The Lakers are heading into an important offseason, looking to potentially undo so much of what they did in the last one. As badly as the Russell Westbrook experience has gone in Los Angeles, DeMar DeRozan, one of his purported alternatives, is coming off of a career-year in Chicago.
Those two players are the main subjects of the latest reports and headlines.
Russell Westbrook to run it back in LA
While it’s not necessarily a new story, yet another report popped up about the Lakers’ intentions for Russell Westbrook next season. The tides continue to turn from early in the offseason as Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report reported that the franchise is putting out signs that Westbrook will be a Laker next season.
Will health and a coaching change be enough for the Los Angeles Lakers to rebound from a disastrous season? We may find out soon enough as sources close to the team, along with several competing executives, believe the Lakers are operating as if Russell Westbrook will be on the roster to start next season.
The biggest difference in Pincus’ reporting is that it’s including sources from outside the Lakers. Opposing teams are starting to believe the Lakers are keeping Westbrook, which is either solidifying their leverage or cementing their questionable decision.
Outside of that, none of this is different from the reporting that came out as recently as Sunday from Kyle Goon of the OC Register. The Lakers are making their stated intentions pretty clear, and now it’s a waiting game to understand their intended end of those projections.
LeBron James really wanted DeMar DeRozan
There’s been nothing sillier in the wake of last season than watching the Lakers and Klutch Sports blame each other for the Russell Westbrook situation. At the time the deal went down, everyone was gung-ho about it and taking joint credit.
Now, no one wants any part of it. The latest example comes from the newest podcast episode of “Naked with Cari Champion” in which she spoke about running into LeBron last offseason.
In fairness, LeBron and Klutch probably didn’t specifically tell anyone to put this story back out there. But it doesn’t change the general point that both sides have made sure they had outs in place to absolve themselves of blame.
The front office has blamed the pressure from Klutch as the reason the deal was done. Klutch has repeatedly mentioned DeMar DeRozan as someone they had an eye on. It’s a silly game in which both sides are at fault, and finger-pointing after the fact doesn’t fix the problem.
One less Westbrook trade suitor?
On Monday, the Thunder traded for JaMychal Green, using their cap space to take on his salary while swapping some draft picks. How does this relate to the Lakers?
Well, Oklahoma City was an intriguing potential landing spot for Russell Westbrook due to their ability to absorb his salary into their cap space without needing to send out matching contracts. Discarding Russ without taking on incoming money would have given the Lakers a lot more cap space and a really big trade exception. But this trade for Green means there isn’t enough cap space to do that trade anymore.
Oklahoma City uses a portion of their remaining cap space this season to process this deal. They’ll have $23.4M remaining in cap space after taking in JaMychal Green.
Denver will generate a $8.2M TPE. If avoiding next year’s luxury tax is the goal, they still have work to do. https://t.co/CR6E0j3sGv
— Yossi Gozlan (@YossiGozlan) June 13, 2022
Technically, there is a small window the Thunder could aggregate Green’s contract in a trade, but given all the signs the Lakers have put out — literally the first section of this roundup — it’s unlikely they are really prepared to move quickly enough to do that.
OKC was always more of a theoretical trade destination and not one that had really been mentioned in rumors, but this pretty much confirms that any trade the Lakers make for Russ will see them take back hefty contracts.
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