The Lakers’ Russell Westbrook experiment is a colossal failure, and it appears at least some within the organization have realized the same thing. But among the few other NBA teams that could be willing and able to take on a washed-up former superstar point guard who’s making $44 million this year and has an even more expensive player option for next season, there appears to be next-to-zero real interest in helping the Lakers undo their mistake.
The two teams where a deal involving a contract of Westbrook’s magnitude make at least an iota of sense—the New York Knicks and Houston Rockets—don’t appear all that willing to facilitate a Westbrook deal, for obvious reasons.
The rebuilding Rockets have discussed a trade with the Lakers centered around Westbrook and Houston’s own max contract albatross point guard, John Wall, but Houston has always wanted the Lakers’ 2027 first-round pick in return. The Lakers haven’t been willing to give it.
As we get closer to the deadline, talks remain at an impasse, with the Lakers refusing to trade the rights to select a current middle-schooler, according to NBA insider Marc Stein, who reported the latest update in his Substack:
One source close to the situation insisted Wednesday night that the Rockets remain steadfast in their refusal to entertain a John Wall-for-Russell Westbrook trade with the Lakers unless L.A. agrees to include its 2027 first-round pick in the trade. As badly as the Lakers need to shake up a reeling roster, after a road loss to undermanned Portland and with Westbrook routinely portrayed as the leading scapegoat for the Lakers’ ills, there has been no indication yet that Magic’s favorite team is prepared to part with that draft pick just to escort Westbrook off the team and gamble that Wall can make a meaningful impact after missing more than half the season already.
So with just around two hours to go until the deadline, it sounds like the Lakers aren’t really going to make a Westbrook deal:
Woj: "The Lakers right now don't have any ongoing discussions on a Russell Westbrook trade."— Kristian Winfield #NFTAllStar (@Krisplashed) February 10, 2022
Wall is a longtime Klutch sports client, and appears to be healthy currently, but has yet to play this season as the Rockets would rather focus on developing their young guards like 2021 No. 2 overall pick Jalen Green.
A trade sending Westbrook to the Knicks instead also seems a bit plausible on paper, as struggling former Lakers lottery pick Julius Randle appears done with New York just one season after an apparent breakout year in 2020-21. The Knicks also have a gaping hole at point guard as Kemba Walker’s injuries and decline have resulted in his own ill-fated homecoming in the big apple.
But as of last night, the Knicks were not having any conversations, nor showing any interest in dealing for Westbrook, according to Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer, who reported the update on Stein’s Spotify Greenroom chat ($$$):
“I continue to be told from Knicks people that there have been no Russ conversations internally and they don’t really have any interest there.”
Obviously, it’s not shocking that neither the Knicks nor the Rockets want to touch Westbrook with a 10-foot pole right now. Since putting on the purple and gold, Russ has done nothing but absolutely tank his trade value to the point where it’s crazy (and depressing) to think that the Lakers gave up three solid role players and a first-round pick to the Washington Wizards a little over six months ago for this guy, and some — myself included — thought it would work.
Still, Frank Vogel didn’t exactly rule out the possibility of a Westbrook trade after the Lakers’ humiliating loss at Portland on Thursday:
Frank Vogel, asked directly by @billoram if there's a scenario in which Russell Westbrook isn't on the team after tomorrow: "If there's way to improve our team, we'll improve our team. I've got nothing else to say about the trade deadline."— Sean Highkin (@highkin) February 10, 2022
But as we get closer to the 12 p.m. PT NBA trade deadline today, it appears the Lakers may have to wait at least until the offseason to fix this mess.