It’s no secret that Russell Westbrook’s first season with the Los Angeles Lakers was a disappointment. The former MVP came to the Lakers amid a flurry of hype and expectation to win a title. By the end of the season, the Lakers would’ve been lucky to make the playoffs.
Westbrook’s poor play put him in a position to be benched by former head coach Frank Vogel, but it never reached that point. Many around the league assumed the Lakers would look to move on from Westbrook in the offseason. The Charlotte Hornets expressed interest in Westbrook and the Kyrie Irving saga in Brooklyn cracked open another door.
So far, Westbrook is still a Laker and opted in to his contract, which is no surprise considering the final year of his deal is for $47.1 million.
Shams Charania of The Athletic offered more insight into the current situation, and it seems like the Lakers are poised to begin the 2022-23 season with Westbrook on the roster, via the Pat McAfee Show:
“Russell Westbrook opted in, he’s gonna opt-in, it’s a no-brainer, $47 million. His future is in L.A. The Lakers want to see this work this upcoming season from everything I’ve been told,” Charania said. “You know, there have been different trade scenarios that have been thrown out. I guess speculated on. But with a new coach Darvin Ham, I really believe this front office group, this management group, the coaching staff, Russell Westbrook, they all want this to work. And you know, we’ve seen Darvin Ham, Rob Pelinka, they’ve all been vocal publicly saying we want him back and we want him in a position where he can play both sides of the ball, we want him to be more of a defender. Darvin Ham’s going to bring that and I do believe they feel like Russell Westbrook is the fit for this team.”
New head coach Darvin Ham has been adamant that Westbrook has a lot left to give for the Lakers next season. In his initial comments as head coach, Ham called Westbrook one of the best players the NBA has ever seen and emphasized “sacrifice” from the nine-time All-Star.
Rob Pelinka also said he will welcome Westbrook back with “open arms” and wants to put a successful path in front of him.
A key question going into next season is whether or not Westbrook can consistently bring effort on defense. He became a liability last season and becoming a top defensive team will require buy-in from Westbrook. Ham has said Westbrook accepted the challenge of playing defense, but it’s all talk for now.
Piecing together Westbrook into the Lakers’ puzzle is among the more daunting tasks for next season. Ham and Pelinka are confident about doing so.
Westbrook officially opts into $47.1 million player option
As expected, Westbrook opted in to his player option on Tuesday morning. The $47.1 million contract makes Westbrook the third-highest paid player next season.
It does not, however, guarantee he will be suiting up for the Purple and Gold. If a team is willing to take Westbrook’s expiring contract, the Lakers will likely look to move it and push for a divorce.
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