NBA rumors: Lakers no longer believe they can win with Russell Westbrook

Sources have indicated that the Lakers no longer believe they can win at a high level with Westbrook alongside James and Davis, but prior to Tuesday the line of thinking was that the Lakers would be unwilling to wave the white flag and admit their summer blockbuster was a failure. Instead, they would prefer to wait until the offseason, when they could also include a 2029 pick in a potential deal for another max-contract player looking for a new home.

More on Russell Westbrook Trade?

Less than 48 hours before the trade deadline, James was echoing a sentiment that has spread throughout an increasingly dispirited Lakers organization. Sources told The Athletic that inside the locker room, players see and feel the same problems as everyone else, perhaps never more clearly than after a non-competitive loss to the champs. They understand as well as anyone that the personnel on this joyless 26-29 team simply isn’t working.
Either way, whether it is by Thursday’s deadline or in the summer, the Lakers know they need to find their way out of the Russell Westbrook business. One Lakers staffer who had reservations about the trade when it was made in July recently told The Athletic, “I didn’t think it would be this bad.”
“It’s obvious they’re trying to move Westbrook, which is damn-near impossible,” a league exec told Heavy.com. “They know that roster’s just not working.” Said another, “Russell plays hard and he’s always put up big numbers. But is he a winning player?”
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."
Jorge Sierra: FWIW: John Wall liked this on Twitter.

http://twitter.com/hoopshype/status/1486730389422891025
Barring the emergence of an expanded trade construction that involves three or more teams, or allows for a Westbrook-for-Wall exchange without including the precious draft pick, L.A.'s clear preference, sources say, is to bank on Westbrook finding another gear in the second half like he did for the Wizards last season.
Oklahoma City has the ability to generate $34 million in cap space, which would allow them to trade for just about any salary. They have enough cap space to take on a player like John Wall, Russell Westbrook, and Tobias Harris and all they would need to send back is Derrick Favors. Their ability to spend in this trade deadline will likely be their final opportunity for them to facilitate salary dumps until at least the 2023 offseason when they are projected to have cap space.
Buyout discussions with a player owed more than $50 million are never easy, but it is believed Houston would happily cope with that challenge if it could get the future first-rounder from the Lakers. Reason being: The Rockets, remember, are already facing the same conundrum. Wall is owed $47.4 million next season and hasn't logged one minute this season after he balked at the limited role Houston offered him.
I have been advised that I should amend my previous characterization of the Lakers' finding a Westbrook trade from outright impossible to extremely unlikely. There is at least one team out there that would take him, league sources say, if the conditions are right. That team, surprisingly, is the Houston Rockets.
I, like many around the league, was previously under the impression that the Rockets would have less than zero interest in a Westbrook reunion after Houston traded Westbrook to Washington for John Wall in December 2020 shortly before the start of last season. I've since learned that the Rockets — while indeed holding no interest in having Westbrook play for them again — actually would be amenable to another Westbrook-for-Wall swap if the Lakers incentivized the trade with sufficient draft compensation.
The team could try to trade Westbrook, but sources say the market is nonexistent. If he were in the final year of his deal, the Lakers might have a shot. But at this point, no other team wants to commit to paying Westbrook $47 million next season.
If the Westbrook move were fundamentally flawed, who is to blame? Rob Pelinka is the team's vice president of basketball operations and general manager. The decision ultimately falls on his resume. But sources also say that James was a significant proponent for getting Westbrook. Does he bear any responsibility if he and his agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, applied significant pressure on the team to get it done?
“I never worry,” he fired back. “Do the job. Be professional. Every year, my name is in trade (rumors). It never, never, never seeps into how I approach what I do. It’s kind of what I was mentioning back there (during the press conference). I see this game so different (in terms of) how to use it to be able to impact things. “Regardless of if (a trade) did happen or if it didn’t happen, nothing’s going to change my mentality or my purpose. I feel like I have a purpose that’s bigger than basketball and I always keep that as my forefront regardless of what happens inside of pro sports.”
But we forget sometimes that executives are ultra-competitive in their professions as well, and it’s safe to say Morey has no interest in executing a bad deal because of pressure ever again. As an aside, sources say that’s also the reason the Sixers have zero interest in the prospect of swapping Simmons for Westbrook now and alleviating the Lakers’ fit concerns with their superstar trio.
All of which explains why sources say the Lakers showed some covert interest in discussing a possible Westbrook trade with rival executives earlier this season. A deal appears extremely unlikely before the Feb. 15 trade deadline, if only because his deal that was once seen by so many as untradeable is such a massive obstacle. But inside the Lakers, it seems, there is some recognition that this hasn’t gone as (James and Davis had) planned
Jake Fischer: The only outgoing call I confirmed was to Philadelphia for Ben Simmons… When I got the information that they called about Ben, the conversation pretty much was, “We’re interested in Ben. How would we get there?” The obvious solution is Russell Westbrook. He’s not a player on that Sixers list that they have.
The trio of LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook simply hasn’t blended as well as Lakers figures hoped, and Los Angeles has held internal discussions on trade scenarios for Russell Westbrook, league sources told B/R. But moving Westbrook and the two years, $91 million remaining on his contract does seem unlikely.
Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio’s salaries would match Westbrook’s pricey deal, reuniting James with a former championship counterpart. But that structure would have little interest from the Cavaliers’ side and has not yet been discussed by the two teams, sources said. Outside of Love’s large number, there are simply few players aside from John Wall, for whom Westbrook was traded to Washington last summer, who are available for trade and come close to Westbrook’s earnings.
The Wizards’ decision to trade Russell Westbrook to the Los Angeles Lakers this offseason may have been in the best interest of the star point guard, but Washington GM Tommy Sheppard attests that Westbrook was “professional” and never demanded a trade from the team. “I really have to make sure the record is straight on that,” Sheppard said in an interview with NBC Sports Washington’s Chris Miller. “Russell actually never asked to move on. He just said, ‘If I can get to the Lakers, that’d be something I would love to do. If not, I’ll be back here.’ I said, ‘What about the Clippers?’ He said, ‘Hell no.’ So Russell was happy being here and we were very grateful for him being here.”
Fred Katz: Here is what the final version of the five-team trade looks like, according to sources: Seven players Rights to three more Draft picks Draft swaps 18 total trade pieces pic.twitter.com/6Uoy74XMcr

http://twitter.com/FredKatz/status/1423274597135360001
Bobby Marks: Here is what the 5 teamer looks like To WASH Kuzma KCP Harrell Dinwiddie A. Holiday Rights to I. Todd (#31) To LAL Westbook To BKN 2024 2nd 2025 2nd (right to swap with GSW or WAS) $11.5M Trade Exception To IND Rights to I. Jackson (#22) To SAS C. Hutchison 2022 2nd (WAS)
Bobby Marks: Because there is no salary incoming, Brooklyn does not have to match salary. The Dinwiddie money was added to Kuzma, KCP, Harrell, Holiday to match the Westbrook contract. $49.7M to WASH $44.1M to LAL That falls within 125%
Hearing the most likely outcome is that the Spencer Dinwiddie sign-and-trade becomes part of the Russell Westbrook trade. That would make it, at minimum, a four-team deal (Nets, Lakers, Wizards, Pacers) that includes a sign-and-trade, base-year compensation and the luxury-tax apron, and there may very well be a fifth team involved to drop off unwanted salary. Fasten your seat belts, cap guys; it's about to get crazy out there.

http://twitter.com/TheNBACentral/status/1422618515706679299
For weeks, Westbrook had been talking to Lakers star LeBron James about the possibility of playing together, sources said. They'd talk about working out together and how they'd push each other in the gym and on the court. Both are known around the NBA as insatiable workout guys who pride themselves on the condition they keep their bodies, and how early they get to the gym.
That morning, however, sources indicate Westbrook and Foucher called the Wizards to say that he was happy to play in Washington another two seasons, but if there was a trade with the Lakers that made sense for both franchises, he would welcome the chance to compete for a championship in his hometown.
Westbrook wanted to give Beal as much consideration as possible, talking throughout the offseason as they both mulled their futures with the team, sources said. But when reports about the Lakers' interest in Hield heated up, sources said Westbrook decided it was best to raise the possibility of a trade to the Wizards front office.
About two weeks ago, Russell Westbrook went to LeBron James’ home and together they and Anthony Davis had a conversation about the All-Star guard joining James and Davis on the Lakers. They talked about putting their egos aside and playing as one in their quest to bring the Lakers another NBA championship. Westbrook talked about how his only intention was winning and coming back home to Los Angeles to become a champion.
Westbrook had a growing desire to join James and Davis in Los Angeles to compete for a championship, sources said. He formally informed the Wizards of his desires recently, according to sources: if they could find a trade that works, Westbrook wanted to go to the Lakers.
Washington executed the deal with no issues from Beal, per sources. The three-time All-Star, who is entering the final season of his contract, has expressed no desire to leave the Wizards, according to sources. As speculation about his future has swirled, the team remains confident it can keep him for the long term. The Wizards can offer him a four-year, $180 million extension in October, but if he waits until 2022 free agency, he can sign a five-year contract for an estimated $235 million to return to Washington.
Stadium: "Sources tell me Beal right now has no desire to leave the Wizards." NBA Insider @ShamsCharania reports on Bradley Beal as the Lakers-Wizards work to complete Russell Westbrook trade, presented by @ATT 5G.

https://twitter.com/Stadium/status/1420885102557532160
Chris Mannix: As others have noted, Westbrook deal not seen as a precursor to a Beal trade, per sources. Moving Westbrook creates future cap flexibility. Beal, of course, with a contract he can opt out of after next season, still wields a lot of power in this situation.
Fred Katz: The Lakers would be Russell Westbrook’s fourth team in as many seasons. 2018-19 with the Thunder, 2019-20 with the Rockets and 2020-21 with the Wizards. Each team change would come with Westbrook encouraging his way to a new destination.
Bobby Marks: Salary implications on a proposed Westbrook trade: To LAL Russell Westbrook 2021/22- $44.2M 2022/23- $47.1M (P) To WAS Kyle Kuzma 2021/22- $13M 2022/23- $13M 2023/24- $13M (P) Montrezl Harrell 2021/22- $9.7M KCP 2021/22- $13M 2022/23- $14M ($4.9M guaranteed)
Shams Charania: Just in: The Lakers and Wizards are engaged on a trade that would send Russell Westbrook to L.A., sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium . Westbrook wants a move elsewhere and the Lakers are his preferred destination, sources said.
A sense around the league is that would be contingent on what Washington does with point guard Russell Westbrook. The source said Beal may consider leaving if the Wizards opt to trade Westbrook this summer. There have been some reports about the Lakers having interest in Westbrook.
According to sources, LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers have been on the hunt for a veteran point guard, and Paul is on the list. There have also been talks about Washington Wizards star Russell Westbrook being a potential candidate to move back home to Los Angeles in a sign-and-trade deal that could include free agent point guard Dennis Schroder, forward Kyle Kuzma and guard Talen Horton-Tucker, sources said.
Following their blown 3-1 lead to Denver, executives around the league wondered if the Clippers might panic and do something rash, such as trade for Russell Westbrook. Instead, they’ve made minor tweaks to the roster and coaching staff, replacing Doc Rivers with his assistant, Ty Lue. These new faces might not be any better on paper, but the blend could work better on the court. It’ll take more time to find out.
Unlike Houston’s rightful reluctance to trade Harden, the Rockets’ new front office searched far and wide for Westbrook destinations as soon as he expressed that he didn’t want to be there anymore, according to multiple league sources. Houston viewed Westbrook’s desire to leave as a blessing in disguise. Trading him provides another opportunity to make Harden happy again. Many members of the Rockets’ organization believe Harden doesn’t actually want to leave, he just wants to win a title. The Rockets need to prove to Harden they’re the franchise best suited to help him win one before his contract can expire in 2022.
Russell Westbrook was an All-NBA selection in 19-20, but he received very little trade interest as he sought a trade from the Houston Rockets. "There. Was. No. Market. For. Russell. Westbrook," said Zach Lowe on his podcast one day after the trade. "I kept saying this over and over again. The Clippers were not interested. The Knicks were not interested unless they were incentivized. I don't know where the Hornets noise came from. Maybe it was credible. All I can say is from the people I know there, I never heard they were interested. There was, to my knowledge, nothing."
Trade discussions with the Hornets ended once it became apparent they’d select LaMelo Ball in the draft, and interest from the Knicks eventually fizzled, league sources say. That left the Wizards, a franchise dealing with its own challenges involving another polarizing point guard making over $40 million per year.
HoopsHype spoke with one general manager, three executives, and an NBA scout for their reactions to the blockbuster trade and what it means for the players and their new teams. “It’s a wash,” one Eastern Conference executive told HoopsHype. “Both teams needed to make a trade. Washington has to give up a pick because Wall has a bigger injury history and hasn’t played in two years. The contracts were the same. Russ should be really good in the East. Scotty (Brooks) should know how to use him. Washington will be better than they were since Russ is actually playing and Wall hasn’t been. I think Washington is for sure a playoff team.”
“The trade seemed inevitable,” another Eastern Conference executive told HoopsHype. “Two players at similar stages of their careers and both having demanded a change of scenery. Brooks gets a force of nature with whom he is well versed. Houston gets a much needed first-round pick as they inch toward a rebuild.”
After playing against Harden in pick-up games and showing some explosion, one scout believes his fit next to Harden in the backcourt should be a good transition. “I think it was time for a fresh start for both,” an NBA scout told HoopsHype. “I like Russell going to Washington and giving them an opportunity to keep Brad happy. Scott Brooks knows how to use him, and he’ll be the lead guard. Houston getting Wall and playing him with Harden seems similar to the fit with Russell. Obviously, there’s a real unknown about how good he’ll be back from injury. I think Washington got the better of the trade but let’s see what Wall’s status is.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XkdcpXeVSO0
Michael Lee: Someone close to Russell Westbrook told me DC was his preferred destination. Russ was intrigued about playing with Bradley Beal & excited to reunite with Scott Brooks. I can't remember a guy coming off an All-NBA season who preferred to play for the Wizards, so there's that...
Initial trade talks stalled over draft capital and the possibility of other players included in a deal — for instance, young big man Thomas Bryant —before both teams could come to terms on an agreement. In the end, it was a simple Westbrook-for-Wall swap with the addition of a heavily protected first-round pick. Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard declared a week ago that the Wizards had no plans on trading Wall and the Rockets were prepared to enter camp with Westbrook, but situations in the NBA are always fluid and can change on a dime — a phone call is all it takes.
John Hollinger: Important: Houston will receive a trade exception for a whopping $103,894. (There are theoretical examples where a team could use an exception this small, but I mean, not real ones).
The Washington Wizards and Houston Rockets have agreed to trade two disgruntled star point guards, John Wall and Russell Westbrook, in a blockbuster deal, sources told ESPN. The Wizards are sending Wall and a lottery-protected 2023 first-round pick to the Rockets for Westbrook in a deal that both players wanted and had been simmering for weeks, sources said.
For the Wizards and Rockets, there's hope that the exchange of guards will play a role in convincing the two franchise shooting guards on each team, Washington's Bradley Beal and Houston's James Harden, to want to stay long-term with their teams. Harden has privately asked for a trade, and Beal could become a free agent in 2021.
Houston's stance on Harden has not changed, a high-ranking Rockets source told ESPN, saying the team hoped to be competitive with the perennial MVP candidate on the roster this season and does not envision a scenario in which Harden would be traded before the opener. The Rockets have let it be known that they would require a return that included a young, potential franchise cornerstone and a massive picks package in any potential deal for Harden, according to sources.
Sources said that Westbrook cited a desire to "play my game" and concerns about the Rockets' casual culture. Westbrook was a third-team All-NBA selection during his season with the Rockets, averaging 27.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 7.9 assists per game, despite getting off to a slow start while recovering from knee surgery and adapting to a new franchise following an 11-year tenure in Oklahoma City.
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