Russell Westbrook, long-time agent Thad Foucher part ways

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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.

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 said at his introductory press conference. He has tried to pump Westbrook up, understanding he may have to make this work.

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.

 

Pelicans Trey Murphy III reportedly invited to participate in Dunk Contest

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We knew three participants invited to the All-Star Saturday night Dunk Contest: G-League fan favorite Mac McClung, the Portland Trail Blazers Shaedon Sharpe and the Houston Rockets’ KJ Martin.

The fourth slot in that event will go to the Pelicans’ Trey Murphy, reports Andrew Lopez of ESPN.

No doubt Murphy can throw it down with the best of them.

The Dunk Contest will headline All-Star Saturday night, Feb. 18, from the Vivint Arena (soon to be the Delta Center again). The event will be broadcast on TNT.

The Dunk Contest is the Saturday night headline event, but it has fallen flat in recent years. Adding a G-League dunker and young, bouncy athletes such as Murphy, Martin and Sharpe could make this one entertaining. However, what fans really want to see — what made the Dunk Contest must-watch back in the day when Jordan, Kobe, and Vince Carter were doing it — is the stars. There will be no Ja Morant, no Zion Williamson, and no Anthony Edwards in this contest.

LeBron James NBA all-time scoring record tracker

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has held the NBA all-time scoring record at 38,387 points since he retired in 1989. It is one of the most iconic records in sports and one thought by many that would never be broken, but LeBron James is on the verge of breaking that scoring record and doing it at age 38. How many more points does LeBron need to take over the scoring record? When is it projected to happen? Let’s break down the latest numbers (this will be updated after every Lakers game until the record is set).

How many points does LeBron James need to set the scoring record?
117

Abdul-Jabbar career points: 38,387
LeBron career points: 38,271

Lakers’ upcoming schedule:

Jan. 30 at Nets
Jan. 31 at Knicks
Feb. 2 at Pacers
Feb. 4 at Pelicans
Feb. 7 vs. Thunder
Feb. 9 vs. Bucks

When is LeBron projected to set the all-time scoring record:

LeBron is averaging 30.2 points per game this season, at that pace he would set the record on Feb. 4 at the New Orleans Pelicans.

Since he turned 38 (on Dec. 30), LeBron has averaged 35.2 points per game, which would see the mark broken in New Orleans. However, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the record fall when LeBron returns to Los Angeles on Feb. 7 or Feb. 9.

News and notes on LeBron’s quest for the record:

• LeBron scored 41 points — and felt he should have had a couple more — in the Lakers’ overtime loss to the Celtics Saturday on national television.

• Sixers Doc Rivers on what impresses him in LeBron’s run to this record: “LeBron has done it so differently to me [thank Kareem]. Because LeBron is not a natural scorer. LeBron is a playmaker. He got criticized early in his career for making the right decisions. And the fact that he’s now about to break the scoring record, it really points out his greatness.”

• LeBron scored 20 points in the Lakers’ win over the Spurs, a game in which Anthony Davis returned from injury and Rui Hachimura made his debut as a Laker after being traded from the Wizards.

• What has Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said about LeBron passing his record? There has been a bit of frostiness between the two men, but Abdul-Jabbar was gracious in comments to Marc Stein back in 2021 about the possibility of his record falling: “I’m excited to see it happen. I don’t see records as personal accomplishments, but more as human achievements. If one person can do something that’s never been done, that means we all have a shot at doing it. It’s a source of hope and inspiration. Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile back in 1954. Since then, not only have 1,400 runners beaten that time, but the new record is 17 seconds less. We all win when a record is broken and if LeBron breaks mine, I will be right there to cheer him on.”

Watch Harden run onto court from bench mid-play to defend

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It takes a second to notice, but the 76ers had just four players on the court trying to defend the Nuggets on a late third-quarter possession.

But when James Harden — sitting on the bench — notices it, he stands up and runs into play, drawing a technical.

The technical foul was for having four men on the court, not on Harden specifically.

While that may have been a rare instance of Harden rushing to play defense, the 76ers as a team cranked up their defense in the second half against the Nuggets and went on to get the home win behind 47 points from Joel Embiid.

LeBron livid over no foul call at end of regulation, Lakers fall to Celtics in OT

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“The best player on earth can’t get a call. It’s amazing.”

Lakers coach Darvin Ham made that comment out of frustration after another game where the Lakers felt robbed at the end. He wasn’t the only Laker.

LeBron James was once again brilliant — 41 points, nine rebounds and eight assists — but with the game tied against the Celtics and 4.1 seconds on the clock, he drove the lane and didn’t get the foul call when it clearly looked like Jayson Tatum hit him on the arm as he shot.

After the game, referee crew chief Eric Lewis admitted the officials missed the call:

There was contact. At the time, during the game, we did not see a foul. The crew missed the play.”

Patrick Beverley picked up a technical foul for bringing a photographer’s camera over to the referee to show evidence of the foul.

These losses are a punch to the gut for a Laker team with little margin for error and trying to make up ground in the West (at 23-27 they sit 13th in the conference). But LeBron sees a pattern — he is scoring 30.2 points per game (sixth in the league) but is getting to the line just 4.9 times per game, fewer than anyone else in the top nine in the league in scoring.

“I don’t get it. I’m attacking the paint, just as much as any of the guys in this league that’s shooting double-digit free throws a night, and I don’t get it. I don’t understand it,” James said postgame in Boston.

The other Lakers were a little more direct.

Boston pulled away in overtime to get the 125-121 win, snapping their own three-game losing streak.

LeBron finished with 41, Anthony Davis 16 (on 6-of-15 shooting off the bench) and Beverley had 15 including a key putback dunk. Jaylen Brown scored 37 for Boston, Tatum 30 and Malcolm Brogdon had 26 off the bench.

There are no moral victories for these Lakers more than halfway into the season, playing the team with the best record in the NBA close and almost winning does not count. Time is running out on LeBron and his team, they need to string together some wins. They felt they should have gotten the chance to win this one.