Lakers insiders are pushing coach Frank Vogel to bench Russell Westbrook amid “defiance” from the under-fire $60 million star, which means it’s “impossible” he’ll be back next year.
Westbrook, who is averaging 18.1 points, 7.7 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 3.9 turnovers, has found it difficult to fit alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis (when healthy).
But given his salary and stature in the game, the Lakers’ lack of depth other than their big names, it has been difficult to suggest to Westbrook that it would help the team if he was coming off the bench.
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“Jousting with reporters in press conferences is apparently not the lone source of pushback these days from under-fire guard Russell Westbrook,” former ESPN and New York Times writer Marc Stein said in his Substack column.
“There has been no shortage of defiance behind the scenes, I’m told, when coaches and teammates have tried to broach changes in role or approach with the former MVP.
“For all the obvious complexities involved in trying to move Westbrook when he’s owed a whopping $47 million ($A63.8 million) next season at age 34, one league source described the idea of bringing him back next season as “impossible” based on current tension levels.
“The question then becomes: If the Lakers can’t construct a palatable trade, do they try to just buy Westbrook out? Or waive and stretch him?”
But there is a continued push from inside the Lakers organisation to bump Westbrook to the bench, leading to a tense film session on Friday (US time), according to ESPN.
“The coaching staff and Westbrook have had differing visions on how best to utilize the 2017 NBA Most Valuable Player,” Adrian Wojnarowski wrote.
Asked about Westbrook’s starting role, Frank Vogel said on Friday: “We have discussions, just like the front office has thousands of trade discussions every deadline, and they don’t discuss every one of those.
“Most of them don’t come to fruition. And that’s where we’re at with Russ. Is there a path where that’s the better option? We have talked about that. We’ve talked about everything we can do with our team.
“We’re not there.”
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The Lakers’ win over Golden State on Sunday (AEDT), inspired by LeBron James’ 56 points, was just their fourth win in their last 15 games.
Westbrook has a player option on his contract for next season which could see him take home $US47 million ($A63.8 million).
“My role and what I’m doing has changed every single night,” Westbrook said on Thursday night.
“So I’m just trying to figure that out as I’m playing and to be able to benefit and help my team.”