In 2017, Russell Westbrook signed a five-year, $205 million contract extension with the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team many thought he’d spend the entirety of his career with. Since then, Westbrook has requested a trade three times: to the Houston Rockets in 2019, to the Washington Wizards in 2020 and to his hometown Los Angeles Lakers in July.
While it’s possible that Los Angeles will be the final stop of Westbrook’s career given his age (32) and his ties to the city he grew up in, the former league MVP tried not to get too far ahead of himself in his introductory press conference with the Lakers last week.
“My vision, in this league, you understand this is a business,” Westbrook said. “You just do your job, and that’s what I’ll continue to do. As far as the business side of basketball and figuring out where I will be, I wouldn’t imagine that I’ll be here three or four years ago. It’s just something that I can’t fathom.
“But while I’m here, I will compete in the best way I know how, give everything that I have and I’ll let the business side of basketball take care of that.”
If Westbrook does choose to spend more than just one season in Los Angeles, he can exercise his $47 million player option for the 2022-23 season. He can also opt out of his contract next summer, and negotiate a longer-term deal with the Lakers like Chris Paul did with the Phoenix Suns this past season. But, like Westbrook said, the basketball will likely take care of that.
Right now, we still don’t know if the Lakers are a good fit for Westbrook or vice versa. What do we know, or at least have a good feeling about, is that Westbrook will leave it all out there (for better or for worse) so long as he’s wearing the purple and gold, and not just because he said he would.
Westbrook definitely has his faults as a basketball player, but he always tries to help his team win, whether that’s with his scoring or his passing. Is he always successful? No, but the nights that he is will make him a fan favorite in Los Angeles — and luckily for Lakers fans, there are expected to be plenty of those nights alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis. How many seasons those nights last for will depend on how successful the team is while Westbrook is here.