Heading into the offseason, the Los Angeles Lakers expected Russell Westbrook to pick up his $47.1 million player option for the 2022-23 season.
Westbrook’s salary would make him the third-most paid player in the NBA next season, behind Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry and Philadelphia 76ers playmaker James Harden. Assuming it would be hard for the 2017 NBA MVP to pass up on such earnings, the Lakers reportedly asked head coaching candidates how they would utilize the guard in 2022-23 before hiring Darvin Ham.
Although Westbrook waited almost until the June 29 deadline to exercise the player option, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports he’s opted into the last year of his contract as expected:
Westbrook’s agent Thad Foucher of @wassbasketball is planning to file the paperwork today, sources said. Westbrook has a Wednesday deadline on his option.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 28, 2022
Westbrook himself also took to social media, appearing to celebrate the big day:
— Russell Westbrook (@russwest44) June 28, 2022
Westbrook might still leave the Lakers in the summer if they can find a trade partner for his expiring salary. However, it now seems unlikely L.A. could get Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving in return — even through a three-team deal — as the unsettled playmaker suggested he will play out the final year of his contract after picking up his player option on Monday.
Also, the Purple and Gold won’t be able to do business with the Houston Rockets and swap Westbrook for John Wall. Recent reports claim Wall will hit the buyout market and then sign with the L.A. Clippers.
Rob Pelinka: Lakers will welcome Westbrook with ‘open arms’
Earlier in June, vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka said the Lakers would welcome Westbrook back if he decided to return to L.A.
“He will be embraced here with open arms and want to put a path in front of him to have a successful season,” Pelinka said.
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