Unfortunately for Russell Westbrook, he has emerged as one of the biggest scapegoats for the Los Angeles Lakers as the team continues to struggle at this point in the season. Critics and fans alike have now taken out the pitchforks as they continue to criticize the Lakers for their decision to trade for Russ during the offseason — a move that has yet to pay dividends for the squad.

It's no secret that LeBron James played a significant role in the Westbrook trade. As it turns out, however, The King really, really wanted Russ to join him in Hollywood. So much so, that James, along with teammate Anthony Davis, reportedly convinced the Lakers brass to pick Westbrook over general manager Rob Pelinka's first choice in Buddy Hield (h/t NBA insider Marc Stein on his substack):

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“James and Davis encouraged the Lakers’ front office to go all-in for Westbrook rather than proceed with GM Rob Pelinka’s plans to trade for Sacramento’s Buddy Hield,” Stein wrote.

It's a well-known fact that LeBron has a ton of influence within the Lakers organization. Some would even go as far as saying that he plays the role of a shadow GM for the franchise. If the above report is accurate then this makes this notion absolutely correct. Apparently, James (and AD) have a bigger say when it comes to the make-up of the roster as opposed to the team's actual general manager in Rob Pelinka.

It would be wrong to push the LeBron vs. Pelinka narrative here, though. There appears to be no bad blood between them and for all we know, Pelinka could have been happy to concede his stance on Buddy Hield in favor of Russell Westbrook. Now that we all have the benefit of hindsight, however, we can say with a certain level of conviction that picking Russ over Hield may not have been the best decision for the Lakers.

Then again, all hope is not lost for LA just yet. There is still time to turn things around for this squad. It doesn't sound like Westbrook is going anywhere anytime soon, so at this point, the Lakers have no other choice but to make things work with their current squad.