Through 48 games, things haven’t gone as planned for the Los Angeles Lakers as they currently sit in the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference at 24-24.
There are a variety of reasons for that, with injuries being the main one with LeBron James, Anthony Davis and key role players all having missed significant time.
One person who has shouldered a lot of the blame though is Russell Westbrook, who the organization gave up key pieces to acquire in the offseason, taking on his massive contract in the process.
The hope was that Westbrook would not only fit alongside James and Davis, but also that he would pick up some slack when they miss time due to injury in order to keep the team afloat.
Through the first half of the season though, Westbrook’s play has been up-and-down and what the Lakers thought he would bring to the table has not exactly come to fruition.
During a recent game against the Indiana Pacers, Frank Vogel opted to bench Westbrook for the final four minutes of a close game due to his poor play. That led to all sorts of reports regarding Westbrook’s unhappiness, as well as the organization’s unhappiness with him.
While those reports have since cooled down, the trade deadline is still just around the corner, and if the reports were indeed true, then L.A. is likely looking for ways to deal Westbrook away before Feb. 10.
That will be no easy task though considering Westbrook’s contract, which is $44 million this season and also includes a $47 million player option for next season. There likely aren’t any teams willing to take on that deal, except the Houston Rockets.
The Rockets are in a very similar situation with John Wall, who has the exact same contract as Westbrook, but has not played a single game this season despite being healthy due to the organization prioritizing developing their young players.
It was recently reported that the Rockets would be willing to do a Westbrook for Wall swap, but only if the Lakers included their 2027 first-round pick.
That wouldn’t make a ton of sense for the Lakers though, so it comes as no surprise that NBA insider Marc Stein is now reporting that L.A. is not willing to do that:
A trade with the Houston Rockets to ship out Russell Westbrook is on the proverbial table for the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers, though, appear determined to stick with Westbrook through at least the rest of the season — which means holding onto their 2027 first-round draft pick for other potential trade opportunities.
League sources say that the Lakers, presented with an unexpected pathway to abort their Westbrook experiment by trading the NBA’s 2017 Most Valuable Player back to the Rockets in exchange for former All-Star John Wall, are unwilling to attach the 2027 first-rounder to make the deal happen.
There are plenty of reasons why the Lakers wouldn’t include a first-round pick to trade Westbrook for Wall, and Stein laid them out:
There are a variety of reasons, sources say, that the Lakers refuse to do so. Surrendering such a valuable trade chip for a swap that isn’t guaranteed to raise the Lakers’ ceiling this season is the primary deterrent, since Wall, 31, has not played since last season and cannot be billed as a lock to mesh alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis more seamlessly than Westbrook has at 33.
Yet there are also major optics concerns for the Lakers. Team officials, sources say, do not want to pay a premium to move on from Westbrook so soon after the Lakers gave up so much to get the Los Angeles native. Remember: They had to send Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell and the No. 22 pick in last July’s draft to Washington after James and Davis encouraged the Lakers’ front office to go all-in for Westbrook rather than proceed with GM Rob Pelinka’s plans to trade for Sacramento’s Buddy Hield.
Barring the emergence of an expanded trade construction that involves three or more teams, or allows for a Westbrook-for-Wall exchange without including the precious draft pick, L.A.’s clear preference, sources say, is to bank on Westbrook finding another gear in the second half like he did for the Wizards last season.
So unless something changes, it looks like Westbrook will be staying with the Lakers until at least the summer. That means that he, James and Davis will have to figure out a way to coexist and be successful to get L.A. back into championship contention.
In the meantime though, there’s no doubt that the Lakers will seek roster upgrades elsewhere ahead of the deadline, perhaps dangling the 2027 first-round pick they won’t send to Houston in order to do so.
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