Lakers’ Only Chance to Get Rid of Russell Westbrook May Be a Last-Resort Option

Over the last couple of months, the writing has been on the wall that the Los Angeles Lakers desire to move star point guard Russell Westbrook. The homecoming experience has been anything but enjoyable for Westbrook due to his struggles to find his footing, while his play has made him and his contract seemingly unmovable.

The Lakers’ failed trade attempts before last month’s deadline further underlined the challenging route ahead to part ways with the nine-time All-Star. All that may force the franchise to utilize a last-resort option to cement Westbrook’s departure.

Tension rising between Russell Westbrook and the Lakers

Lakers point guard Russell Westbrook reactst to a play during a game.
Lakers point guard Russell Westbrook reacts to a play during an NBA game. | Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Lakers’ tumultuous 2021-22 season has predictably led to Westbrook receiving the brunt of the blame.

As the former league MVP continues to stumble through his first campaign in Los Angeles, it’s has given way to tensions mounting behind the scenes. Westbrook has publicly remained headstrong that he will help the Lakers get on track toward NBA title contention.

Meanwhile, his recent puzzling remarks about having no expectations drew intense ire from Hall of Famer Magic Johnson. The discussion has also shifted toward management airing the desire to move Westbrook to the bench

These various issues all foreshadow an inevitable departure despite how difficult the pathway ahead appears. The Lakers possess a last-ditch option to move the struggling point guard.

Lakers’ only chance to get rid of Russell Westbrook may be a last-resort option

If the lack of league interest in Westbrook before last month’s deadline is any indication of his trade market ahead, the Lakers are in for a massive headache.

The star point guard will likely exercise the $47 million player option he holds for the 2022-23 campaign. Although the massive remaining contract presents a considerable hurdle, Sam Amick and Bill Oram of The Athletic pointed out that the Lakers still hold the option of using the stretch provision.

“As for Westbrook, who has one season left on his deal worth $47 million, it’s hard to imagine him returning next season,” Oram and Amick wrote “Yet while there are strong signs that his exit is a foregone conclusion, his contract remains massive and it always takes two to tango. The Lakers could choose to waive and stretch Westbrook’s deal as well (for salary cap purposes, his remaining money would be applied to the next three seasons).”

Los Angeles can certainly use that route, but the downside is that his $47 million would count against the cap for up $15.68 million in each of the following three seasons. The move would move Westbrook, but his financial impact would be felt significantly by financially limiting the organization.

The 33-year-old could help the Lakers out by sacrificing a significant chunk in a buyout. However, that route doesn’t seem likely as Westbrook will want to squeeze out all the remaining portion of his contract.

Los Angeles remains focused on winning the 2022 NBA title

As mind-numbingly frustrating as the situation has become, the Lakers remain focused on vying for the 2022 NBA title.

Los Angeles sits in the ninth spot in the Western Conference standings, five games behind the eighth-seeded Los Angeles Clippers. There is a steep uphill battle ahead, but 19 games left to make up ground and gather much-needed momentum.

Westbrook’s tenure may be on limited time, but the remaining schedule gives him to showcase his ability. His day considered as a No. 1 option may be past him, but he has much to gain in the final month or so of the regular season.

The Lakers’ pathway ahead doesn’t look promising, but the franchise has the opportunity to change that narrative with LeBron James leading the charge and if Anthony Davis returns.

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