Russell Westbrook wants the Lakers to trade him.
If that wasn’t obvious before, it’s been made crystal clear by his now-former agent, Thad Foucher, in the statement he gave Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN to explain why he is no longer working with Westbrook:
In a statement, Foucher said: “I represented Russell Westbrook for 14 years and am proud of our partnership which included a highly successful 2008 draft, a super-max contract and the only renegotiation-and-extend max contract in history. I also supported Russell throughout his rise into a prominent fashion industry figure and recently orchestrated three successive trades on Russell’s behalf — culminating with the trade to his hometown Los Angeles Lakers.
“Each time, teams gave up valuable players and assets to acquire Russell - and each time, a new organization embraced his arrival. We did it together with grace and class.”
In and of itself, none of the above would be notable. It’s cordial and respectful enough, but it’s what comes next that makes it plain where Westbrook stands, and what his difference of opinion with Foucher is that is leading to their separation (emphasis mine):
“Now, with a possibility of a fourth trade in four years, the marketplace is telling the Lakers they must add additional value with Russell in any trade scenario. And even then, such a trade may require Russell to immediately move on from the new team via buyout.
“My belief is that this type of transaction only serves to diminish Russell’s value and his best option is to stay with the Lakers, embrace the starting role and support that Darvin Ham publicly offered. Russell is a first-ballot Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame player and will prove that again before he is retired.
“Unfortunately, irreconcilable differences exist as to his best pathway forward and we are no longer working together. I wish Russell and his family the very best.”
If Westbrook’s agent of 14 years — someone who has likely heard what other teams would offer him in terms of role and future prospects — is saying that he thinks the best option for Westbrook is to stay with the Lakers, and they are separating because they disagree... then that makes it pretty clear that Westbrook is pushing hard to leave the Lakers.
This bombshell, understandably, blew up Twitter, with none other than LeBron James and his own agent, Rich Paul, sending cryptic tweets in the aftermath of Foucher’s statement:
Now, we should note that Westbrook seems to dispute his now-former agent’s characterization, both through his Twitter likes after ESPN’s story dropped...
... and via a story from Dan Woike and Brad Turner of The Los Angeles Times, who wrote that anonymous sources insist that Westbrook has both not requested a trade, and did not part with Foucher over any Lakers disagreement:
Multiple sources with knowledge of the thinking of Westbrook and the Lakers told The Times that Westbrook has never requested to be traded. Earlier this offseason, he opted into the final year of his contract, which will pay him $47 million this coming season.
Additional sources told The Times the decision to split with Foucher had “nothing to do with the Lakers.”
To some degree, whether or not he has asked to be traded is a matter of semantics — does Westbrook have to ask the Lakers to do something they clearly want to do anyway? — but is worth noting nonetheless as his camp pushes back on the claim that this separation was over a Lakers-related dispute.
Still, only one person involved here is putting their name to their stance, so while it is unclear why Foucher chose to go public like this — or whether he quit or was fired — this was always sort of the accepted reality. When Westbrook and LeBron James couldn’t even pretend to be cordial at a nationally televised summer league game last week, it was fairly obvious that neither wanted to continue together.
But this is as explicitly as we’re likely ever going to hear that type of news without the use of anonymous sources. A statement like this is very, very abnormal, and I’m not positive I can even remember a situation anything like this happening before in recent NBA history. That Foucher came out and laid this out so plainly to get ahead of this news publicly should tell you all you need to know about just how far about how far dug in he thinks Westbrook is on seeing a Lakers exit as his best path forward.
Luckily for him, the feeling is pretty clearly mutual. Less fortunately for all parties involved, there haven’t been a lot of takers on Westbrook yet. We’ll see if that changes as the offseason progresses, but at the very least, now we know more about where Westbrook stands, and that this does not appear to be a situation where he’s going to come back, buy-in, and happily run it back. Now it’s up to the Lakers to figure out how to handle that.
And even less fortunately for everyone, in the wake of this statement, their leverage in such a deal has never been lower.