The Los Angeles Lakers have a problem. It appears to a lot of fans that Russell Westbrook doesn’t want to be here. The way Russ responded in his NBA media day interview, on Monday, only added fuel to that fire.
When asked about whether or not he feels wanted he replied that it didn’t matter because he’s still here to do his job. You can respect Russ’ professionalism, but at the same time still, be worried this won’t end well. It really feels like this is his last chance at vindication. A contract year that holds the future of his career in the balance.
The Lakers Have Tried To Trade Russ With No Success
There have been a lot of trade rumors this offseason regarding Russell Westbrook. A lot of fans are angry that the Lakers haven’t just off-loaded him for anything available. They should be grateful though that the front office doesn’t listen to them. Russ is worth more than what’s been offered.
The Lakers are being smart by not sacrificing future assets just to get rid of him. The front office takes their responsibility to their fans, and the future of this franchise seriously.
You could make a good argument that Russ’ stock is down league-wide, but there is a bigger factor at play here. The Lakers tax is real. The Lakers are the premiere franchise of the modern era. They have two dynasties and are working on a third currently. No team in the league wants to help them in this pursuit. So, whenever the Lakers try and make a deal the usual response is a ridiculous counteroffer.
Trading a star like Russ is difficult. You are never going to get back fair value when you trade a star. This makes the efforts to trade him even more difficult. The Lakers front office has been smart, by all accounts, this off-season. They haven’t traded Russ just to trade him, because there is a light at the end of the tunnel. When his contract expires next season the Lakers will free up A LOT of cap space.
Now, there is a strong argument that keeping Russ for another season could be wasting LeBron James’ 20th season. Unfortunately, that is where the Lakers are currently. They made their bed; they are going to have to lay in it. So, even though fans hate the idea, not trading Russ is the smart business decision.
Professionalism Is Great, But Attitude Is Everything
Russ has been incredibly professional in his time with the Lakers. He always shows up and meets his obligations. This is no problem for Russ, even with all the vitriol swirling around him. I really admire Russ for this. The problem is though that he falls short in an area that is also important. His attitude is not that great. His media day press conference is a perfect example of this.
It’s great that Russ is unbothered enough to still show up and do his job, even with people spewing hate at him non-stop. A lot of people wouldn’t be willing to do that if they were in his shoes. The problem is that he comes off as someone who doesn’t care about his teammates with an attitude like this.
Players don’t have to like each other to win. Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant went at each other non-stop. They still managed three straight championships. So, it is possible. The issue is, possible isn’t the same as likely. Kobe and Shaq are real outliers. Their skills were so good that their attitudes didn’t matter as much. They are almost Unicorns in this respect.
Russ doesn’t hate LeBron, Anthony Davis, or any of his teammates, even Patrick Beverly. Those on-court feuds that we see as fans are usually not enough to break the brotherhood of the exclusive fraternity these players are in. Russ seems to be frustrated with the front office and fans. That’s why he has an attitude like this.
It’s hard to blame him for feeling rejected. The fans have been ruthless with him. They are probably not going to let up this year either. Things could get real ugly real soon if fans are riding him and making even his home games unpleasant. That bad attitude could get worse and start to be an issue in the locker room. @GuruLakers from @LatenightLakers sums it up perfectly.
This could end up being a problem for the Lakers. It’s fine if he shows up and does his job, but if his attitude starts to affect the team it’s a problem. Showing up when you’re not wanted is the professional thing to do, but if you can do it with a good attitude that’s a whole other level.
The Contract Year Can Be A Great Motivator
Russ does have a lot to prove this year. Last season was sub-par even by his standards. A lot of people think he is declining. This season is his chance to prove to everyone that he is still worth a max contract. The pressure is all on him to deliver a winning season.
Betting against Russ would not be advisable. There is a very good chance he comes out and shows everyone that he still has it. He is only 33 years old. He should have plenty of fuel left in his tank. The thing to worry about is if he can bring a positive attitude every day, even during losing streaks or his own bad stretches. That could be what makes or breaks this for him, and the Lakers.