The Lakers are committing, at least for now, to moving forward as a united group with LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis at the forefront of the team despite an 11th-place finish a year ago.
“Last year is last year,” new coach Darvin Ham said Monday. “This year is a whole new chapter.”
Westbrook vowed to continue to be professional while saying he wanted to help the Lakers win — a mind set that Ham said Westbrook has shown him throughout the summer.
Davis reiterated that the Lakers want Westbrook to be aggressive and to feel like himself despite pushback from Westbrook at the end of last season, questioning whether the Lakers actually wanted that. And James said he “absolutely” believed Westbrook could bounce back after last season’s disappointing year.
“It’s gonna be a great year for him,” James said. “We’re going to be right there with him.”
All of this comes on the heels of a summer when the Lakers had serious conversations about trading Westbrook in an effort to improve their chances for contention this season. The Lakers, for the most part, have balked at the inclusion of two future first-round picks.
General manager Rob Pelinka said the organization, in part to reward James’ commitment to the Lakers by signing a contract extension, is committed to using any tool necessary to improve the team’s championship hopes. But, in the same answer, Pelinka said the Lakers essentially have “one shot” to make a deal if they trade the 2027 and 2029 first-round draft picks, so they want to make sure it’s the right one.
“Whether they want me here or not doesn’t really matter,” Westbrook said when asked directly about the Lakers’ desires for him.
Ultimately, Westbrook said he’s just excited to get back on the court.
“I’m blessed,” he said.