New Lakers head coach Darvin Ham has already begun the process of assembling his coaching staff, reportedly hiring former NBA All-Star Rasheed Wallace as an assistant. After news of Wallace’s hiring came out, NBA Twitter almost immediately zeroed in on comments he made within the past year about one of his new colleagues: Russell Westbrook.
Speaking on ESPN’s The Jump sometime during the 2020-21 season, Wallace was on a panel with Rachel Nichols, Richard Jefferson and Kendrick Perkins as the group was discussing Westbrook, who was then playing for the Wizards. Speaking about a particular hot streak of games from the former MVP, Wallace declared that the now-beleaguered Lakers point guard was the best player in the NBA.
The reactions from the rest of The Jump participants was priceless.
“Oh, ‘Sheed, you’re about to go viral,” Jefferson said. “You don’t even know. They’re gonna love that statement.”
It’s unclear exactly when that clip took place, but Westbrook enjoyed success with Washington. He averaged a triple-double for the fourth time in his career, and led the NBA in assists per game for the third time in four seasons. Though his scoring took a dip, he set career highs in rebounds (11.5) and assists (11.7) per game.
Westbrook’s production and efficiency waned dramatically in his first year with the Lakers. In 78 games, he averaged 18.5 points per game—his lowest since the 2009-10 season—while posting a career-worst 15.0 PER. He’s due to make over $47 million for the 2022-23 season in what will be the final year of his contract.
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