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#pounditFriday, July 1, 2022

Former Lakers guard has harsh words for team, Russell Westbrook

Russell Westbrook warming up

One former Los Angeles Lakers player thinks that the team is looking more like the Fakers right now.

Speaking this week on Draymond Green’s podcast for “The Volume,” retired Hall of Fame guard Gary Payton discussed this year’s Lakers and reacted to the comparisons that have been drawn to Payton’s 2003-04 Lakers team. He also focused on the play of Lakers guard Russell Westbrook.

“I don’t think this Laker team is nothing like our team in 2003 at all,” said Payton. “I think we had players that knew their role, and I don’t think Russ is playing the way he should be playing. It’s a new thing to him, be the man so long, then you gotta go with A.D. [Anthony Davis] and LeBron [James]. And you gotta give them the ball. He’s so much dominant on the basketball, that he’s not doing the things he did. I think he’s thinking too much.

“And they rely on LeBron so much that they’re watching him,” Payton went on. “They don’t play the way that you guys play [in Golden State], like with people who cut and move and do that. They’re watching the basketball too much. But I don’t think this team that the Lakers got are nothing like us. I think we were more in our prime. A lot of us was way more in our prime. They’re just hurt right now, and it’s just a struggle. And it’s hard to put a team like that together, and you guys are not healthy.”

With an aging ensemble roster that looks like the cast of “The Expendables,” this year’s Lakers team has been compared to the Lakers team that Payton shared with Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, and Karl Malone. But it is an imperfect one for many reasons, including the ones that Payton mentioned. That 2003-04 team, despite all their struggles, still won 56 games and made it to the Finals. The Lakers may have even won it all that year if Malone had been healthy and if they had not been pitted against their perfect antithesis in the Detroit Pistons. This year’s Lakers are barely .500 (currently 20-19) and really look nothing like a legitimate contender.

The comparison to Payton’s Lakers was first popularized by another well-known Hall of Famer. But Payton himself thinks that it is way off-base.

H/T Lakers Daily

Photo: Oct 6, 2021; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook prior to the preseason game against the Phoenix Suns at Footprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

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