In the 2020–21 NBA season, the Lakers were the defending champions, but injuries to Anthony Davis and LeBron James derailed what appeared to be a promising shot at back-to-back world titles.
After losing to the Phoenix Suns in six games in the first round of the playoffs, Los Angeles and its general manager Rob Pelinka set to work trying to shore up the roster.
He reportedly had a trade for Buddy Hild’s surprise marksmanship and the team reportedly had a shot at acquiring DeMar DeRozan.
But the Lakers turned down both opportunities because James reportedly pushed them into a trade for Russell Westbrook.
Westbrook ended a season in which he averaged a triple-double for the fourth time in five years. The thought was that he could take the load off the aging James of handling the ball and scoring goals, as well as allowing the team to win games if the four-time MVP or Davis were injured.
According to reports, James, Davis and Westbrook met in person prior to the exchange and discussed how a relationship could be between them. All three allegedly talked about making certain sacrifices in order to compete for the ring.
Of course, this was not the case last season.
Westbrook wasn’t entirely to blame, as many fans claim, as James and Davis both spent a significant amount of time out of action due to injuries. In addition, quarterback Kendrick Nunn, who was expected to make a significant impact, missed the entire regular season with a bruised bone.
But the league’s 2017 MVP has been in a tough spot due to his poor shooting from off the field, lack of activity off the ball and shortcomings in defense.
If the Lakers don’t trade Westbrook, and he’s still on the roster until October, he’ll have to prove to critics that the team didn’t make a mistake by trading him for him.
Mark Stein: LeBron James is unlikely to leave the Lakers anytime soon