A potential Russell Westbrook trade remains one of the main storylines of the Los Angeles Lakers’ season — inevitably coming to the forefront after the Opening Night loss against the Golden State Warriors.
Westbrook ended the Tuesday game with 19 points, 11 rebounds and three assists. But the good numbers didn’t paper over the fact he remains an awkward fit in L.A. because of his high-turnover game and poor 3-point shooting.
The latter appears to be a particularly troubling issue this year as the Lakers don’t have a lot of shooters on the roster. The weakness showed on Tuesday when the Warriors kept sagging off the 2017 NBA MVP, among other Lakers players — clogging the paint instead to take driving lanes away.
The Purple and Gold’s struggles were becoming more and more evident before halftime, prompting “NBA on TNT” analyst Charles Barkley to say the Lakers-Westbrook marriage seems to be unrepairable — and that the guard seems to have lost joy for basketball:
“It’s time for the Lakers to move him,” Barkley said on TNT. “They have taken all his joy out of life and basketball. … He doesn’t look … this guy used to be so exuberant, play with great energy and great emotion. I think the wear and tear mentally, last year, starting this year, playing with Patrick Beverley … and the thing is he’s going to get the blame no matter what because the Lakers aren’t a championship contender.
Barkley also said it’s in the interest of both parties to go in separate ways:
“… I think [Westbrook] needs a fresh start; I think the Lakers need a fresh start.”
Westbrook was asked about Barkley’s comments and responded after the game, via Dan Woike of the L.A. Times:
“You know what man, I’m super blessed and leaning a lot on my faith,” Westbrook said. “So, I have a lot of great friends and family, good people in my corner that support me through thick and thin and when I have God in my corner, it doesn’t really matter what happens outside of that. I stay on course, stay focused, stay locked in. That’s all I can ask. Everything else that comes around it, I’ll continue doing what I’m doing, stay locked in on my craft and everything else will take care of itself.”
In a piece of good news for Westbrook, the guard returned to the starting lineup after coming off the bench in the preseason finale against the Sacramento Kings.
And Patrick Beverley later said he needs his former foe to accompany him in the Lakers’ opening unit.
Lakers not expected to make trades until after Thanksgiving
Even though Westbrook started 2022-23 on the Lakers roster, his exit before the February trade deadline still feels inevitable. However, reports claim L.A. likely won’t make any significant personnel changes before Thanksgiving.
Vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka is understood to be waiting for more opportunities to emerge on the trade market, hoping to find a Westbrook deal that doesn’t force the Purple and Gold to give up on their 2027 and 2029 first-round picks.
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