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NBA - US Sports: Can LeBron, Westbrook and Davis work in the same Lakers team?

Los Angeles Lakers endured a miserable campaign in 2021-22 in their first season with LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook on their roster, but can these three talented individuals work in the same line-up going forward?

James and Davis starred for the LA outfit in 2020 as they led them to a first championship since 2010, but they were unable to back that up the following season as they finished in seventh place in the Western Conference in 2020-21.

They then had to come through the play-in tournament to reach the playoffs, where they were dumped out in the first round by Phoenix Suns.

The franchise decided to bring in Westbrook after that disappointment, but so far the move hasn't paid off.

The Lakers finished in 11th place last season and missed out on the postseason altogether - with championship-winning coach Frank Vogel axed after three years in charge at the conclusion of the campaign.

Darvin Ham - who spent the last four seasons as Milwaukee Bucks assistant coach - has been hired as Vogel's replacement and his task is to get the Lakers challenging for the championship again, but can he achieve this with James, Davis and Westbrook on the roster?

Injury problems haunt Davis

Davis joined the Lakers in 2019 and helped the team win the championship in his first season in California.

The 29-year-old, who operated predominantly as a forward in his first two seasons with the team, played in 62 games in 2019-20 and started all 21 of their playoff games but since then he has struggled with various injury issues.

In the 2020-21 season, Davis missed 30 consecutive games with a calf issue and managed just 41 appearances in total, including five in the playoffs.

The 29-year-old continued to struggle with injury problems last year as he was limited to 40 games due to knee and ankle issues.

Davis was moved to center last season in a decision that looked a wise move, but the Lakers need to find a way to help him manage his fitness if he is to return to the top of his game.

To put any blame on Davis for the Lakers' struggles last season would be unfair, and if fit he should be able to form a strong unit with his two superstar team-mates.

Can LeBron James and Russell Westbrook play together?

On paper, putting James and Westbrook on the same team should be close to a perfect match, but they were unable to form an effective partnership last season.

James is widely regarded as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, to ever play the game and Westbrook is among the best point guards of all time but the two veterans just couldn't find a way to gel.

James impressed on a personal level and finished the season with an average of 30.3 points-per-game - his highest total since way back in 2008-09 - as well as 8.2 rebounds and 6.2 assists.

Westbrook, however, appeared unable to settle in his new surroundings.

The 33-year-old has put up some incredible stats over the years, but last term he finished with 18.5 points-per-game - his lowest since his second season in the league, 7.4 rebounds and 7.1 assists.

The former Oklahoma City Thunder star and nine-time All-Star did put in a number of disappointing displays, but he probably received an unfair amount of criticism too.

There were some highlights as well, although those were few and far between.

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A new coach and a new start for Lakers

There was speculation the Lakers could look to trade Westbrook in the offseason, but he opted in to the final year of his contract for 2022-23 and now a move looks unlikely, if not totally out of the question.

There was clearly friction between the guard and Vogel last season and following the latter's sacking Westbrook said he was "not sure what his issue was with me" and the arrival of Ham may see his fortunes turn around.

Westbrook may have failed to deliver last season and at times the former MVP appeared unsure of his role on court.

As a point guard, Westbrook is used to leading the offense and that is largely, if not exclusively, James' responsibility in LA, but that doesn't mean they cannot form a strong unit.

However, James will turn 38 during the coming campaign and Davis has been prone to injury for two years now.

The Lakers have to find a way to manage the fitness of their star duo and get the best out of Westbrook if they are to be serious contenders and that looks a huge task for Ham and his coaching team.

There is no reason why James, Davis and Westbrook can't be one of the best trios in the league next season, but Ham clearly has some work to do if he is to get the best out of his three stars.

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