NBA Rumors: Latest Buzz Surrounding Lakers' Russell Westbrook, 76ers and Bulls
The 2022 NBA offseason feels closer by the second.
It's already technically here for all but the four conference finalists, and the first big step into the summer comes Tuesday night at the annual draft lottery.
That's why the basketball world is loudly buzzing, and we're breaking down everything here from an intriguing revelation during a high-profile coaching search to the summer shopping plans of an NBA elite.
L.A. Coaching Interviews Including Questions About Russell Westbrook
Given all the turbulence encountered during Russell Westbrook's first season with the Los Angeles Lakers, it felt almost certain there wouldn't be a second.
Either L.A. is taking posturing next-level to gain leverage, or that simply isn't the case.
"Despite the widely held belief that the Lakers would find a way to trade Westbrook before the start of next season, sources say their coaching candidates have been asked to discuss how they would use him in their system during interviews," The Athletic's Sam Amick reported. "The takeaway for candidates, it seems, is that maximizing Westbrook's presence after his disastrous 2021-22 season is considered an important part of this job."
This doesn't necessarily cement Westbrook's place on next season's roster. If nothing else, the Purple and Gold could be emergency planning in case the trade market offers no alternative.
Then again, this has always been a quietly intriguing option, assuming the Lakers are convinced that Westbrook, LeBron James and Anthony Davis could all thrive together. If the franchise is OK stomaching Westbrook's $47.1 million salary (per Spotrac), then keeping him on the roster frees up the front office to invest all trade assets into win-now moves instead of sacrificing them as incentives for someone else to take back all the money he is owed.
Sixers Planning Another Star Pursuit
The Philadelphia 76ers rocked the basketball world when they paired Joel Embiid with James Harden at the trade deadline.
Their dream-big president of basketball operations, Daryl Morey, apparently has no interest in stopping there.
"I promise you that Daryl Morey has big, giant plans to acquire another star," ESPN's Brian Windhorst said (h/t NBC Sports Philadelphia). "Whether he's going to execute it, I don't know. But part of getting that done is to require Harden to take some sort of paycut."
Harden has a $47.4 million player option for next season, per Spotrac, which isn't the kind of money he should be making at this stage with his stats trending down. Of course, the 32-year-old may not agree with that, and that's the first potential complication for another star pursuit by the Sixers.
The second is whether the right star is available, and if Philadelphia can afford that player. Windhorst floated Tobias Harris and Tyrese Maxey as potential assets to send out in a blockbuster exchange. While every NBA player is conceivably tradeable for the right return, parting with Maxey this early in his career would be hard to swallow after the massive strides he has already made.
Lonzo Ball's Knee Causing 'Serious Concerns' in Chicago
The Chicao Bulls had an up-and-down season, but their peaks and valleys were more predictable than that sounds.
Namely, they were pretty good before Lonzo Ball suffered a torn meniscus in late January and pretty meh after it. The fact the floor general is still working his way back from the ailment is reportedly sounding some alarms in the Windy City.
Chicago media personality David Kaplan said Ball's lack of progress is causing "serious concerns" within the franchise. Kaplan added that Ball's recovery "will color how they will address their offseason."
With Zach LaVine entering free agency, this is a massive summer for the franchise, and maybe it needs to see a healthy (or at least trending toward healthy) Ball before fully committing to this core. Chicago was 27-13 when Ball went down and posted a plus-5.2 net rating when he played, per NBA.com. After the injury, though, the Bulls went just 19-23 with a minus-3.6 net rating the rest of the way.