Editor’s note: This is the Wednesday Oct. 26 edition of the “Game Day with Kevin Modesti” newsletter. To receive the newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.
Good morning. The Lakers face the Nuggets in Denver tonight, and Russell Westbrook is listed as doubtful with an injury. It’s hard to know what to root for there.
In non-Russell Westbrook news:
The Clippers played without Kawhi Leonard (knee) and Paul George (illness) and lost to the Thunder.
The Kings got a big night from Gabe Vilardi and other young players and beat the Lightning.
The Rams’ Aaron Donald and his wife Erica announced he is leaving Kanye West’s sports agency, saying West’s anti-semitic comments “are the exact opposite of how we choose to live our lives and raise our children.”
The Trojans face injury questions on both sides of the ball as they return from a week off to play at Arizona on Saturday.
The Dodgers’ Justin Turner told fans on social media he’s as disappointed by the playoff loss as they are, but said nothing about his own future.
You know the Russell Westbrook situation has gotten confusing when you hear he has a hamstring injury and might miss a game against a Western Conference contender and you think maybe that’s a good thing.
Gotten confusing? The whole thing has made eyeballs spin in their sockets from the moment in July 2021 when the Lakers acquired Westbrook from the Wizards in a five-team trade involving 10 players and five draft picks.
From his very first story about the deal, our Lakers beat writer Kyle Goon warned that adding the 2017 NBA MVP to this lineup could go wrong, posing the question of “whether LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Westbrook … can mesh well enough to become a true contender.”
It has gone wrong. Two years after James and Davis led them to the NBA title and a year after they went to the conference final, the Lakers added Westbrook and finished below .500 and missed the playoffs last season.
Now they’re off to an 0-3 start this season, and Westbrook’s poor shooting and bad late-game decisions are one reason.
As much as L.A. would like to love a local product (Long Beach native, Leuzinger High, UCLA) who is a future Basketball Hall of Famer, we also know the soon to be 34-year-old is not the player he was, is on his fourth team in five seasons in quest of a title, and is making a team-high $47 million in 2022-23.
But as much as L.A. would like to hate him, smart fans realize he didn’t force himself into this bad fit, that the trade was a decision by Lakers GM Rob Pelinka on the advice of James.
In today’s paper, columnist Mirjam Swanson writes that Lakers fans should try encouraging Wesbrook with cheers “instead of gasping in unison like you’re all at a theater watching a scary movie together every time he sets up for a shot.”
Yesterday, Kyle Goon analyzed an “impossible situation” made worse by the front office’s mistake in thinking the mismatch of Westbrook’s talents and tendencies with James’ and Davis’ was going to work itself out.
I like Mirjam’s and Kyle’s thinking because they embrace the complexity and confusion.
You’ll see calls for the Lakers to trade Westbrook now.
But accepting the best trade offer available now could replace one problem with another by making less than the best use of the 2027 and 2029 first-round draft picks that they have to trade.
Better returns, players who could actually improve the team, might be available closer to the Feb. 9 trade deadline. The best plan, in the long run, might be to wait out the season until Westbrook’s contract is up and there’s another $47 million to spend.
Are the Lakers and their fans willing to go through that long run, with little hope of being better than a one-round playoff team, with a year of James and Davis ticking away?
Would any move to unload Westbrook turn them into a contender anyway, given the other issues with the roster and its early-season performance?
In the short term, how do you root tonight? For Westbrook to be healthy andin uniform in Denver and trying to make things better? Or hurting in street clothes and letting the team operate without him? My head hurts thinking of the implications of winning or losing with or without him.
The Russell Westbrook situation is complicated and confusing. The ultimate mistake would be pretending it isn’t.
Lakers visit the Nuggets (7:05 p.m., SPSN, ESPN). The teams will meet again Sunday at Crypto.com Arena.
Ducks come home to host the Lightning (7 p.m., TNT), which plays a second straight night after losing to the Kings.
Responses kept coming in to the newsletter’s question for Chargers fans: What are you happy and unhappy about as the Chargers go into their bye week with a 4-3 record?
Twitter user @BoltCountry replied: “I am happy with the play of Khalil Mack, Sebastian JD (Joseph-Day) and also the O-line holding somewhat together for the injuries they’ve had. Unhappy about the inability to make big offensive plays and seemingly resorting to a check-down offense. I understand injuries play a huge part.”
Jason J. McGee answered: “My feeling always was the defense was never as good as advertised. How would (coach Brandon) Staley adjust in year 2, since the league has a year of tape of him and (quarterback Justin) Herbert? The league has caught up to both, (and) add in injuries. Can they adjust? Doubtful. 8-9/9-8 type year.”
Ryan DePaul said: “Besides the massive injuries, they have no WR threats. Even with Keenan (Allen) and Mike W. (Williams) healthy, neither are explosive and neither can separate with speed. Team lacks speed so much that they’re easy to defend.”
@Kristofresh said: “Happy that we’re actually 4-3, as it could be worse. Happy that we have a bye this week for injuries, rest, reflection. Happy with the opportunistic, aggressive defense. Happy that the AFC West isn’t the powerhouse it was predicted to be. Unhappy with the injuries, believe that’s a major factor in why Herbert doesn’t look like Herbert.”
@SylvestreJaime8 said: “Not happy about the injuries this year. I know they happen, but man, it’s like every week. What I’m happy about is that I still have hope they can turn it around. Make a trade or two, but do something!!!”
What is the best solution to the Lakers’ Russell Westbrook problem? Respond by email to KModesti@scng.com or on Twitter at @KevinModesti.
A few days in Eugene got me on that love-and-peace thing I guess? ’Cause….
Swanson: Want Russell Westbrook to thrive, Lakers fans? Try cheering for him. Seriously!https://t.co/znns4Vo5CH
— Mirjam Swanson (@MirjamSwanson) October 25, 2022
– Mirjam Swanson (@MirjamSwanson), who covered the UCLA-Oregon game over the weekend, in a tweet linking to her column suggesting that Lakers fans try cheering Russell Westbrook.
Last line of defense: The Kings’ Drew Doughty stops a Tampa Bay Lightning player’s shot with his skate as goalie Jonathan Quick watches in the third period of the Kings’ 4-2 victory last night at Crypto.com Arena. Photo is by David Crane of the Daily News and SCNG.
Columnist Jim Alexander appeared on the Bleed Los Podcast to talk about the Dodgers season and his book “Dodgers!: An Informal History From Flatbush to Chavez Ravine.” Hear it here.
“18th & Grand: The Olympic Auditorium Story,” the documentary reviewed in yesterday’s newsletter, will be screened Saturday in Orange County at Regal Cinemas at Irvine Spectrum. Tickets are available online.
Here’s more about “18th & Grand,” from Tom Hoffarth on his Farther Off the Wall blog.
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