“As the Westbrook Turns” is entering its second season and the Los Angeles Lakers soap opera shows no signs of ending. Russell Westbrook is the star.
Lakers guard Russell Westbrook said great things about the franchise during team Media Day Monday, saying he was comfortable in whatever role the Lakers had planned for him, he couldn’t wait to join his teammates and was expecting the team to contend for a championship.
Yeah, no. He didn’t really say that.
See for yourself.
“Whether they want me here or not doesn’t really matter. My job is to be professional, show up to work like I’ve always done thus far, do my job the best way I know how to, and that’s it. We’ve all had jobs that sometimes people at our jobs don’t like us or don’t want us there, as you guys can probably attest to in any other job across the world. As a professional, and as a working man, I have to do my job and do it the best way I know how to be able to support and take of my family, and that’s what I’ll do.”
Westbrook is making $47 million this year. I wonder how much they’d have to pay him for him to think they wanted him there.
The Westbrook Chronicles
But what other NBA team would want Russell Westbrook? I must admit I actually think he can still play, just not at the level he thinks. He is a nine-time All-Star and a former NBA Most Valuable Player. He can still get buckets. But the relationship with the Lakers is as tired as the Michael Jordan meme. It’s not going to work.
The problem is at this point, the Lakers would have to sweeten the deal with one of their upcoming first round picks or two (maybe) to move Westbrook. That’s the cost of making mistakes in your front office, mixed in with the pressure of trying to contend with LeBron James still playing at a high level.
So where could the Westbrook soap opera perform next? Here are some possibilities. I’m not worried about cap space or who the Lakers would get back, all that stuff is malleable. The Lakers would take a guy off your best YMCA team at this point.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Throughout this whole Westbrook saga, I have kept thinking about sending him back to the place that really embraced him, loved him and where he was a star. That would be back in OKC with the Thunder. OKC is not a contender right now. They went 24-58 last year, but they do already have a good young guard in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, but wouldn’t this be a great place for Westbrook to come off the bench, spark a second unit and maybe retire in front of adoring fans?
So this is a team that would need Westbrook to take over some of the ball-handling and scoring left because of the injury to Lonzo Ball. The news on the Ball injury is not good. He’s just 24 and about to have his knee scoped. The Bulls went 46-35 last year and were a good story in the Eastern Conference until the All-Star break when things went down. This would be like a one-year rental. The Bulls take Westbrook and it’s basically a prove-it chance for him.
This is the part where you say…but who in the world would the Lakers get back from the Magic? You’re dreaming. The Lakers wouldn’t get anything of value back. This is a divorce situation, an ‘I don’t-want-to-see-you anymore.’ The Magic were the dregs last year. They need scoring. They need leadership. Cole Anthony is super young. He scored 16.3 a night last year. The Magic just drafted Paolo Banchero out of Duke. This is a franchise that’s a year away from being a year away. Westbook could show up here and be the mentor for some young guys still learning the NBA.
Again this goes with what do you think Westbrook is? Is he a guy who can/will come off the bench and get some points, or is he still a regular starter in the NBA. The Blazers still have Damian Lillard, who is basically a younger, better-shooting version of Westbrook, so could you just plug Westbrook in for 12-15 minutes a night while Lillard sits? The Blazers still have to fill the void left by the CJ McCollum deal.
San Antonio Spurs
Spurs coach Greg Popovich is still a walking sound bite, but he really seems checked out right now. The Spurs are hitting the reset button again, I guess, having traded Dejounte Murray to the Atlanta Hawks. Westbrook could get some minutes here and a chance to score some points, and you know he’d toe the line with Popovich. This would be great theatre if not great basketball.
What’s Really Going To Happen?
It’s anyone’s guess. The Lakers brought in Westbrook foil Patrick Beverley and new coach Darvin Ham. They’ve said all the right things about incorporating Westbrook into the system, play some defense blah blah blah.
The truth is the Lakers want to move on from Westbrook but haven’t found any willing takers. That may change after the season starts and teams get 10-15 games in. Someone (like Ball) could get hurt and a contending team may need a player like Westbrook, or maybe it will all work out for the Lakers and they’ll come together. Westbrook and Beverley will play nice, James and Anthony Davis won’t get injured. It’ll all be gold.
But in a soap opera, you never know what’s going to happen next.