The Los Angeles Lakers seem to be in for a long summer, filled with rumors regarding Russell Westbrook’s future and a potential Kyrie Irving trade.
Most reports claim the Lakers try to engineer Westbrook’s exit while acquiring Irving from the Brooklyn Nets. However, that’s a complex transaction to carry out considering the money involved, Brooklyn’s evident lack of interest in the 2017 NBA MVP, L.A.’s reported unwillingness to get rid of all their available future first-round picks, and Kevin Durant’s trade request.
There are about three months left before the 2022-23 season’s tip-off, leaving plenty of time for the two teams to find an agreement. Or, the Purple and Gold might look for another trade partner who could take on Westbrook’s expiring $47.1 million contract.
According to NBA insider Marc Stein, the New York Knicks might become interested in bringing the 33-year-old guard in if they can acquire Donovan Mitchell from the Utah Jazz, potentially leading to a Lakers-Julius Randle reunion:
We’ve been writing on this Substack for months that the Lakers do not want to attach future first-round picks to a Russell Westbrook trade just to facilitate Westbrook’s departure … but also that the Lakers are wary of taking back long-term salary that hampers future flexibility. Yet one league source advised me in Las Vegas to keep an eye on the Knicks and Lakers discussing a potential Westbrook deal if — IF — Leon Rose can successfully bring Donovan Mitchell to Madison Square Garden. The source’s thinking: After adding Mitchell, New York would be expected to explore scenarios to trade away Julius Randle. And Randle, just one season removed from his breakthrough to All-Star and All-NBA status, is presumably the sort of player that the Lakers would have to consider taking on if — IF — they are unable to use Westbrook’s $47.1 million expiring contract in a trade for Kyrie Irving. Randle, 27, is entering Year 1 of a four-year deal with the Knicks worth $117 million ($106 million guaranteed) and, of course, played his first four NBA seasons with the Lakers.
Randle has been a different player since leaving the Lakers, improving the 13.5 points and 2.6 assists per game he averaged in his four years in L.A. to 21.3 points and 4.4 assists per night over the last four seasons — and boosting his 3-point percentage from 25.7 to 34.1.
But the 6-foot-8 forward’s monstrous contract could potentially limit the Purple and Gold’s financial capabilities for a long time. Randle’s numbers took a hit last season, and if the trend was to continue after a theoretical return to L.A., the Lakers could again find themselves tied to a player who’s difficult to trade, limiting their ability to strengthen the roster.
The Purple and Gold are reportedly looking at other options to get new players in case the Irving trade falls through, with Eric Gordon, Buddy Hield and Patrick Beverley believed to be among potential targets.
Lakers’ Big 3 ‘vowed to make it work’ in Summer League phone call
A surprising report came out on Monday, claiming Westbrook had a phone call with LeBron James and Anthony Davis in the first weekend of the Las Vegas Summer League, during which they all committed to making the Big 3 experiment work.
However, James and Westbrook didn’t even talk to each other as they both attended the Lakers’ loss to the Phoenix Suns on the first Friday of this year’s Summer League.
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