The Lakers are hoping their new superstar duo of LeBron James and Russell Westbrook can pull off a championship-caliber season in the City Of Angeleno. Will they build chemistry or will it turn into an implosion?
The “Lakers roster” is a team that has been on the verge of greatness for years. They have had some down seasons, but they have always managed to keep their fans interested. The Lakers are currently in rebuilding mode, and LeBron James and Russell Westbrook could be the key pieces needed to turn them into a winner again. Read more in detail here: lakers roster.
There is proof that this works.
LeBron James and Russell Westbrook showed for 1 minute and 39 seconds that they can be the two-headed, turbocharging, floor-commanding, do-it-all tandem that inspired the Los Angeles Lakers to revamp their club this summer.
On a Friday night in October, with the Cleveland Cavaliers down late in the second quarter, Kent Bazemore collected a defensive rebound and tossed a go-ahead pass to James, who was blazing across the center of the court.
With one attack dribble, the 17-time All-Star moved near half court and zipped an outlet pass up the right wing to Westbrook, who was expecting James’ dart near the 3-point line. James took one dribble to get into the lane, continued to speed, and Westbrook curled a pass around his chest, finding an airborne James for an alley-oop layup.
Three possessions later, Westbrook grabbed a lengthy defensive rebound, and James followed a few steps behind him up the court. James flew from the 3-point line to the free throw line while Westbrook checked off coach Frank Vogel’s credo, “Paint to Great,” by advancing to the lane and attracting the attention of two Cavs defenders. After receiving a scoop pass from Westbrook, James rushed through the wide space and completed the play with a one-handed hammer slam to tie the score shortly before halftime.
“It’s all about learning and improving with the playmaker you’re using. Recognizing his court vision, as well as his awareness, “After that, James said something. “So, it’s just me and Russ in a lane. Because of his speed and passion, he’s generally in front of the pack; but, if you run with him, you’ll be rewarded.”
The issue is whether the Lakers have the defensive tenacity to get the stops that will allow James and Westbrook to launch their assaults. Or are their flashes against the Cavs too seldom to be relied upon? The Lakers’ ability to optimize their togetherness will decide how far they can go.
When questioned about the sequence, Vogel noted, “Their open-court synergy has been there from Day 1.” “That’s what I was witnessing when I was telling you guys how fantastic they looked in practice. Those open-court scenarios have been really dynamic, entertaining, and enjoyable to participate in.”
Get access to special original series, premium articles from NBA insiders, and the whole 30 for 30 collection, among other things. Sign up today to have access to all of ESPN+’s features.
James, who turns 37 later this month and has an estimated net worth of more than $1 billion, has won four titles. Westbrook is 33 years old and has made over $250 million in NBA salary alone; he is back in Los Angeles and looking for a ring.
“I think where Russ is in his career in terms of being near to having it and not getting it, and being extremely willing to doing whatever it takes to win a championship,” Fizdale said. “I believe he’s actually there.”
Of course, not everyone thinks of Westbrook in this light.
“Russ reminds me of Allen Iverson in that he wants to win but only on his terms,” one Eastern Conference official said to ESPN. “If he can take a step back and win in Los Angeles, everything else he’s done in the league would be validated.”
When told of the Iverson analogy, Westbrook pushed back.
Westbrook told ESPN, “I disagree for a variety of reasons.” “To begin with, I think I am a one-of-a-kind athlete, and although I appreciate Allen and all he has done for the game, I am in no way similar to Allen Iverson. No. 2, I’ve probably been — and I believe I have been — always trying to fit in and do my best for the team’s sake. And I’ve always done it throughout my career, and I’ll keep doing it regardless of what happens. Cool if we win the title. If we don’t, I’m OK with that as well, and life will move on.”
While Westbrook may be OK with the result, there is no disputing the championship pressure that has surrounded the Lakers this season. Every losing streak seems like it goes on forever. Every wacky body language detail is analyzed. Every sound bite from a press conference is recorded.
Vogel’s employment has already been questioned as a result of the Lakers’ 13-12 start to the season. In those 25 games, they’ve used 12 different starting lineups, second most in the NBA behind the Philadelphia 76ers. According to ESPN, the coaching staff has placed everything on the table and is considering if they need to adjust their high-paced approach on the fly due to injuries and inconsistencies.
The stakes are really high.
From Monday through Friday, presenter Pablo Torre gives you an inside peek at ESPN’s most compelling stories, as recounted by the best reporters and insiders on the world. Listen
James’ view entering into a new season was once compared to a guy with a refrigerator strapped to his back standing at the foot of a mountain and expecting to reach the peak, according to a confidant.
James, according to Handy, will be happy to share the burden with Westbrook.
“Just someone he can trust and rely on,” Handy said. “You have another player who has been a high-level point guard for a long time, and it simply enables LeBron to have a lower usage rate and not burn himself out over the season.”
Westbrook’s game has a Jekyll-and-Hyde feel to it. According to NBA Advanced Stats statistics, he leads the league in clutch-time turnovers (12), but he also leads the league in clutch-time assists (15), two more than Chris Paul of the Phoenix Suns.
Because of Westbrook’s inconsistency, the Lakers developed a horrible habit of coming out flat after halftime and allowing opponents to take control in the third quarter early in the season. However, in the last seven games, he has helped L.A. overcome that deficit by averaging 10 points in the third. L.A. has won six of those seven third quarters, which is the most in the league.
Westbrook had a bad night in Portland in early November, after a four-game span in which he averaged 23.3 points, 6.5 assists, and 3.3 turnovers, resulting to a 3-1 record for the Lakers. Westbrook scored only eight points on 1-for-13 shooting with six assists and six turnovers with James out and Davis out early with the stomach illness. The Lakers were blasted out, behind by as many as 34 points in the third quarter, in a performance that sparked criticism of the team’s whole strategy.
After the defeat to the Trail Blazers, one major agent said ESPN, “The Lakers concentrate too much on the names versus the games of each guy.”
The new Lakers tandem is attempting to put together a winning team. Getty Images/Brian Babineau/NBAE
The context of the remark is, of course, that Westbrook, the MVP, gold medalist, and all-time triple-doubles leader, has every conceivable power. But, as long as the Lakers struggle, the deal they abandoned — for the less well-known, sharp-shooting Buddy Hield of the Sacramento Kings — to shift direction and get Westbrook from the Washington Wizards will remain a huge what-if.
While Hield has had a solid season for Sacramento, second in the NBA with 3.6 made 3-pointers per game behind only Stephen Curry, no one can deny that Westbrook can do more to help a team win than Hield. Westbrook may also do more to assist a losing team.
Westbrook maintained his confidence after the flop in Portland.
“Every night, I think that I’m really excellent at what I do, and that’s how I need to play,” he stated. “It’s as simple as that.”
Westbrook’s tenacity has helped him become a potential Hall of Famer.
And it’s why the Lakers’ 2021-22 season will teeter on the brink of greatness or calamity unless James and Westbrook can show they can work together to construct a champion.
Jeff Green of the Denver Nuggets, who is one of just three players to have ever played with both James and Westbrook before they joined the Lakers, is certain that it will work.
Green, who played with Westbrook in Oklahoma City and Houston and with James in Cleveland, told ESPN, “Of course they’ll work it out.” “They are both well-versed in the ins and outs of winning. They’ll both put their bodies on the line and do everything it takes to help their team win. And it’s because of this that I admire them both. They’re both about working together.”
The Lakers, as well as James and Westbrook, are right in the middle of things right now. For better or worse, such is the case.
“No one has ever seen a player like me,” Westbrook said on ESPN. “People’s initial reaction when they do something they’ve never done before is to point out the flaws in why and how it occurred. And it is the truth. That is the world in which we live. That’s why I’m OK with being at ease doing what I’m doing for the sake of the game and trying to win, and I can live with it.”
Watch This Video-
- nba news
- lakers news
- russell westbrook news