As has become the norm for disgruntled athletes in 2022, now Los Angeles Lakers point guard Russell Westbrook is the latest to erase all mentions of his current team off his Instagram social media profile.
To many, this is a sign of what’s expected to come in the offseason as the Lakers find a way to move past a disastrous year in which they missed the playoffs despite having championship expectations. The over/under on their expected win total was set at 52.5 wins, which would have tied for the fourth-best standing in the Western Conference.
Of course we now know the Lakers fell well short of their goals, only winning 33 games. This letdown led to the team parting ways with head coach Frank Vogel.
At the heart of their issues stood Westbrook, a nine-time member of the All-NBA team. Despite acquiring the two-time scoring champ in August, by February there were already rumors of him being available at the trade deadline.
- Russell Westbrook stats (2021-22): 18.5 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 7.1 APG, 3.7 turnovers, .476 eFG%
Now after a year of struggles out in L.A. rumors have continued to circulate, and have only gotten stronger since the season’s end. At this point, the expectation is for the Lakers to move on from Westbrook, even if it means reaching a buyout if his trade market is still as cold as before.
What’s next for Westbrook, Lakers?
He knows his days in L.A. are done, which is unfortunate for Westbrook, being that the area is his home. But performance matters in the NBA and his effort wasn’t up to the standards the Lakers expected out of him. Once the offseason officially opens, allowing trades to take place, Westbrook could be one of the first ones out the door, but making a deal won’t be easy.
- Russell Westbrook contract: $47 million
Teams generally aren’t in a rush to trade for declining athletes whose skills are rapidly deteriorating, such as the 33-year-old Westbrook. He proved ineffective on a team full of stars, what happens when Westbrook is asked to take a secondary role once again? Will he push back and pout, or will he rise to the occasion? That’s the big question NBA front offices are likely trying to figure out this offseason.
It could come down to the Lakers being forced with a decision, do they want another awkward year of Westbrook lurking around, or do they bite the bullet and reach a buyout agreement just to get him off the team, taking roughly a $15 million cap hit over the next three seasons instead? Whatever happens, don’t expect to see Westbrook teamed up with Anthony Davis and LeBron James for another run in 2022-23.