It looks like Russell Westbrook could be on the Los Angeles Lakers again next season.
While the Lakers are expected to try to trade the one-time MVP this offseason, they won’t waive or send Westbrook home if a trade doesn’t materialize, according to Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic.
“As for the prospect of Westbrook being waived or sent home (a la Houston’s John Wall last season) if he is not traded, those are not considered viable options, and all indications are that he will play,” Charania and Amick reported. “With that in mind, the Lakers are focused on hiring a coach who is capable of navigating these types of sensitive situations.”
Westbrook has a player option worth $47,063,478 for next season and he’s expected to pick it up since he can’t get that kind of money on the open market as a free agent. The Lakers, who have been interviewing candidates for their coaching vacancy, have been sending strong signals that they expect Westbrook to be part of their program in 2022-23.
Lakers Asking Coaches About Westbrook
According to Amick, the coaches interviewing for the Lakers’ job have been asked how they would use Westbrook in their system. Darvin Ham, Terry Stotts and Kenny Atkinson are considered the finalists for the job.
“More specifically, the notion of Russell Westbrook remaining part of their program is seeming more real all the time,” Amick reported. “Despite the widely held belief that the Lakers would find a way to trade Westbrook before the start of next season, sources say their coaching candidates have been asked to discuss how they would use him in their system during interviews. The takeaway for candidates, it seems, is that maximizing Westbrook’s presence after his disastrous 2021-22 season is considered an important part of this job.”
Westbrook struggled during the 2021-22 season. Although he averaged per-game numbers of 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.1 assists, Westbrook shot only 44.4% from the field, 29.8% from beyond the arc and 66.7% from the free-throw line. The UCLA product was second in the NBA in turnovers and his effective field goal percentage of 47.6% was sixth-worst in the league.
A future Hall of Famer, Westbrook didn’t do himself any favors during his exit interview on April 11. The nine-time All-Star blamed Frank Vogel and the Lakers organization for his subpar season, displaying a lack of accountability.
Westbrook Went Off During Exit Interview
Westbrook went off during his exit interview with reporters. He said he was never on the same page with Vogel or the Lakers.
“I think it’s unfortunate to be honest because I’ve never had an issue with any of my coaches before,” Westbrook said. “I’m not sure what his issue was with me or I’m not sure why, but I can’t really give you an answer to why we really never connected. That’s something that he has to answer, but I never, from the get-go, was feeling like (we were on the same page.) I was having to try to prove myself to him and my capabilities and what I’ve been able to do for this game and it’s unfortunate but it’s really not (my fault). It’s kind of out of my hands.
“When I first got here, unfortunately, people create narratives of who I am and what I do and what I believe in that just aren’t true. I’m always having to prove myself again year after year after year, which to me is really unfair. There’s no reason for me to have to do that. So when I first got in here, I just felt that I never was given a fair chance just to be who I needed to be to help this team.”
If the Lakers bring Westbrook back, they have to hire a coach who can connect with him.