It wasn’t too long ago that Los Angeles Lakers fans were pretty much begging the front office to trade away Russell Westbrook. The former league MVP has since turned his season around and he’s established himself as a key piece for the team coming off the bench. All of a sudden, calls for Russ’ ouster got a whole lot tamer.
One of the teams that were rumored to be in the mix for Westbrook was the Indiana Pacers. Buddy Hield and Myles Turner were supposedly the two players the Lakers coveted. The deal obviously never came to fruition, though, with reports suggesting that LA balked at the prospect of sending draft capital to Indiana as part of the deal.
As it turns out, however, Victor Wembanyama may have played a key role in the botched deal as well. According to NBA insider Dave McMenamin of ESPN, a potential trade with the Pacers was made more complicated by the notion that Indiana was unwilling to join the race for the highly-touted French phenom:
The Pacers’ owner, real estate mogul Herb Simon, is 88 years old. While most league governors value chasing championships above all else and prefer rebuilds over mediocrity, the Lakers aren’t convinced Simon would dismantle a winning team to tank for the No. 1 draft prospect in Victor Wembanyama, sources said, preferring to enjoy a competitive group in his autumn years.
The Pacers have been one of the biggest surprises in the league this season. Now at 11-8, they are currently fourth in the East. The fact that this team has been competitive and now has a real shot at making the playoffs seems to have deterred their front office from trading away their stars. This does not bode well for the Lakers and their hopes to bring Hield and Turner to Hollywood.
McMenamin notes in his report, however, that the deal still isn’t dead. Something could materialize in the coming months as we approach the February trade deadline, especially if the Pacers start falling in the standings.