Russell Westbrook’s debut season with the Lakers was anything but easy, as the veteran point guard battled to find his rhythm on a squad that has underachieved from expectations.
To obtain Westbrook, the Lakers gave up many of important championship players like Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to the Washington Wizards. However, Westbrook did not fit in with the Lakers’ playing style on the court, and he struggled, as a result, all season.
Following Frank Vogel’s firing, Westbrook spoke up in an exit interview about the rift between the two during his first season in Los Angeles.
Unfair treatment for Westbrook
The former All-Star Westbrook said he was never given a fair chance to contribute and was subjected to unfair treatment from the start.
“When I first got here and just being a person that, unfortunately, people create narratives of me and who I am and what I do, what I believe in that are just not true,” said Westbrook to reporters. “I’m always having to, like, prove myself again year after year after year which is, to me, just unfair, there’s really no reason I have to do that. So, when I first got here, I just felt that I never was given a fair chance just to be who I needed to be to be able to help this team.”
— Nick Hamilton (@NickHamilton213) April 11, 2022
Westbrook went on to say that fake news stories contributed to his troubles this season.
“The famous ‘source’ stories that came out about myself, whether it be between me and the staff, me and Frank, me and the fans, there’s just so many made-up stories that are not true,” said Westbrook. “It’s just always having to fight against that constantly. It’s just not [being] given a fair chance. It’s like, ‘OK, now I got to fight against this made-up story. Now I got to fight against this one. Now I go to fight against this one. Now I got to fight against this one.”
The former All-Star attracted waves of criticism for what many saw as a poor performance compared to his normal display. The criticisms then turned into hatred, with some fans even threatening Westbrook and his family.
The 33-year-old finished the season with an average of 18.5 points per game, his lowest since his second season, 7.4 rebounds, and 7.1 assists on 44 percent field goal shooting and 30 percent from three.
Not connecting with LeBron and Davis
Because of his ball-dominant play style, Westbrook’s fit with LeBron James and Anthony Davis generated both hope and anxiety heading into the season. That rapidly became a weekly subject of discussion as the Lakers struggled with health and chemistry on their way to a 33–49 record, their worst since 2016–17.
Westbrook said that LeBron and Davis’ repeated promises to “let Russ be Russ” in order to bring out the greatest version of the former All-Star were dishonest. When asked to elaborate, Westbrook responded that it came down to them not complementing one another.
When @DanWoikeSports mentions that LeBron and AD said many times throughout the year, "Let Russ be Russ," Russell Westbrook immediately responds: "Yeah, but that wasn't true. Let's be honest."
— Kyle Goon (@kylegoon) April 11, 2022
“It’s a combination of where we are on the floor, positioning, fit and challenge, trial and error, being able to play on the floor with each other,” said Westbrook. “Finding ways to be able to utilize us to the best of our abilities. It’s that simple.”