The Los Angeles Lakers‘ acquisition of Russell Westbrook turned out to be an unmitigated disaster. The one-time MVP was second in the NBA in turnovers and didn’t fit well with LeBron James and Anthony Davis due to his inability to hit perimeter shots.
Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka negotiated the Westbrook trade with the Washington Wizards last summer. However, he’s apparently not going to take the full bullet.
According to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report, the Lakers’ front office is “internally blaming pressure” from Klutch Sports Group (representing both James and Davis) for the Westbrook trade.
“Upon the urging of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the franchise traded its championship depth for Russell Westbrook, yet the three stars still ended up with an extended vacation,” Pincus wrote. “After the season concluded, Davis said he would meet with James to ‘reevaluate in the offseason. Upstairs, me and him, talking about the season and what we’d like to see next season.’
“Ideally, their suggestions to the Lakers’ front office will be better than acquiring Westbrook. But James certainly has a strong influence on the Lakers’ decision-making. Multiple sources indicate the team’s front office is internally blaming pressure from Klutch Sports Group (representing both James and Davis) for Westbrook.”
James and Davis are represented by Rich Paul of Klutch Sports. In February, Paul met with Pelinka and Lakers owner Jeanie Buss to clear the air since there were several negative media reports surrounding the franchise and James’ future, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
Details of Paul’s Meeting with Lakers
According to Wojnarowski, Paul assured Buss and Pelinka that there’s “no movement underway to seek management changes.” The agent also told the Lakers that James is committed to winning another championship with the purple and gold and isn’t looking to leave in 2023 when he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
“In the aftermath of LeBron James’ public comments on a possible return to Cleveland and media reports describing his agency’s displeasure with the organization, Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul met with Lakers owner Jeanie Buss and general manager Rob Pelinka on Tuesday, insisting that there’s no movement underway to seek management changes and that he believes there’s a shared accountability for the franchise’s disappointing season, sources told ESPN,” Wojnarowski reported in February.
“Paul — whose agency represents stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis — made it clear that James’ primary objective is remaining a Laker and the goal now ought to be to finish the season as strong as possible and then regroup in the offseason and work on ways to improve the team, sources said.”
James and Davis urged Pelinka to trade for Westbrook, who was born and raised in California. Unfortunately, the trade didn’t work out in the Lakers’ favor and now Pelinka and his group are trying to put all the blame on James, Davis and Klutch Sports.
What’s Next for the Lakers?
The Lakers are expected to part ways with Westbrook this summer. The nine-time All-Star recently removed all pictures of him associated with the Lakers from his Instagram page, so it looks like Westbrook wants a change of scenery.
After the Lakers move on from Westbrook, they will likely offer James a two-year extension worth $97 million. According to Sam Amick of The Athletic, though, the King is considering playing out his present contract.
Frank Vogel was fired by the Lakers after the regular season ended, so Pelinka will need to hire a new coach. It will be a busy summer for Pelinka, who has two years left on the contract extension that accompanied his promotion to vice president of basketball operations, according to Bill Oram of The Athletic.