To surprise of no one, Russell Westbrook will pick up $47 million option for next season
This was obvious and long-expected, but on Tuesday it became official: Russell Westbrook will pick up his $47.1 million option for next season and return to Los Angeles Lakers in the fall. From Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
ESPN Sources: Los Angeles Lakers star Russell Westbrook is planning to exercise his $47.1 million option to return to the franchise for the 2022-2023 season.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 28, 2022
That barely feels like news it was such a sure thing. Unlike the John Wall situation in Houston, there will be no buyout. The Lakers looked for a trade for Westbrook, but as the Kyrie Irving flirtation reminded everyone, there is no market for a Westbrook deal right now.
That throws everything on new coach Darvin Ham to figure out.
“Don’t get it messed up, Russell is one of the best players our league has ever seen, and there’s still a ton left in that tank,” Ham said at his introductory press conference while Westbrook hung out 30 feet away. “I don’t know why people tend to try to write him off.”
Ham said all the right things. He has talked to Westbrook about adjusting his game to fit in with Ham’s system (and Westbrook’s current skill set).
“Russ and I have had some really, really great one-on-one conversations, and the biggest word that came out of those discussions was sacrifice,” Ham said earlier this month. “We’re gonna sacrifice whatever we have to do, and it’s not just Russ. There’s gonna be sacrifices LeBron has to make, that A.D. has to make, all the way down the line of the rest of our roster.”
LeBron James and coach Frank Vogel could not get buy-in from Westbrook last season on these same ideas. It became a distraction. Now it’s on Ham to take essentially the same ingredients that missed the playoffs last season and build something that works much better.
And Westbrook will be part of that — and be well paid to do so.