The Los Angeles Lakers are no closer to trading away star guard Russell Westbrook now than they were at the start of free agency, and while that could change before the season starts, L.A.’s stars are at least preparing for the possibility of playing together again next season. LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Westbrook reportedly had a phone conversation where the trio “expressed their commitment to one another” with hopes of making it work for next season, per Chris Haynes.
That may sound as though Westbrook could be a Laker again next season, but the call was done to ensure all three players still had the same goal in mind while they’re on a team together, per Haynes. It was also likely organized to quell any reports suggesting that LeBron and Westbrook’s relationship has been “frosty,” especially after both attended L.A.’s Summer League games in Las Vegas and didn’t interact once despite sitting across from each other.
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This report is just the latest in what was a tumultuous season for the Lakers, which ended in disappointing fashion. L.A. failed to make the playoffs, or even secure a play-in spot, as Westbrook’s fit on the team didn’t go as the team envisioned. Injuries to James and Davis stunted any chemistry the trio tried to build, and at the conclusion of the season, the Lakers fired head coach Frank Vogel just two years removed from winning a championship.
Darvin Ham was brought in to replace Vogel, and as much as the new head coach has talked about Westbrook being an important piece to the team’s success for next season, the former league MVP has been brought up in trade scenarios all summer long. The most prominent trade package sees Westbrook heading East to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for Kyrie Irving, who would be a more ideal fit for the Lakers. However, it has been reported on multiple occasions that the Nets do not want to take on Westbrook’s $47 million expiring contract for next season, and would require a third team to get involved if the Lakers want Irving, per Marc Stein.
To top all of that off, Westbrook recently parted ways with longtime agent Thad Foucher over irreconcilable differences. Foucher had been Westbrook’s agent since he entered the league, and in a statement said that he believes a trade from the Lakers — which may require L.A. to attach more assets to entice teams to take him — “only serves to diminish Russell’s value.”
With no concrete trade avenues opening up right now for the Lakers, it only makes sense for the team to also prepare for Westbrook being on the team again next season. If that’s the case, then L.A. will have to hope that Westbrook can adapt his style of play to better fit alongside LeBron and Davis.