Former NBA star J.R. Smith has criticized LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers for their treatment of Russell Westbrook during his brief stint with the team. Smith, who played with James on the Cleveland Cavaliers, empathized with Westbrook’s struggles during his time in LA and believes that the Lakers organization and fanbase “flipped” on him.
“I understand what he was going through,” Smith said during an interview with Bally Sports. “Given the passion that he has for the game, and then seeing people around you who, quote on quote, are supposed to be the closest to you, and your teammates and organization kind of flip on you, and then the fanbase…to have that type of experience with your home team, your home city, it’s really tough.”
Westbrook was brought in as the team’s third star alongside James and Anthony Davis, but his poor play and fit with the team were heavily criticized. He was eventually traded to the Los Angeles Clippers at the 2023 NBA trade deadline, where he found a much better situation and helped lead the team to a playoff berth.
Smith, who faced his own share of criticism during his NBA career, feels for Westbrook and believes that the Lakers organization and fanbase should have been more supportive of him. Despite Westbrook’s struggles, Smith noted that he was still giving it his all for the team and accepting whatever role they handed him.
“It definitely was tough for Westbrook to experience,” Smith said. “But he proved during his time with the Clippers, particularly in the playoffs, that he still has something to offer in the NBA. With free agency on the horizon, seeing where he lands over the upcoming offseason will be interesting. But it’s clear that Westbrook is in a much better place than he was before the start of the season, and for that reason, Smith is happy for him.”
Smith’s comments may reignite the ongoing debate surrounding James and his leadership style, as some have criticized him for being too demanding of his teammates. Regardless, it’s clear that Westbrook’s time with the Lakers was a difficult one, and it’s refreshing to see him thriving in his new situation with the Clippers.
James opponent Westbrook Proves Doubters Wrong as Lakers and Clippers Make Playoff Push
During this year’s NBA playoffs, Russell Westbrook has shown that he is far from being out of the league anytime soon. Despite concerns earlier in the season, Westbrook found himself playing for the Los Angeles Clippers, where he has thrived with impressive statistics of 23.6 points per game, 7.6 rebounds per game, 7.4 assists per game, 1.2 steals per game, and 1.4 blocks per game against the Phoenix Suns.
Meanwhile, the Lakers received a group of players in exchange for Westbrook who have proven to be a great match alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis. This was evident in a recent game against the Warriors, where the Lakers quickly overcame a significant deficit, leading by 11 points at halftime before dominating the third quarter to secure an impressive 127-97 victory.
As the Lakers continue their push towards the playoffs, both teams have defied expectations and surpassed initial doubts. What was once considered an impossible feat is now a very real possibility, showcasing the resilience and determination of these two talented teams.