Ryen Russillo sums up Lakers’ Russell Westbrook problem perfectly

The Los Angeles Lakers are waiting patiently for a pathway that would allow them to trade for Kyrie Irving. Of course, that won’t happen unless they find a third team willing to take on Russell Westbrook’s albatross of a contract.

While the Irving buzz has died down, Michael Scotto of Hoops Hype just reported the Lakers, Knicks and Jazz have discussed a three-team trade that would send Donovan Mitchell to New York, Westbrook and a cavalcade of draft picks to Utah and Pat Beverley (and another notable player) to the Lakers.

It’s unclear how advanced these talks are, but it would behoove the Lakers to get on board if the Jazz and Knicks are in favor. If the 2021-22 campaign taught us anything, it’s that LA isn’t winning anything with LeBron James and Anthony Davis as their centerpieces if Westbrook is on the roster playing significant minutes.

And let’s face it, Westbrook is going to play a ton if he’s on the team.

While Westbrook’s clunky fit with the Lakers is apparent, the franchise can’t afford to waste another year of LeBron, as The Ringer’s Ryen Russillo so eloquently noted on the latest episode of his podcast.

The Lakers keeping Russell Westbrook would be equivalent to wasting another year of LeBron James.

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Wasting any year of LeBron is criminal, but the ageless phenomenon will turn 38 in December. Once capable of playing over 100 games per year (including the playoffs) while averaging 40 minutes per contest, James’ durability has finally reflected that of a normal human in recent seasons. He’s played more than 60 games once in the last four years and has even started picking up injuries, which eluded him for the first 15 years of his career.

Yes, he averaged 30.3 points at age-37 last campaign, but he’s not going to play forever. Who knows? If the Lakers keep Westbrook and fail to make it past the first round of the playoffs (or miss the playoffs altogether), could anyone fault James for finishing his career with another team?

James admittedly supported the idea of trading for Westbrook, but he’s pretty much untouchable after he helped deliver LA’s first title in a decade in 2019-20.

The Lakers and James recently met to discuss their future and talks were “productive”, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin.

If LA wants to ensure that LeBron, eligible for a $97.1 million extension this offseason, finishes his career in Hollywood, jettisoning Westbrook and subsequently adding complementary pieces — even if Irving isn’t one of them —  would go a long way towards accomplishing that goal.