Now that his 2021/22 NBA season is almost done, Russell Westbrook has been named in several rumors around the league. His fit with LeBron James wasn't good at all, and even though he's stated he wants to run it back in Los Angeles with James and Anthony Davis, the Lakers might be thinking about parting ways with the former MVP.
It was reported that the team hasn't ruled out waiving Westbrook and stretching his contract to avoid paying him $45+ million at once. They could agree to a buyout, but that option isn't appealing to Brodie. The point guard is reportedly uninterested in buying out the final year of his contract, as he knows the stigma that comes with it.
According to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, people close to Westbrook don't think he will agree to that and will try to find an alternative for his future.
One option: Westbrook considering a buyout of the final year of his contract, but at least for now, sources close to the 2017 MVP expressed pessimism he would do that,” ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne wrote.
Westbrook is a prideful man. His swagger is both his sword and his shield, and he will not lay them down lightly. He is wary of the stigma that comes with accepting a buyout, one source close to him explained. But he also still believes he can contribute to a team at a high level.
But there is no easy way to change the core group of James, Davis and Westbrook. The Lakers were reluctant to incentivize a trade for Westbrook by adding in their 2027 first-round pick at the trade deadline, especially when they have so few future draft assets to trade following the acquisition of Davis in 2019. Sources said they are similarly disinclined to tie up their salary cap in the future via a waive-and-stretch provision after finally completing the waive-and-stretch deal for Luol Deng this season ($5 million of the Lakers' cap in 2021-22 was dead money from Deng's deal).
The Charlotte Hornets have been mentioned as potential suitors for Westbrook's services in the offseason. However, they couldn't be the only option for Brodie. Some reports suggest he could be exchanged for John Wall, too, so it's not like he'll miss options this summer. Time will tell how this situation plays out, but this is the NBA and anything can happen.