Lakers Rumors: Rob Pelinka's Russell Westbrook Negotiations Surprise Some Around NBA

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVAugust 12, 2022

Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for The h.wood Group

The Los Angeles Lakers' hesitancy to add multiple first-round picks to Russell Westbrook trade talks has reportedly led to some surprise around the NBA.

Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times reported vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka has not "seriously" gone deep into the Lakers' asset coffers in Westbrook trade talks. The Lakers have their 2027 and 2029 first-round picks available in trade talks, along with second-round selections and pick swaps.

Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily News reported the Lakers have recently shown a willingness to part with their two available first-round picks to acquire Kyrie Irving. It was the first sign of any major movement from either side in several weeks, as the Nets have taken a glacial pace negotiating the likely exits of Irving and Kevin Durant.

The Lakers previously only showed a willingness to trade one of their future firsts, which was an apparent nonstarter for Brooklyn.

It's unclear if Pelinka's increased flexibility also extends to oft-discussed trade talks with the Indiana Pacers. Acquiring Myles Turner and Buddy Hield from Indiana is seemingly the backup plan to trading for Irving. However, Bob Kravitz of The Athletic reported last month that talks were going nowhere due to the Lakers' unwillingness to add the second first-round pick.

That report came before LeBron James and agent Rich Paul met with Pelinka and new Lakers coach Darvin Ham. Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported the meeting largely consisted of James expressing "concerns" about the future.

"James, sources said, drilled home the importance of consistent competitiveness and cohesion, noting that last season’s team didn’t give themselves a chance on many nights," Haynes wrote. "The focus for the future Hall of Famer is competing every night in order to give themselves a chance to compete for a championship."

It's not hard to draw a through line between Pelinka's meeting with James and the sudden willingness to mortgage future draft assets. James and Westbrook were a clear oil-water mix on the floor last season, and it's hard to imagine a scenario in which either player totally revamps their game to make things work.

Haynes' report indicated the Lakers could seek to use Westbrook more as a spot-up shooter in the corners, but the 2017 NBA MVP has repeatedly scoffed at taking a lesser role in the past.

The overwhelming likelihood remains the Lakers will find a deal for Westbrook before training camp.


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