Russell Westbrook Felt He Was ‘Never Given A Fair Chance’ By The Lakers This Year

Russell Westbrook was a lightning rod in his first season in Los Angeles by proxy of being the biggest addition to the roster and costing the Lakers much of their depth to get him.

It was clear early on that there was going to be an adjustment period for Westbrook, LeBron James, and Anthony Davis in playing together, but being the last man in put the impetus on Westbrook to figure out how to work his way in. That, for a variety of possible reasons, never happened and the result was Monday being exit interview day in L.A. rather than being the start of playoff preparations.

The most anticipated of those exit interviews was Westbrook’s to hear his perspective on the season, what went wrong, and his apparent clash with the now-fired Frank Vogel. The common theme of Westbrook’s 20 minutes with the press, which you can watch in its entirety above, was that Westbrook felt he never got the opportunity he deserved, whether in the discussion of his rocky relationship with Vogel or even his two co-stars, and he explained that from the jump, he never felt like he got the chance to be the version of himself on or off the court that would’ve helped the Lakers the most.

I would say this, when I first got here and just being a person that unfortunately people create narratives of me and who I am and what I do and what I believe in that are just not true. I’m always having to prove myself again year after year after year, which to me is unfair and really no reason to do that. So when I first got here I just felt that I never was given a fair chance just to be who I needed to be to be able to help this team.

From top to bottom, just every aspect. What I bring to an organization is not just basketball. I am well-faceted in different aspects of my life, whether it’s in the community, whether it’s leadership, whether it’s different things of helping other teammates and people and creating friendships and relationships, because that’s the bigger goal because basketball is a short time in your life and you have an ability to create friendships and relationships in that time. But when you have to try to prove to people or try to let people take this perception of who they think of me, it kind of takes you coming in and, good luck, you know. I just never felt I had a fair chance on the basketball front or any front.

When asked about Vogel, he said he didn’t know what Vogel’s issue was with him but noted that they just never clicked, while continuing to push back on reports he clashed with the staff and refused to do certain things. Maybe the most eye-opening quote was when it was noted that LeBron and Davis both consistently said “Let Russ be Russ,” to which he retorted, “Yeah but that wasn’t true, so let’s be honest,” before saying he “very rarely” felt like himself on the court.

All of this makes the next steps for the Lakers this offseason even more interesting, as Westbrook figures to pick up his $47 million player option but many speculate he won’t be on the roster next season, whether in a trade (with Indiana rumored as a potential place that would accept his expiring salary) or by the Lakers stretching him and waiving him. First, a new coach will need to be hired and decide if he thinks that trio can come together in a way that makes sense on the court in a way that is different from how Vogel approached things. If so, maybe Westbrook will be back — it’d save the Lakers a considerable amount of money and assets — but clearly fences need to be mended if that’s going to have a chance of succeeding in a way this season did not.