Stephen A. Smith goes in on LeBron James for helping get rid of championship shooters for Russell Westbrook

Peter Dewey
3 Min Read

ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith did not hold back on Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James following the team’s 0-2 start to the 2022-23 season.

Smith criticized James for the Russell Westbrook trade that sent Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Montrezl Harrell to the Washington Wizards ahead of the 2021-22 season.

Westbrook has not fit in well with Los Angeles, posting one of the worst seasons of his career in the 2021-22 campaign.

Last season, Westbrook averaged 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game while shooting 44.4 percent from the field and 29.8 percent from beyond the arc.

“You had Kyle Kuzma,” Smith said. “You had Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. They were members of the championship team, who by the way can put up buckets from the perimeter.

“And you were one of the people that encouraged the Lakers to unload that, so you could get a brother in Russell Westbrook that you yourself was on the court in Houston, in the bubble, in the playoffs against them saying he with us. Every time he had the ball.”

Kuzma and Caldwell-Pope certainly would help the Lakers right now, as the team has shot a dreadful 19-for-85 from 3-point range in its first two games this season.

Westbrook really struggled in the Lakers’ loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night, shooting 0-for-11 from the field, 0-for-6 from 3-point range and scoring just two points.

The Lakers two starting guards, Westbrook and Patrick Beverley, combined to shoot just 1-for-18 from the field in Thursday’s loss.

Even though Westbrook is a former MVP, he simply doesn’t make sense on the Lakers roster alongside other ball dominant players like James and Anthony Davis.

With James and Davis needing space to operate in the paint, the Lakers don’t have the shooting necessary to spread out opposing defenses. James himself acknowledged the team’s ability to shoot the ball from distance following the Lakers’ season opening loss to the Golden State Warriors.

Smith is certainly right that the Lakers could use players like Kuzma and Caldwell-Pope, and it will be interesting to see how Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka attempts to improve this roster as the 2022-23 season goes on.

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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.