When LeBron James signed his extension with the Lakers in August, many viewed that as a precursor to a trade of Russell Westbrook this offseason. By committing himself to the franchise moving forward, most thought it came with some assurances from the front office that a deal would be done to improve the team, either by their own admission or through LeBron making his own demands.
However, the Lakers haven’t moved with any more urgency when it comes to a Westbrook deal since that extension and seem to be operating with patience for now. That could largely be because, according to a report from Jovan Buha, Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic on Monday, LeBron has not put any pressure on the franchise to make a move...yet.
In addition, James has shown support publicly and privately to integrating Westbrook and playing with the former league MVP again this season, and multiple sources said he applied no pressure to the Lakers front office to do the Pacers’ deal. Seven months have passed since James’ tweet supporting the “f— them picks” approach of Rams GM Les Snead led some to wonder how he saw the Lakers’ strategy, and sources say he remains supportive of the current regime.
Obviously, this isn’t James’ first rodeo and he’s well aware of how long an NBA season is. For now, there is no rush to move Westbrook and with a new coach, there is at least some route to believing that things could be different this season.
Now, the question is how quickly will all that change during the season. If Westbrook doesn’t integrate into the team and continues the stubborn playstyle that he’s shown in literally every season of his career, will LeBron still be patient? And if the Lakers get off to a slow start or have a losing streak in the middle of the season, will he remain patient?
James is also acutely aware of how few trade options there are available right now. For the time being, it seems like the Pacers represent the current fallback option. That also is an option that is unlikely to elevate them into title contention, which is likely all LeBron is aiming for at this point in his career, too.
As a result, the current situation calls for patience. It’s easy to preach and practice that patience in the preseason when hopes and ambitions are high. We’ll see how long both sides remain patient and positive with a Westbrook trade still likely looming.