Russell Westbrook has had some kind of week, hasn’t he? You can describe his Lakers tenure thus far in the same mold. The team’s messy week peaked with Westbrook’s late-game benching on Wednesday night. He’s since cleared the air and is focused on getting his season back on track.
Westbrook is in the midst of an overhaul as a player. He’s gone from a primary ball-handler with a near unlimited leash to this version of himself alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis. He should still be performing like the star that we know he fancies himself. What’s really next for Russ?
Carefully reported, Westbrook has been mentioned in trade rumors. But the chances he gets moved from the Lakers is low. While low, a chance now exists that previously didn’t, per reports from Marc Stein:
The answer generally remains a pretty vociferous no. Westbrook, 33, is making $44.2 million this season and is owed $47.1 next season. There seems to be no discernible trade market for him amid the rampant uncertainty about Westbrook’s role going forward after he was benched for the final 3:52 of the Lakers’ humbling home loss to injury-ravaged Indiana.
I have been advised that I should amend my previous characterization of the Lakers’ finding a Westbrook trade from outright impossible to extremely unlikely. There is at least one team out there that would take him, league sources say, if the conditions are right.
That team, surprisingly, is the Houston Rockets
Stein goes on to elaborate more on the move:
I’ve since learned that the Rockets — while indeed holding no interest in having Westbrook play for them again — actually would be amenable to another Westbrook-for-Wall swap if the Lakers incentivized the trade with sufficient draft compensation.
To be clear: This is not a scenario likely to materialize between now and Feb. 10 or one I would advise the Lakers to pursue so soon even after all of my criticism of the Westbrook trade in the first place.
This would be the second trade exchanging John Wall and Russell Westbrook after the Rockets and Wizards agreed to the deal that landed Russ in Washington.
Similar deals and games built on speed and athleticism. However, both are also at a bit of a career crossroad. The biggest difference is we don’t really know what to expect from John Wall as he’s been sitting out this season up to this point.
If this trade progressed, I anticipate that the Lakers would ask for some concessions. For example, if the Lakers expanded the trade to include picks and salary filler, the Rockets could do the same. A deal including Westbrook, Talen Horton-Tucker Kendrick Nunn, Kent Bazemore, and the 2027 first round for Wall and Eric Gordon would work contractually. While parting with a valuable pick, the immediate fit and help of both veterans could balance their roster more. Health would be critical with these two incoming Rockets who have been known to deal with nagging injuries.
At the end of the day, this is but a rumor. As the trade deadline approaches on February 10th, we will see what happens. For Westbrook’s sake, let’s hope he can turn his season around and make it a solid first season in Los Angeles.