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Report: Lakers Explored Trading Russell Westbrook Away Earlier This Season

Russell Westbrook

Russell Westbrook has drawn a lot of attention during his first two months with the Los Angeles Lakers, where he's had more downs than ups, struggling to mesh with his new team and earning a lot of criticism from fans and analysts alike. 

The Lakers were pretty confident this was a good move, especially after LeBron James and Anthony Davis reportedly gave the green light, but so far, things have gone wrong for the Purple and Gold, who rank 7th in the Western Conference standings with a 20-19 record. 

Westbrook is still trying to find his place on the team, but many people are still asking the Lakers to get rid of him and trade for role players. According to Sam Amick of The Athletic, they studied that possibility earlier this season. 

Meanwhile, in Lakers Land, where LeBron James and Anthony Davis spent the summer interviewing a variety of star players who they hoped would lighten their workload, it’s Russell Westbrook’s presence that has proven to be so problematic. It’s still an awkward fit between Westbrook and the Lakers, to say the least — especially with his massive salary slot ($44.2 million this season, $47 million player option for next season).

But it’s James’ greatness (averaging 34.3 points, 9.8 rebounds, 5.9 assists in the past nine games) and the emergence of minimum-salary addition Malik Monk since he became a starter five games ago (20.8 points on 55.6 percent shooting overall and 45.9 percent from 3 on 7.4 attempts per game) that has kept them afloat without Davis. Just take a peek at the on-off splits during this Davis-less stretch.

James (last nine games): plus-2.7 net rating on; minus-17.7 off (20.4 swing).

Westbrook (last nine games): minus-0.5 on; minus-8.2 off (7.7 swing).

And then there’s Monk, the former No. 11 pick out of Kentucky in 2017 whose story has — like his game — caught fire of late: plus-13 on; minus-1.9 (14.9 swing) during his five-game starting stretch.

All of which explains why sources say the Lakers showed some covert interest in discussing a possible Westbrook trade with rival executives earlier this season. A deal appears extremely unlikely before the Feb. 15 trade deadline, if only because his deal that was once seen by so many as untradeable is such a massive obstacle. But inside the Lakers, it seems, there is some recognition that this hasn’t gone as (James and Davis had) planned.

The Lakers are winning games despite Russell Westbrook, not thanks to him, which has become a major issue for them. Brodie recently recorded his first game with no turnovers in five years, which could be the hope the Lakers need to enter a good streak in the third month of competition. 

If nothing changes for the 2017 NBA MVP, the Lakers could look to trade him before the deadline. Even though that seems unlikely right now, the Lakers can make those surprising moves when nobody expects them to do them.