Russell Westbrook’s future with the Los Angeles Lakers very much hangs in the balance as the team is expected to once again explore potential trade packages for the star guard this offseason. One rumored deal has the Lakers trading Westbrook to the Hornets with Gordon Hayward as the main player coming back to Los Angeles, but NBA insider Marc Stein reported that the L.A. front office does not appear to have an interest in the wing given his injury history.
“Yet it has since been conveyed to me that the Lakers have more boundaries than advertised when it comes to weighing Westbrook trades,” Stein detailed on April 17, 2022. “One league source said that injury histories would be a prime consideration in any deal, given how injuries have so routinely intruded upon the last two seasons for both 37-year-old LeBron James and 29-year-old Anthony Davis.
“Translation: The Lakers are unlikely to consent to a Charlotte trade headlined by Gordon Hayward — not after Hayward’s first two seasons in Charlotte have likewise been injury-filled. The Lakers surely understand that they need to factor in durability if they are taking on long-term money, which suggests that Terry Rozier would have to be the Southern California-bound headliner if the Hornets and Lakers eventually progress to serious trade talks.”
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Westbrook: ‘I Just Felt That I Never Was Given a Fair Chance’
During his final press conference of the season, Westbrook spoke like someone who knows he will be playing elsewhere next year. The Lakers guard lamented his usage this season, his relationship with former head coach Frank Vogel and made the case that he was never given a fair opportunity in Los Angeles.
Westbrook has at least some control over his future as the guard has the ability to opt out of his current contract to become a free agent this summer. The former All-Star is unlikely to do this as he would forfeit the $47 million salary that the Lakers are on the hook for in 2022-23. Here is how Westbrook responded when asked if he felt scapegoated for the Lakers’ struggles this season.
“I would say this, so when I first got here and just being a person that, unfortunately, that people create narratives of me and who I am and what I do and what I believe in that are just not true,” Westbrook noted during an April 11 press conference. “I’m always having to like prove myself again year after year after year which is, to me, just unfair. There’s really no reason I have to do that. So, when I first got here, I just felt that I never was given a fair chance just to be who I needed to be to be able to help this team.”
Are the Hornets Willing to Trade Rozier as Part of a Westbrook Deal?
Westbrook was given a preview of what his potential free agent market would be at the trade deadline when the Lakers were unable to find a viable partner willing to take on his contract. While Westbrook is likely to play out the final year of his deal, the guard can clearly make things uncomfortable enough where the Lakers are pressed to trade the guard sooner rather than later, even if they do not find an offer to their liking.
The Hornets make some sense as a potential landing spot for Westbrook with the star being one of the faces of Charlotte owner Michael Jordan’s signature Jordan Brand. Yet, would the Hornets be willing to part with Rozier while also taking a risk by acquiring Westbrook?
Rozier averaged 19.3 points, 4.5 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 73 starts for the Hornets in 2021-22. The Hornets guard is also a much better shooter than Westbrook notching 37.4% from long range this season.
All signs point to a coming breakup between Westbrook and the Lakers. The question is how long the Lakers will wait to make a trade, and what team is willing to roll the dice for a year of Westbrook given his bloated salary.