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Lakers Rumors: Russell Westbrook Trade Unlikely Despite LA's 'Covert Interest'

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 5, 2022

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

A blockbuster deal involving Los Angeles Lakers point guard Russell Westbrook is reportedly "extremely unlikely" ahead of the Feb. 10 NBA trade deadline.

Sam Amick of The Athletic reported Wednesday the Lakers showed some "covert interest" in moving Westbrook earlier in the 2021-22 campaign, but the two seasons remaining on his five-year, $206.8 million contract remained a "massive obstacle."

"Inside the Lakers, it seems, there is some recognition that this hasn't gone as [LeBron James and Anthony Davis had] planned," Amick wrote.

Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer first reported in mid-December the Lakers held "internal discussions on trade scenarios" involving Westbrook.

Acquiring the 2016-17 NBA MVP from the Washington Wizards in an August trade headlined a roster overhaul by Los Angeles following an injury-plagued 2020-21 season that saw the team get eliminated by the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the playoffs.

Bringing in a third superstar combined with additions to improve the squad's offensive depth raised expectations the Lakers would return to a championship level after winning the NBA title in 2020.

That hasn't materialized—L.A. owns a 20-19 record, and James and Davis have been sidelined by injuries once again.

Westbrook's counting stats are strong (19.5 points, 8.1 rebounds, 8.1 assists and 1.2 steals per game), but his overall performance has been underwhelming. He's averaging 4.6 turnovers and 3.1 fouls while shooting 45.2 percent from the field, 30.0 percent on threes and 65.4 percent on free throws.

The nine-time All-Star bounced back from a nine-turnover game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday by recording no turnovers in Tuesday's triumph over the Sacramento Kings.

He only made seven of his 19 field-goal attempts, so it wasn't a perfect outing, but protecting the basketball was a key factor in the win.

"We won the game because we did not turn the ball over tonight," James told reporters. "And when we get shots at the goal, we can be very dangerous. And we weren't shooting the ball well at all, and because we didn't turn the ball over, we caught fire. We caught fire, because we got shots at the goal and we didn't turn the ball over."

While it's not a surprise the Lakers entertained the idea of looking into potential Westbrook suitors, flipping him to another team was always a long shot. His contract limits possible landing spots, and Los Angeles is in win-now mode, so accepting below-market value isn't an option without other moves lined up to bolster the roster.

L.A. will probably move forward with its core for the remainder of the campaign and hope everything falls in place once Davis returns from his knee injury.

The Lakers have the talent to make some noise in the Western Conference if healthy come playoff time, but whether the pieces fit together is a tougher question to answer.

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