With the NBA trade deadline around the corner, few star players have been mentioned more than Los Angeles Lakers point guard Russell Westbrook. The veteran has been a popular scapegoat for the Lakers’ struggles to start the season.
Through the first 42 games, the Lakers would once again be in the play-in tournament if the season ended. When asked about the recent trade rumors, Westbrook appeared unfazed by the chatter noting he will “never worry” about potentially leaving Los Angeles.
“I never worry,” Westbrook told The Athletic’s Sam Amick during a January 14 feature story. “Do the job. Be professional. Every year, my name is in trade (rumors). It never, never, never seeps into how I approach what I do. It’s kind of what I was mentioning back there (during the press conference). I see this game so different (in terms of) how to use it to be able to impact things.
“Regardless of if (a trade) did happen or if it didn’t happen, nothing’s going to change my mentality or my purpose. I feel like I have a purpose that’s bigger than basketball and I always keep that as my forefront regardless of what happens inside of pro sports.”
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The Lakers Have Shown ‘Covert Interest’ in Trading Westbrook: Report
Westbrook’s comments come a little more than a week after Amick previously reported the Lakers have “showed some covert interest” in potentially dealing the star guard ahead of the trade deadline. The looming question is whether the Lakers can find a trade partner willing to take on Westbrook’s $44 million salary.
“All of which explains why sources say the Lakers showed some covert interest in discussing a possible Westbrook trade with rival executives earlier this season,” Amick detailed on January 5. “A deal appears extremely unlikely before the Feb. 10 trade deadline, if only because his deal that was once seen by so many as untradeable is such a massive obstacle. But inside the Lakers, it seems, there is some recognition that this hasn’t gone as (James and Davis had) planned.”
James on Westbrook: ‘We Love When He’s Playing at a High Level’
Despite Westbrook’s struggles, LeBron James has continued to back his fit with the Lakers. James recently explained why he is optimistic that Westbrook was the right offseason addition for the Lakers.
“I think he just got to continue to trust his shot,” James remarked during a January 9 press conference. “Obviously, his shot hasn’t fell for him as of late, but I think he just got to continue to trust that, so.
“We love when he’s playing at a high level. We love when he’s playing with a high motor, pushing the tempo because when we’re good, [when] we’re really good, we’re getting fastbreak points and it starts with Russ’ attack on early transition.”
Westbrook was candid about the Lakers’ need to “figure it out” and added that he has to make the “biggest sacrifice” for things to work.
“We’re all trying to figure it out as a team, as a unit, to be able to say, ‘Ok, how can we figure this out?’” Westbrook told The Athletic. “And I know I’m the one who has got to make the biggest sacrifice — and I understand that — so I’ve got to be able to figure out a way to be able to make the best out of it and make the best for this team and that’s it.”