On the morning before the Lakers played their first preseason game, Jovan Buha, Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic made waves with a massive report on the team’s efforts to trade Russell Westbrook, including previously unreported details on multiple versions of deals that would have seen them send Westbrook to the Indiana Pacers for Myles Turner and Buddy Hield that ultimately haven’t gone through yet... but ultimately could at some point.
And even in a summer where Westbrook trade rumors hitting the internet were about as rare as roaches in a hoarder's house, this was a big enough story that even new head coach Darvin Ham and Westbrook himself were asked about it. However, the ultimate conclusion of the article was that the Pacers — at least for now — haven’t budged on demanding both of the Lakers’ tradeable future first round picks (in 2027 and 2029) in any Westbrook deal. As a result, the two sides are at an impasse.
But such a deal may have been even closer than we realized, because during an appearance on Jake Fischer’s “Please Don’t Aggregate This” podcast (sorry Jake), Jovan Buha clarified that the Lakers were almost ready to meet the Pacers’ asking price, before a late pivot when not everyone would agree that Turner and Hield were worth it:
“To my knowledge and the knowledge of [myself, Amick and Charania] as a group, it was at the one-yard line internally. There was no formal request or reach out to the Pacers... There were several internal meetings about this at one point... There were several hours there where we were hearing that it was essentially agreed upon internally that ‘we are going to propose this to Indiana. And all summer, in all of our iterations of trade talks with Indiana, their one ask has been we want both picks.’ And even if it was Myles by himself or Buddy, it always came back to they want two picks for any Russ trade.
“So the Lakers, with that knowledge, were having that kind of internal struggle of ‘is it worth going all in for this deal? Does it elevate us enough?’ And there was some split between members of the key decision makers of ‘yes it’s worth it,’ and ‘no it’s not,’ but I think temporarily they came to a consensus of ‘yes’ and that is when there was a point during the weekend where I thought it was a formality that this was going to happen, but ultimately there was some pushback at the one-yard line, they decided that there was not a consensus, and it was not time to make that move.
“(But) there was definitely a point during the weekend when from what we were hearing it sounded like a done deal that they were going to make the offer. Obviously it was contingent on Indiana to accept the offer, but they had been telling the Lakers all summer that they were going to need two picks, and if the Lakers made that offer, I think they were confident that Indiana would have accepted it.”
And as close as it sounds like that offer was to being made, the Lakers — again, at least for now — seem to be projecting that they’re going to give this roster a few weeks to see what they can do and continue to evaluate their options.
Again, from Buha:
“As of now, their stance is ‘we want to see what Russ looks like, we want to see if we can make it work.’ And if it can’t, there’s always potentially the Indiana deal, but there’s also if a team like Chicago gets off to a rough start because of this Lonzo situation, is a DeMar DeRozan available? Is a Zach LaVine available? Is there another team that underachieves out the gate and 20, 25 games in already looks like they’re going to be a lottery team and maybe a disgruntled star becomes available? So I think the Lakers are looking more at ‘can we get a bigger chip, and can we get a better player than a Myles Turner or a Buddy Hield?’ Because I think they think that package will still be there most likely if they are willing to put the two picks on the table.”
The Lakers are probably not wrong about that last part, but while we will likely never get this information, it would be fascinating to know who is voting for and who is against the deal. We know Rob Pelinka is potentially GMing for his job this year, but he’s not the only one being consulted here. According to that same Athletic report, these trade discussions have also involved senior basketball advisor Kurt Rambis, team governor Jeanie Buss, and her younger brothers, assistant GM Jesse Buss and vice president of research and analytics Joey Buss.
Again, no one is going to definitively tell us what the voting breakdown is between that group because there likely aren’t enough people with an incentive to leak said information and allow reporters to confirm with multiple members of said brain trust. Still, it will be worth watching to see which side ultimately wins out in the end as the year progresses, and it is mesmerizing to think about who would be voting “no,” and what their motivations for doing so would be.