Few things are more consistent across all of sports than the Lakers’ insistence on striving for peak weirdness in everything they do.
Most teams with a $47 million point guard already on the roster would make do with a backup at that position who, say, doesn’t outwardly mock the guy who’ll likely be starting ahead of him.
After making what might be their biggest acquisition of the offseason, most teams would make their chief basketball executive available to answer questions about the trade and the offseason to that point alongside said trade target.
At that press conference, most teams might have some collection of players present to kick off that acquisition’s tenure, sure. Maybe a star or two here or there alongside some other excited teammates. But surely they wouldn’t send only one guy and have that player be the person this acquisition might likely be replacing.
The Lakers, though? They once again opted for the most dramatic and ridiculous version of events, as they used one of their few trade chips on yet another small guard, Patrick Beverley, who infamously has been in an open feud with Russell Westbrook dating back to the Obama administration.
Then, upon trading Talen Horton-Tucker and Stanley Johnson for Beverley, Rob Pelinka stood in the back of Beverley’s introductory presser, where he wouldn’t have to answer questions about how he’s watched the Lakers go from a champion with all kinds of roster flexibility to the bottom of the standings with no likely way to get back to legitimate title contention.
Instead, Pelinka sent his rookie head coach up to field questions about Westbrook and Beverley potentially playing together. For what it’s worth, once again, Darvin Ham acquitted himself quite well given the circumstances.
Unfortunately, the drama served to tell the actual story even as the Lakers tried to polish a turd with positivity. Everyone involved is saying the right things, but through their actions are telling a very different story.
Jeanie Buss tried to say that Westbrook was the Lakers’ best player last year, got called on it, and instead called him their most consistent player for merely having shown up to work. This after saying what she’s excited about next season is watching LeBron James, Anthony Davis and, wait for it, Kendrick Nunn play next year.
Nunn. Not Westbrook. Kendrick Nunn — who may or may not be physically capable of scrimmaging right now. Hard to say.
To his credit, Beverley and some of his new teammates have said and tweeted all the right things about their belief in Westbrook having a bounce-back season. Interestingly, Westbrook hasn’t reciprocated any of that enthusiasm by even acknowledging those tweets’ existence.
The good news is they dapped each other up in much of the same way two brothers who were just scolded for throwing blocks at each other would before going to their respective rooms.
Pat Beverley and Russell Westbrook greeting each other after Pat’s press conference pic.twitter.com/p02AC9O1kh— Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) September 6, 2022
Not awkward at all!
And look, scouring Twitter likes or analyzing handshakes is about as low as offseason content can get, but we’re put in this position because the Lakers keep trying to convince us everything is ok when it clearly isn’t.
Poor Ham tried to tell us during a Summer League game that working schedules out to get LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Westbrook all in the same place at the same time is tough during the summer when, hilariously, James and Westbrook were sitting in that very gym and still wouldn’t even give awkward dap.
We knew heading into this offseason this situation wasn’t tenable. We’ve known throughout the summer that hasn’t changed. Hell, the Lakers know this as well as they’ve spent all of June, July, August and September trying to trade Westbrook even as he’s been there to welcome his future former head coach and in all likelihood replacement — someone, by the way, the Lakers targeted in no small part for being the literal opposite of Westbrook on the court.
With only a couple weeks left before official training camp and potentially only mere days left before unofficial minicamps kick off, the situation really hasn’t changed even as (and credit to him for this) Westbrook has been nothing but professional in welcoming Ham and Beverley.
Pelinka has built this roster seemingly with a Westbrook-for-rotation-role-players move in mind and, as things currently stand, the personnel once again doesn’t make much sense with Westbrook involved.
The logical move was to bite the bullet and send Westbrook away early in the offseason so Pelinka would know what he’d need across the rest of the roster. The simplest path forward — as painful as moving two first rounders would be — was always to accept last season’s failures and try to give James and Davis a puncher’s chance at championship competition.
We just know the Lakers don’t do either logical nor simple.
This week on “The Anthony Irwin Show,” I welcomed Dan Woike to discuss the scene at Beverley’s press conference, why Westbrook hasn’t been moved to this point and how likely it now seems that he’ll be back to start next season.
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.