Everyone knows the Russell Westbrook trade has been a disaster for the Lakers. There's no use in going over all the reasons why. It's a long list that everyone except the Lakers could've made the second the trade went down. This was never going to work. Westbrook isn't a good player anymore. He hasn't been for a while. That's just the simple truth.
But Magic Johnson took it a couple steps further on Saturday night. Appearing on the Lakers-Warriors pregame show, Johnson said the Westbrook trade "could go down as the worst trade in Laker history." Johnson added an "if we don't get out of the play-in game" qualifier, which is to say don't make the playoffs -- a distinct possibility to be sure. Qualifier or not, that's quite a statement.
Johnson went in on Westbrook, as though he was talking directly to him on live television.
"You man, you know there were expectations when you called LeBron James and Anthony Davis and said you wanted to be a Laker," Johnson said. "You saw Kobe Bryant play and win all those championships. And Kobe said you were the guy! So you know you had to come here knowing that it's about championships when you put on the purple and gold. Quit battling the press. Take ownership and accountability and say, 'hey, I haven't played well but I got a chance to turn it around.' So I'm tired of the excuses. It's time to take ownership and say I've been playing poorly but hopefully I can turn it around."
The problem with the Westbrook trade isn't just that Westbrook has been bad, it's what he cost to acquire. Say nothing of his $44.2 million salary for this season, the Lakers traded Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma and Montrezl Harrell to get Westbrook. The first two were especially integral in helping the Lakers win a championship. They both provided shooting and perimeter defense. It goes without saying that Westbrook provides neither.
There's also the matter of Buddy Hield, whom the Lakers were reportedly set to trade for until LeBron and Davis took up the crusade to trade for Westbrook instead. In the end, the Lakers could've gone either route -- keep Kuzma and KCP or trade for Hield, and they would've been better than they are with Westbrook. Probably significantly.
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Where this all gets really delusional is that guys like Magic Johnson think this is simply a matter of Westbrook "taking accountability" and "playing better." He can take all the accountability he wants, but you can't just play better if you're not capable. LeBron, Davis, Rob Pelinka, Magic, all these guys still want to think of Westbrook as the player he used to be, as if he can just morph back into an MVP because he feels like it. He's not that player anymore. He hasn't been for a long time.
Westbrook, to be honest, isn't the issue. He is who he is. If, as an NBA front office, you can't see that and decide to go all-in on him anyway, you're the issue. The Lakers bumbled this from the start. I don't know if it's the worst trade in franchise history, but it can't be far off.
What Magic is wrong about is Westbrook having a chance to turn it around. Quit fooling yourself into thinking this way. Westbrook is who he is. Even if the Lakers somehow get out of the play-in and into the first round, it won't make the trade any better. It will just be a team winning in spite of a horrible trade because they have the greatest player in history and Davis got healthy in the nick of time. That trade was a mess when it happened, it's still a mess now, and it'll be a mess however this season ends for the Lakers.