Acquiring Russell Westbrook was a historical move for the Los Angeles Lakers. Unfortunately for them, it’s a trade that’s teetered on the bad side of history rather than the good. Whether it’s the sporadic play or icy relationship with fans, it just hasn’t gone good for Westbrook. It’s no secret that next year, he may no longer be in the purple and gold.
During the trade deadline and beyond, there was a lot of conversation about moving on for Westbrook. One of the more popular rumors was trading him back to the Houston Rockets. Reportedly, the sweeteners needed to move Russ was too much. The Rockets were after extra draft compensation to take on Westbrook and decide his future, per reports. Thus, he’s continued to finish what will be his next to last year of a $205 million deal originally signed in 2017.
Westbrook is sure to opt into his $47.1 million dollar player option. If he does, the Lakers will have to make a decision. The obvious option is to ride out his last year and get the cap space in 2023. They can also get creative to possibly find some depth and pieces that fit around their superstars. One option of creativity is to waive and stretch Westbrook, as detailed by Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer in an article earlier this month:
Los Angeles’ most realistic option may ultimately be stretching Westbrook’s $47 million player option for the 2022-23 season. The Lakers have already shown a willingness to stretch Luol Deng’s contract, which finally slips off Los Angeles’ books this year, although that came under Mitch Kupchak’s stewardship. Stretching Westbrook, according to the strategist, would drop the Lakers to merely $2.5 million above the salary cap, which would allow them to sign a rotation piece to the non-taxpayer mid-level, and another player to the bi-annual exception.
Marc Stein was joined by Fischer on Spotify Greenroom. Fischer shared what he’s heard regarding waiving Westbrook recently:
We’ve definitely been talking about the waive and stretch idea for a couple weeks now. I will say that after I wrote that… I was told ‘that’s very unlikely to happen.’ I mean, anything could change here, but I don’t think the Lakers intend to carry dead money on future salary because of Russell Westbrook.”
The news makes sense given the Lakers’ history with pursuing this option. Ironically, this is the last season that they will pay Luol Deng, who was also a casualty of the waive and stretch provision. Deng was waived in 2018. The Lakers could very well change courses by the time the off-season arrives. But the question remains if Westbrook can show enough down the stretch to dead these decisions.