LeBron James ‘Badly’ Wants Lakers to Replace Russell Westbrook with 7-Time All-Star: Report

Lakers stars Russell Westbrook and LeBron James

Getty Lakers stars Russell Westbrook and LeBron James

Los Angeles Lakers small forward LeBron James reportedly “badly” wants to replace point guard Russell Westbrook with a seven-time All-Star.

According to a July 29 report from Marc Stein of Substack, James wants the Lakers to trade for Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving. Stein also reported that Westbrook is aware of James’ desire to play with Irving.

“As it stands, barring a trade to ship out Westbrook suddenly coalescing after weeks of fruitless talks, (Darvin) Ham is going to have to coach Westbrook, which is bound to be challenging in the extreme given that Westbrook is well aware that the Lakers have been trying hard to move him,” Stein reported. “And that James badly wants Irving to take his place.”

James and Irving played in 183 regular-season games together on the Cleveland Cavaliers, compiling a stellar record of 132-51. The two All-Stars also went 39-13 in the playoffs and guided the Cavaliers to the 2016 championship over the Golden State Warriors.

Why Does James Want to Move on from Westbrook?

James and Westbrook didn’t sit next to each other or say hello during the Lakers’ Summer League game on July 8 in Las Vegas. James sat on the south baseline, while Westbrook positioned himself on the opposing sideline.

Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register reported on July 15 that “several people within the Lakers organization acknowledged it was an awkward and tense moment between its two most high-profile superstars.”

Westbrook started 78 games for the Lakers last season. The nine-time All-Star averaged 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.1 assists while shooting 44.4% from the field, 29.8% from beyond the arc and 66.7% from the free-throw line. Westbrook was second in the NBA in turnovers and had the sixth-worst effective field goal percentage, making him a poor fit next to James and Anthony Davis.

The Lakers could compete for the title next season if they acquired Irving, who is a better shooter than Westbrook. Irving is a career 39.3% shooter from beyond the arc, while Westbrook is at 30.5%.

“Kyrie’s fit in L.A. probably doesn’t require much analysis. He and LeBron won a title together in 2016,” Bleacher Report’s Andy Bailey wrote on July 22. “He can shoot, which is the biggest differentiator between him and Westbrook. And he’s almost four years younger than Westbrook, too. Even with whatever off-court concerns may come with Kyrie, replacing Russ with him feels like a no-brainer.”

Lakers Aren’t Close to Trading Westbrook

ESPN’s Dave McMenamin reported on July 16 that the Lakers, who missed the playoffs last season, offered Westbrook to the Nets for Irving. However, talks between Los Angeles and Brooklyn haven’t progressed any closer to an agreement.

Meanwhile, Bob Kravitz and Shams Charania of The Athletic reported on July 22 that a package that would have seen the Lakers trade Westbrook and a first-round pick to the Indiana Pacers for center Myles Turner and shooting guard Buddy Hield is currently dead. Indiana wants a second first-round pick added to the deal.

Irving, 30, will make $36.5 million next season. He appeared in 29 games for the Nets last season and averaged 27.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 5.8 assists. Uncle Drew didn’t make his 2021-22 season debut until January because he refused to take the COVID-19 vaccine. The Nets made a collective decision not to have Irving be a part-time player to begin the season. However, the franchise changed its stance.

A three-time All-NBA guard, Irving requested a trade from the Cavaliers in 2017 because he reportedly no longer wanted to play with James. However, Charania told Pat McAfee on the June 20 episode of “The Pat McAfee Show” that the two champions still have a good relationship.

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