Lakers Send Strong Signal Russell Westbrook Won’t Be Traded: Report

Lakers star Russell Westbrook

Getty Lakers star Russell Westbrook

The Los Angeles Lakers have begun interviewing candidates to replace Frank Vogel and they are asking prospective coaches a critical question.

According to Sam Amick of The Athletic, the men who have interviewed for the Lakers’ job have been asked how they would use Russell Westbrook in their system.

“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 solid 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 one-time MVP was second in the NBA in turnovers and his effective field goal percentage of 47.6% was sixth-worst in the league.

Westbrook has a player option worth $47,063,478 for next season. Keith Smith of Spotrac believes it would be a “complete shock” if Westbrook doesn’t pick up his player option, and since the Lakers would likely have to attach future draft picks in a Westbrook trade, it looks like the nine-time All-Star could be back in Los Angeles next season.

Phil Jackson Likes Westbrook

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, Hall of Famer Phil Jackson is “significantly involved” in the Lakers’ coaching search. Jackson won five championships with Los Angeles and used to date owner Jeanie Buss.

According to Amick, Jackson is “known to have been a fan of Westbrook,” which means the Zen Master may tell Buss and Rob Pelinka to not trade the UCLA product this offseason.

“And how’s this for a tidbit to tie this thread up: Phil Jackson is known to have been a fan of Westbrook’s throughout his career,” Amick reported. “Sources say Phil Jackson has no interest in taking on this coaching job (or any other) himself — let’s just stop that rumor right here — but his view of Westbrook is relevant. As we’ve established, Jackson’s voice matters again.”

Westbrook, who was born and raised in California, didn’t sound like he wanted to be back with the Lakers next season during his exit interview on April 11. The two-time scoring champion took several shots at the organization.

Westbrook Went Off on Lakers

Westbrook said the Lakers didn’t give him “a fair chance just to be who I needed to be to help this team” during his 21-minute post-exit-interview press conference on April 11. The future Hall of Famer held nothing back while speaking to the press.

“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,” Westbrook said. “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.

“The famous ‘source’ stories that came out about myself, whether it be between me and the staff, me and Frank, me and the fans, there’s just so many made-up stories that are not true. It’s just always having to fight against that constantly. It’s just not [being] given a fair chance. It’s like, ‘OK, now I got to fight against this made-up story. Now I got to fight against this one. Now I go to fight against this one. Now I got to fight against this one.’”

If the Lakers don’t trade Westbrook, the new coach will have to find a way to help the guard co-exist with LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

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