uCxvKo91
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) February 9, 2023
“This was the time to do it,” he said. “Russell Westbrook was not going to be part of the team after this summer when his contract expired, and also, when his contract came off the books the Lakers would have less money to deal with in the free-agency period this summer. So, you had to do it if you wanted to get those pieces you could have part of the team moving forward.
“You get younger. You got shooting. You got switchable defenders, and as one source told me, ‘You remove a vampire from the locker room.’ That meaning a vampire sucks the blood out of the locker room. Russell Westbrook moves on.”
It is often not so pretty when a former superstar starts to lose his physical gifts, and that’s been the case for Westbrook in recent seasons. His step back was especially apparent when he joined the Lakers and was no longer able to be quite as ball-dominant as he’s been through much of his career.
Though Lakers teammates were complimentary of Westbrook’s leadership this season, there was clearly a growing rift within the locker room.
In fact, in what ended up being Westbrook’s final game with the Lakers, he reportedly got into a bit of a yelling match with Lakers head coach Darvin Ham at halftime. That’s never conducive to effective basketball, and it seems as though the right move was made for both sides.
It will be interesting to see where Westbrook goes from here. He is currently a member of the Utah Jazz, but that might not be the case for long. He is considered a prime buyout candidate and would be available to sign wherever he pleases if he were to get bought out of his deal.