Today marks the first preseason game for the Los Angeles Lakers, as they get ready to take on the Sacramento Kings at 7:30 p.m. PT. At the start of the offseason a few months ago, many NBA fans expected the Lakers to be without Russell Westbrook by this point. However, after the team balked at trading away unprotected 2027 and 2029 first-round picks for any reported package (not including Kyrie Irving), Westbrook remains on the team.
In what was basically an oral history of the reports and rumors that were released this summer, The Athletic published an article today that details what happened recently with Russell Westbrook trade discussions, where things currently stand, and what may happen in the future. Below you will find analysis on the key reports from Charania’s article.
Inside the Los Angeles Lakers seriously considering a blockbuster trade on eve of training camp, the franchise’s internal collaborative debates, and the possibilities that exist in the coming weeks and months.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) October 3, 2022
“While Westbrook wasn’t traded in the summer like so many across the league expected, league sources tell The Athletic that the prospect of him being traded in the coming weeks and months remains real.”
This headlining report from the article tells us the obvious: That the Lakers aren’t actually excited about Westbrook coming back this season, and that if a trade deemed suitable by them arises at any point this season, they will take it.
The Lakers have seemingly decided that it would be unwise to make a desperate move at this time to move Westbrook. However, would it be even more foolish to make a deal for him in the middle of the season with the intent to put together a championship roster at that time? I would argue that it is, as this team is already behind the curve compared to other teams in terms of building the connective tissue between the parts of their roster. Any trade with Westbrook would almost certainly negate any work they had done up to that point to build continuity between the players, as the subtraction of Westbrook and addition of players from another team would dramatically affect the rotation that Darvin Ham will have been working with up to the trade.
Speaking of what trade options are even left…
“Vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka, owner Jeanie Buss and senior basketball adviser Kurt Rambis seriously considered sending Westbrook and unprotected first-round picks in 2027 and 2029 to the Pacers for center Myles Turner and guard Buddy Hield, sources said. They held a series of meetings in the days leading up to camp to analyze the possible Pacers deal from every angle, with the views of Ham and Lakers executives Joey and Jesse Buss also being strongly considered in the process.
“While Pelinka has been given the ultimate power to make these decisions, sources say there was a desire for the entire group to come to a consensus. It appears the voices of Joey and Jesse Buss are being considered among Lakers leaders now more than ever.
“But when that wasn’t the case, sources say, the choice was made by Pelinka to remain patient and see, yet again, if Westbrook might find a way to make this imperfect fit with the Lakers work.”
Charania seems to indicate that right now, it’s the Pacers’ deal involving Turner and Hield, or bust. This has seemingly been the case since the Utah Jazz did not include the Lakers in the trade package that sent Donovan Mitchell to the Cavaliers. Shortly after that, Bojan Bogdanovic — the likely centerpiece of a Jazz package coming back to the Lakers — was dealt to the Pistons.
The intricacies of those discussions between the Lakers and Pacers are explained more in the article, but I wanted to highlight the emphasis on Joey and Jesse Buss’s opinions in these discussions. This year, their names have been increasingly linked to high-level decision-making within the team, with this just being another instance. Also, it should be emphasized that owner Jeanie Buss has been a part of the discussions, discussions that included a “desire for the entire group to come to a consensus.”
It’s unknown as to who out of the people listed above felt that the Lakers-Pacers deal shouldn’t have been done before training camp; however, the reporting serves to make sure we don’t get it twisted on who the ultimate blame goes to if this all doesn’t work out: Rob Pelinka.
In addition, James has shown support publicly and privately to integrating Westbrook and playing with the former league MVP again this season, and multiple sources said he applied no pressure to the Lakers front office to do the Pacers’ deal.
We all know that LeBron James can not only influence decisions made surrounding the roster of the team he plays on, but that he can influence nearly every decision that happens within the NBA at large. Because of that nearly omnipotent power he possesses, he could easily push the Lakers closer to pulling the trigger on a Westbrook deal available if he wanted. However, whether that’s because he shares the opinions of Pelinka and the front office in terms of not proceeding with a deal at this point or if he just doesn’t want to cause additional stress to the 2022-23 season for his team, Charania reports that he’s showing support to the team to make the decision they see fit.
Other reporting from Charania’s article included the following:
As for the prospect of adding Irving via free agency next summer, sources say he’s currently not a part of the Lakers’ long-term plans.
Maybe this is semantics. Maybe the Lakers have zero long-term plans at all. They just have zero thoughts about anything past the present. They live in the moment, baby!
If that’s the case, then sure, they have no “long-term plans” that include Kyrie Irving. But let’s be real, the Lakers would almost certainly jump at signing Kyrie Irving next summer if they don’t take long-term salaries back in any Westbrook deal.
Westbrook slightly refined his shooting form this summer, and sources say his catch-and-shoot 3-point percentage has been improved in workouts and scrimmages.
Again… HAHAHAHAHA. I’ll believe it when I see it.
Other than that, Charania also reported different packages between the Lakers and Pacers this summer in the article. Check that out in there, and also check it out if you just want a summary of this brutal summer of reports and rumors we’ve been subjected to.
Either way, those packages discussed earlier this summer don’t matter at this current juncture. The Pacers seem fine with going through this 2022-23 season with Turner, Hield, as well as Tyrese Haliburton who was acquired last year. It’ll be interesting to see how the two teams’ seasons end up starting and how that affects their desire to increase or decrease their demands/desires.
But at this time, it’s Westbrook and the two unprotected first round picks for Myles Turner and Buddy Hield… or no deal.