#ACCOUNTABILITY: Documenting the Media Reaction to the Russell Westbrook Trade

If ever there comes a day where I can devote all my time to sports blogging, one project I will undertake is keeping track of which analysts & pundits are credible, and which ones are full of crap. Kind of like that Twitter account “Freezing Cold Takes,” but in blog form.

Someone, I can’t remember who, said it would be awesome if reporters and analysts all had “batting averages” next to their names anytime they appeared. For reporters, it would be how successful they are in terms of when they report that something is going to happen, and it actually happens. For pundits and talking heads, it would mean how often they’re right in terms of their predictions, pronouncements and declarations.

Keeping track of all this stuff would be a long-term project obviously, because most of the time, it takes a while for predictions to come true or be disproven.

For instance, a lot of the sports media right now is blasting the Westbrook to LA move. They’re fretting about “spacing,” and the lack of three-point shooting on the Lakers roster. Some are more vehement in their criticism of the move, predicting that it will be a disaster for the Lakers.

But what if, in a year, the Lakers are 2022 NBA Champs? Vegas certainly thinks it’s possible, as they have the Lakers at +400 to win it all, best odds of any team in the West, and behind only Brooklyn who is +225. And the Lakers’ odds improved after acquiring Westbrook:

Vegas does not see the Lakers as a long-shot to win it all next season. But the sports media apparently thinks the Lakers have no shot at all.

What if Vegas is right and all these talking heads are wrong? What will they say then? Some, I’m sure, will admit they were wrong.

But others will quickly move the goalposts and try to say, “Well, LeBron can only win titles with a Superteam!”

If the Lakers win the title this upcoming season, I can guarantee you the narrative will shift from, “Westbrook on the Lakers will be a disaster,” to “Westbrook made the Lakers a superteam.”

We can’t allow the same guys who are now saying, “Westbrook won’t work in LA,” to say “Well of course the Lakers won it all, they’re a Superteam,” a year from now if and when the Lakers win it all. There needs to be accountability in the media.

So I’m documenting the current consensus among the biggest names in the sports media on the Westbrook move. We need to know where everyone stood on the trade when it happened, so we can tell if they’re credible.

First up, Chris Broussard. I’ve written on this site that I don’t put a lot of stock into Chris Broussard’s opinions because I think he just overreacts to whatever is happening in the moment and then changes his opinion right after when it’s proven wrong. Broussard is not a fan of the Westbrook move:

His buddy Rob Parker, a known LeBron Hater, predictably hated the Westbrook trade:

Skip Bayless, the biggest LeBron hater of them all, predictably hated it:

Skip is a pretty shameless troll, though, so he’ll find a way to discredit anything the Lakers accomplish no matter what. It’s his role on the show.

Stephen A. Smith does not think Westbrook will help the Lakers beat the Nets:

Ric Bucher panned the move:

Max Kellerman was somewhat ambivalent about the move, but he was more positive than most in the sports media:

Colin Cowherd had more of a nuanced take, saying he could understand why the Lakers made the move, and that it will help them in the regular season, but ultimately it won’t work in the playoffs:

On the other side of the spectrum as most of these guys was Kendrick Perkins, a former teammate of both LeBron and Westbrook, who said the Lakers are now the most dangerous team in the league and predicted that the Lakers will win the title:

Jason McIntyre was also very high on the Lakers after the trade:

As for Shannon Sharpe, probably the most well-known and outspoken LeBron Stan in the sports media, I guess he’s been on vacation or something lately because he hasn’t been on the show, but he did discuss the possibility of Westbrook on the Lakers before the trade happened, and he was not a fan of the fit:

Shannon said that while Westbrook is still playing at a high level, he believes there are other guys who would be better fits for the Lakers. He said the main question would be whether Russ would be able to buy into the system.

I’m waiting for him to be back on the show so he can really go off on the topic, but his initial thoughts were that Westbrook in LA isn’t a great fit.

Nick Wright said he’s more bullish than most in the media on the trade, and that he was surprised at how universally the sports media despised the trade, but he’s also not fully sold on it:

Brandon Marshall, on the other hand, said there’s “no way” the Westbrook trade works out. Wildes said he thought the Buddy Hield trade made more sense for the Lakers and said he feels less enthusiastic about the trade than Nick Wright, but that he still loves Russ.

So this is where we are in terms of the most prominent names in the sports media and their opinions on the Russell Westbrook trade. We will revisit this post in a year to see who was right, and who was wrong, and if the guys who were wrong are now trying to change their tune.

Austin Frank

Sports blogger

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