After 43 disappointing games, fans of the purple and gold seem to be over the Russell Westbrook experience. Even Rob Pelinka may have buyer’s remorse over his summer blockbuster, if the early Lakers trade rumors ahead of the Feb. 10 NBA trade deadline are to be believed.
But as restless as everyone may be at this point in the season, Westbrook likely isn’t going anywhere: He’s on the books for $44.2 million this season and has a player option for $47 million next season. No contract is untradeable, but right now, Westbrook’s is as close as possible to it.
Still, the Westbrook trade rumors will persist through the trade deadline and they’ll resume in the offseason if Westbrook is still on the team. Westbrook knows this, and he told Sam Amick of The Athletic that he’s at peace with that:
“I never worry,” he fired back. “Do the job. Be professional. Every year, my name is in trade (rumors). It never, never, never seeps into how I approach what I do. It’s kind of what I was mentioning back there (during the press conference). I see this game so different (in terms of) how to use it to be able to impact things
“Regardless of if (a trade) did happen or if it didn’t happen, nothing’s going to change my mentality or my purpose. I feel like I have a purpose that’s bigger than basketball and I always keep that as my forefront regardless of what happens inside of pro sports.”
As has been the case for many of the quotes Westbrook has given this season, that’s probably not the answer most Lakers fans want to hear, but it’s the answer fans should expect from a 13-year veteran’s who’s been traded three times in the last three years. It’s also symbolic of the attitude fans will have no choice but to arrive to with Westbrook after the trade deadline: he’s on the team and that’s just the way it is.
Is that frustrating? Absolutely, but the hope is that time, good health and a few moves at the trade deadline will get the Lakers to a point where they’re good because of — or even in spite of — Westbrook. Realistically, there’s nothing they can do about the Westbrook trade now, but they can correct the moves they made immediately after the trade, which have arguably been a bigger detriment to the team as a whole than anything Westbrook’s done.