Time really is a flat circle.
Hardly more than a year removed from being traded for one another, Russell Westbrook and John Wall are once again in trade rumors. The former has since moved teams one more time in that span, now struggling in his hometown purple and gold of the Lakers, while the latter has been relegated to watching from home for the Houston Rockets.
With things trending downward and quickly in Los Angeles, the idea of the two once again being swapped for one another yet again had been discussed with the Rockets reportedly only willing to do the deal if the Lakers included a first round draft pick. On Wednesday, veteran NBA reporter Marc Stein corroborated that report, noting that the deal is on the table from the Rockets but the Lakers are not interested in it.
League sources say that the Lakers, presented with an unexpected pathway to abort their Westbrook experiment by trading the NBA’s 2017 Most Valuable Player back to the Rockets in exchange for former All-Star John Wall, are unwilling to attach the 2027 first-rounder to make the deal happen.
As reported here Friday, Houston’s interest in such a trade is dependent on the Lakers’ consenting to ensure that the deal is “incentivized” by packaging the draft pick with Westbrook in exchange for Wall.
There are a number of reasons the Lakers are unwilling to include a pick to offload Westbrook, per Stein. For one, there is the optics of trading away a player WITH an asset that the team had just gone all-in on barely six months ago. There’s also the matter of the team not being whole this season with Westbrook, LeBron James and Anthony Davis only played together for 16 of the team’s 48 games.
But one of most noteworthy, though, is that it’s unclear if bringing in Wall, who is coming up on a year without having played a basketball game, is a clear upgrade on their current situation with Westbrook.
All that paired with the hope that Westbrook has a second-half renaissance this season akin to the one in Washington last season and the Lakers are clearly opting for — as the old cliche goes — the devil they do know rather than the devil they don’t.
As poorly as things may be going with Westbrook and the Lakers, there have been at least some moments where things have clicked in some way, even if they’ve been fleeting. John Wall has not taken to a basketball court since April of last year. The Lakers would be hitting the reset button past the midway point of the season with a guard who is closing in on a year away from the game, none of which would indicate likely success.
When the Lakers made the Westbrook trade in the offseason, it came with the expectation of being married to him for at least the upcoming season and likely the duration of his contract. The Rockets may present an expected way out of that marriage, but it would come at a price too hefty for the Lakers to consider it.
This means, barring any other unforeseen changes, the Lakers are largely what they are going to be, save for some moves on the edges, for the remainder of this season, coach, roster and all.
Check out DraftKings Sportsbook, the official sportsbook partner of SB Nation. For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts.