Lakers’ failed Russell Westbrook plan makes things extremely awkward

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH - MARCH 31: Russell Westbrook #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH - MARCH 31: Russell Westbrook #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images) /

It’s a good thing the preseason is meaningless because the Los Angeles Lakers didn’t cover themselves in glory over their six games. While fans are excited about the regular season and how LA’s new pieces mesh in Darvin Ham’s system, that excitement is capped due to Russell Westbrook still being on the roster.

If we told you at the start of the offseason that Westbrook would still be on the team days before the start of the regular season, you’d call us crazy.

Whether or not you think Westbrook can improve on his disaster 2021-22 season, almost everybody is in lockstep thinking it’d be best for both parties if the front office found a trade partner relatively early into the season.

Would Lakers fans settle for a pre-deadline move? Absolutely, but waiting until the second week of February comes with serious risk.

After all, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, the Lakers intended to have found a trade partner for Westbrook before signing Dennis Schroder.

The Lakers reportedly wanted to trade Russell Westbrook before signing Dennis Schroder.

This report makes things extremely awkward for the Lakers, who’ve already traded for Westbrook’s longtime nemesis Patrick Beverley. While the two guards are reportedly putting aside their differences for the betterment of the team, Westbrook was likely already internalizing some frustration with the front office.

Now, it’s become public information that the Lakers wanted to trade Westbrook before reuniting with Schroder, who hasn’t so much as made an All-Star team and averaged 13.5 points on 43.1% shooting with the Celtics and Rockets last year. No way that’s sitting right with the former MVP.

McMenamin noted that Schroder’s representative play for Germany in the FIBA EuroBasket tournament forced their hand in signing the veteran before lining up a Westbrook trade, as other teams began showing interest in Schroder.

Despite that, McMenamin reports the Lakers are optimistic about Westbrook improving under Ham’s tutelage relative to Frank Vogel’s.

"“The Lakers’ most optimistic outlook for Westbrook is that Ham will get through to him in a way that Vogel couldn’t, and the nine-time All-Star will have a bounce-back season with some better effort defensively and better discretion offensively. Ham closed out the preseason by bringing Westbrook off the bench, a lineup the Lakers will continue to explore during the regular season, sources told ESPN.”“Another thought process, perhaps more realistic, is that more and more potential trade partners will open up as teams will be tantalized to join in the tankathon to get to the top of the 2023 NBA draft where a generational talent in Victor Wembanyama and a blue chip prospect in Scoot Henderson await.”"

Based on McMenamin’s reporting, the Lakers better hope multiple teams get off to slow starts this season and embrace tanking for Wembanyama because it feels like tensions could reach a boiling point if Westbrook continues coming off the bench and his play doesn’t improve.