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Shams: Lakers 'Want to See This Work' with Russell Westbrook After Contract Opt-In

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJune 28, 2022

Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers have reached the acceptance phase with Russell Westbrook.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Tuesday that Westbrook will trigger his $47.1 million player option for 2022-23. On The Pat McAfee Show, Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium said the Lakers remain committed to the nine-time All-Star.

"The Lakers want to see this work this upcoming season from everything I've been told," Charania said.

He added that despite any speculation regarding Westbrook's future, all of the involved parties are ready to look toward next year as a unified front.

Los Angeles probably didn't have any other choice, unless it was prepared to face the financial ramifications of releasing him outright or via the stretch provision.

Kyrie Irving confirmed to Charania he intends to return to the Brooklyn Nets. That's after multiple reports indicated the Nets had little interest in a sign-and-trade that would swap Irving for Westbrook.

John Wall and the Houston Rockets have reportedly reached a buyout agreement too. That removed the opportunity to swap one bad expiring contract for another, an avenue that was probably remote anyway.

ESPN's Jonathan Givony also reported on The Lowe Post that L.A. got no traction with the Indiana Pacers on a Westbrook trade also involving Talen Horton-Tucker and a draft pick for Malcolm Brogdon.

Maybe general manager Rob Pelinka could make a Gordon Hayward deal happen?

Otherwise, the Lakers are effectively stuck with Westbrook.

Perhaps firing Frank Vogel and hiring Darvin Ham will help halt the 33-year-old's prolonged slide. Following last season, the 2016-17 MVP vented how he didn't think he got to fully play to his strengths.

Kyle Goon @kylegoon

When <a href="https://twitter.com/DanWoikeSports?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@DanWoikeSports</a> mentions that LeBron and AD said many times throughout the year, "Let Russ be Russ," Russell Westbrook immediately responds: "Yeah, but that wasn't true. Let's be honest."

Kyle Goon @kylegoon

Russell Westbrook said "top to bottom" on coming to L.A.: I just felt like I was never given a fair chance to be who I needed to be to help this team.

Granted, the idea of further empowering a high-usage ball-handler who's a poor shooter with declining physical gifts doesn't sound great in theory.

Ham has certainly said all the right things regarding Westbrook, and he's already laying out how he plans to tweak his role on the floor. The first-year head coach was well aware of the tactical challenge before him.

Still, many will remain skeptical about whether anything will change for Westbrook in Los Angeles.

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