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Russell Westbrook return to Los Angeles Lakers in 2022 is reportedly more likely

Nearly a year removed from the Russell Westbrook trade, the Los Angeles Lakers find themselves needing to overhaul the roster and coaching staff for the 2022-’23 NBA season. While many long assumed that meant Westbrook leaving Los Angeles, that might no longer be the case.

The Lakers explored trade options during the season but ultimately kept the highly-paid guard. With the arrival of the NBA offseason came speculation about potential landing spots for Westbrook, with Los Angeles seemingly in desperate need of a deal and everyone seeking a fresh start.

It’s a huge part of the Lakers’ coaching search, too. As the front office meets with multiple candidates, those interested in the gig are curious about the team’s plans with Westbrook. For those operating under the belief the former All-Star point guard would be traded, that might no longer be the case.

Related: 3 ideal Russell Westbrook trades for Los Angeles Lakers

According to Sam Amick of The Athletic, there is now an increasing belief that Westbrook sticks with the Lakers next season. Fueling the idea is the coaching search itself, with candidates being asked about the utilization of the veteran guard.

“More specifically, the notion of Russell Westbrook remaining part of their program is seeming more real all the time. 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.”

The Athletic’s Sam Amick on Russell Westbrook’s role being part of Los Angeles Lakers coaching search

Westbrook expressed plenty of frustration towards the end of last season about the Lakers’ season. However, the strong belief is that his issues with the franchise were largely directed at former coach Frank Vogel. With Vogel now gone, a new leader could seemingly change things.

Another thing to keep in mind, Lakers’ greats Phil Jackson and Magic Johnson are giving input to the front office this summer. It’s also reported that Jackson is fond of Los Angeles retaining Westbrook, confident he could turn things around.

While Vogel’s system is being blamed for what happened last season, the Lakers might simply be doubling down on a bet everyone else knew would end badly. However, minimal trade assets and no cap space prevent this team from making the necessary moves to really change things.

If Westbrook is playing for the Lakers next season, regardless of who coaches the team, we’ll likely see more of the same and it will be another disappointing year for the fan base.