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Russell Westbrook Rumors: Lakers Not Planning to Trade PG After Contract Opt-in

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVJune 29, 2022

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

It would appear that the Los Angeles Lakers will be running it back with Russell Westbrook.

The veteran point guard picked up his $47.1 million player option for the 2022-23 season, per Jovan Buha of The Athletic, and "though a Westbrook trade is still possible, the Lakers are currently planning on beginning next season with him on the roster."

Buha noted that the only scenarios in which the Lakers would trade Westbrook would be to a team that had the cap space to absorb his enormous deal without demanding multiple first-round picks in return to take on that contract, or in a deal for a star player like Kyrie Irving.

Both options seem far-fetched at best, and thus, Buha noted that the "the front office has been telling those around the team for weeks that Westbrook will be a Laker at the start of training camp."

Year One of that experiment went horribly. The Lakers finished 33-49 and missed the playoffs, LeBron James and Anthony Davis missed a big chunk of the season because of injuries, Westbrook never fit in with either when they were healthy and played poorly in general, and a poorly constructed roster that lacked perimeter shooting and plus defenders limped to the finish line.

In an ideal world, the Lakers would move on from Westbrook, whose ball-dominant style, lackluster defense and poor perimeter shooting always made him a questionable fit with James and AD.

But trying to find a team willing to take on a $47.1 million contract—especially for a Lakers team with limited future draft capital and few young, intriguing players to sweeten the pot—has clearly proven impossible.

So the Lakers will run it back and hope that Westbrook can better blend in with the team's two stars.

"(We) have just been honest about how we think he fits with this team and what we expect of him next year if he decides to opt in next year,” general manager Rob Pelinka told reporters last week. “And he’s ready to embrace the philosophy of defense first, as well, and he's made that clear to Darvin and me..."

Time will tell. History suggests that 33-year-old players with the pedigree of Westbrook—who is a former MVP, nine-time All-Star and two-time scoring champion—can struggle to change their stripes.

But if he doesn't, the 2022-23 season is going to be another long, painful endeavor for these Lakers.

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