Russell Westbrook has been in trade rumors ever since the regular season ended and the Los Angeles Lakers failed to even make the 2022 NBA play-in tournament. L.A. has been unsuccessful in attempts to move the point guard, and the new Lakers head coach has publicly said he envisions the veteran returning to the team’s starting lineup next season.
Darvin Ham is set to replace Frank Vogel on the Lakers’ bench as a first-time head coach. In an interview with Andscape, Ham said that he thinks Westbrook is going to “flourish” in his second season with Los Angeles.
“Counted out prematurely,” Westbrook told Andscape in regard to his thoughts on Westbrook. “Counted Out. Prematurely. I’ve had some great interactions with Russ, in person, over dinner, over the phone, over text messages. I love Russell Westbrook, man. Just his mentality, his approach. Just to see him, a guy of that magnitude and everything he’s done in the league to get hated on. But being me, I got a wholehearted plan, a clear plan on how I’m going to use him. I showed it to him, sat down, brought stuff up for him.”
Westbrook averaged 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, 7.1 assists and 3.8 turnovers in 78 games with the Lakers. As LeBron James and Anthony Davis battled injuries for much of the year, Westbrook was the one constant in the lineup for a team that went 33-49.
The Lakers were outscored by 4.3 points per 100 possessions with Westbrook on the court. When Westbrook was on the bench, Los Angeles was only outscored by 0.7 points per 100 possessions.
If the Lakers are unable to find a taker for Westbrook this offseason, the guard’s best use on the team might be as a sixth man. Ham hasn’t suggested that Westbrook could come off the bench.
“Yes, indeed,” Ham said when asked if he sees Westbrook as a starter with the Lakers. “It’s just the way we’re going to play and the type of people that’s going to be out there on the floor, that’s the biggest thing.”
Rumors of a Kyrie Irving-for-Russell Westbrook swap will likely continue throughout the summer. Irving is available and wants to play for the Lakers. The Brooklyn Nets reportedly want to receive draft compensation and send Los Angeles an additional salary, which the Lakers aren’t yet willing to do.
Westbrook has one year and $47 million left on his contract.