Russell Westbrook

Rockets Open To Trading Wall For Westbrook, Draft Assets

The Rockets, who traded Russell Westbrook to the Wizards for John Wall and a future first-round pick during the 2020 offseason, would be amenable to reacquiring Westbrook from the Lakers if the deal included “sufficient draft compensation,” Marc Stein writes in his latest Substack column.

Stein hears from sources that Houston would want the Lakers’ 2027 first-round pick (the only first-rounder L.A. can trade due to the Stepien rule) in a Wall-for-Westbrook swap, though he says it’s possible the Rockets would accept multiple second-rounders.

This report doesn’t come as a surprise. After all, Wall has been inactive and on the trade block for a half-season already and there has been no indication the Rockets will be able to find a deal that nets them any positive assets for the veteran guard.

An eventual buyout appears to be the most likely resolution for Wall and the Rockets, so acquiring a player with a virtually identical contract (Wall and Westbrook are each earning $44MM+ this season, with a $47MM+ player option for 2022/23) and getting a draft pick or two in the process would be a massive win for Houston.

It may seem odd that the Rockets would have any interest in reacquiring Westbrook, given that they’re in the midst of a rebuild and their previous union with the nine-time All-Star didn’t work out especially well. But Westbrook almost certainly wouldn’t play any more for Houston than Wall has this season — any deal would be all about the draft assets. In other words, you could substitute any player’s name for Westbrook’s in the headline of this story and it would still be true.

While it’s easy to see why the Rockets would be motivated to explore another Wall/Westbrook swap, it’s harder to justify it from the Lakers’ perspective, a fact Stein acknowledges within his report.

As awkward a fit as Westbrook has been in Los Angeles, there’s no guarantee that Wall – who has dealt with a series of leg injuries in recent years and hasn’t played in a game since last April – would be any better. L.A. would also be selling extremely low on Westbrook, who came on strong during the second half of his first and only season in Washington in 2020/21.

[RELATED: Russell Westbrook “Surprised” By Crunch-Time Benching]

If the Lakers are willing to move their 2027 first-rounder and/or multiple second-round picks, there are better deals to be made. According to Stein, the Pistons haven’t shown any interest in trading Jerami Grant for a package of Talen Horton-Tucker, Kendrick Nunn, and the Lakers’ 2027 pick, but Grant is one of the hottest names on this season’s trade market — there will be other options available for Los Angeles that don’t involve the team rolling the dice on a player (Wall) whose 2021/22 cap hit ($44.3MM) exceeds his total games played over the last three seasons (40).

Russell Westbrook “Surprised” By Crunch-Time Benching

Lakers star Russell Westbrook told ESPN that he didn’t agree with the team’s decision to bench him during the deciding minutes of Wednesday’s loss to Indiana, writes ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Asked if he was surprised by the decision, Westbrook confirmed that he hadn’t been expecting it.

“Surprised, yes. I was disappointed I didn’t go back in, but I’m more disappointed that we lost the damn game,” Westbrook said. “I want to be able to be on the floor to help my teammates and be able to help our team win in games like that — but that was a decision that was made.”

As we outlined on Thursday, head coach Frank Vogel and his staff – with the support of management – opted to bench Westbrook with 3:52 left in the game after the nine-time All-Star continued to struggle with his shot and failed to execute on defense. Vogel later told reporters he was “playing the guys that I thought were going to win the game.”

Although Westbrook wasn’t thrilled by the decision, he suggested in comments to ESPN that he’s more concerned about the team’s win-loss record than his own role, adding that the Lakers have to “figure s— out and do what’s best for our team to win in the long run” and that he’s “committed to making this work.”

The 33-year-old was also upset with the perception that he left the arena on Wednesday without speaking to the media because he was angry about his benching. According to Wojnarowski, both Westbrook and the team said on Thursday that the organization had requested he skip a postgame interview.

“Ultimately, you have to be OK when s–t doesn’t go well and I’m OK,” Westbrook said. “I’ve done everything that’s been asked of me here, and I’ll continue to do so and ride this out as long as we can toward our ultimate goal — and that’s to win a championship.

“… I’m not the ultimate decision-maker of if it’s working — or if it’s not working. I’m OK with sacrificing some of the things that I’ve been able to do in this game to win, because that’s the most important part of this game. I’ve done everything they’ve asked me to do to this point.”

Westbrook’s numbers – including a scoring average of 18.5 PPG – are down across the board through 45 games with the Lakers, and the team has a sub-.500 record (22-23) after entering the preseason as conference favorites. Still, the veteran guard remains confident that both he and the club can turn things around.

“I want to get better as the season goes on, and I’ve got to take responsibility for the things I’m doing and how I’m making those around me better,” Westbrook said. “We have a legitimate chance to be able to win it all, and to do that, I’ll have to better — and I know that I will be.”

Lakers Notes: Vogel, Westbrook, Trade Targets, Johnson

Prior to the Lakers‘ game against Indiana on Wednesday night, head coach Frank Vogel addressed recent rumors about his tenuous job security, suggesting he’s unfazed by reports that state he’s on the hot seat and is being evaluated on a game-to-game basis.

“I don’t feel like I’m under siege,” Vogel said, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “It’s not hard to do my job; I’m very focused on the task at hand. I’ve always been that way.”

Although Vogel downplayed concerns about his status, his decisions down the stretch in the Lakers’ loss to the Pacers seemed to reflect some added urgency. As McMenamin writes in a separate story, Vogel removed nine-time All-Star Russell Westbrook from the lineup during crunch time after Westbrook continued to struggle with his shot and failed to execute on defense. Vogel said after the game he was “playing the guys that I thought were going to win the game.”

According to McMenamin, the Lakers’ coaching staff has been debating for weeks whether to remove Westbrook during late-game situations, but had hesitated due to concerns about how it would affect the guard’s psyche. The staff finally pulled Westbrook in the fourth quarter on Wednesday after receiving assurances from management that it supported the hard-line stance, sources tell ESPN.

Westbrook left the arena after the game without speaking to reporters, but it’s probably safe to assume he wasn’t thrilled to be on the bench for the final 3:52 of the loss. “Would you think that would bother Russ not being in a late game?” teammate LeBron James asked rhetorically when reporters pressed him on the subject.

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • James expressed no desire to see Vogel replaced when asked on Wednesday about the coaching situation. “Coaching staff has been great,” LeBron said, per McMenamin. “They put us in position to succeed, and it’s up to us to handle the business, so there’s always things that we all can do better, but there’s no blame.” Veteran forward Carmelo Anthony took a similar stance: “Frank’s not out there. It’s up to us to go out there and execute and play basketball and win some games.”
  • The decision to bench Westbrook adds even more intrigue to the ongoing Vogel saga, Bill Oram of The Athletic writes. Both Oram and Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported that Vogel’s job isn’t in immediate jeopardy and that the head coach is traveling with the team to Orlando for Friday’s game. The Magic have an NBA-worst 8-38 record, so it seems safe to assume a loss tomorrow wouldn’t bode well for Vogel.
  • In an article for Bleacher Report, Eric Pincus examines the Vogel situation and considers possible roster moves for the Lakers. Sources tell Pincus that Ben Simmons, Jerami Grant, Harrison Barnes, and Myles Turner are among the potential targets L.A. has looked at, but it’s hard to imagine the team having the ammunition to outbid rival suitors for any of those players.
  • Speaking to Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated, Lakers forward Stanley Johnson said he isn’t sure whether the Lakers will keep him beyond his second 10-day contract, but he’s trying to “give (his) best effort” to show he deserves a full-season commitment. Spears’ piece includes a few other interesting quotes from Johnson, including his account of how an “honest conversation” with Raptors president Masai Ujiri last year helped inspire him.

Pacific Notes: Westbrook, Lakers, LeBron, Moon, Ayton

Lakers star Russell Westbrook said he didn’t have a response to Magic Johnson‘s recent criticism of his team’s effort, Dave McMenamin of writes.

Johnson recently called out the team for a lack of enthusiasm, tweeting the following: After being blown out by the Nuggets 133-96, we as Lakers fans can accept being outplayed but we deserve more than a lack of effort and no sense of urgency. Owner Jeanie Buss, you deserve better.” When asked to comment, Westbrook was blunt in his response.

“I do not have a reaction,” he said. “Everybody is entitled, in this world, to their opinion. Regardless of what that it is. You can either take it and run with it or you can take it and put it in one ear and out the other or you cannot respond to it.

“Magic’s entitled to his opinion. And he’s not here every day. He’s not around us every day. He’s not aware of what’s going on internally with us and trying to figure things out. But I have no response to that. … Like I said, everyone in this world is entitled to their opinion and that’s that.”

Johnson spent his entire 13-year career with the Lakers, making the All-Star team 11 times and winning five NBA titles. He was also the team’s president of basketball operations from February of 2017 to April of 2019.

Here are some other notes from the Pacific Division:

  • Bill Oram of The Athletic further examines Johnson’s comments on the Lakers, noting that LeBron James has stayed publicly silent. Los Angeles has lost three straight games and owns just a 21-22 record. Anthony Davis has only played 27 games, while James has appeared in just 31.
  • Clippers guard Xavier Moon is showing he belongs on the team, Mirjam Swanson of the Orange County Register writes. As Hoops Rumors first reported, Los Angeles signed Moon to a third 10-day hardship deal last week, choosing to keep him after his impressive play. “I love his pace, he knows how to play … to come to a team like this and perform the way he has, it shows he’s a good player and that he’s definitely making a case that he belongs,” head coach Tyronn Lue said. “So it’s just good to see. He has a skill set and he just needed an opportunity and the opportunity we’ve given him, he’s definitely taking advantage of it.”
  • Suns center Deandre Ayton exited the team’s game against the Pistons early on Sunday, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic writes. Ayton suffered a right ankle sprain and didn’t return for the second half. It’s unclear how much time he may miss.

Westbrook Happy In L.A., Looks To Make Best Of Situation

Russell Westbrook approved a blockbuster trade to the Lakers during the offseason and he doesn’t regret it, despite a rocky first half of the season, Sam Amick of The Athletic reports.

Westbrook is frustrated by his inefficiency on offense, but he’s thrilled to spend so much time with his family. He grew up and lives in California.

“I get to see my kids, my family, my mom, my dad,” Westbrook said. “To me, that’s more important than anything else. I’m able to be home and be able to embrace them. They get to see me, and as they get older I get to see my kids every day and take them to school every morning. To me, that brings joy.”

Westbrook is still trying to find a way to mesh with two other superstars, LeBron James and Anthony Davis. He’s gotten used to being the No. 1 or 2 option and the transition to a reduced offensive role hasn’t gone smoothly. In fact, Westbrook’s production has nosedived this month. He’s averaging 12.4 PPG and 6.4 APG while shooting 29.3% from the field in five January games. He’s missed all 12 of his 3-point attempts.

“We’re all trying to figure it out as a team, as a unit, to be able to say, ‘OK, how can we figure this out?’” Westbrook said. “And I know I’m the one who has got to make the biggest sacrifice — and I understand that — so I’ve got to be able to figure out a way to be able to make the best out of it and make the best for this team and that’s it.”

Westbrook’s name has popped up in trade rumors but it will be almost impossible to move him. He’s got a $47MM player option for next season which he will undoubtedly exercise. That would scare away potential suitors, particularly with his struggles of late.

Westbrook is unconcerned about the possibility, slim as it may be, that he’ll be dealt before next month’s deadline.

“I never worry,” he said. “Do the job. Be professional. Every year, my name is in trade (rumors). It never, never, never seeps into how I approach what I do.”

Latest On Ben Simmons

Confirming a recent ESPN report, Sam Amick of The Athletic says the Sixers have indeed explored including Tobias Harris in a potential Ben Simmons trade, broaching the idea in discussions with at least the Hawks and Kings.

As Amick tweets, adding Harris to a Simmons trade is viewed by rival executives as a major obstacle, further complicating negotiations that were challenging to begin with. It has also made those execs continue to question how serious the 76ers are about making a Simmons deal in the coming weeks, since there remains a strong belief their preference would be to wait until the offseason to see if other stars become available.

Although it’s possible Simmons’ suitors will improve their offers by the February 10 trade deadline, Amick says many of those clubs are apprehensive about betting the farm on a player with so many question marks.

According to Amick, some interested teams view Simmons’ years-long “confidence issues” on the court as a separate matter from his recent mental health struggles. Additionally, while the length of Simmons’ contract (which runs through 2025) has been viewed by many as a plus, some clubs have concerns about it, Amick writes. Simmons won’t be able to bolt in free agency anytime soon, but he’ll also be owed $113MM+ over three seasons (2022-25), with no guarantee that he can be trusted to perform like “the best version of himself” for a new team.

Here’s more on the Simmons situation:

  • Agent Rich Paul met with Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey and GM Elton Brand today to discuss the situation, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link), who reports that neither side has changed its stance — Simmons is no closer to returning and the 76ers haven’t lowered their asking price.
  • Within Amick’s article, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic says the Timberwolves continue to talk to the Sixers about Simmons, but with Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards off-limits, they haven’t been able to meet Morey’s high asking price. According to Amick, multiple rival executives believe that as long as the Wolves technically remain in the running for Simmons, they won’t make any separate deals that might take them out of the mix.
  • The Sixers have “zero interest” in acquiring Russell Westbrook from the Lakers in a Simmons deal, sources tell Amick. That comes as no surprise — the Lakers’ interest in Simmons has been previously reported, but it never seemed realistic that L.A. could actually make it happen, given the team’s roster construction and limited assets.
  • In a pair of articles for, Kyle Neubeck considers whether the Hawks would make sense for the Sixers as a Simmons trade partner and unpacks the latest rumors about Harris. Neubeck doesn’t consider Atlanta an ideal fit unless Morey is willing to take back a package of good players instead of continuing to seek a star. He also views the Harris rumors as a sign of the 76ers doing their due diligence on every possible scenario rather than something the team is necessarily focused on.

Lakers Notes: Trent, Jordan, Bazemore, Monk, Westbrook

As part of their due diligence exploring the trade market, the Lakers have expressed interest in Raptors wing Gary Trent Jr., league sources tell Michael Scotto of HoopsHype.

The Lakers could theoretically put together an offer for Trent, who is earning $16MM, using Talen Horton-Tucker as the primary salary-matching piece. However, there has been no indication that the Raptors want to move on from the former Duke standout, who is one of Toronto’s most-used players (32 starts, 34.0 MPG), most reliable three-point shooters (.368 3PT%), and most active defenders (1.9 steals and 3.5 deflections per game).

Scotto acknowledges that a deal between the two teams appears unlikely for the time being.

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • Scotto also confirmed on the latest HoopsHype Podcast that the Lakers have made DeAndre Jordan and Kent Bazemore available, as ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported last week. According to Scotto, the Lakers aren’t interested in attaching a draft pick to move either player, so they’d likely need to use cash to grease the wheels if teams aren’t interested in Jordan or Bazemore on their own. Los Angeles can still trade up to $4,435,000 in cash during the 2021/22 league year.
  • Malik Monk has been a bright spot for an up-and-down Lakers team recently, averaging 20.0 PPG on .523/.475/.900 shooting in his last eight games. However, the better he plays, the more challenging it will be for L.A. to bring him back. As Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report outlines, unless they dip into their mid-level exception, the Lakers will be limited to offering Monk a Non-Bird raise of just 20% more than his minimum salary when he hits free agency.
  • Like teammate Carmelo Anthony has done in recent years, Lakers point guard Russell Westbrook has been asked to accept a lower-usage role this season and is still adjusting to it, writes Kyle Goon of the Southern California News Group. Westbrook’s 27.9% usage rate would be high for most players, but it’s the first time since 2009/10 that he’s registered a number below 30%.

Lakers Notes: Westbrook, Reaves, Nunn, Monk, Bradley

The Lakers exhibited some “covert interest” in discussing a possible Russell Westbrook trade with rival executives earlier in the season, sources tell Sam Amick of The Athletic.

Amick is the second reporter in the last month to suggest the Lakers have considered the possibility of a Westbrook trade. Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report previously stated that the team had internally discussed the idea and made at least one outgoing call.

Still, as Fischer pointed out in December and as Amick reiterated today, the odds of the Lakers actually making a pre-deadline deal involving Westbrook are slim. His contract, which includes a $44MM+ cap hit for this season and a $47MM+ player option for 2022/23, remains a significant obstacle.

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • Rookie guard Austin Reaves originally entered the Lakers’ rotation out of necessity, but even with a healthier roster, head coach Frank Vogel has felt compelled to keep playing him, writes Kyle Goon of the Southern California News Group. “Me trusting him was more brought onto me because he was forced into action due to injuries,” Vogel said. “You get shorthanded and it’s like, ‘Okay, let’s see what he can do.’ And he excelled in those opportunities to the point where when other guys came back, we still wanted to keep him in there.” Reaves’ 2021/22 salary will become fully guaranteed if he remains on the roster through Friday.
  • Within the same story, Goon writes that Kendrick Nunn may finally be nearing a return. Vogel cautioned there’s still no precise timetable, but said Nunn is “getting close” to make his Lakers debut. “Kendrick’s going to get a ton of minutes when he gets back healthy,” Vogel said. “It’s gonna be at the expense of somebody else, at least for that time being, to see how he fits in our system along with our stars. All that stuff will play out.”
  • Following Malik Monk‘s sixth consecutive strong showing on Tuesday night, LeBron James said the Lakers wanted Monk “last year” before eventually signing him over the summer as a free agent. As Bill Oram of The Athletic tweets, James explained that he wanted to find a way to get the former lottery pick to Los Angeles back when his role in Charlotte was inconsistent.
  • Jovan Buha of The Athletic explores the Lakers’ options for bringing back Stanley Johnson and suggests that Avery Bradley will likely have his 2021/22 salary guaranteed later this week.

Lakers Notes: Westbrook, LeBron, Monk, S. Johnson

Russell Westbrook is being criticized for a poor shooting night Saturday against the Nets, but LeBron James came to the defense of his teammate after the Lakers suffered their fifth straight loss, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN. Westbrook turned in another triple-double, but he shot just 4-of-20 from the field, committed five fouls and three turnovers, and missed a shot at the rim in the closing seconds of the game.

“He gave us extra possessions, he gave us a lot of looks around the basket, which I know that he can’t stand (failing to convert) as well,” James said. “But as far as the effort piece, if a guy plays hard, if a guy leaves it all out on the floor, I got no problem with that. It’s a make-or-miss league.”

L.A. sent three rotation players and a draft pick to the Wizards over the summer to acquire Westbrook, who they hoped would form a dangerous Big Three with James and Anthony Davis. However, the results have been mixed at best as the Lakers are 16-18 and Westbrook is averaging just 19.6 points per game, shooting 45.1% from the field and 30.4% from three-point range and committing 4.6 turnovers per night. There have been rumors that the front office has already discussed trading him, but his contract, which includes a $47.1MM player option for next season, makes that difficult.

“A big part of it is he just wants it so bad,” acting head coach David Fizdale said. “I mean, you can just see it in him, everybody does. He wants it so bad. And I know that’s just hard for him when it doesn’t work out. And I know he cares like crazy.”

There’s more on the Lakers:

  • L.A. is in danger of becoming the first franchise not to maximize James’ considerable talents, contends Bill Oram of The Athletic. LeBron’ presence used to mean an almost automatic trip to the NBA Finals, but apart from the title run in 2020, the Lakers haven’t won a playoff series since signing him and may be headed for another appearance in the play-in round.
  • The team got a boost from Malik Monk, who returned to the lineup Saturday after missing five games while in the health and safety protocols, per Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Monk learned he was in the protocols during the team’s recent road trip and wound up spending five days in Minnesota.
  • Appearing in his first game since signing a hardship contract, Stanley Johnson was happy to be back on the court and playing for his hometown team, Turner adds. “I kinda just like let it happen,” Johnson said. “I was in quarantine a day ago, like 36 hours ago … and I have barely time to do anything and they throw me in the game and I play a lot of minutes. I’m just, one, blessed and grateful to even be here right now and just learn as much as I can to be as useful as I can for this team.”

Pacific Notes: Westbrook, Thompson, R. Jackson, Hield

With three straight losses, an injured star, and COVID-19 affecting both the roster and the coaching staff, acting Lakers head coach David Fizdale feels like Russell Westbrook may be trying too hard to fix the situation by himself, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN. Westbrook has posted impressive numbers in the two games since Anthony Davis suffered an MCL sprain, averaging 21.0 points, 9.5 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 2.0 steals, but he’s also committed a combined 13 turnovers, which Fizdale said disrupts the offense.

“I think the circumstances over the last few games, with so many people being in and out, triggered in him that he had to save us,” Fizdale said.

Already dealing with a disappointing season at 16-16, the Lakers are now facing the uncertainty that many teams have felt since the latest COVID-19 outbreak began sweeping through the league two weeks ago. They’re scheduled to host the Nets on Christmas Day, but Brooklyn’s last three games have been postponed.

“You’re just taking it and living day to day, you just don’t know what’s going to happen,” Carmelo Anthony said. “We could wake up tomorrow morning and they could say our game tomorrow is canceled. … Again, we don’t know what’s gonna happen, so we’re taking it day to day and we’re just trying to stay on top of what we need to stay on top of. But as we can see, it’s affecting everybody. It’s affecting a lot of  different people, people who are vaccinated, people who do have boosters, so you just don’t know what’s going to happen.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Warriors players are raving about Klay Thompson after watching him in workouts, according to Shayna Rubin of The San Jose Mercury News. Thompson is expected to return sometime in January, and his teammates say he’s looking like the player he was before the injuries. “He’s always going to shoot the ball well, but he seems really confident in his body,” Kevon Looney said. “He’s going up for dunks. He’s playing physical and when you see that much confidence in him, it means he’s getting close to ready. It’s a joy to have in practice to have his energy back.”
  • Clippers guard Reggie Jackson entered the league’s health and safety protocols today, but he’s not experiencing any effects from the virus, tweets Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register. “Reggie says he feels fine, no symptoms, so that’s a good sign,” coach Tyronn Lue said. “Happy for him about that.”
  • With trade rumors heating up again for Buddy Hield, Mark Schindler of Basketball News examines three potential destinations for the Kings guard. Schindler suggests deals that would send Hield to the Magic, Grizzlies or Pistons.