Even before this season’s trade deadline, there were widespread rumors that the Los Angeles Lakers wanted to move on from Russell Westbrook. Things only got worse after the trade deadline as the team failed to even reach the play-in tournament. It’s been thought that Westbrook has been on borrowed time with the Lakers for months now.
However, tides are starting to turn. New head coach Darvin Ham suggested that Westbrook is in his plans for next season and has strong praise for the former MVP. The guard even showed up to the coach’s introductory press conference. That’s certainly not something a player who expects to be traded would do.
Westbrook can actually control his future this offseason as he has a $47 million player option on his contract. That’s a large chunk of change and it’s likely the last big payday he’ll get in the NBA. Though he appeared unhappy for much of this season, nobody expects him to decline the option. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, it’s looking like Westbrook has already decided what he’s going to do with his contract.
“Not only is [Ham] going to keep Russell Westbrook accountable as they move forward, but he’s going to hold the entire team accountable,” Wojnarowski said. “In his mind, that’s a step for this organization. Now, Russell Westbrook can opt into the final years of his contract at $47 million, he’s expected to do that at the end of the month, but Russell Westbrook is really enthusiastic in getting to know Darvin Ham so far and expects to talk a lot more with him about his role, how he fits into as they move through the summer towards training camp.”
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Any Chance Westbrook Could Still Decline?
While this wasn’t a formal report on Westbrook from Wojnarowski, what he says is usually backed by a lot of insider knowledge. If he says the guard is expected to pick up his player option, it will most likely happen. The Lakers are saying all the right things about Westbrook right now but there’s no doubt they would be thrilled if he changed his mind and declined his player option.
There’s almost no way he would walk away from the $47 million he’s owed. Westbrook’s season was so bad that there might not even be a team willing to sign him for a much smaller contract. Even if he’s miserable being back in Los Angeles, the Lakers are going to be stuck with his contract this season.
What’s Next for Lakers?
Since it appears that Westbrook will be picking up his player option, it’s time for the Lakers to figure out what they want to do with him. Ham and company suggest that he’s part of their plans for next season but they should at least explore their options. A coaching change isn’t going to make him a good fit out of nowhere.
The Lakers look around the league to see if they have any good trade options. A deal with the Indiana Pacers for Malcolm Brogdon and Buddy Hield appears to be the popular choice but it remains to be seen if they’re interested. Los Angeles needs to try to get off Westbrook or next season could similar to this one.