Westbrook says he “was never given a fair chance to be who I needed to be to help” Lakers


If there was still a slim chance of Russell Westbrook returning to the Lakers next season heading into Monday, Westbrook himself drove a stake through the heart of the idea.

Westbrook took some blame for a disappointing season, but also said he wasn’t welcomed by the organization, coach, and even his fellow stars caught some fire. Here are his key quotes, via Kyle Goon of the Southern California News Group.

Frank Vogel had Westbrook’s back more than he realized, always being publicly supportive and not benching Westbrook late in games until long after it was warranted (Vogel needed management permission to bench Westbrook, which was another issue in Vogel being a scapegoat and losing his job). Based on his comments going back to early this season, Westbrook was clearly not a Vogel fan. As with most things, Vogel handled it like a professional.

Westbrook put up counting stats for the Lakers — 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.1 assists a game — but struggled with his efficiency. He shot 29.8% from 3 (on 3.4 attempts a game), and had a .521 true shooting percentage, well below the league average. He turned the ball over a lot and struggled in the clutch.

In terms of style of play, Westbrook was the same player we saw in the later years in Oklahoma City, then Houston and Washington (his efficiency has dropped with each stop). However, the Lakers needed him to be something different, and Westbrook couldn’t and wouldn’t. In his previous stops, Westbrook was the guy with the ball in his hands, the No. 1 option, and with that comes some forgiveness for inefficiency because of the shot creation needed. However, the Lakers needed him to be an efficient third option, and that was not a role Westbrook could play. From Westbrook’s perspective, he never got to be himself because — unlike the Wizards and Rockets — the Lakers didn’t bend their offense to fit his ball-dominant style. However, Westbrook reportedly told LeBron James and Anthony Davis he would do whatever it took to win before the trade happened.

Trading Westbrook and his $47.1 million salary for next season (a player option he will undoubtedly pick up) will be difficult, there are limited options (and all of them cost the Lakers something of value to get another team to take on that salary).

But the Lakers need to figure out something because after today he is not coming back to L.A. next season.