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Why was Russell Westbrook able to coexist with KD and Harden, but struggles to play with LeBron and AD

Why was Russell Westbrook able to coexist with KD and Harden, but struggles to play with LeBron and AD

Why was Russell Westbrook able to coexist with KD and Harden, but struggles to play with LeBron and AD

The Russell Westbrook Lakers experiment may go down as one of the biggest flops ever. But based on the initial superteam he was on, the OKC Thunder, that shouldn't have necessarily been the case. So why does Brodie struggle to play alongside Anthony Davis and LeBron James compared to when he played with James Harden and Kevin Durant in Oklahoma? 

BJ Armstrong: RWB is better without James, AD on the floor 

Most of the L.A. Lakers’ struggles this season derive from Westbrook’s struggles on the court. No one imagined things would go this bad after he joined the team in the summer. But instead of being another star capable of carrying the load in the absence of James and AD, the opposite happened.

While the team has started to improve as of late, the Westbrook gamble will be the key to how far the Lakers go in the postseason, if they make it at all. So the question on everyone’s mind is why Westbrook has failed to integrate himself into the Lakers’ scheme of things. Former player BJ Armstrong thinks it could be because of who he’s playing with on the court. 

Speaking on the Hoops Genius podcast, the 3-time NBA champion claims Brodie is better without James and AD on the floor. 

"When there's no Anthony Davis, when there's no LeBron James and Russell is there, he seems to play better," Armstrong said. "He's more relaxed, he's more in his comfort zone. He's not used to being the third star. Most players are better playing with better players. But it's like the opposite with Russell. Like he's better when one or both of those guys aren't playing. And then you say, 'Well, when LeBron gets back or Anthony Davis gets back, that should make them (better),' and I think that is the mystery here: how do we get those guys to play well all together?"

Three reasons why Brodie is struggling in L.A.

After being the Alpha Dog in OKC for many years following Harden's and KD's departures, it’s understandable that Westbrook may find it difficult playing with Davis and LeBron James. However, it’s not the first time he's surrounded with dominant ball-handling All-Stars. So why did it work then, and it doesn't work now?

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1. Age factor 

Brodie was just 20 years old when he played with Harden and Durant. Now in L.A., he joins a team full of veterans. At 33, it’s normal for Westbrook to lose some of the explosive speed and jumping abilities he’s known for, which contributed to his struggles.

2. Inconsistent jumpers

Westbrook was not scrutinized heavily for his inability to consistently drain jumpers as he had All-Star scorers Kevin Durant and James Harden teammates to cover for him. In L.A., he is expected to contribute in the scoring department, but his struggles continue. Not to mention the increase in turnovers. James and Anthony Davis are also struggling with their shots this season after coming back from different health issues. 

3. Playing in L.A. is simply different 

L.A. is focused on winning a title this season, not the next one or in the next two years. That’s why they signed the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, and Westbrook in the offseason. Being the third choice on a team like the Lakers may still be unfamiliar for Brodie. But as long as he accepts his role, plays to his strengths, and cuts down on turnovers, the Lakers should be fine. 

Recent performances tell us Frank Vogel and the coaching staff are closer to finding the right balance for the team. There’s still time to turn things around, and it starts with Russell Westbrook accepting the things he can't do anymore.

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