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Los Angeles Lakers want Russell Westbrook to think defense first

From player options to free agency, both the team and the player have some big decisions to make as they look for a middle ground.

Los Angeles Lakers want Russell Westbrook to think defense first
Christian VierigGetty

While it seems the door may yet be open for the out of favor point guard to return, it won’t be without some conditions.

Do Better: Lakers ask Russell Westbrook to improve on defense

According to reports, if Russell Westbrook returns to the Los Angeles Lakers next season it will be on the grounds that he’s prepared to work harder on defense, which is to say take fewer shots. As per reports the Lakers have told Westbrook they want him to be a defense-first player if he does in fact return to the team for the 2022-23 NBA regular season. This of course comes following multiple conversations which Westbrook has had with both Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka and new head coach Darvin Ham about his role.

The Russell Westbrook situation

The former OKC point guard is coming off a disastrous season with the Lakers and that’s on an individual level as well as team. Westbrook’s struggles were notable all season long as he averaged 18.5 points per game, which incidentally is among the lowest of his entire career. Where his contract is concerned, it’s understood that at present Westbrook has a player option worth some $47 million. Should he feel to pick it up the only other real option is free agency. Yes, there has been rumor of the Lakers potentially trading him, but the reality is after the year he’s had and the salary that he earns, it’s quite unlikely that Westbrook will be going anywhere. The immediate question then becomes, ‘Can the Lakers get the best out of Rusell Westbrook once again?

Can the Lakers’ plan for Russell Westbrook work?

Though he’s by no means an All-Defensive Team shoe in, Westbrook isn’t a poor defender either. At the same time it’s clear he could stand to improve and it would appear the Lakers see it the same way. Is it the right move on the franchise’s part? That remains to be seen, but there is one thing that is certain: Regardless of the year he just had, it’s clear Russell Westbrook can still play ball with the best of them. If between the player and the team they can find synergy and motivation, the Lakers could well find themselves in contention for a title come next season. For the moment what remains to be seen is whether they can come to an agreement as to how to move forward.


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