Report utters LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis commit to Lakers Future.
Despite a disappointing first year as teammates, the Los Angeles Lakers’ Big 3 of LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook are reportedly planning on sticking together for the 2022-23 season.
Per Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, the three superstars had a phone conversation “with each expressing their commitment to one another and vowing to make it work.”
Westbrook, who is set to earn $47.1 million this season, has been the subject of trade speculation in recent weeks. He has been linked to a potential deal for Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving, whom the Lakers have reportedly been pursuing in an effort to reunite James with his championship-winning teammate from their run together with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Haynes reported that “the uncertainty of Westbrook’s future with the Lakers remains,” but the phone call “was organized to make sure all three were on the same page as long as they’re joined together in their pursuit of a championship.”
Los Angeles was expected to compete for a title last year but instead struggled with chemistry issues and injury woes that resulted in a 33-49 record and an 11th-place finish in the Western Conference. Westbrook, James and Davis appeared in only 21 games together, as the latter two-missed significant time throughout the year.
The Lakers hired Darvin Ham to replace Frank Vogel as head coach. The former Milwaukee Bucks assistant said during his introductory press conference that he expects Westbrook to play a big role on the team this year.
“Russ and I had some really, really great one-on-one convos, man, and the biggest word I think came out of that, those discussions, was ‘sacrifice,” Ham said. “I’m going to expect him to be the same tenacious, high-energy player that he’s been his entire career.”
However, there are rumors that if the New York Knicks swing a trade for Donovan Mitchell, the next move could be a deal for Russell Westbrook.
A source told Stein the Knicks would want to “explore scenarios to trade away Julius Randle” if they can acquire Mitchell. A swap for Westbrook could help clear the remaining three years of Randle’s initial four-year, $117 million contract signed last offseason after his All-Star campaign in 2020-21.
Westbrook is set to make $47.1 million in 2022-23 after opting into the final year of his contract with the Los Angeles Lakers.
As Stein noted, the Lakers will first try to use Westbrook in a trade for Kyrie Irving but could be interested in Randle as a secondary option.
Los Angeles could still be motivated to deal away Westbrook after a disappointing 2021-22 where the squad missed the playoffs with a 33-49 record. Randle could be a reasonable return in a trade, adding a double-double threat who played his first four years with the Lakers.
Though Randle struggled with consistency last year, he is averaging 22.1 points, 10.1 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game over his last two seasons with the Knicks. It could give the Lakers an added scoring boost behind James and Davis as the squad tries to get back into playoff contention.
The Knicks, meanwhile, likely would not even want Westbrook in the backcourt, as Stein reported, but would instead use the deal to shed payroll.
Randle’s contract alone is not enough to match salaries, but adding Evan Fournier or Derrick Rose to the deal would do it if the Lakers were to accept this type of package.
It could clear up space for an RJ Barrett contract extension with the guard heading into the final year of his contract. New York would then be able to build around Barrett, Mitchell, Jalen Brunson and Mitchell Robinson.
The first domino would still be swinging a trade for Mitchell.
While a commitment to one another is a strong step forward, the Lakers were not world-beaters last year with James, Westbrook and Davis on the floor together. Los Angeles has yet to prove it should be considered to be among elite teams in the West. It will take a commitment to defense and consistent effort for the Lakers to truly compete for a title this season.