The Los Angeles Lakers and Russell Westbrook are nearly certain to part ways this summer, and like in most ugly breakups after ill-advised, short and public flings, one of the parties involved has to be the first to delete their photos together from their social media accounts.
In this case, it’s Westbrook making the first move, as the perpetually petty point guard took the first step towards a seemingly inevitable summer exit by deleting all photos of him in a Laker uniform or referencing his hometown team from his Instagram profile, except for his avatar, which remains a cartoon of him in purple and gold.
Westbrook also appears to have gotten rid of all references to his prior two teams, the Houston Rockets and Washington Wizards, which only left photos of him in the one jersey he’s spent more than a single season in during his career: The Oklahoma City Thunder.
Russ has deleted all his photos with the Lakers. pic.twitter.com/4PBkFEvK3T— (@stan4russ) April 26, 2022
You can confirm the veracity of that tweet for yourself at Westbrook’s profile here.
Now, does this mean anything? Maybe, but probably not as much as Lakers fans ready to move on from the Westbrook experience hope. This doesn’t necessarily mean that a trade is imminent.
However, it is yet another sign that even if Westbrook does ultimately opt into his $47 million player option over the next month-plus — he has until June 29 to do so — that it will be with an eventual well-compensated exit in mind, not to remain in his hometown for another year. So, despite making the rather audacious claim at exit interviews that he has not thought about his future yet, this Instagram activity would seem to suggest that at the very least, Westbrook has started to consider his next steps now.
So, worth noting in the aftermath of all this is that while most discussions of the various trade options here — at this site and elsewhere — have focused on hypothetical salary dumps with the Charlotte Hornets or the Indiana Pacers, there is also one team in the NBA that could most effortlessly free up more than enough cap space to absorb Westbrook with no issues: Those same Thunder that Westbrook is still referencing on his profile, who can create nearly $49 million in cap space this summer rather easily, and wouldn’t even need to create that much if they sent back a few players in return for Westbrook (who would likely need at least one first-round pick attached to his contract to incentivize OKC).
Given Sam Presti’s ongoing addiction to assembling as many far-future draft picks as possible and the history between Westbrook and Thunder, that possibility is something to keep in mind moving forward this summer as we continue to desperately consume every rumor, whisper and social media deletion over the weeks to come.
And really, isn’t the funniest outcome to this whole saga Presti trading Westbrook to the Rockets for Chris Paul, two-first-round picks and two pick swaps three years ago, trading Paul for another first-rounder, and then getting at least one more first for taking Westbrook back before the contract Presti originally traded him on has even expired. Truly light years ahead stuff. No wonder LeBron James is such a fan.