It’s been a whirlwind 18-24 hours for the Los Angeles Lakers, even for their dramatic and messy standards of the 2021-22 season. They were absolutely beat down last night by the Milwaukee Bucks in a game that saw Russell Westbrook sit out the entire 4th quarter even when the Lakers seemed they were making a comeback. Afterward, Westbrook went full scorched earth in a press conference that saw him seemingly taking shots at Frank Vogel and the rest of the coaching staff.
Now, with the trade deadline less than 24 hours away, the prospect of trading Westbrook at the deadline is arising again. Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus had the following to say in regards to the idea of the Lakers dealing him before the 3 p.m. EST deadline tomorrow.
“The Los Angeles Lakers are unlikely to trade Russell Westbrook at the deadline, sources tell B/R. The caveat: If LeBron James decides that fellow Klutch Sports client John Wall could be a better fit and is willing to push extremely hard for Westbrook’s exit, the Lakers might consider a deal with the Houston Rockets.”
This isn’t the first time that a deal between the Rockets and Lakers has been reported. Marc Stein reported the possibility of a Westbrook and Wall swap just a few weeks ago. However, Stein indicated the Rockets would only do the deal if the Lakers included their 2027 first-round pick, the only first-rounder the team can offer prior to this year’s trade deadline.
It’s unclear in Pincus’ most recent report if that 2027 first-rounder would still need to be included, but either way, he does indicate the following. Within it, the word “also” seems to indicate that it would in fact have to be Wall and Daniel Theis for Westbrook and the 2027 first-rounder at the least.
“The Rockets are open to making a deal, but only if the Lakers are willing to pay to play. But top Lakers executive Rob Pelinka may be hesitant to acknowledge the Westbrook move was a failure, let alone give up the team’s sparse assets to make him go away.
“Houston could be open to a trade if the Lakers also took on Daniel Theis’ multiyear deal, but that’s not attractive for Los Angeles given the boost in luxury tax and the team’s desire to keep the books relatively clean for the 2023 offseason (when James’ contract expires).”
Theis is set to make $9.1 million in the 2023-24 season. You’d think if the Lakers were desperate to move off of Westbrook, they’d be fine with doing this deal with the potential to waive and stretch Theis’ contract later down the road if there were some 2023 free agents that seemed interested in coming to L.A.
Either way, as Pincus notes, any deal involving Westbrook will involve a sacrifice of ego on the part of the people with the most power on the Lakers. That includes Jeanie Buss, Rob Pelinka, Kurt Rambis, and even (maybe especially) LeBron James.
We’ll see what else develops between now and tomorrow…