Pricey new Lakers point guard Russell Westbrook expressed confidence in his fit alongside LeBron James, one of the most ball-dominant teammates with whom the very ball-dominant Westbrook has ever played. The decorated 6’3″ vet also made it clear that Los Angeles is heading into the 2021/22 season with title expectations.
“LeBron out of anybody else, he knows what it takes to win a championship,” Westbrook said during the team’s Media Day on Tuesday, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN. “And that’s the ultimate goal. So anything along the way … we cannot get distracted, cannot get deterred from our ultimate goal.”
The Lakers will be Westbrook’s fourth team in four years, following stints with the Thunder in 2018/19, the Rockets in 2019/20, and the Wizards in 2020/21. Last year, Westbrook was not named to the All-Star team during a relatively healthy season for the first time since 2009/10. His backcourt mate Bradley Beal was the lone Wizards player to earn that honor in 2021.
Though he averaged 22.2 PPG, a league-leading 11.7 APG, and 11.5 RPG (his fourth triple-double in five seasons), Westbrook was relatively inefficient as a shooter during his Wizards tenure. Westbrook posted a shooting line of .439/.315/.656. The Lakers are hoping that the 2017 MVP, 32, can help expedite their offense and relieve 36-year-old LeBron James of his playmaking burden, especially during the regular season.
“He ups our pace right away,” James raved about his new teammate. “He’s always in the top five as far as pace. Whatever team is what he with, so being able to get out and being able to get out on the break and be able to try to get some early buckets before the defense is set. That creates that. But also he’s just a flat-out playmaker. I think what a lot of people don’t talk about in his game is how unbelievable of a passer he is. Everyone sees the rebounds, everyone sees the scoring and things of that nature, but his passing, his ability to make guys around him better, that does not get talked about a lot.”
There’s more out of Los Angeles:
- New Lakers guard Kendrick Nunn has joined many of his L.A. teammates on the decorated roster of Klutch Sports clients, McMenamin reports (via Twitter). Nunn, who faced off against the Lakers in the 2020 Finals as a rookie on the Heat, signed a two-year, $10MM deal with Los Angeles this summer. After going undrafted out of Oakland in 2018, the 6’2″ point guard carved out a role for himself on a veteran-laden Miami squad in the 2019/20 season, and was named to the All-Rookie First Team in 2020. Nunn averaged 15.0 PPG, 3.0 APG, 2.9 APG and 0.9 SPG during his two seasons with the Heat. The 26-year-old boasts an impressive career shooting line of .458/.364/.881.
- Lakers All-Star big man Anthony Davis acknowledged during the team’s Media Day that he has had conversations with head coach Frank Vogel about finally becoming the club’s starting center, per Mark Medina of USA Today (Twitter video link). Los Angeles rebuilt its frontcourt rotation around Davis during the offseason, adding veteran former All-Star centers DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard on minimum deals. “That was discussed and I expect to play center,” Davis said. “Obviously there’s times where Dwight or DJ might get the start at center depending on games, but for the most part, I think the plan is to go with me playing center.” In the past, Davis has preferred to start at the power forward position. He has shared the floor alongside a variety of veteran centers while with the Lakers, though Los Angeles found its most success in the 2020 playoffs with Davis at the center position.
- Further details have emerged concerning the new contract of Lakers guard Austin Reaves, per Keith Smith of Spotrac (via Twitter). Smith reports that the deal is a two-year contract at the league minimum. Reaves has a partial guarantee of $100K for the 2021/22 season, and his full first-year salary will become guaranteed on January 10, 2022. The second year of the agreement is fully non-guaranteed. The 6’5″ rookie, 23, went undrafted out of Oklahoma this summer.