Lakers Rumors: L.A. ‘Held Internal Discussions’ About Russell Westbrook Trade Scenarios
(Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Lakers took a big gamble in the offseason, bringing in Russell Westbrook despite doubts over the 2017 NBA MVP’s compatibility with Anthony Davis and LeBron James.

Westbrook’s career at Staples Center had an ugly beginning. The guard needed time to figure out how to use his unique skillset and athleticism in a way that would benefit the Lakers. Turnovers and poor shot selection characterized his performance early in the season.

However, Westbrook’s form has improved significantly in recent weeks. The 33-year-old seems to have listened to his All-Star teammates and decided to focus on things he does best on the basketball court: attacking the basket, outmuscling opponents and showing off his playmaking skills.

Yet, rumors claim the Lakers’ front office still isn’t convinced the Westbrook experiment has worked as planned. Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer reports there have been talks within the organization about potential trade opportunities involving the guard:

The trio of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook simply hasn’t blended as well as Lakers figures hoped, and Los Angeles has held internal discussions on trade scenarios for Russell Westbrook, league sources told B/R. But moving Westbrook and the two years, $91 million remaining on his contract does seem unlikely.

Westbrook’s contract significantly shrinks the pool of potential trade partners for the Lakers if they were to part ways with the guard during 2021-22. The Cleveland Cavaliers, Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers could potentially concoct a package that would allow them to acquire the guard — but none of these options are believed to have fetched serious interest:

Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio’s salaries would match Westbrook’s pricey deal, reuniting James with a former championship counterpart. But that structure would have little interest from the Cavaliers’ side and has not yet been discussed by the two teams, sources said. Outside of Love’s large number, there are simply few players aside from John Wall, for whom Westbrook was traded to Washington last summer, who are available for trade and come close to Westbrook’s earnings. One of those players is Ben Simmons. The Athletic reported Los Angeles’ interest in Simmons on Monday, and Westbrook’s salary, outside of James’ and Davis’, is the only number on the Lakers’ books that can match Simmons’ own lofty deal. Even then, Westbrook is not a player on the Sixers’ list of hopeful returns, league sources told B/R, and conversations with the Lakers never developed very far.

However, the Lakers’ front office seems to be interested in making prompt roster changes after the underwhelming first weeks of the current campaign. Besides the reported Westbrook trade talks, L.A. is said to have been pondering a move for Detroit Pistons forward Jerami Grant.

Westbrook noticing Lakers’ improvements on defense

Whether Westbrook will finish the season in L.A. or not, the guard deserves credit for his attempts to get the Purple and Gold out of the slump. Apart from his offensive contributions, the guard has also impressed on defense in recent weeks — while encouraging his teammates to put in more effort in trying to get stops during games.

And, Westbrook believes the Lakers have made progress on the defensive end.

“We’ve been doing a good job, honestly,” he said.

“The last two weeks or so, 5-10 games we’ve done a better job, our defense has been better. Even in some games, we’ve lost, defensively we’ve been better.”

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