Russell Westbrook’s place on the 2022-2023 Los Angeles Lakers is one of the biggest storylines in the NBA heading into the new season. Westbrook’s first year in LA was an abject disaster for everyone involved, but he’s still on the roster entering the final year of his contract. It sure feels like the Lakers need to trade Westbrook to maximize their title window with LeBron James — who turns 38 years old in Dec. — but to this point LA has been hesitant to include the future draft compensation necessary to get an upgrade in return.
The Lakers’ addition of Patrick Beverley has only made the Westbrook issue even thornier. Westbrook and Beverley have had some very public beef going back for years, and even though both parties said all the right things this offseason, it’s reasonable to wonder how the two very strong personalities will mesh.
There was an early example of some potential Lakers discord in Wednesday night’s penultimate preseason game. After a foul by Westbrook, Beverley called for a team huddle, and Russ more or less refused to join.
It's the preseason and I don't read much into anything. But if I were to read too much into something.......... pic.twitter.com/Hgcb91PNu5— Jacob Rude (@JacobRude) October 13, 2022
Westbrook was probably just upset at the foul call, and needed a moment to breathe before chatting with teammates. The only problem is this video went viral and used been used as more evidence that Westbrook is going to be difficult to keep happy this season in LA.
It’s potentially worth noting that Westbrook also wasn’t in the team’s pre-game huddle:
Anyone thinks this is awkward as well? Russ doesn't join the pre-game team huddle and seems to be just by himself.— Nicole Ganglani (@nicoleganglani) October 13, 2022
Clip from Michael Morales/Instagram https://t.co/kaPZacrqRb pic.twitter.com/kqNfGEBUGW
Westbrook and Jaden McDaniels got into a petty little game of catch during the same game.
god i love how petty this is lmaooo pic.twitter.com/hlqVRImzA0— Harry Lyles Jr. (@harrylylesjr) October 13, 2022
Westbrook, by the way, finished the preseason game with five points in 25 minutes on only 1-of-3 shooting.
Westbrook responded to the viral huddle videos during Thursday’s practice:
Russell Westbrook on all the huddle speculation: pic.twitter.com/kx4cd50pPB— Melissa Rohlin (@melissarohlin) October 13, 2022
The Lakers need Westbrook to set more screens, shoot more corner threes, and emphasize the defensive end of the floor. Westbrook has shied away from all of that, preferring to create with the ball in his hands like he did during his glory years. Westbrook is still a fast and powerful driver going to the rim, but this Lakers team simply needs more off-ball components around James and Davis.
The Lakers would probably love to move Westbrook in-season, maybe even for the Buddy Hield and Myles Turner package from the Indiana Pacers. For now, though, Russ remains in LA. Expect there to be plenty of weird little moments like this one along the way.