After careful deliberation that only began at the end of the season after his exit interview, Russell Westbrook will reportedly pick up his player option for next season, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. The final year of Westbrook’s deal will pay him just north of $47 million.
Westbrook’s agent Thad Foucher of @wassbasketball is planning to file the paperwork today, sources said. Westbrook has a Wednesday deadline on his option.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 28, 2022
In his article on Westbrook opting in, the following tidbit was included which may make you either excited for the season or simply roll your eyes:
The Lakers are counting on Westbrook to have a comeback season under new coach Darvin Ham, whom Westbrook has told ESPN that he’s been enthusiastic about getting to know in recent weeks.
Shortly before Woj’s report, Westbrook appeared to be feeling pretty good about the decision:
There was never a realistic scenario in which Westbrook was turning down his player option, and that was the case well before he came to the Lakers and had a... disappointing season. That didn’t stop Westbrook from claiming during his exit interview that he had given no thought as to whether he’d be picking up his option.
In fairness to him, there wasn’t much of a thought needed to arrive at this obvious conclusion. Correspondingly, there was little coverage of Westbrook’s decision as tomorrow’s deadline neared, save for a mention from Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN regarding Westbrook’s excitement for Ham’s hiring.
Because of the degree to which everyone assumed Westbrook would pick up his option, this doesn’t really change the calculus of the offseason for the Lakers and the decision they’ll have to make. There was never much thought or strategy put into Westbrook opting out so there isn’t any sort of readjustment needed.
Westbrook has been at the center of trade rumors in the last week with Kyrie Irving as a looming target. The Lakers and Irving looked potentially set for one another as the latter debated ditching Brooklyn, but ultimately he would not turn down his $36 million player option after trade scenarios with Westbrook were explored between LA and Brooklyn.
The options still largely remain the same for the Lakers and Westbrook as they can trade him, buy him out, waive and stretch him or bring him back for that final season. Of those options, the Lakers have been sending out all sorts of signals that the latter is the likeliest possibility.
All this news does is solidify the Lakers’ plans moving forward and officially tick off the first check box of the offseason for Westbrook. The challenges of finding a way to move him are going to be all the same, if that’s even what the Lakers desire.