The Los Angeles Lakers and Russell Westbrook appear to be heading toward a summer divorce after the guard’s disappointing first year with the franchise.
Even though he initially expressed interest in returning to L.A. in 2022-23, Westbrook said during his exit interview he felt like he was never given “a fair chance” to be himself after joining the Lakers.
The 2017 NBA MVP opened up on his displeasure with fans’ reception, media coverage of him, and the communication with former head coach Frank Vogel and his staff during 2021-22.
Westbrook is due $47 million in the last year of his expiring deal, making for a major stumbling block in the Lakers’ rumored efforts to part ways with the guard. However, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reports the Indiana Pacers might consider acquiring the 33-year-old if the Lakers take on some of their long-term contracts in exchange:
The Indiana Pacers could emerge as a potential suitor for Westbrook, rival executives believe, but any trade involving the former NBA MVP will be complicated due to his massive salary and the Lakers’ next available first-round draft pick being in 2027, which the franchise will prioritize and thus be prudent in deciding the best route with Westbrook. Two other routes for Westbrook could be keeping him or discussing a contract buyout.
The Pacers are building around Tyrese Haliburton, but rival teams expect them to be open to trade conversations around Malcolm Brogdon and Buddy Hield this offseason. Hield has two years and $40.4 million remaining on his deal while Brogdon has three years and nearly $68 million. If Indiana wants to shed future salary, could it view the Lakers and Westbrook’s expiring deal as a match?
Previous reports mentioned the Charlotte Hornets among potential suitors for Westbrook. Any trade scenario involving the experienced playmaker will likely require the Lakers to take on long-term money.
LeBron James says Westbrook’s future is Lakers front office’s decision to make
When asked about Westbrook’s future with L.A., LeBron James said it was up to the Lakers’ front office to decide what’s best for the team.
“I mean that’s not my decision,” James said. “It’s not my decision to sit here and say ‘this is who we should bring back on the roster.’ That would be the front office’s decision and obviously, I may have some input, but at the end of the day like I said earlier, they will make the decision that they feel best suits this franchise going forward.
“Listen, if I come back and that’s the team, and whoever the team is, I’ll be ready. If you [Dave McMenamin] want to dust off your orange Syracuse jersey and you happen to be on the roster, then you, me, and Austin Reaves will get some things done. We’ll figure it out, let you take a charge here and there.”
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