Saturday, January 28 2023

If Russell Westbrook is still a member of the Lakers come late September, the team’s media day — and pretty much every day that follows — will be a circus. Even by the standards of a franchise where the heat of an intense media spotlight is the norm, a franchise that dealt with the drama of Shaq and Kobe, this year could feel wildly unhinged.

Does that put pressure on the Lakers to find a deal before camp opens? In his Lakers’ mailbag at The Athletic, Jovan Buha put it well, calling the start of training camp a “soft deadline.”

… there will come a time in which the Lakers have to decide if they’re willing to continue to play hardball and risk missing their window to trade Westbrook. There is a sense among some that training camp is a soft deadline to move Westbrook. If he’s on the roster in late September, there will be a massive off-court distraction, with the media asking about his future, his relationship with James and the organization, Ham’s vision of his role and responsibilities.

This isn’t going to go away. That’s not the primary reason the Lakers should trade Westbrook — it’s because he’s not performing up to his gigantic contract and is a subpar fit as a third option — but it’s certainly an ancillary motivation.

The Lakers have refused to put both of their available first-round picks — 2027 and 2029 — in any trade offer so far, most notably for Brooklyn’s Kyrie Irving or Indiana’s duo of Buddy Hield and Myles Turner. (The Lakers reportedly would prefer the Irving trade, but the Nets want to deal with the Kevin Durant trade request before turning to Irving, so that remains on the back burner.)

If Rob Pelinka wants to get a Westbrook trade done before the soft deadline of media day — and very likely at any point, including in February at the trade deadline — it will take both picks. Are the Lakers sticking to their guns on this one and keeping at least one of those picks, or are they willing to go all in? If LeBron James signs a contract extension (meaning he is not a free agent after this season), are the Lakers more comfortable throwing both picks in a deal?

Or is media day going to be a rash of questions about LeBron’s relationship with Westbrook, and how new coach Darvin Ham plans to get Westbrook to play defense and make sacrifices Frank Vogel could not? Followed by a training camp and season with nearly daily stories about Westbrook trades and how he is meshing this season.

Whatever happens, it will be another wild season in Los Angeles.

Check out more on the Lakers

Report: Lakers, Knicks, Jazz talked massive Westbrook, Mitchell trade LeBron, Lakers reportedly have “productive” talks toward contract… Family at heart of decision for LeBron on Lakers contract extension

Will start of training camp be a “soft deadline” for Lakers to trade Westbrook? originally appeared on NBCSports.com

Source: Yahoo Sports

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