NBA rumors: 'Impossible' for Lakers to bring back Russell Westbrook next season?

Jousting with reporters in press conferences is apparently not the lone source of pushback these days from under-fire guard Russell Westbrook. There has been no shortage of defiance behind the scenes, I’m told, when coaches and teammates have tried to broach changes in role or approach with the former MVP. For all the obvious complexities involved in trying to move Westbrook when he’s owed a whopping $47 million next season at age 34, one league source described the idea of bringing him back next season as “impossible” based on current tension levels. The question then becomes: If the Lakers can’t construct a palatable trade, do they try to just buy Westbrook out? Or waive and stretch him?

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LeBron James was a strong advocate for the trade that brought Westbrook to Hollywood and thus has to wear his considerable slice of culpability for how poorly things are working out. Yet one source did point out at least one counter on James’ behalf, noting that he was also one of the organization's staunchest Alex Caruso fans and badly wanted the Lakers to re-sign the defensive-minded guard. The Lakers, despite all of their considerable revenue streams, refused to offer a contract on par with the four-year, $37 million deal Caruso landed from Chicago because of the luxury-tax implications. The injuries that have limited Davis to 37 games have done the most damage to the Lakers' 17th-ranked defense, but Caruso's departure was another big hit. 1:28
Despite "a little struggle" in finding his role in his first season with the Lakers, Westbrook said he remains determined. "My role and what I'm doing has changed every single night," Westbrook said. "So I'm just trying to figure that out as I'm playing and to be able to benefit and help my team."
“When he’s thinking a lot and passing up shots, I know he’s not knocking down shots and I think it’s because he’s hesitating. He’s thinking about it too much. “I like players who take accountability. Russ knows he can play, he just needs to play like Russ can play and stop thinking about the distractions sometimes the fans don’t give him the just he deserves. He’s got to let all that go and just go out and be aggressive, get to the hole, take the shot when it’s available without hesitation. “I think he can get back into a style of play that we want from him. He’s got to stop feeling sorry for himself and just go out and get rebounds, play defense and I think Russ can get back to being productive player that we need.”
“When you’re a Laker, and you’re a big-name player, and you’re playing in L.A., all opponents, I don’t care who they are, they’re going to be coming into L.A. and they’re going to be playing above their heads,” said Shaq. “And you can never make an excuse for lack of effort.” Moreover, O'Neal went further and called them quitters, stating he didn't want to use that word, but that's just how the team looks in his eyes.  “You’ve gotta at least put more effort into it,” he said. “I don’t mind losing, but when you don’t have a lot of effort, it shows that, I hate to use this word, it looks like they’re quitting.”
As bleak as things might seem for the Lakers after Tuesday's 109-104 loss to the Dallas Mavericks -- the 10th defeat in the Lakers' past 13 games -- dropped Los Angeles just two games away from falling out of the play-in tournament altogether, LeBron James insisted he won't give up on the season. "We still have games to play," he said after the Mavs finished on a 15-4 run in the final 7½ minutes of the fourth quarter to win it. "Until you stomp me out, cut my head off, bury me 12 feet under, then I got a chance. So that's my confidence."
“We win games to get us in [the play-in tournament], we’re gonna prepare, we’ll be ready. But we got to try to win one basketball game right now,” the four-time NBA champion said after the Dallas game. “That’s what we’re really trying to… how we can figure out to get over the hump and with injuries. We played nine guys but it really was eight. I think Dwight played four minutes, Baze gave us some great minutes, his 17 minutes was great. But we really only played seven guys. “We’re just trying to figure out a way how we can get over the hump. We play some good basketball today, like I said, for about the whole third quarter was great.
According to Bill Simmons, the Lakers team owner “stood up” to LeBron James’ camp as a way to right the ship amid the tension growing internally within the franchise. “Jeanie Buss is a tough lady, man. She’s been in the league since the early eighties and I think at some point she stood up to those guys and was like, ‘No, stop. You don’t get to undermine all this. Stop. You’re here. You’re under contract next year. What are we doing?’ and I think they had a powwow, that’s what I heard. But I think she stood up for at least something. For them to unwind last week and pretend they weren’t chaos agents was really strange.”
“I look at the Pelicans, they’re all plus twenty-something and the Lakers I look at their plus/minus, they’re all in the negative, even Reaves who never is in the negative. It just goes on to show you there’s something going on in this team that they cannot shake or they are not willing to shake it. “Right now they’re embarrassed, they’re not where they’re supposed to be, they see a steady climb they got to make, they got to really do the impossible right now. And I just don’t see the mentality to fight for it. Hopefully, they do have it, but I don’t see it.”
Russell Westbrook, the L.A. native whom the franchise completely overhauled its roster to acquire in the offseason, was asked if that type of reception from Lakers fans would be something he takes home with him, after his team lost for the ninth time in its past 12 games. "Nah," he said. "Take it home? For what? S---. Take it home? I got three beautiful kids at my house. Why would I take it home? If they boo, they can take their ass home. I ain't worried about that. It doesn't bother me none. ... "I can only answer if I take them home: No. But as for our team, I don't think it's something we got to deal with. And kind of move forward."
“I think each play we get down on ourselves too much and just not playing as hard as we can,” said Russell Westbrook, who had 16 points, one assist and seven turnovers. “Teams are coming in and playing harder. And I believe that’s kind of the scouting report, just play harder than them and see what happens and it’s working. Until we determine and have a determination that we’re not going to allow it, especially on our home floor, it will continue to happen to us.”
L.A. plays three teams above it in the standings this week -- the Dallas Mavericks, LA Clippers and Golden State Warriors -- and then has a road-heavy schedule for the rest of March. "We got a tough stretch with Dallas, Clippers again Thursday, then Golden State on Saturday," LeBron James said. "And we still got 10 road games this month, or March, so it don't get easier for us."
NBA Central: Lakers fans booing LeBron after this turnover 😯
The Lakers were outscored 44-25 in the third quarter -- when the boos first started to be heard from the stands -- and trailed by as many as 32 at one point. "We're not shooting the ball well from the perimeter, and the paint's clogged, and we're trying to force inside -- with the pass, with the bounce -- and it's leading to a lot of turnovers," Lakers coach Frank Vogel said after his team shot 7-for-34 from 3 (20.6%). "And we're not moving that well defensively. So, we weren't very good on either end tonight."
Mark Medina: A fan a few rows behind the Lakers' bench has been escorted out by a handful of security guards. The fan was yelling toward the Lakers' bench, and it was loud enough to get some of the players' attention.
Nicole Ganglani: The Lakers season has been so brutal that we’re at a point where LeBron, Ariza and Russ are now arguing with fans lol (c) Michael Morales/Instagram
But Paul strongly refuted the notion that there is any sort of divide between James and the Lakers, or that these were all signs of a grand exit plan that’s yet to come. And when the meeting was all done, one in which Paul said some of the time was even spent “laughing and catching up,” he says they all found themselves in a more productive, peaceful place. “I just don’t think (communicating indirectly) is the right way of doing business,” Paul, who also represents the Lakers’ Anthony Davis, told The Athletic. “And I don’t think that’s who we are, who LeBron is. We have a great partnership with the Lakers. The Klutch Sports Group and the Lakers don’t have an issue. Rich Paul and Rob Pelinka don’t have an issue. LeBron James and Rob Pelinka don’t have an issue. And Jeanie Buss and LeBron and Rich Paul don’t have an issue. It’s very simple. Very simple. So, you know, whoever put that type of stuff out, and people run with it, I think it’s unfair to the Lakers.”
After Pelinka resisted making any deals at the trade deadline, James' own public comments -- raising the possibility of a return to Cleveland and praising Oklahoma City Thunder GM Sam Presti -- started to fuel speculation that he could leave in free agency in 2023. Paul has privately downplayed that possibility, and told the Lakers that James is committed to playing his part in helping the Lakers to become championship contenders again, sources said.
That next player was Kobe Bryant. With him soon came a young agent named Rob Pelinka. But for as important as Bryant was to the Lakers, sources inside the organization have long said that not even the legendary Black Mamba wielded as much power within the organization as James now has. Bryant was never able to strong-arm the Lakers to make a move like the one James helped orchestrate for Westbrook, which has proven to be an outright disaster. The Lakers did trade Shaquille O’Neal to placate Kobe before he hit free agency in 2004, but when he was under contract like James is now they did not always give in to his demands.
Why appropriate? Because James and agent Rich Paul long grabbed hold of the Lakers organization and are now beginning to really squeeze. The situation is tense enough that one source close to the Lakers likened it to the early days of a war.
So far, the Lakers haven’t shown a particular willingness to engage in battle with their superstar, with sources saying that Pelinka has insisted internally that there are no hard feelings between the two sides.
The Los Angeles Lakers might have to trade for LeBron James this summer. James has rather clearly been offended by Lakers' management twice over the past two weeks. First when it elected not to make a deal before the Feb. 10 trade deadline after he had both publicly and privately prodded for something. More accurately, he expected it. And second when Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka stepped over the line when he announced James was on board with the status quo; a source told ESPN there was no prior sign-off from James.
Same as he was doing last week, in the wake of the trade deadline inaction, when he spoke about how his recent knee injury would likely bother him the rest of the season. The knee surely is an issue, but James was also laying the groundwork to give himself options depending on how the rest of the season plays out for the Lakers (27-31). What James is doing is likely aimed at one primary goal: Force the Lakers into major action this summer. He tried to do it nicely and now he's doing it harshly.
But it isn't free. Aug. 4 is the first day James can extend his contract again. The Lakers will surely offer one. And James will have some demands before he accepts. The Lakers have a flawed roster -- yes, James played a large role in putting it together but that doesn't mean he isn't ready to divorce it -- but they have options. If Russell Westbrook picks up his own player option, he will be on a $47 million expiring contract. After only being able to trade their 2027 first-round pick -- which the Lakers decided not to trade at the deadline, in part because they still owe two future firsts from the Anthony Davis deal -- rules will then allow the Lakers to trade their 2029 pick.
In the context of the Lakers' drama this season, James' praise of Presti could be seen as a passive-aggressive swipe at Lakers Vice President of Basketball Operations Rob Pelinka. According to multiple NBA sources, Klutch is not happy with Pelinka. The sentiment has long percolated, but it reached a boil when Pelinka refused to trade Westbrook and a future first-round pick (likely 2027) for Houston Rockets guard and Klutch client John Wall.
The marriage between the Lakers and James is in a precarious spot. The relationship between Klutch Sports, led by James' agent Rich Paul, and the franchise is at its lowest point. Decisions made in July, August and ahead of the February 10 trade deadline have led to a dysfunctional situation. And it’s becoming increasingly clear the Lakers need to come to terms early with James—August 4, specifically—or part ways. That's when James is eligible for a two-year extension that could max out at $97.1 million through the 2024-25 season.
The potential for a deadline deal to shake things up felt inevitable after the Lakers were embarrassed at home by the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday. But after a loss to the hapless Blazers one night later, it almost feels like there would be no point. But when Vogel was asked directly if it was possible Westbrook would not be on the team after noon on Thursday, he did not say no. “If there’s ways to improve our team, we’ll try to improve our team,” Vogel said. “Other than that, I got nothing to say about the trade deadline.”
Jovan Buha: When asked if he knows the benchmarks he has to hit to make the Lakers’ closing lineup, Russell Westbrook said: “I shouldn’t have to hit any benchmarks, to be honest. I put a lot of work in. I got a lot of respect in this game. … I earned the right to be in closing lineups.”
Harrison Faigen: LeBron James: "It doesn't matter what lineups are out there, you've got to go out there and do your job... We're all trying to figure it out. Including the coaching staff."
Ryan Ward: LeBron James on frustration of constantly changing lineups/rotation: "At the end the day, you still got to go out there and do your damn job."
Harrison Faigen: Russell Westbrook laughs when asked by @Bill Oram about getting booed at home. "It's a sign of respect... The most important part is that I continue to use my gift to play basketball and use that platform to help people around the world. That's all I can do."
While much of the discourse about this season's Los Angeles Lakers has centered around the acquisition of Russell Westbrook and how the point guard has not been an ideal fit, LeBron James insists there is no one player responsible for the team still scuffling along below .500 as Thursday's trade deadline approaches. "At the end of the day, as his brother, we're all in this together," James said after practice Monday. "We're all in the foxhole together. There is not one guy who is doing it by themselves. There's not one guy you can blame over another guy. There's not one guy who gets the praise over another guy. When we lose, we all lose. When we win, we all win. It's really that simple."
For the second time this season, Russell Westbrook was benched by Lakers coach Frank Vogel to close out a game. Only this time, the Lakers won, beating the New York Knicks 122-115 in overtime on Saturday. And the result made all the difference to Westbrook in accepting the decision. "The best part of this game is that you win," Westbrook said after scoring five points on 1-for-10 shooting with six assists and four turnovers in 29 minutes. "Guys competed. We won the game and that's all that matters."
"That [fourth quarter] stretch was part of it," Vogel said of his decision-making process. "I think obviously Russ was having a tough night on both sides of the ball and Bron was really going. So I knew the ball was going to be in Bron's hands and I felt like we were going to get more from a defensive perspective and off-ball action with Talen, so ... you just make tough decisions in the spirit of whatever the team needs to win a game."
However, Saturday his teammates lifted him up. "I just told him to text me later," James said of his postgame conversation with Westbrook. "I told him to keep going, to stop second-guessing himself during the game. There were a couple of times where he had good looks, second-guessed himself and a couple times where he had some drives and he had them and second-guessed himself. He's an instinctive player and he should never, what he's done in this league, he should never second-guess himself if he's put the work in -- and he's put the work in. So I just told him to just hit me later. "And I don't need to harp on what we need to say to him. I mean, he's a big-time player. And I have the utmost confidence in his ability, not only for this team but for himself, individually."
NBA Central: Laker fans are booing Russell Westbrook after this awful miss.
With 25 seconds left on the clock. Avery Bradley misunderstood a Frank Vogel directive not to foul and instead sent 2022 NBA All-Star Young to the free-throw line. Davis shot a withering glare at the bench and post-match did not hold back in his assessment. “I think the most frustrating part is that we can’t finish games,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of games that we had won and teams come back and beat us.”
Lamar Odom is still holding out hope for this season's Lakers ... telling TMZ Sports despite their struggles, the Purple and Gold are still his pick to win the NBA title. LeBron James and Co. have underperformed so far in 2021-22 -- they're far from the top of the Western Conference and can't seem to find a rhythm. Odom -- who won 2 titles with the Lakers -- says he's not concerned about the Lake Show's lack of success so far ... and it's all thanks to the talent on the roster. "I think they're good enough to win a championship," Odom tells us. "They're still my pick to win the championship. I don't know if that's Laker pride or me just being a Laker at heart. But they're still my pick."
After the loss, Avery Bradley spoke about the Lakers' late revival. They were able to put up 37 points in the 4th quarter, but it wasn't nearly enough. “I think the main thing was the intensity. Just a little too late. We not only dug a hole for ourselves, but I think when we tried to match their intensity, the referees I would say they weren’t ready for our intensity, it was almost too late when we tried to raise our level of play.
"Ultimately, you have to be OK when s--- doesn't go well and I'm OK," Westbrook told ESPN. "I've done everything that's been asked of me here, and I'll continue to do so and ride this out as long as we can toward our ultimate goal -- and that's to win a championship. "We obviously haven't been fully healthy, but I'm committed to making this thing work. The communication is there with everybody in the organization to make this thing work, to make this team we all want it to be in the future. "I have accepted everything that has been asked of me and tried to do it to the best of my ability. I'm not the ultimate decision-maker of if it's working -- or if it's not working. I'm OK with sacrificing some of the things that I've been able to do in this game to win, because that's the most important part of this game. I've done everything they've asked me to do to this point."
Los Angeles Lakers star Russell Westbrook told ESPN that he was disappointed with his fourth-quarter benching in Wednesday's loss to the Indiana Pacers but that he remains undeterred about how to "figure s--- out and do what's best for our team to win in the long run." Asked whether he was surprised that coach Frank Vogel substituted him out of the final four minutes of LA's fourth loss in five games, Westbrook told ESPN: "Surprised, yes. I was disappointed I didn't go back in, but I'm more disappointed that we lost the damn game. "I want to be able to be on the floor to help my teammates and be able to help our team win in games like that -- but that was a decision that was made."
"I think the communication of what (Vogel) wants and how he wants it kind of changes because guys have been in and out of the lineup," Westbrook told ESPN. "Everybody is trying to figure out what to do and how to do it. I try to put my head down and do the best that I can do for our team, and whatever is asked of me I try to do it to the best of my ability. That's all I've been trying to do since I got here."
“You are the Los Angeles Laker, you have that on the front of your chest, that means a lot. That means maximum effort every night, that means winning your home games, unless a Golden State comes in or Arizona, a team that’s really good, you might lose a game at home,” he said on Spectrum SportsNet. “But you definitely beat the Indianas, the Oklahomas, the Houston Rockets. You demolish those teams when they come into your home. That’s not happening. To see the inconsistency it seems no sense of urgency. Nobody respects the Lakers like they used to, they’re not afraid of you anymore.
“By you continuing to lose you just give all teams, not just good teams but some subpar teams like Indiana, like Oklahoma, they come in here they feel like you’re disrespecting, you don’t play them a full 48 minutes and somehow they feel like they’re going to get back in the game. You don’t take care of the little things, you don’t box out, you don’t get back on transition defense all the things that have won 17 championships here it’s not obvious to us here.”
One of the greatest NBA players of all time with the Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, and Houston Rockets, Charles Barkley, took a moment to react to the Los Angeles Lakers putting blame on point guard Russell Westbrook and head coach Frank Vogel for recent struggles: “The Lakers are such wussies, and I only say wussies cuz I can’t say the word I want to say. The way they have tried to throw Russell Westbrook and Frank Vogel under the bus is really pissing me off.”
But for NBA legend Charles Barkley, it’s clear that the Lakers’ main problem is the front office. Barkley went into a lengthy monologue on Inside the NBA about the lack of accountability on the part of the Lakers’ decision-makers (via NBA on TNT). “The way they are trying to throw Russell Westbrook and Frank Vogel under the bus is really pissing me off. I’m not gonna sit around like all these clowns on other networks who got their head up the Lakers booties. Now, they’re blaming Frank Vogel and Russell Westbrook. The people up top who put that trash together are running and hiding like cowards, saying ‘Oh it’s Frank, it’s Russ.’ You put all them old geezers out there. Listen, the best guy other than LeBron in the last month has been who? Stanley Johnson. For y’all to be bringing a guy who was on the street and he becomes your second best player, whoever running that trash out there getting away with. It’s ridiculous man.”
Long before Russell Westbrook was benched down the stretch of Wednesday's 111-104 loss to the Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Lakers coach Frank Vogel was given assurances that the organization would support him in taking a hard line while coaching the star, sources told ESPN. Over the past week and a half, Lakers management has told the coaching staff to coach Westbrook as they see fit, even if that means pulling him from a game, as Vogel did for the final 3 minutes, 52 seconds of the fourth quarter against Indiana, sources told ESPN. One source close to the situation described the message from management to the staff as, "You got to do what you got to do."
The coaching staff had been debating whether to pull Westbrook from late-game situations for weeks, sources said, but always refrained because of worries about the lasting impact on Westbrook's psyche. Indeed, even LeBron James danced around the subject of Westbrook's benching, perhaps not wanting to draw further attention to the indignity for the former league MVP. "Would you think that would bother Russ not being in a late game?" he said, answering a reporter's question with a question, rather than giving a straight answer.
Westbrook also had already vacated the locker room by the time his teammates were finished showering, sources said, forgoing any postgame discussion with the team. "I don't think it's nothing personal," said Lakers forward Carmelo Anthony, who recently said that he can relate to the role adjustment Westbrook is going through this season, having done it himself a few years back. "It's just something that he's not used to. You would think somebody like that would be on the court. But with the flow of the game, there's been times I haven't been in the game or other guys haven't been in the game. So I don't think it's anything personal."
"It's just something that Russ has got to ... ," Anthony said before correcting himself mid-sentence, "We gotta help him figure it out." "It's frustrating. I can tell you that," he continued. "It's frustrating as a player who's trying to make it right, trying to do things right. This is new for him. This is a new situation. This is a new environment. We got to help him through it. I mean, that's the only thing we can do, is make sure his mental is right. That's the only thing I care about. I don't care about any basketball stuff when it comes to Russ.
After the Los Angeles Lakers' 37-point loss to the Denver Nuggets on Saturday, the second-biggest defeat of LeBron James' 19-year career, another franchise great weighed in with his disgust. "We as Lakers fans can accept being outplayed but we deserve more than a lack of effort and no sense of urgency," Magic Johnson tweeted to his 5.1 million followers. "Owner Jeanie Buss, you deserve better."
"I do not have a reaction," said Westbrook, who scored 19 points on 7-for-15 shooting, an improvement from his recent shooting slump. "Everybody is entitled, in this world, to their opinion. Regardless of what that it is. You can either take it and run with it or you can take it and put it in one ear and out the other or you cannot respond to it.
He was asked about the Lakers still trying to build that trust. “Um, you know, I think we’re getting there,” Westbrook said. This was the Lakers’ 20 different starting lineup in 36 games. How difficult does that make things, Westbrook was asked. “Yeah, you’ve got to figure it out,” he said. “It’s as simple as that. Ain’t nothing you can really say about it but that.” Westbrook was asked how he and James can get more help after the pair continues to put up numbers. “I’m not sure,” Westbrook said. “I don’t know.”
"We understand that we have a lot of attackers, but the careless turnovers where literally you just turn the ball over, there's no pressure or reason for it, those are the ones that get us in trouble," James said. James' most glaring miscue of the night came with 6.7 seconds left and the Lakers trailing by 3, when he threw the ball away to the Grizzlies, denying L.A. the chance to attempt a game-tying shot. "The one thing I think probably hurt us the most down the stretch was the turnovers and the one more play, where [L.A. failed to execute] the easy play to make one more pass to the open man," said Lakers acting coach David Fizdale, filling in while Frank Vogel is in the league's health and safety protocols.
The defeat dropped L.A. -- one of the oddsmakers' favorites to win the championship -- to 8-9 with more than a fifth of the season in the books. "It's never, 'We got 65 games left,'" James said when asked if he can take the long view considering the Lakers' early injuries and how much of the 82-game regular-season slate remains. "We damn sure need to play better, no matter who is in the lineup. We have our system and we need to obviously fast-track it and get better with it so we can play, no matter who is out on the floor, we can play at a high level. ... There's no level of panic. But there should be some sense of urgency anytime we take the floor."
This rumor is part of a storyline: 361 more rumors
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August 15, 2022 | 2:10 am EDT Update

Giannis Antetokounmpo doesn't rule out playing for the Bulls in the future

Fox 32 Chicago Sports: Giannis on playing for the #Bulls someday tonight on The Sports Zone on Fox 32 Chicago. @fox32news @foxkickoff @LouCanellis @CassieCarlsonTV @Giannis_An34

“I think anyone asked that question who plays basketball, if he said no, he’d be a liar. It’s a team that won multiple championships, a team with one of the greatest players, if not the greatest player to ever play this game. It’s a no-brainer, everybody would love to play for Chicago. Down the line, you never know. You never know how life brings it. Maybe I play for Chicago,” Antetokounmpo said. “But right now, I’m committed to Milwaukee.”

Lakers to open season vs. Warriors

Clippers coach Tyronn Lue is unbeaten in seven games against the Lakers since taking over two seasons ago, while it will be Lakers coach Darvin Ham’s first meeting of arena tenants since his hiring in May. The game will be the Clippers’ season opener, while the Lakers will open two days earlier, on Oct. 18, at defending champion Golden State, according to a person with knowledge of the schedule.
On Sunday, Durant sent a tweet hinting that he’s going to delete his account on the platform amid the talks that it is ruining his legacy. However, he has since deleted the post. What’s interesting is Kevin Durant sent it out after people kept criticizing him for being the culprit in the current state of the player empowerment era in the NBA. A lot of players seem to be abusing that power to get out of situations they don’t like despite signing their contracts and teams paying them tons of money.
Clutch Points: Steph Curry, Seth Curry, Jayson Tatum, Rich Paul and company at Draymond Green’s wedding 💯 (via tatum_camps/IG)