At the time of the Russell Westbrook trade, one concern was how he might handle late-game situations whenever the Los Angeles Lakers needed to calm down and get a decent shot. It would appear that was a pretty fair issue to be nervous about as the Los Angeles Lakers dropped a game to the Sacramento Kings and Westbrook used the biggest possession of the night to dribble in one place for 12 seconds and take a bad three-pointer.
Tonight, in this week’s episode of “I Love (or Loathe) Basketball,” Sabreena Merchant and I react to an altogether brutal night. Losing to the Kings is bad enough but losing like that with a player so clearly struggling is just too much to take.
Eventually, we arrive at a place where maybe the only logical solution here is for LeBron James to approach leadership in a way he has been pretty reticent to take to this point with fellow stars, but before that, Sabreena pushed me to a take I’ve been trying like hell to avoid:
I do actually think most of the Lakers’ issues can be traced back to Westbrook. No, not necessarily him the player (though it’s pretty brutal watching him play even disregarding his contract), but no team can overcome someone making $44 million and producing for far below that number. Add to that the players the Lakers gave up to acquire him and the indirect cost of that deal and he had to be great.
At this point, I’d take decent, but far too many nights he hasn’t been that.
We discuss that, then jump into a style of leadership this situation might be calling for, even if a direct approach has never been James’ style. If Russ has a possession again like he did Thursday night in Sacramento, LeBron needs to step and say that isn’t what they need. He might be doing so privately and yes we can all see his live reactions to those shots, but the Lakers have arrived at a place where James might need to react to Russ in a way he doesn’t seem to mind with role players.
We cover that, Austin Reaves’ best game of his young career, whether the Lakers have gone too small, and Sabreena and my poor choice in NFL fandoms.
And for a short-form recap pod, check out Lakers Lowdown, in which Anthony Irwin recaps the previous day’s news and gets you ready for the day ahead in LakerLand, every weekday morning on the Silver Screen & Roll Podcast feed.