As he went through a 45-minute exit interview with media, a
tumultuous season with the Los Angeles Lakers was officially put to
rest for Russell Westbrook.
The 33-year-old veteran was candid throughout his closing press
conference, leaving little doubt regarding how he felt about his
When Westbrook was introduced upon his arrival in Los Angeles,
his message was that he desired to be somewhere he was wanted. He
was asked on Monday if he still felt wanted.
"When I first got here, I felt I was never given the fair chance
just to be who I needed to be to help this team." Westbrook told
reporters, mentioning preconceived notions as a major factor. "From
top to bottom, just every aspect, because what I bring to an
organization is not just basketball.
"I never felt like, coming in, I had a fair chance on the
basketball front, on any front."
Westbrook claims that those preconceived notions arose from
false stories from the media, so coming to Los Angeles, he was
fighting against this story and that story like no other stop in
"Unfortunately, throughout the season — especially this season —
the ability to be able to constantly create stories about myself,
and things I may have and people thought I may be doing, it can
jade people's perspective about me," Westbrook said. "The outside
fan and the outside world (think), 'Oh, well maybe he is the
problem, maybe he is the bigger issue,' and in actuality, there are
so many issues going on internally that are actually, really
One of those internal issues revolved around now-former Lakers
head coach Frank Vogel and the job he did this season with three
All-Stars. Immediately following Westbrook mentioning internal
issues, he was asked about Vogel.
"I have never had an issue with any of my coaches before, as
much as people may assume," Westbrook said. "I have never had an
issue with any coach, any players, any staff members, anybody
actually... I'm not sure what his issue was with me, or I am not
sure why... but I cannot really give you answer why we never really
connected. That's something he has to answer.
"From the get-go, it felt like I was trying to prove myself to
As far as making adjustments was concerned, Westbrook said he
knew he was going to have to make the biggest sacrifice coming to
L.A, but "any situation I have been in, I have had to make the
sacrifice. Whether it was in D.C. whether it was in Houston,
whether it was in Oklahoma City. In actuality, I have always been
able to make a sacrifice."
In terms of on-court adjustments by the coaching staff,
Westbrook stated that he "just does what he's asked."
LeBron James, who addressed the media first for Laker exit
interviews, offered his thoughts on his first season as Westbrook's
One thing about Russ that I love and will always love, is just
his competitive spirit, what he brings to the game every night. And
when you’re in a profession when so many injuries happen and so
many things go on, to have a guy that’s reliable, who can put on
the uniform every single night, that’s something I respect out of
everything. I’m not gonna sit here and make decisions for the front
office and things of that nature, but I love being a teammate of
I mean, at the end of the day, the reason why we were not very
good together is we weren’t on the damn floor together. That is the
No. 1 thing. I mean, how many games did we play together? We
played, what, a quarter of the season together? ... I played more
games with my high school teammates in a season, and we only played
27 games. So there it is.
(For what it's worth, Westbrook and LeBron weren't great in
those 21 games together this season, going just 11-10 with a
minus-3.5 Net Rating.)
"Russ is a hall of fame player that gave everything he could to
this organization this year... In terms of Russell Westbrook and
his future, part of that is in his control," Lakers general manager
Rob Pelinka added.
For Westbrook himself, this was the first season in his career
in which he was not in the 98th percentile or better in usage rate.
Even beside Kevin Durant, James Harden or Bradley Beal, Westbrook
had one of the top usage rates in the league. He recorded his
second-lowest assist percentage (31.0%) and second-worst turnover
percentage (15.4%) — both barely edging out his rookie
The 2021-22 campaign also saw Westbrook take his fewest amount
of shots per game (15.3) on the lowest field-goal percentage of his
career (39.8%). His minus-4.0 NET was a product of his second-worst
Offensive Rating (107.5) and career-low Defensive Rating
One point Westbrook repeatedly made was that he wasn't allowed
to use his strengths on the floor to help make the team successful.
The veteran's ability to score on the fastbreak and take advantage
of his opponents' turnovers has always been one of his strengths,
but this year, he had career-lows in points off turnovers and
fastbreak points per game.
Whatever the reason may be — whether it was coaching style,
roster fit or straight up regression — Westbrook was clearly not
the same player we have seen throughout his career.
It is clear that a new fit should be on the horizon for the
oft-misunderstood point guard, or else it'll be back to the drawing
board for all parties involved.