The merciful end of this Lakers season is only days away, and yet somehow it feels like the drama is just starting to unfold. Based on leaks from the organization to this point, it would appear that Russell Westbrook just happened to show up at the facility one day as everyone involved reluctantly pulled the trigger on his acquisition.
Yet, as everyone scatters from accountability for the move, at some point, someone is going to have to work to fix a broken roster. It’s clear Westbrook’s days with the Lakers are numbered, but how his departure is executed is complicated but absolutely crucial for the short- and long-term future of the organization.
Earlier this week, Marc Stein reported a potential deal between the Lakers and Hornets that would land Westbrook in Charlotte as they move off some of their longer contracts. So, on today’s episode(s) of “The Hook,” Aaron Larsuel and I took a look at such a deal and how much sense it makes for both sides.
For the Lakers, it’s clear. Westbrook appears to have spent this last season feuding with anyone and everyone and as such, both he and the Lakers are ready to move on. For the Hornets, well, money matters.
Gordon Hayward signed a four-year, $120 million deal back in 2020 when he was signed and traded to Charlotte by Boston. He has been hurt for much of that time and has two years left at $30 million per season.
Charlotte also inked Terry Rozier to a four-year, $97 million extension that kicks in next year.
With guys across their roster looking to get paid in the next few years, Charlotte is going to be looking to cut costs and, in this case, ripping the bandaid to the tune of one season at $47 million of Westbrook makes it easier for them to do so.
No, Westbrook doesn’t make much basketball sense for Charlotte, who already has a much more effective on-ball presence in LaMelo Ball, but as is often the case with small markets in the NBA, the basketball sometimes comes secondary to the business.
This wouldn’t be painless for the Lakers, either, by the way.
Hayward’s injury history is extensive and pairing that with LeBron and Anthony Davis’ doesn’t seem ideal. Rozier is closer to the point guard the Lakers have been looking for as a way to alleviate the creative burden on James, but that fit has questions, too.
Add to that any draft compensation Charlotte might be looking for and this won’t be an easy decision to make for anyone. But it’s a decision someone will have to.
Aaron and I discussed this, the latest cycle of rumors coming out of the organization, which teams we’re thinking about adopting for the postseason and how Jeanie Buss and Michael Jordan’s friendly relationship might help facilitate the aforementioned trade.
And for a short-form recap pod, check out Lakers Lowdown, in which Anthony Irwin recaps the previous day’s news and gets you ready for the day ahead in LakerLand, every weekday morning on the Silver Screen & Roll Podcast feed.