Lakers News: Latest on Russell Westbrook Contract Option, Kyrie Irving Rumors, More

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBAFeatured Columnist IVJune 28, 2022

Lakers News: Latest on Russell Westbrook Contract Option, Kyrie Irving Rumors, More

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    The Los Angeles Lakers are making news ahead of the NBA's 2022 free agency opening.

    They have the rumor mill spinning, too.

    From prominent point guards to the biggest surprise from last season's Purple and Gold, let's break down the latest chatter around Hollywood's finest.

Russell Westbrook to Pick Up Player Option

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    Russell Westbrook had two options this summer: stick with the Lakers and earn a cool $47.1 million, per Spotrac, or decline the deal and enter free agency coming off one of the least efficient seasons of his career.

    You'll never guess which one he's reportedly choosing.

    According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Westbrook is making the no-brainiest of no-brainers and opting into that Powerball-sized player option.

    Assuming the Lakers can't find a way to unload Westbrook before the season starts, it falls upon new skipper Darvin Ham to craft the right role for the polarizing point guard. Something tells me the phrase "less is more" is being thrown around quite a bit. There is still a scenario in which L.A. decreases Westbrook's on-ball responsibilities and repurposes him as a screen-setter, athletic slasher and fully engaged defender.

Kyrie Irving-Lakers Connection 'Is Not Done'

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    If you thought Kyrie Irving opting into his player option with the Brooklyn Nets would kill the Kyrie-to-L.A. talks, think again.

    ESPN's Brian Windhorst relayed that people inside of the NBA aren't convinced we have heard the last of them:

    "I know that there are people in the league, and we're not talking about ancillary people, we're talking about high-ranking people, who believe that this is not done. I don't know. Let me just say this about the Lakers. He obviously was very interested in joining the Lakers. The Lakers were very interested in having him."

    The question, then, is whether this mutual interest could still form a partnership this offseason or if it's simply something to file away for down the road. The Lakers would have trouble making the money work on an Irving trade without involving Westbrook, who presumably holds little appeal to Brooklyn. If Irving and the Lakers ever come together, it seems unlikely it will happen before next summer at the earliest.

Malik Monk May Take Discount to Stay in L.A.

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    The Lakers' list of pleasant surprises this past season wasn't long, but the performance of Malik Monk ranked No. 1 by a mile.

    In fact, you could argue Monk was too good in L.A., as his slew of career-highs (including 13.8 points per game and 47.3 field-goal percentage) potentially priced him out of the franchise's range. Luckily for the Lakers, though, the explosive combo guard doesn't necessarily see it that way.

    “They might not be able to pay me as much as I want,” Monk told The Athletic's Jovan Buha. “But I could be here and be way more comfortable as a Laker than going to any other team (that would pay) me $5 million more. So it’s just me trying to figure out what team would really want me.”

    Is Monk keeping his options open, or would he really leave a substantial amount of money on the table to stay? Only he and time know the answer to that one.

    Perhaps the most interesting angle here is whether the Lakers will put their best available resource—the taxpayer midlevel exception—into keeping him. While he has earned at least that much, the Lakers could theoretically prefer to use that on someone else, like a big, two-way wing.

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