NBA News: Former NBA Champion Defends Russell Westbrook, Says He's Still A Star

Russell Westbrook
Wikimedia | Bagumba

Ernesto Cova

The Los Angeles Lakers made a big gamble when they traded for Russell Westbrook. They already had two alpha players in LeBron James and Anthony Davis and didn't have enough financial flexibility to absorb another big contract.

More than that, Westbrook failed to adapt to the team and had arguably the worst season of his career, all but making that trade look like a failure.

He Wasn't Supposed To Lead The Lakers

Russell Westbrook
Giphy | NBA

Then again, Westbrook isn't the only one to blame for the Lakers' struggles. If anything, former NBA champion Iman Shumpert believes that expectations around him weren't realistic, as he wasn't supposed to be their go-to guy:

"Russell Westbrook's contract is not his role on the Lakers and that's what everybody got f****d up," Shumpert said. "Before Russell Westbrook came over there we knew this is a LeBron AD situation. That's how this works, everything Russ do is cake."

Westbrook Needed Time To Adapt

Russell Westbrook
Shutterstock | 564025

Westbrook is facing all the backlash because of his big contract, but it's not like he's to blame for all the money they agreed to pay him:

"Why did everybody act like Russ wasn't gonna have like a period of time where he gotta get his rhythm with new guys," Shumpert added. "Like he don't got the ball 80% of the time no more. Everything changed and everybody was like its Russ fault, he's getting $40 million. It's like bro he didn't throw himself into this to get 20% touches and now he gotta be super efficient."

Lakers Needed To Run Things Through Him

Russell Westbrook
Wikimedia | Sportzeditz

Westbrook was far from his usual self this season. But, then again, it's not like he was put in a position to succeed either:

"The coach gotta give me $44 million ball in my hand time.... I'm not his agent, they ain't paying me nothing.... but if you want $44 million Russ then give him the ball and run everything for Russ then and make Bron stand in the corner," Shumpert concluded.

What's Next For Westbrook?

Russell Westbrook
Wikimedia | Chrishmt0423

Whatever is the case, it seems like the best for both parties is to find a trade suitor. However, Jovan Buha of The Athletic reported that the Lakers are still unwilling to give up a first-round pick to facilitate a trade:

“As of now, they have no intention of using a first-round pick to facilitate a Westbrook trade, according to league sources,” Buha wrote.

As things stand now, no one is going to absorb Westbrook's mammoth deal unless they get at least one pick. So it seems like a buyout is more likely to happen at this point.