While the Lakers seem particularly motivated to trade Russell Westbrook, they also know it’s becoming a near-impossible quest.
So with that in mind, it seems as if Westbrook will at least start the season in LA. And if that’s the case, new coach Darvin Ham will have to carve out a role for Westbrook, finding a way to help him fit next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
That is something former coach Frank Vogel failed to do, and could very well serve as Ham’s greatest challenge. Again, that is assuming Westbrook is still on the team.
For now, though, it appears the Lakers remain reluctant to ship out both of their available first-rounders in 2027 and ’29 just to move Westbrook, as Stein noted. Instead, they would want another immediate upgrade to the roster if they are to part ways with their picks.
Recently, the Lakers have been linked to the Jazz, with Stein suggesting they could use their first-rounders to help facilitate a Donovan Mitchell trade to another team. That scenario would allow LA to trade away Westbrook, per Stein.
If that or other things don’t work out, though, Ham and the Lakers will have no choice but to make the best of an awkward situation that would include a Westbrook return.
Ham spoke on Westbrook when he first took the job back in July.
“I’m thrilled to coach Russ. They try to dump on Russ, I’m like that was one of the things that got me excited about this job,” Ham revealed in an interview with Showtime, via Anthony Gharib of Lakers Nation. “He and I have had a great great rapport since I’ve taken over the job man. Just text messages, phone calls, dinners. I locked in, I cornered his ass outside the elevator over at the Encore.
“He and I had a great conversation then. We all know what comes along with this business man. People throwing your name in trade rumors. I’ve been in the league since ’96 man. I don’t know anybody that’s been on any team that hasn’t had their name thrown in a trade rumor or been traded.
“As a coach, they’ll be saying they ready to fire me, the media be saying they ready to fire me in a year, year and a half. Well, you can’t help but hear the noise sometimes. You just got to stay solid, do what you do and you’ll win in the end every time. I witnessed it with him.”