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Los Angeles Lakers point guard Russell Westbrook hasn’t received much love over the past year after a disappointing first season in LA.
He has been rumored to be in numerous trade scenarios, and there have been whispers LeBron James wasn’t exactly thrilled with how last season played out.
The Lakers’ recent trade for Patrick Beverley only increased speculation Westbrook would not be on the roster come training camp, with bad blood between the two players going back nearly a decade.
Russell Westbrook of the Los Angeles Lakers before a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers March 21, 2022 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland.
(David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)
But Westbrook appears to have the support of Lakers owner Jeanie Buss. She told The Athletic the Beverley trade had nothing to do with Westbrook and that she appreciates what he brings to the table.
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“Yeah, I remember all the video that circulated when the Lakers brought in Matt Barnes, (with) his relationship with Kobe over the years (and) being one of the best defenders on Kobe,” Buss told The Athletic. “And now he becomes teammates with Kobe. We’ve seen these storylines before.
“Pat Beverley was brought here to play defense, to be that guy that knows how to push his teammates, (who) sets an example with how he approaches his job. The day of the trade, he was already here after work hours working out. I got a chance to say hello to him as I was leaving for the day.”
Jeanie Buss, president of the Los Angeles Lakers, and singer Paula Abdul attend a game between the Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder April 8, 2022 at Crypto.Com Arena in Los Angeles.
(Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images)
“He just brings that work ethic that we value — that coach [Darvin] Ham values — and is going to be a leader in the locker room. So it has nothing to do with Russ. And, like I said, I think that people, they love to pull up storylines and create something and that just isn’t the case.”
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Westbrook had one of the worst years of his career during the 2021-2022 NBA season, averaging his lowest point totals since his second season in the league while shooting just 29.8% from beyond the 3-point line. But he did appear in 78 of the Lakers’ 82 games, a stat that James and fellow star Anthony Davis were not close to equalling.
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“All I can say is that, from my point of view, (Westbrook) was our best player last year,” Buss told The Athletic. “He played pretty much every single game, showed up, worked hard. You know, I would have loved to have seen what this team would have looked like if they stayed healthy.
Russell Westbrook outside Amiri during Paris Fashion Week — Menswear Spring/Summer 2023 June 23, 2022 in Paris.
(Christian Vierig/Getty Images)
“It’s really tough to win when Anthony Davis isn’t on the court. LeBron was hurt a lot of the season. But Russ showed up every game and played hard every night. And, you know, I just really appreciate him for who he is and what he brings to the team.”
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Buss later clarified in a text to The Athletic what she meant when saying that Westbrook was the Lakers’ “best player.”
“The word I should have used was ‘consistent,’” she wrote via text message. “He played 78 games last season.”
Westbrook has one year remaining on his deal after opting into his $47.1 million player option during the offseason.
Joe Morgan is a Sports Reporter for Fox News.