I haven’t seen a player mentioned in as many trade rumors in my 23-24 years of watching NBA basketball more than Russell Westbrook this past summer. I would’ve never predicted he would have ever been a Laker in his career in the NBA neither did I believe he would ever wear the same uniform as LeBron James in the 2010’s when he was in Oklahoma City. Rob Pelinka just received an extension which will keep him in Los Angeles the same amount of time as head coach Darvin Ham and the Lakers still have those 2 first round picks which will have immense value by the trade deadline this coming season. Unless a player the caliber of a Victor Wembanyama is available in the 2027 and 2029 NBA Draft if Rob Pelinka is looking to get LeBron James to the end like he said over the media the first round picks have to go along with Russell Westbrook if Kyrie Irving becomes available per say by the trade deadline. Kyrie Irving sure sounds like he has sky-high expectations for this coming season with the Brooklyn Nets and if things are looking shaky at the deadline Kyrie Irving is definitely the type to take the NBA for a spin and force his way to the Lakers for a reunion with LeBron James in Los Angeles.
Westbrook speaks of being more calculated this coming season and looking to attack the basket a lot more and cutting down on turnovers but I just don’t buy into him being a good enough defender to help the Lakers win a championship. Darvin Ham is quite frankly being delusional about being able to pull a miracle off with Russell Westbrook not noticing the 2010’s are behind us and if Westbrook can’t be a game changer offensively in the playoffs the Lakers will have no shot at a championship. They could make the playoffs with Russell Westbrook but suffer at best a loss in the Conference Finals which wouldn’t be bad for a team most aren’t even pegging to be a top 5 seed in the West but if LeBron wants to win at least one more title as a Laker before 2024 when he can opt out of his contract Westbrook has to go. He couldn’t get it right with Durant,Beal,Harden,George,or Carmelo and I know LeBron is a top 3 player all-time but he’s not the superhuman he once used to be in Miami. And yes LeBron James continues to add to his game even as he approaches 38 years old but he can no longer cover 85-90 percent of a team’s deficiencies like he once did.
If LeBron James was in his absolute prime Russell Westbrook’s decline would not matter and LeBron would carry the Lakers to a championship this coming season but that is no longer the case. Fathertime can’t be beat and yes LeBron James is defying time but I willingly admit he is at a point in his playing career where he actually needs an actual team around him, it’s the vibe I always felt ever since he decided to sign with the Lakers. I thought LeBron signed with the Lakers because he was ready to defer to Lonzo Ball,Brandon Ingram,and Kyle Kuzma and play more of a complimentary role being that he just came off a playoff run in which he played at GOAT level and it never mattered in the end since he was overwhelmed by the high-power Warriors led by Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. Bringing over Anthony Davis didn’t change that thinking even if he shipped away the young core for the proven superstar big man, it was evident in the 2020 NBA Playoffs in The Bubble and also the 2021 NBA Playoffs. You got the urge LeBron was going to rely on Davis in the first round against Phoenix and ramp it up as the Lakers advanced and the whole plan was thrown off after Davis suffered an injury which ultimately killed the Lakers momentum.
Back to Russell Westbrook he is making big business moves in Los Angeles but the last thing anyone would ever think is Russell Westbrook signing an extension with the Los Angeles Lakers anytime soon. The likely plan for the Lakers this coming season is have Russell Westbrook come off the books and make a run at Kyrie Irving next summer but the more likely outcome for 2022-2023 is enjoying watching LeBron James make history as a Laker surpassing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the all-time scoring list and quite possibly winning a 5th League MVP which would certainly strengthen his case as the GOAT. The one thing about the Laker fanbase is that in spite of being in a whirlpool of mediocrity for close to 7-8 seasons even while former Laker legend Kobe Bryant was there is that they expect to win championships and being that LeBron James chose to be a Laker his fans have to endure the comparisons that come from Kobe Bryant fans who saw him give his blood,sweat,and tears for 20 plus years and win multiple rings in spite of the odds being stacked against him.
I can’t envision a world in which Russell Westbrook and LeBron James are hoisting a Larry O’Brien trophy together shocking the NBA world after everyone counted them out going into the 2022-2023 season. There is just way too much competition in the way for Westbrook and LeBron to figure things out and even if they did Davis’s availability will always be in question. With rising superstars Luka,Zion,Tatum,Booker,Morant,Edwards,Jokic,and Giannis all looking to make their marks in the NBA and become future NBA legends if LeBron James wants to win another championship in the NBA he better get it right this season. There is no longer a big margin for error or a rinse-repeat option in LeBron’s career so I fully expect Westbrook to be gone by the trade deadline along with at least one of those future draft picks in exchange for a game changer and it won’t even have to be Kyrie Irving, maybe Draymmond Green becomes available and his relationship with the Warriors organization grows sour. After almost putting fellow teammate Jordan Poole in coma with a huge blow during practice, that was an act which could be irreversible leaving the Warriors with no choice but to move the troubled forward in hopes of improving team chemistry once again.
Watching Max Christie and Scottie Pippen Jr briefly over the past few months leads me to think Darvin Ham will be forced to increase their minutes throughout this coming season and Russell Westbrook will become more and more expendible as the season prolongs. Both Max Christie and Scottie Pippen Jr are guards that can play both ends of the floor and seem like they’ll fit in better with the offense Darvin Ham will look to run. They can both play off the ball and do exactly what Darvin Ham is asking of Russell Westbrook, I quite frankly believe Darvin Ham asking Russell Westbrook to be a shooter off the ball and buy in defensively is like asking Tom Brady to go out there and play safety for the Tampa Bam Buccaneers just not happening. Westbrook is sitting on $47 million dollars this coming season, he has a beautiful family and countless amounts of business investments he will be just fine we might just have to accept he’ll likely never win a championship in the NBA much like former legend Allen Iverson who had a similar fate.