As training camp nears, with the team unable to offload Russell Westbrook, their tune seems to have changed. Their offer has reportedly been increased to include both future first-round picks. Unfortunately, the Nets are still not interested.
“[The Lakers] have two real assets to put out there, to do a significant trade,” ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said. “That’s their 2027 and 2029 first-round picks… The Lakers, I’m told, would be willing to do that in a Kyrie Irving trade, but that’s not something the Nets have been interested in.”
This is significant news, because the expectation was at one point that the Lakers could land Kyrie Irving if they departed with both future picks. With that offer now being of no interest to the Brooklyn Nets, the Lakers are left without a path to acquire Kyrie Irving, and likely without a path to dealing Russell Westbrook.
Can Westbrook work?
While Westbrook’s fit on the Lakers was questionable when they first acquired him, it proved to be worse than most people anticipated. With the situation only growing more complicated since then, the team has been adamantly trying to trade the veteran point guard. With their one potential avenue to complete a deal now shut, can the team make it work?
With Darvin Ham now at the helm, the Lakers’ biggest reason for optimism is Ham’s ability to adjust Westbrook’s role. No longer effective in a high-usage role, especially alongside LeBron James, the Lakers need Westbrook to contribute in other ways. While Kyrie Irving would have undeniably been a better fit, the team must now shift their focus to the players they have.
As previously mentioned, the Lakers need Russell Westbrook to thrive in a role that is not focused on dominating the basketball. According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, one of the ways the Lakers hope this can happen is by Westbrook improving his corner three-point shooting.
Westbrook shot 45.1% from the corners last season on incredibly low volume. Playing next to LeBron James generates these looks frequently, and the Lakers hope Westbrook can build off the solid percentage he shot from the corners last season.
Moving on from Kyrie
While the inability to acquire Kyrie Irving hurts for basketball reasons, it also hurts from a team morale standpoint. Several reports indicated that LeBron’s desire to swap Westbrook for Irving was no secret, and with that possibility no longer a real one, LeBron and the team must regain each other’s confidence.
As previously mentioned, the leadership and knowledge of new head coach Darvin Ham will be integral to the Lakers’ chances of maximizing their current roster construction.
This fresh start is what the team hopes can avoid a repeat of last season. While Kyrie Irving will not be coming to the rescue, there is still a chance for this team to be competitive.