8 points (4-13), 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and the worst +/- of the game with -23; Russell Westbrook had a rough start to his career as a Laker. What's even more concerning is that all the predictions of why Westbrook will be a very awkward fit were obvious from jump ball.
"I told Russ to go home and watch a comedy. Do something that can put a smile on his face. He's so hard on himself. I told him, 'Don't be so hard on yourself. It's one game.'"
LeBron James, postgame conference
Anthony Davis joined LeBron in sending the "it's just one game" message to Russ after the game, but the fact remains that Westbrook has the Ben Simmons problem - he's only good when the entire team concept is built around his strengths, and more so his weaknesses. Just like Simmons, Westbrook can't shoot. So every time the ball is not in his hands on offense, Russ is a liability.
What Lakers fans (and coaching staff) are hoping is that, unlike his previous stints, Westbrook won't just stand around and try a new concept in basketball - off-ball movement. In addition to his limitations offensively, Westbrook has one apparent downside compared to Simmons; he's a below-average defender at best. The irony is that many people think Westbrook's biggest flaw could be fixed with a little bit of Simmons in his game - more reluctance to take a shot, particularly the big, late-game shots Westbrook has no problem taking despite his horrible numbers.
Is there a world this can work? Sure it can. One thing no one can take away from Westbrook is the energy and effort he brings on a nightly basis. This was probably the no.1 thing on the "pros" side of the board when the Lakers considered trading for him. If you want to spare LeBron in the regular season and need someone else to drag the team to home-court advantage, Brodie is your guy. But you can get a guy like that for a lot less than $44 million. I know what you're thinking, and the answer is "yes" - Westbrook is the highest-paid player on the Lakers.
As with any team led by LeBron James, failure and success will be measured in the playoffs, and that's where Westbrook's flaws shine and strengths become limited. You want the ball in LeBron's hands for every second he is on the floor and complementary players around him. This is where the opportunity cost for the Lakers will make the decision to go with Westbrook over the Buddy Hield package look even worse. Shannon Sharpe made it clear who's going to be responsible once that happens.
"Lebron not gonna be able to walk this one out because they had a deal in place to go get Buddy Hield and he and AD wanted Russ. This is what you wanted. Rob Pelinka gave you Russ, they ran this by you. You wanted Russ, you got Russ. I said it from day 1 - Buddy Hield is a better fit for LeBron James and Anthony Davis because he can space the floor."
Shannon Sharpe, Undisputed
As much as he disputes it, we all know LeGM had to approve a trade like this. James has often opted for trading young players for more experienced ones, and it backfired more often than not in the past. In the end, I think this trade will go in the loss column when all is said and done, mainly because we know the Lakers could've gotten Buddy Hield for less and decided not to.