Los Angeles Lakers Sit Russell Westbrook Just Before the Trade Deadline
Hours leading up to the Los Angeles Lakers’ unthinkable loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday, all eyes that weren’t centered around the James Harden rumors connected to Philadelphia and Brooklyn was focused on every possible scenario the Lakers had to trade Russell Westbrook at the deadline by 3:00 EST Thursday afternoon.
It was reported that Westbrook was held out of the game just before the game due to back tightness, marking the first game he has missed this season. Some fans and media believed that Westbrook was not playing to avoid serious injury in case the Lakers could make a deal. Coach Frank Vogel skirted the question when The Athletic’s Bill Oram asked about Westbrook being potentially moved.
Frank Vogel, asked directly by @billoram if there’s a scenario in which Russell Westbrook isn’t on the team after tomorrow: “If there’s way to improve our team, we’ll improve our team. I’ve got nothing else to say about the trade deadline.”
— Sean Highkin (@highkin) February 10, 2022
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Westbrook had the same back issue when the Lakers lost 131-116 to the Milwaukee Bucks. After trying to play through the pain, he was subbed out with 2 minutes and 34 seconds remaining in the third quarter, never returning.
Westbrook felt the same tightness in his back on Tuesday night vs. Milwaukee, but played through it — and ultimately felt too much discomfort on a back-to-back vs. Portland tonight, sources tell ESPN. https://t.co/W19CA3QyWn
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 10, 2022
Despite the widespread rumors, many believe that the Lakers will not be able to trade Westbrook for the assets they want. There aren’t many teams willing to take on Westbrook’s $44.2 million tab this season or his $47.1 million player option for next season. John Wall’s almost identical contract of $44.3 million and a $47.4 million player option for the following season is the only scenario that makes sense, but with a price.
The Houston Rockets reportedly will make the deal only if the Lakers are willing to give up their 2027 first-round pick and possibly more assets. Lakers executives have already panned the idea to give up the team’s draft picks to finish out the decade just to get rid of him.
Westbrook is averaging 18.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 7.6 assists this season.