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Why the Lakers aren’t trading Russell Westbrook, explained

Russell Westbrook remains in trade rumors, but the Lakers aren’t moving him for a number of reasons.

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Sacramento Kings v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

Things are never very quiet in Laker land, especially when it comes to trade rumors. No matter their situation, the Lakers always find themselves in the center of rumors, particularly when any star player is involved.

Add in Russell Westbrook this season, one of the most polarizing figures in the NBA, and the rumors are non-stop. For example, recent reports suggested the Lakers offered up Westbrook to the Philadelphia 76ers for Ben Simmons before being rebuked.

Even more recently, Sam Amick of The Athletic reported on Wednesday that the Lakers had quietly shopped Westbrook around earlier in the season, obviously to no avail.

All of which explains why sources say the Lakers showed some covert interest in discussing a possible Westbrook trade with rival executives earlier this season. A deal appears extremely unlikely before the Feb. 10 trade deadline, if only because his deal that was once seen by so many as untradeable is such a massive obstacle. But inside the Lakers, it seems, there is some recognition that this hasn’t gone as (James and Davis had) planned.

There are a couple of takeaways from Amick’s report. First, that the team was so openly willing to trade Westbrook early in the season indicates that things really weren’t going to plan. However, it’s hard to judge what the plan was and how it was going when the Lakers endured so many injuries and absences.

But that the Lakers continue to shop around Westbrook without any level of interest shows the enormity of his contract and just how difficult it’ll be to move on from. The Lakers’ interest in him was a unique set of circumstances with the team looking for a third star and having enough contracts to make the deal work.

Similarly, each of the two trades prior to that for Westbrook involved similarly unique circumstances with Westbrook being dealt for contracts seen in similar lights at the time in Chris Paul and John Wall. The Lakers would need to find a similarly big contract and a team with the desire of getting out of it.

Presumably, the Lakers surveyed the league for those types of deals and either didn’t find them or didn’t find ones that were appealing. And that’ll be the issue with the Lakers trying to move on from Westbrook is that the pool of players is a very small and not all that attractive one.

That the report also states the Lakers shopped him earlier in the year indicates the team may be more comfortable with Westbrook at this point in the year. Having played over half the schedule this year, Westbrook is starting to integrate himself into the team and the Lakers are starting to find their footing.

And that is the common theme in both reports is that the Lakers were shopping Westbrook in the past. No reports (for now) suggest the Lakers are still shopping Westbrook present-day.

It would make little sense now, with the team trending upward, to make a major move of trading Westbrook unless it is a no-brainer deal like for Simmons. And considering the Sixers — or any other team — is going to make that trade, the Lakers won’t be dealing Westbrook anytime soon, if at all, this season.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.

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