Point Guard, Russell Westbrook, has been with the Lakers for almost a year. Westbrook is originally from Los Angeles, even played college ball at UCLA. Last year he was traded from the Washington Wizards to play for his hometown team the Los Angeles Lakers, every LA residents’ dream. What can go wrong? With AD at center, LeBron at forward, and running point is the explosive guard, Russell Westbrook, the team looks staked on paper. 2021-2022 season was one of the worst seasons in recent franchise history. With turnover after turnover, it was disappointing watching the Lakers play. Westbrook’s shooting was so egregious fans coined Russell’s pseudonym “Westbrick”.
This past Friday, the Lakers had a Summer League game against the Phoenix Suns. Some of the Lakers players showed up to check out the young talent. LeBron James and Russell Westbrook show up, but something is odd; LeBron and Westbrook sit at opposite ends of the floor. LeBron sat at the south baseline with his agent Rich Paul, while Westbrook sat beside the Laker’s bench on the opposite sideline. LeBron is notorious for being passive aggressive with teammates he feels are not playing up to par. The other current Laker players that attended the game joined James and avoided Westbrook. Meanwhile, the crowd overseeing the Summer League were in the bleachers chanting, “WE WANT KYRIE,” because of a potential trade of Westbrook to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for the outspoken Kyrie Irving. The message is clear, Los Angeles wants him gone.
Westbrook was 5th in the league for the most turnovers per a game.
Rumors have been surfacing around potential trade options the Lakers have for WestBrook. The two trade options are with the Indiana Pacers or the Brooklyn Nets. The Indiana trade would include Buddy Hield and Myles Turner for Westbrook and 2027 First-Round draft pick, probably the more fair trade option. The Brooklyn Nets trade would include Kyrie Irving and draft pick compensation, which would be teams trading problems. The Nets trade would also push the Lakers deeper into a luxury tax. Most team owners have different sources of income besides their sports franchise. The Buss family main source of income is the Lakers team itself. With lack of financial resources, pushing them deeper into a luxury tax is not ideal with the amount of superstars that are already on the team. There are reports that LeBron is threatening to leave the team unless they make the Kyrie trade happen. With LeBron pushing for the Kyrie trade it puts the Buss family in a tight spot.
The nail in the coffin for Westbrook was his exit meeting with the Lakers after the season. Statistically Westbrook season wasn’t bad, averaging 18.5 ppg, 7.4 rebounds, and 7.1 assists per game. The problem lies in refusal to shoot as much 3 pointers and consistent defense to win games. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said Westbrook acted “delusional” in his exit meeting, “Basically, what Russ did at the end of that Lakers season was take no personal accountability for the way the season went down and blamed most of it on his head coach, Frank Vogel, for not setting things up and defining things for him to be more successful. Then he partially blames LeBron and Anthony Davis, too. He said they didn’t change their games, when Russell himself changed almost nothing.”
At halftime of the Summer League Lakers vs. Suns, reporter awkwardly asked the head coach Darvin Ham about the trade rumors surrounding Russell. Ham deflects the question with a PR answer, “We love everyone on our roster,” Ham told press, “And until you’re not on the roster, you’re ours and we’re going to try to get better with the group that we have. That’s just the bottom line of it.” He continues to deflect the question by normalizing the trade rumors: “I don’t know a player that’s come through this league in my 26 years that hasn’t had their name part of a trade rumor a time or two. But it is what it is. It’s the nature of the beast of our business. And so, again, the guys we have on our roster I’m very thankful for, I’m proud of and we want to maximize everything they can do to help us get to that ultimate goal.” A lot of politically correct answers from the Head Coach, not really giving a definitive answer.
Most likely, the Laker's office will choose to keep Westbrook to stay within their budget.
Though Russell Westbrook has opted into his $47 million player option a couple weeks ago, it doesn’t look good for the 33-year-old veteran. The Lakers are looking for players to build around the aging LeBron that only has so much years left before he retires or gets frustrated and demands a trade. Westbrook doesn’t fit into the future plans for the Lakers.