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#pounditTuesday, August 16, 2022

Lakers leaning certain way with Russell Westbrook?

Russell Westbrook with his arm out

Nov 23, 2021; New York, New York, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook (0) reacts during the third quarter against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

There was once a time when it appeared to be a virtual certainty that the Los Angeles Lakers would trade Russell Westbrook this offseason, but that is no longer the case.

Both sources close to the Lakers and several rival executives told Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus that L.A. is operating as though Westbrook will be on the roster to start next season. That could change, of course, but it probably speaks more to how difficult it will be to move Westbrook than how the Lakers feel about the veteran point guard.

Pincus said the NBA execs he spoke with believe the Lakers would have to do one of two things to facilitate a Westbrook trade — take back huge contracts or include first-round picks in the deal. More specifically, L.A. would likely need to be willing to acquire veteran players who are signed for several more seasons with annual salaries of around $15-25 million.

Westbrook has a $47 million player option for next season. He will almost certainly exercise it. The 33-year-old did not look like a good fit with the Lakers in his first year, but they may have no choice but to try and make it work.

New Lakers head coach Darvin Ham recently revealed what he wants Westbrook to focus on this summer. At the moment, it appears more likely that the Lakers keep Westbrook than trade him.

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