Russell Westbrook Says He Wants to Return to Lakers but 'Nothing Is Promised'

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVApril 6, 2022

PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 5: Russell Westbrook #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers dribbles the ball during the game against the Phoenix Suns on April 5, 2022 at Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)
Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

Following Tuesday night's 121-110 loss to the Phoenix Suns that eliminated his team from playoff contention, Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook expressed his desire to return to L.A. for the 2022-23 season.

According to ESPN's Dave McMenamin, Westbrook was asked if he wanted to continue playing for the Lakers next season and said:

"I mean, that's the plan. But nothing is promised. Yes, we want to be able to see what that looks like, what that entails over the course of an 82-game season. But we're not sure if that's guaranteed, either. So I just hope that we have a chance to be able to do something."

Westbrook was roundly criticized for his play throughout the season, although the Lakers' struggles can largely be attributed to both Anthony Davis and LeBron James missing significant time because of injuries.

The Lakers acquired Westbrook from the Washington Wizards last offseason in a trade that sent Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to Washington.

The hope within the Lakers organization was that Westbrook would form a Big Three with LeBron and AD, but that never happened for a multitude of reasons.

Westbrook's 2021-22 production hasn't been awful on the surface, with averages of 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, 7.1 assists, 1.0 steal and 1.0 three-pointer made per game, plus he deserves credit for playing in 78 of the Lakers' 79 games, while many of his teammates dealt with injuries.

His scoring output was its lowest since the 2009-10 season, however, and he turned the ball over 3.8 times per game and shot just 29.8 percent from beyond the arc.

The Lakers would almost certainly move on from the 33-year-old if they had the choice, but it largely isn't up to them.

Westbrook has a $47 million player option for next season, and it is next to impossible to envision him declining it since he wouldn't earn anywhere near that much on the free-agent market.

That means the Lakers will likely have to try to find a trade partner, but that could prove difficult and may require them to take on some other bad contracts.

Assuming the Lakers essentially have no choice other than to ride with Westbrook next season, the team could bounce back.

The key to success will be keeping Davis and James healthy after they missed 39 and 23 games, respectively, this season.

While it is true that the Lakers were only 11-10 when Davis, James and Westbrook all played, that is a small sample size, and even when extrapolated over an entire season, it would have at least been enough to get L.A. comfortably into the play-in tournament.

Westbrook is a nine-time All-Star, two-time scoring champion, one-time NBA MVP and likely future Hall of Famer, but he is a different player now.

He has shown this season that he can't be counted on as a go-to guy on a winning team anymore, but there is still some hope that he can be a solid supporting-cast member if the Lakers can somehow keep Davis and James on the court consistently next season.