The 2021-22 Los Angeles Lakers season quickly turned into a total disaster. While there's plenty of blame to go around, Russell Westbrook is bearing the brunt of it. There were rumors ahead of the trade deadline about moving Westbrook, and while that didn't happen, that chatter hasn't stopped. Given how things have played out, it's hard to see Westbrook being on the Lakers in 2022-23.
The problem is just how to get Westbrook off the roster. He has a player option worth over $47 million next season, which he's not going to turn down. Trading him will still be tough and would likely require using a draft pick or picks to incentivize the receiving team. The Lakers could look to waive-and-stretch his salary over three seasons, but ESPN's Ramona Shelburne says they're “disinclined” to do that.
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How about a buyout? Shelburne reports, as of right now, Westbrook is unlikely to be amenable to a buyout agreement:
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.
This all makes for a tricky situation as the Lakers look to reshape their roster after this disaster. While Westbrook isn't a bad player, he's just not the right fit and it's hard to see how he can come back after everything that has gone down this season. Los Angeles is going to have to figure out this problem this summer.