The two big questions facing the Lakers this offseason are very much intertwined: deciding whether or not to trade Russell Westbrook and hiring a new head coach. Despite Westbrook’s struggles to succeed alongside Anthony Davis and LeBron James this past season, a recent report by The Athletic’s Sam Amick suggests that how the Lakers are handling their head coaching could indicate their future Russ plans.
According to Amick, a key part of the Lakers head coaching interviews has been how a candidate would better utilize Russell Westbrook next season.
“Despite the widely held belief that the Lakers would find a way to trade Westbrook before the start of next season, sources say their coaching candidates have been asked to discuss how they would use him in their system during interviews. The takeaway for candidates, it seems, is that maximizing Westbrook’s presence after his disastrous 2021-22 season is considered an important part of this job.”
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That Amick nugget goes hand-in-hand with an earlier article by the writer, and a quote from LA Times’ Bill Plaschke during an episode of the Doug Gottlieb Show last week, that Phil Jackson, who’s advising Jeanie Buss and the Lakers front office, wants to keep Westbrook on the roster.
Here’s how Plaschke put it:
“I’ve heard that Phil would like LeBron traded. I’ve just heard that, but I’ve got nothing to back that up. No on-the-record stuff to back that up. I do know that Phil would like to keep Westbrook and try to make that work with him.”
Many fans are clamoring for the Lakers to send Westbrook, and his expiring $47M contract, elsewhere this summer. Russ hasn’t officially opted in for the final year of his contract, but it’s almost a certainty that he does. Not many 33-year-old guards are going to turn down that type of money.
From it sounds like, the Lakers are leaning towards making it work with Westbrook next season.