In making a splash move for Russell Westbrook, the Lakers are taking a big gamble on the court in adding a third star alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis. An imperfect fit alongside the Lakers’ championship-winning duo, there is uncertainty about how well the Lakers will function and perform this year.
What is not a gamble, though, is that Westbrook’s return to his hometown will be a smashing hit off the court. A player who has always remained connected to the Los Angeles area, Westbrook has ignited excitement from fans off the court, including Lakers owner Jeanie Buss.
In an interview with Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic, Buss discussed the Lakers offseason, the financial restraints that allowed them to effectively only sign players on veteran minimum deals and her excitement for Westbrook to come back to Southern California.
“We’re over the cap. We have really no room. When we made that trade (for Westbrook), we knew we’d have to fill the roster with seven or eight players at the veterans minimum. And so trying to convince players to come on one-year deals for the minimum is a challenge. So you get a lot of guys that are willing to take less money for the opportunity to possibly go for a championship, or play in a city that has other opportunities as they transition to the next part of their career. And we kind of had to capitalize on that because we’ve got three players taking up 90 percent of our payroll, and certainly, Russell Westbrook. You know we’ve got a big three now, and Russell is somebody that’s from L.A., went to UCLA, and I think our fans are going to be just cuckoo for him, are going to be so happy that he’s here. It’s like the return of one of our own.”
As Buss mentioned, the front office did a terrific job of finding value signings and players willing to sacrifice money to join the Lakers, like Kent Bazemore. Surrounding the Lakers new big three, and Buss called them, with as much shooting and talent as they did was impressive work by general manager Rob Pelinka.
And there are few better ways for fans to be welcomed back into a full-capacity Staples Center this fall than with a fan favorite like Westbrook leading them into a new season. The excitement for Westbrook’s first game as a Laker, which will come on Opening Night against the Warriors, will be at a very high level given how long it’s been since most fans have had the chance to get into Staples Center, let alone the return of a prodigal son of Los Angeles.
Mix all that together and it adds up to a host of excitement about a Lakers team that should be able to compete at a high level next season all while doing so for a re-energized fanbase ready to cheer on its hometown point guard and the Lakers this season.