While the Los Angeles Lakers ultimately did not make a move at the trade deadline, it was not for a lack of trying as they shopped whatever available assets they had to just about every team in the league.
One of the moves the Lakers discussed was trading away Russell Westbrook, their big offseason acquisition who was supposed to be a third star next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Westbrook was playing some of his worst basketball of the season leading up to the deadline, causing some in the organization to believe he wasn’t a good fit on the team.
Trading Westbrook was no easy task though given the size of his contract, so the only logical move was a swap for John Wall with the Houston Rockets since his contract is the same. Wall shares an agent with James, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, and Houston isn’t allowing him to play so he is looking to latch on with another team if possible.
The only problem was that the Rockets were requiring the Lakers to include their 2027 first-round pick in the deal, which Rob Pelinka was unwilling to do for a variety of reasons.
Chief among those reasons was that James advocated trading for Westbrook in the offseason, so it was up to them to make it work instead of using more future assets to undo the mistake.
Now, James has been taking subtle shots at the Lakers and Pelinka, with reports already coming out that he was not in agreement with the team not making a move at the deadline.
According to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report, James’ Klutch Sports is unhappy with Pelinka and the Lakers for being unwilling to include the 2027 draft pick to swap Westbrook for Wall:
According to multiple NBA sources, Klutch is not happy with Pelinka. The sentiment has long percolated, but it reached a boil when Pelinka refused to trade Westbrook and a future first-round pick (likely 2027) for Houston Rockets guard and Klutch client John Wall.
The move didn’t make sense for the Lakers from a basketball standpoint as a significant upgrade over Westbrook, even though Wall averaged 20.6 points and 6.9 assists per game last year. Wall hasn’t played this season, with the Rockets focusing on developing younger players. From the Klutch point of view, the Lakers would get their client out of a bad situation in Houston and undo the Westbrook mistake.
While it makes sense for James to want to maximize any potential championship window he has left with the Lakers, the organization also has to consider their long-term future, which is what they did by holding onto their future assets.
This is shaping up to be an interesting topic of conversation this offseason as the Lakers will have to choose which direction they want to go. James has already spoken about a potential return to the Cleveland Cavaliers and playing with his son Bronny to close out his career, signifying his Lakers tenure may soon be coming to an end.
James is under contract for one more season after this one but is eligible for an extension this August. If he is unwilling to sign that then it will be interesting to see if the Lakers make the tough decision to trade their biggest star and start over as opposed to risking losing him for nothing in a year.
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