All summer long, the biggest question hanging over seemingly every story about the Lakers was the sitcom-level of “will they, won’t they” going on in regards to their efforts to trade Russell Westbrook. And with the season just over two weeks away, and despite Westbrook currently taking part in training camp, it sounds like the possibility of a deal (potentially to the Indiana Pacers) is still very much on the table.
Over at The Athletic, Shams Charania, Jovan Buha and Sam Amick dropped the latest anonymously sourced update on the situation, and the newsiest part is in bold:
While Westbrook wasn’t traded in the summer like so many across the league expected, league sources tell The Athletic that the prospect of him being traded in the coming weeks and months remains real. In a perfect world, Westbrook would find his stride with these Lakers, the team would perform at a high level, wins would follow and the franchise would finally show its short- and long-term potential. But a decision to trade him or not would be based on a multitude of factors – not the least of which are his play and his continued willingness to follow through on the plan set forth by first-year coach Darvin Ham.
But further down in their story ($$$), Charania, Buha and Amick detailed how talks with the Pacers specifically have gone so far, and confirmed that the much buzzed about canceled press conference from Pelinka and Ham was in part tied to the team considering the Pacers package on the eve of camp:
Vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka, owner Jeanie Buss and senior basketball adviser Kurt Rambis seriously considered sending Westbrook and unprotected first-round picks in 2027 and 2029 to the Pacers for center Myles Turner and guard Buddy Hield, sources said. They held a series of meetings in the days leading up to camp to analyze the possible Pacers deal from every angle, with the views of Ham and Lakers executives Joey and Jesse Buss also being strongly considered in the process. The organization even delayed the midweek news conference for Pelinka and Ham as the debate continued.
This article also gave us the most detailed account of where the Lakers and Pacers have stood as discussions have continued. Let’s get into that below.
What trades have the Lakers and Pacers discussed?
According to The Athletic, Indiana and Los Angeles have discussed the following deals over the course of the summer.
- Westbrook and one first-rounder (not clear which year) for Turner.
- A nonspecific deal that would have seen the Lakers land only Hield and not Turner. It is not specified what the Lakers would have given up in this hypothetical transaction.
- After summer league (and the Pacers’ failed pursuit of Deandre Ayton) the two sides “discussed Westbrook, one first-round pick and second-round compensation for both Turner and Hield.”
- Permutations of the deal that would have seen the Memphis Grizzlies take a Lakers first-round pick in exchange for sending Indiana two of their own firsts as part of a three-team trade. Again, it is not clear what the Lakers and Pacers would have received in this otherwise, just that they tried to expand the deal to find a version of it everyone could agree on. It does not appear to have worked, at least so far.
So why hasn’t a deal gotten done?
As anyone who has seen clips from training camp knows, none of those talks have been consumated, obviously. The reason for that continuing impasse appears to be simple, according to the same story from The Athletic (emphasis mine):
For the Pacers, every conversation with the Lakers led to an ultimate demand: Both of L.A.’s available first-round picks — or no deal.
Pacers owner Herb Simon showed increasing interest as the summer went on in having new lead guard Tyrese Haliburton, Turner and Hield start the season together, so an asking price of two unprotected first-rounders was unintentionally a difficult barometer to meet. Would the Lakers meet it? Sources added that the Pacers, despite the Lakers’ wishes, made it clear they were not interested in sending second-round picks in a potential deal. With the price of landing Turner and Hield higher than the Lakers’ liking, they had hoped for second-round compensation as a way of increasing their return.
To my knowledge, that is the first report we’ve gotten that the Lakers have tried to recoup some draft value in these talks by asking for second-round picks in exchange for including both firsts, and at the very least, all of it shows that they are really trying to find a version of a trade that can work.
As for the rest of this, it’s unclear if a deal can really get done before the season starts. The Athletic reports that the Lakers still may trade Westbrook before the season starts, but most of the talks they’re reporting on are attributed to have happened before training camp. Given that Zach Lowe of ESPN reported last Friday that the Lakers don’t currently have any “deep” trade discussions going, it may not make a difference if the brain trust is still mulling over a Russ trade, or if they’re really open to dealing both picks, or if they’re willing to take on long-term money, because none of this matters if they are still at an impasse with Indiana over whether they think Hield and Turner are worth two firsts, and whether or not the Pacers would accept anything less.
Now, obviously that’s what both sides would say in a public negotiation until something is agreed upon, but I digress. We’ll see who blinks first, or if anyone does at all, over the weeks to come. Buckle up.