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If the Lakers head into next season with guard Russell Westbrook, 33, still on the roster, it’ll be safe to say LA wasted its offseason, based on last year’s outcome and apparent needs on the need.
The Lakers have been shopping Westbrook around, namely to unload the expiring $47.1 million due on his contract, while quelling talks of getting rid of the nine-time All-Star. Just in case a team would not want to take on the bloated contract that the Lakers gave Russ.
Recent behind-the-scenes discussions reveal that the Lakers are setting up a tentative timeline on when they’ll need to trade Westbrook and save one of the worst deals in LA’s storied history — engineered by general manager Rob Pelinka.
According to a report by The Athletic’s Jovan Buha, the Lakers are setting a “soft deadline” before “late September” to trade Westbrook. He remains among the most divisive name on the trade market, if not the top guy.
“There is a sense among some that training camp is a soft deadline to move Westbrook,” Boha noted. “If he’s on the roster in late September, there will be a massive off-court distraction, with the media asking about his future, his relationship with James and the organization, Ham’s vision of his role and responsibilities.”
In July, reports surfaced that Westbrook, LeBron James and Lakers big man Anthony Davis met to discuss a plan to move forward as a trio.
The news came out as talks for the Lakers to trade for Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving began to intensify, with hope still out in Lakers Land that the team will cut a deal.
With little to offer other teams in a trade situation that 9-out-of-10 times will benefit the Lakers, Pelinka and company may need to loop in one of their coveted first-rounders — 2027 first-round pick, 2028 first-round pick and 2029 first-round pick — to move Westbrook out of LA and end the tumultuous runs he’s had in LA.
Last season, Westbrook averaged 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.1 assists in 78 games, shooting 44 percent from the field.
As one of the more infamous trades in the storied Lakers’ history, Pelinka’s deal for Westbrook has encumbered LA’s plans to build for the offseason. And at this point, the Lakers may try to hold on to Westbrook to save face and pray that the player can stop the team from inching closer to irrelevancy … or just rip the Band-Aid off and move on with a splash deal involving their first-round picks.