How badly does Russell Westbrook want a trade out of Los Angeles and off the Lakers?
Badly enough to end a 14-year relationship.
That’s one interpretation of the news that Westbrook has parted ways with the only agent he has ever had in the NBA, Thad Foucher of Wasserman. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the news that the sides parted ways after getting a statement from Foucher.
LeBron James and his agent, Rich Paul, reacted to the news.
Facts!!! 🥶 a$$ game brother! 🤦🏾♂️ https://t.co/3x1DOKfxKw
— LeBron James (@KingJames) July 16, 2022
What was interesting was Foucher’s explanation as to why the split happened.
In a statement to ESPN, Foucher, one of the league’s prominent player representatives, cited “irreconcilable differences” and suggested that there was no longer full alignment with Westbrook about whether the former MVP should want to remain with the Lakers for the final season of his $47 million contract.
Foucher said that he believes Westbrook’s “best option is to stay with the Lakers, embrace the starting role and support that Darvin Ham publicly offered.”
Not sure Ham offered him a starting role, but that’s not the point. Westbrook opted into the $47.1 million final season of his contract, but that massive payday has made Westbrook untradable unless the Lakers attach one of their first-round picks (2027 and 2029, although both could convey a year earlier). Westbrook averaged 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.1 assist a night last season, but he is an inefficient shooter (29.8% from 3 last season and had a true shooting percentage of .512, well below the league average), his shot selection is questionable, he didn’t want to fit in the Lakers system, and he is a minus defender. Teams are not looking to take on this version of Westbrook with that salary, which is where the sweetener of a pick comes into play.
Westbrook never asked for a trade from the Lakers, reports Dan Woike and Brodrick Turner at the Los Angeles Times. Of course, he didn’t really have to, and it doesn’t mean he would oppose a trade. The Times report adds they were told this split was not about the Lakers.
It’s still easy to connect the dots to Westbrook and a Lakers trade leading to the split. The Lakers looked for a way to make a Kyrie Irving for Westbrook trade happen, but the Nets did not want Westbrook on their roster (especially while Kevin Durant is still there) and bringing in a third team made things complex. Those deals ultimately had the Lakers sending two first-round picks — one to the Nets and another to the third team taking on Westbrook (likely the Spurs). The Lakers are already short on draft capital following the trade to acquire Anthony Davis, they are hesitant to send out two more picks for Irving.
“Now, with a possibility of a fourth trade in four years, the marketplace is telling the Lakers they must add additional value with Russell in any trade scenario. And even then, such a trade may require Russell to immediately move on from the new team via buyout.
“My belief is that this type of transaction only serves to diminish Russell’s value and his best option is to stay with the Lakers, embrace the starting role and support that Darvin Ham publicly offered. Russell is a first-ballot Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame player and will prove that again before he is retired.”
Westbrook could thrive in a sixth-man role, but he pushed back against that with the Lakers and likely would do the same on another team. Westbrook’s relationship with James seems strained, both were at a Lakers’ Summer League game in Las Vegas last week but stayed on opposite sides of the court and didn’t speak.
Foucher wanted Westbrook to improve his trade value — and the value of his next contract — by buying into what Ham and the Lakers are selling. “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 . He has tried to pump Westbrook up, understanding he may have to make this work. at his introductory press conference
Actions speak louder than words, and Westbrook parting with Foucher is a powerful action. A new agent will not find some magical overlooked trade for Westbrook — his market is limited — but maybe they can have better alignment on what is next for the future Hall of Famer.
LeBron is right, it is a cold a** game.