It has been known for a while now that the Los Angeles Lakers would prefer to trade Russell Westbrook before the start of next season. While that desire certainly exists, the willingness of opposing teams to take on his contract, even with draft compensation, has been nonexistent.
While there was once a glimmer of hope that the Brooklyn Nets would help facilitate a trade that landed Kyrie Irving in Los Angeles, with Westbrook heading elsewhere, that possibility has seemingly diminished.
Because of this, there is an increased likelihood that Russell Westbrook will be back with the Lakers next season. It’s not a great outcome, as signs emerge of more discontent in the Laker camp.
How bad has the situation gotten?
Running it back with a core that just missed the play-in game last season is already a recipe for disaster, but roster construction does not even begin to tell the whole story. In a recent report from Marc Stein, it was confirmed that Russell Westbrook is aware that LeBron James “badly wants” Kyrie Irving instead of him.
In addition to this dynamic, Jovan Buha of The Athletic recently reported that new head coach Darvin Ham will possess more power to bench Westbrook late in games than Frank Vogel did, and perhaps even remove him from the starting lineup entirely.
Buha also reported on a podcast episode that Westbrook would frequently “push back” when called out during film sessions, even when shown to have clearly missed defensive rotations and other fundamental mistakes.
Can the Lakers salvage this?
Already stuck with a bad basketball fit, the Lakers may also be forced to navigate a Westbrook situation that is getting more complicated by the day.
With the nine-time All-Star recently firing his agent over irreparable disagreements, which seemingly stemmed from the two sides having drastically different views on the point guard’s current value, there is an apparent disconnect between Westbrook’s basketball ability and his mindset.
With blockbuster trades around the NBA still looming, although some of which may never actually happen, there is theoretically still time for the Lakers to find a Westbrook suitor. It would almost certainly require them to part with two future first-round picks, which they have currently been unwilling to do, but the team may find themselves with no other choice.
Having not made any significant roster upgrades this summer, the Lakers are getting closer and closer to simply running back last year’s core for another season.
Largely seen as the league’s biggest disappointment last year, such a decision would be puzzling at best. While the team is limited in their roster flexibility, starting with the almost impossible task of trading Westbrook, almost every option outside of simply running it back would seemingly be a better one.
With reports confirming that Westbrook knows LeBron wants him traded, and that newly hired head coach Darvin Ham will possess the power to bench him, there is significant reason to believe the Westbrook dynamic in Los Angeles is only growing more complicated.