Russell Westbrook Rumors: Lakers Star Concerned with 'Stigma' of Contract Buyout

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVApril 8, 2022

Los Angeles Lakers' Russell Westbrook gestures to officials during the first half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors in San Francisco, Thursday, April 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

Russell Westbrook's "prideful" nature could reportedly prevent him from accepting a contract buyout from the Los Angeles Lakers.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN reported Friday that people close to Westbrook "expressed pessimism" he would accept a buyout.

The Lakers traded for Westbrook last summer in a blockbuster they hoped would give them a legitimate Big Three.

The move has been an unmitigated disaster. Westbrook never fit in on the floor, particularly with LeBron James, and struggled adapting to a new role as the third wheel. He's averaged 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.1 assists, numbers that far overrate his on-court impact as he's become a source of near-constant scorn among Lakers fans.

It's a virtual certainty that the Lakers' first two moves of this offseason will be firing coach Frank Vogel and exploring a trade for Westbrook. Suitors will be few and far between because of Westbrook's enormous $47.1 million salary. The Lakers, should they want effective players in return, will have to attach future draft picks to Westbrook.

A buyout wouldn't benefit either side. The Lakers could use the stretch provision on Westbrook and pay him $15.7 million per year over the next three seasons, but that doesn't improve their cap situation. They would still not have any meaningful cap space to sign free agents; it would simply save ownership some money on a tax bill.

As far as Westbrook saving face in the matter is concerned, that's out of the window. He's likely headed to his fifth team in five seasons, which is unheard of for a future Hall of Famer. Even if he avoids a buyout, it's obvious the Lakers are giving him away because they don't think he moves the championship needle.

It's even possible the team he winds up traded to next season has no plans of actually using him on the floor and he winds up having to negotiate a buyout anyway.