NBA

LeBron welcomes Westbrook to L.A. - but can the trade help Lakers challenge again?

By Sports Desk July 30, 2021

Russell Westbrook is preparing for life on a fourth different team in as many years, with LeBron James welcoming his new running mate to the Los Angeles Lakers following a blockbuster trade.

The Lakers overshadowed the NBA Draft by completing a deal to get Westbrook from the Washington Wizards, who receive Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in return.

The Wizards also got the 22nd pick in Thursday's first round – Isaiah Jackson was taken at that slot, then traded to the Indiana Pacers in exchange for point guard Aaron Holiday – while the Lakers gained two second-round selections in future drafts, according to reports.

For Westbrook, it means yet another fresh start. The 32-year-old ended his long association with the Oklahoma City Thunder when reuniting with James Harden at the Houston Rockets in 2019, only to then leave for Washington a year later.

Despite only spending one season with the Wizards, Westbrook declared his appreciation for all connected with the franchise in an Instagram post after news of the deal had emerged.

"Thank you DC! You welcomed my family and I with open arms from day one," he wrote.

"Everyone from the front office to the training staff, the coaches, my team-mates, and the fans. I’m grateful y'all took a chance on me and supported me every step of the way.

"I'm blessed to have been a part of such a stand-up organisation. It didn't take long to make a home in DC, and I will forever be grateful and appreciative of my experience with the organisation. Thank you."

LeBron, meanwhile, used his Instagram account to put up a picture of himself and fellow Lakers star Anthony Davis standing either side of the team's latest recruit, along with the caption "Brodie", which is Westbrook's nickname.

The addition is a move aimed at getting the 2019-20 NBA champions back into contention. The title defence did not go to plan last term, long-term injuries to their two stars leading to a struggle just to make the postseason. While they did qualify, the holders were knocked out in the first round by the Phoenix Suns.

As for Westbrook, his year with the Wizards included a key role in a late charge to make the playoffs via the play-in tournament, though they were beaten 4-1 in the first round by the Philadelphia 76ers, after which it was announced head coach Scott Brooks would be leaving his role.

Westbrook had broken an NBA record that had stood for 47 years during the regular season, moving beyond Oscar Robertson to top the list for career triple-double games.

He led the league for assists with 11.7 per game, as well as shooting 31.5 per cent from three-point range - his best return from deep sine the 2016-17 season. It will be fascinating to see how he fits into the Lakers' current roster, though it remains to be seen if they are finished making offseason moves just yet, considering free agency is around the corner.

There was speculation L.A. were also in negotiations to bring in Buddy Hield from the Sacramento Kings. The 28-year-old would add some much-needed outside scoring, seen as he is a career 40.6 per cent shooter from deep.

The Lakers finished at 35.4 per cent as a team from three-point range, ranking them 21st in the entire league. Caldwell-Pope was one of their more successful players when it came to taking aim from distance, finishing up at 41.0 per cent, but he has been moved on in order to add a new playmaking presence.

Westbrook, who is from California and played at UCLA during his college career, will earn $44.2million in 2021-22, then has a player option worth $47m for the following year.

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    Having been given time to approach the area, Toko Ekambi fooled John Lundstram with some fine footwork before curling a sublime finish across Allan McGregor and into the bottom-right corner.

    Joe Aribo stinging the palms of Anthony Lopes sparked the home crowd into life, and Lundstram almost atoned for his part in Lyon's opener with a low strike that flashed inches wide.

    Lopes had to be at his best to keep Ryan Kent, though Islam Slimani might have put Lyon 2-0 up on the stroke of half-time had he connected with Malo Gusto's cross.

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    Tavernier was inches away from dragging Rangers back into it with a superb free-kick, only for the post to come to Lyon's rescue as Gerrard's milestone match in Europe proved a disappointing one.

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    Of his 50 European matches in charge, Gerrard has won 25, drawn 16 and lost nine, with his team conceding 48 times in total.

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    He had failed to score in his five Ligue 1 appearances prior to the trip to Glasgow, but his finish – from one of his two attempts – was a sign of the quality the former Villarreal forward has in his locker. It could well kick-start his campaign.

    Goldson caught cold

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    Here, Stats Perform uses Opta facts to preview the Rugby Championship double-header in Brisbane.

     


    AUSTRALIA V SOUTH AFRICA

    Form

    South Africa will be looking to avoid back-to-back defeats in men's Tests for the first time since November 2018.

    Australia have not won back-to-back Tests since October 2019 and may need to show their staying power once again to get their hands on the Nelson Mandela Challenge Plate.

    Dave Rennie's side have scored 27 points in the final quarter of games in this tournament, more than any other quarter of a match.

    Nic White, James Slipper and Taniela Tupou come into the Australia team. Jacques Nienaber makes three changes to South Africa's matchday squad, with Marvin Orie and Trevor Nyakane starting. Cheslin Kolbe is not ready to return from injury.

     

    Ones to watch

    Andrew Kellaway scored Australia's only try in last week's win over the world champions.

    The wing is the joint-leading try-scorer in the tournament with three, alongside David Havili and Malcolm Marx. 

    With Lood de Jager absent due to concussion, Orie takes over at lock for South Africa.

    De Jager has won a competition-high 22 lineouts, including three steals, so Orie has big shoes to fill.

     

    ARGENTINA V NEW ZEALAND

    Form

    The All Blacks dished out a 39-0 thrashing to Argentina in round three, Luke Jacobson scoring two of their five tries.

    New Zealand have kept the Pumas scoreless in each of their past two meetings and have only failed to beat them in two of 32 previous encounters.

    Argentina have lost three consecutive Tests, having lost only twice in their 10 prior to that run.

    Joe Moody comes into a much-changed All Blacks side and Ardie Savea returns as captain, while Samisoni Taukei'aho makes his first Test start. Patrick Tuipulotu and Ofa Tuungafasi are also among the starters.

    Santiago Carreras starts for Argentina at fly-half, while Pablo Matera takes the number eight shirt as Mario Ledesma makes six changes.

     

    Ones to watch

    The versatile Damian McKenzie gets the chance to start a second Test at fly-half for the All Blacks.

    Playmaker McKenzie can put on a show at number 10 and pull the strings in tandem with scrum-half TJ Perenara.

    Pumas captain Julian Montoya won three turnovers in the defeat to the All Blacks last weekend and his tally of four is twice as many as any other player in the tournament.

    Montoya has not missed any of his 40 tackles in the competition.

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