At one point, it seemed both the Lakers and Russell Westbrook were ready to move on from each other.
But Los Angeles reportedly fired Frank Vogel in part because he got so little from Russell Westbrook. If Westbrook were a goner anyway, why would that affect Vogel’s ability to coach the team going forward?
Maybe Westbrook isn’t a goner, though.
More specifically, the notion of Russell Westbrook remaining part of their program is seeming more real all the time. Despite the widely held belief that the Lakers would find a way to trade Westbrook before the start of next season, sources say their coaching candidates have been asked to discuss how they would use him in their system during interviews. The takeaway for candidates, it seems, is that maximizing Westbrook’s presence after his disastrous 2021-22 season is considered an important part of this job.
The Lakers should be asking coaching candidates about how to use Westbrook. He has a severely negative-value contract. Dumping him would require surrendering assets. The Lakers already weren’t good enough. They can’t afford to use assets to unload. Los Angeles needs to use its assets to upgrade.
That said, I doubt another coach utilizes Westbrook well enough. The 33-year-old is difficult in every sense. With his athleticism declining, he’s not as good of a player overall as he used to be. His stylistic fit with LeBron James and Anthony Davis is poor. Westbrook seems resistant to a new role.
But if the Lakers find a coach who can get productivity from Westbrook, that’d be huge. The alternatives – keeping Westbrook with another coach who doesn’t reach him, trading Westbrook, waiving Westbrook – are all ugly.
It’s a longshot, but that’s all the Lakers have left available to them.