Was a Procedurebut it has already been fulfilled: Russell Westbrook, how could it be otherwise, will execute the player option which will allow him to cover the last season of his contract for 47.1 million dollars. The problem now, of course, is with the Lakers, who in any case already had this.
It was unthinkable that a player with a market value currently below minimum would give up such a guaranteed amount. Only Stephen Curry (48 million) has a higher salary in the 2022-23 season. James Harden in principle will take advantage of his player option of 47.3 to continue in the Sixers and John Wall did the same with his 47.3 but has already negotiated a buyout with Houston Rockets for which he will forgive more than six million for the Texas franchise and will sign (supposedly for an amount similar to that which he stops charging) with the Los Angeles Clippers. And everyone happy.
This was the only possible scenario after a horrible season for Westbrook, individually and also collectively. A nightmare on the road to his native LA team. His childhood team, where things didn’t go well and the big three that he should have formed with LeBron James and Anthony Davis never, as many feared, became such. Westbrook will turn 34 in November, in the first weeks of his 15th NBA season.. This will definitely be the last year of a contract monstrousat the time the highest by total amounts in NBA history: an extension in 2016 (3×85.7 million) expanded in 2017 to 5×205 became a total of 233 million for six seasons. When it was signed, understandable: the Thunder, who were the ones who gave him those extensions, had just traumatically lost Kevin Durant. And Wetsbrook, too, was at that trance, the storm of triple-doubles that made his numbers legendary. In 2017 he was MVP after being the first since Oscar Robertson able to average a triple-double in a full season (he also did it in the next two): 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists.
The good times are over. Between July 2019 and August 2021 Westbrook was traded three times. always with his contract. To the Houston Rockets, where the union with James Harden did not go well. To the Washington Wizards, where he won battles but no wars on a low-profile team; and finally to the Lakers, the great disaster in a course that was much more than bad numbers… but in which those numbers were also very poor: 18.5 points (least since 2010), 7.4 rebounds, 7.1 assists with 3 turnovers per night and lousy shooting data (44% total, 28.9% triples, 66.7% free throws).
The Lakers have worked from the certainty that Westbrook would execute his player option. There is the option to continue, of course. But it seems difficult for it to work, whatever they say and sell it as they sell it. Including the new manager, Darvin Ham. The Lakers have tried to gain ground on a player who seems incapable of adapting and modular your game and they have leaked that they want, if he continues, a low-profile Westbrook specialized in defendingsomething that he has not done for years as God intended and that he is hardly going to do now, on his way to 34 years.
The ideal solution would be to find a transfer. At the time that Westbrook avails himself of this player option more than 47 million is insured… but he loses any ability to decide on his future. And if his sporting value is still in the sewers (even worse in those figures) his contract becomes an attractive piece for teams in reconstruction or that want to gain salary space, usually transferring longer contracts in exchange and equivalent to Westbrook’s to clear everyone in their accounts, one and the other, in the summer of 2023.
The Lakers also have several tricks to sweeten an agreement: two first rounds (2027 and 2029) and the right to exchange another two (2026 and 2028). That, some young players… the question is how to release Westbrook, not jeopardize the few assets that there are for future operations and try to have a piece with some sporting value in return. There are few possibilities, so for now the most imperfect plan of all is very much on the table: that Russell Westbrook stays in LA, where the Lakers do not seem willing to cut him off and spread out the payment of your contract over several years. Those 47.1 million that are now going to be guaranteed. And in the summer of 2023, We will see.