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Lakers Rumors: LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook, Lakers Future

FastBreak on FanNation 11/22/2022 Brett Siegel

Fastbreak on FanNation NBA insider and reporter Brett Siegel is joined by Lakers Nation’s Ryan Ward to discuss the start to the 2022-23 season for the Los Angeles Lakers, as well as the latest news and rumors pertaining to LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook and more.

In this week’s episode of The Fast Break Podcast, Fastbreak on FanNation NBA insider and reporter Brett Siegel is joined by Lakers Nation’s Ryan Ward to discuss all things Los Angeles Lakers, who are currently struggling as a team early on this season.

To ensure that you do not miss future episodes of The Fast Break Podcast and other exclusive interviews from around the NBA, be sure to like and subscribe on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and wherever else you may be listening.

LeBron James’ Injury And Severity [2:30]

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Suffering an adductor injury on November 9 against the Los Angeles Clippers, LeBron James has been held out of the Lakers’ last three games despite being listed as “Questionable” to play on Friday, November 18 against the Detroit Pistons.

Following the game in which the injury occurred, James downplayed his injury, stating that it was not as severe as the groin injury that kept him out a month during the 2018-19 season, his first with Los Angeles. However, the Lakers really need LeBron on the floor and healthy if they are to be a threat whatsoever and his injury is a big concern for this organization right now.

Ward [2:53]: “No matter how serious it is, LeBron is never going to tell you the truth. He’s always like, ‘Oh, it’s no problem, it’s no problem.’ and next thing you know, he is out for weeks. I don’t know, I think it kind of happened at the right time for Los Angeles given that they pretty much had the last week off and they were able to beat the Nets without him which is kind of crazy… This kind of seems like a persistent problem with him and Anthony Davis now in terms of battling one injury to the other every other week it seems like. I think this is age catching up with LeBron and for AD, he’s just prone to having injuries. This has been tough to watch. I have been through some of the worst times with this franchise and this is getting pretty close to the worst.”

Anthony Davis’ Long-Term Health Is Concerning For Los Angeles [3:50]

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Anthony Davis is an eight-time All-Star, four-time All-Defensive team talent, a three-time block champion and was instrumental in the success of the Lakers during their 2020 title run, but health has always been a concern with him.

Since arriving in Los Angeles ahead of the 2019-20 season, Davis has missed close to 37 percent of the team’s total games and so far this season, it seems like he is constantly dealing with bruises and pain that limit his overall effectiveness.

Needing him at 100 percent in order to be a championship contender once more, it may be time for the Lakers to start viewing Davis as a liability. Brett and Ryan talked about Anthony Davis’ injury history and if he is going to be able to recover over the course of the season both physically, but most importantly, mentally [3:50].

Siegel: We know what kind of player Anthony Davis can be, but to me at least, I am beginning to see some regression from him and I think this has a lot to do with his injury history through the years. This mental weight of being injured that is looming large over him is affecting his play in the sense that Davis is playing not to get hurt again. As a result, he tends to stay away from contact and physical play we are used to seeing from him because of this. Are you concerned with how AD has looked early on this season and where is he at both physically and mentally?

Ward: You hit the nail on the head there with that mental approach. I think part of the reason he doesn’t want to play center is because of the constant contact and physical play. That risk of getting hurt is constantly playing in his mind and the added pressure of playing in L.A. is a massive mental hurdle that I do not think he is ever going to get over. He is what he is at this point in terms of peaking in his career. I think many do not want to admit this is the case at this point, but it is pretty obvious.

Siegel: So from a health standpoint, are the problems we tend to see with Davis stemming from his physical health or his mental health?

Ward: At times I look at him and say, ‘Wow, he is really locked in defensively,’ but then he disappears offensively. I don’t know. I honestly just don’t think he is going to really change from either perspective. It is going to be what it is from here on out.

Brett then went on to talk about injuries as a whole and how a big part of recovery for athletes from different injuries is the mental block on their minds. That mindset of not wanting to get injured again really takes a toll on some and sometimes, like we have seen with Davis, players tend to adjust their style of play accordingly to try and avoid another injury, sometimes sacrificing talent in the process.

Arriving in Los Angeles during the COVID-19 season and the season in which the Lakers won the championship in the NBA Bubble, Anthony Davis was able to rest up during the team’s championship run and the team did not have to travel, which was advantageous to the Lakers and Davis as Ryan talked about.

Ward [6:55]: “What a lot of people don’t realize pertaining to the NBA Bubble was that traveling did not exist. They did not have to travel anywhere and they basically just went upstairs for practice and games! That took a huge chunk out of what goes into being a professional athlete. If your back is screwed up and you have to go on a plane for five hours, that’s not comfortable! Or if you twist an ankle or something and you have to go on a plane, that thing will blow up like a balloon. That aspect was completely taken out of the equation for Davis and the Lakers, so these guys could heal a little bit quicker and they could get treatment easier. I think that is why Davis was so impactful and dominant in the NBA Bubble atmosphere compared to what kind of player he is now.”

The Latest On Potential Russell Westbrook Trades [7:40]

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One of the greatest point guards of all-time in terms of his athleticism and ability to impact the game multiple ways with his all-time high triple-double records, Russell Westbrook came to Los Angeles already set up for failure.

He ended up being the key topic of trade discussions for this team last season and now that he is in the final year of his contract, Westbrook remains the main topic of discussion for the Lakers to try and make a move. Going from being in the starting lineup next to LeBron and Davis to coming off-the-bench has seemed to help Russell Westbrook and Los Angeles as a whole, but it is definitely disrespectful for a player of his caliber to come off-the-bench and it makes this team as a whole look foolish, especially since they still aren’t winning games.

As far as if the Lakers will be looking to move Westbrook in the coming months, there is always a possibility of a trade, but his overall value has taken a hit and very few teams have the ability to absorb a contract like his [7:40].

Siegel: I feel bad for Russell Westbrook because the second he got to Los Angeles, he was thrown into a terrible position next to LeBron and AD, specifically because his style of play does not necessarily mesh with theirs. Russ has always been such a ball-dominant guy over the course of his career and has never really been able to thrive off-the-ball as a scorer or shooter and that’s exactly the kind of role the Lakers wanted him to play. Coming off-the-bench has seemed to patch things up slightly, but his mood can’t be great right now and this isn’t a long-term solution.

Ward: He’s definitely not happy. I think it is hard to see Russ happy. In all the years I have covered the Lakers, whether Westbrook was here or somewhere else, he never had a smile on his face behind the scenes. I do agree that he was put into a situation where his chances of succeeding were low to begin with and clearly we saw what happened last year. The mental strain and fans from your hometown constantly poking fun at you and calling for your head; that’s got to take a huge toll on him. I am shocked to be honest that he has embraced this “sixth-man-like” role and flourished. I did not think this was going to happen and go smoothly, yet here we are. The sad part is that this new role for him has not changed anything in terms of success for the team. Yeah Russ is doing well, but the team is still terrible. It seems like this team has to play perfect basketball in order to just compete with any team in this league.

Siegel: Trade talks surrounding Westbrook has been a key talking point in the league ever since the trade deadline last season and there was a ton of talk at Summer League in Las Vegas back in July that Russ could be on the move in a three or four-team trade that would have brought either Kyrie Irving to Los Angeles from Brooklyn or both Buddy Hield and Myles Turner from the Pacers to the Lakers. Ultimately these talks fell through and nothing happened, but Westbrook is still that one trade piece the Lakers have that they can attempt to move for value.

Ward: Now that he has kind of shown that he is not totally washed and can actually produce in this new, accepted role, I think his value could go way up again. I think it was Woj who came out and said that the Lakers are going to wait until around Thanksgiving to see where they are at before making a deal. Well, here we are now! I think they will move Westbrook really fast if they get an offer they really like, obviously, but I do not think he has won over any teams in this league.

The Future of LeBron James In Los Angeles [15:00]

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Recently restructuring his contract and signing an extension, LeBron James is now under contract with the Lakers through the 2023-24 season and he has a player option for the 2024-25 season.

Coincidentally enough, Bronny James, his son, will be draft eligible in 2024 and LeBron has made his intentions to play with Bronny very clear, as he stated near the All-Star Game a season ago that he would be willing to do anything and take any deal to make his dream of playing with his son a reality.

LeBron James wants to win right now while he is still playing at a high-level and there have been some reports about James being frustrated with Los Angeles as a result of the front-office’s stubbornness to move pieces and draft picks around in order to try and compete for championships right now.

As a result, James’ longevity in Los Angeles has come into question and Ryan seems to think that the days of LeBron James wearing the purple and gold could be numbered [15:00].

Ward [15:00]: “With the way things are going this season, I think the Lakers will blow everything up in the summer. I think that means you will see Anthony Davis moved and we might see LeBron moved as well. I mean, that is kind of crazy to say because it is hard to picture LeBron getting moved, but I do not see the point of bringing something back if it just has not worked over the years. Just cut your losses if you are Los Angeles’ front-office, get what you can, while you can and try to move forward. I think it is even possible for all of this to happen sooner and AD possibly being moved by this trade deadline… LeBron potentially requesting out of Los Angeles depends on if he wants to waste another year with the Lakers. If I was him, I would want to go somewhere else where I at least have a chance to win another title because there is nothing the Lakers can do next summer in free agency that will all of a sudden make this team stacked. The best case scenario for the Lakers right now is to blow things up, get what you can for these guys and start from scratch. It sucks, but that’s the only path they can go down at this point.”

Be sure to follow Brett Siegel (@BrettSiegelNBA) and Ryan Ward (@RyanWardLA) on Twitter.

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