The Lakers are just 10 games into their 2021-22 campaign, but, already, not a few quarters have seen fit to declare the Russell Westbrook experiment a failure. It isn’t simply that he remains inefficient; that was a given even for the most optimistic supporters of the purple and gold. It’s that he appears to be utterly unable to make the right decisions in the crunch. The “Westbrook needs to be Westbrook in order to succeed” argument will go only so far when the losses keep piling up.
At this point, there can be no turning back the clock and wondering why the Lakers saw fit to overhaul its roster and roll the dice on the National Basketball Association’s most polarizing player. True, he has a sterling resume; he’s a nine-time All-Star with a Most Valuable Player award to boot. On the other hand, he competes with blinders on; his gaudy stats have come largely with the offense bending to his will — by hook or by crook, for better or for worse.
It’s possible that, with a few favorable bounces here and there, the Lakers will have been owners of a better slate that takes the pressure off their offseason reboot. There’s a reason Lady Luck hasn’t smiled on them, however; the best teams make and carve fortunes, and, try as the pride of La-La Land may, the ones they do have them either stepping back or running in place. And because Westbrook is the new marquee name, the onus is most definitely on him to deliver on his promise — or at least try by adapting.
Perhaps Westbrook will be properly chastened by resident foundations LeBron James and Anthony Davis. For all his supposed strengths, he’s third — maybe even fourth given the outstanding effort of sixth man Carmelo Antthony — in the pecking order. He can no longer act as if he’s first among equals, the way he has to disastrous results.
If there’s one thing the Lakers have going for them, it’s that they have James to count on. The league’s greatest problem solver (arguably in history) should be able to figure things out by the time the matches really count. The flipside is that he has to be on the court to orchestrate the requisite adjustments — an iffy proposition given his spotty injury record of late. Which leads all and sundry to wonder if their aim to reach the stars ultimately won’t get lift off due to self-imposed obstacles too difficult to surmount.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.