Russell Westbrook enjoyed arguably his worst NBA season ever in 2021-22, with his stats falling across the board. Westbrook received generational hate and criticism, and some of the clips of his missed shots are still being trolled online. It says something that a former MVP has reached this level, but Russ' playing style means that any decline would lead to the sort of play that fans and media members alike love to roast.
Westbrook became something of a scapegoat for the Lakers' failings last season. His inefficient shooting and turnovers had fans calling for him to be traded just a few months into his tenure with the team. With Anthony Davis once again spending the majority of the season hurt and even LeBron James struggling with niggling injuries time and again during the season, the onus for all the terrible performances was on Westbrook's shoulders.
So it was vastly surprising to Sam Amick, who recently interviewed Lakers owner Jeanie Buss when she referred to Westbrook as the team's best player last season. He was so surprised that following this interview with The Athletic, he reached out to Buss, who clarified her statement.
“'From my point of view, (Westbrook) was our best player last year.'
"Yes, as you might imagine, I did a double take when Jeanie shared her viewpoint that Westbrook was the best the Lakers had to offer last season. By most accounts — yours truly included — his debut season with the Lakers was an unmitigated disaster.
"So after the interview ended, when I realized that I’d failed to follow up quickly enough to get total clarity on this stunning take, I decided to send Buss a note asking if this was her actual belief.
“'The word I should have used was consistent,' she wrote via text message. 'He played 78 games last season.'"
Normally, if someone called Westbrook the team's best player in a season, LeBron James averaged 30 points per game on the same team, it would lead to a double take from the person listening. But it's telling that Westbrook's ability to stay healthy and on the court has caught the eye of ownership, his availability was certainly an underrated aspect of his game last season, considering the other stars, especially Anthony Davis.
All these words of praise for Westbrook coming from the Lakers camp are confusing, the reports have more often than not suggested that he will be traded soon. The star point guard is not well-loved in LA, no matter what Buss says, and the team could potentially be better served by moving on from him. Perhaps this is nothing more than a way to improve his value in the market, in any case, Russ will likely take whatever praise he can get right now.