After a disastrous first year as a Laker, it looks like Russell Westbrook now wants to leave LA
A report from ESPN on Friday said Westbrook, 33, had “parted ways” with longtime agent Thad Foucher after 14 years of “irreconcilable differences” over staying another season with the Lakers – and Westbrook seems like the one who wants to move on.
While the Lakers and Westbrook publicly announced last month that they were planning another run together, privately the Lakers are well known to have an interest in trading for Brooklyn’s Kyrie Irving, among other possible targets. Last season, the Lakers were Vegas favorites to reach the NBA Finals; instead, they finished 33-49 and out of the playoffs while often being mocked by their own fans.
While Westbrook attended the introduction of new head coach Darvin Ham in June in a show of support, the report says relations have broken down enough between Westbrook and the Lakers that he is ready to part ways with Foucher. The agent issued a statement to ESPN that he believes (Westbrook’s) “best option is to stay with the Lakers, to embrace the starting role and the support that Darvin Ham has publicly offered.”
There was evidence of tension a week ago, when Westbrook attended one of the Lakers’ Summer League games in Las Vegas and sat by the team bench, but didn’t approached or appeared to publicly acknowledge teammate LeBron James in any way. James also did not approach Westbrook, and the two teammates left the game at different times through opposite entrances into the Thomas & Mack Arena. This incident follows numerous reports that James would be interested in a reunion with Irving, with whom he won a title with Cleveland in 2016.
The subtext of the cold scene seemed clear: Several people within the Lakers organization acknowledged it was an awkward and tense moment between its two most high-profile superstars, sources told the Southern California News Group .
Westbrook averaged 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.1 assists last season while shooting 44.4 percent from the floor. While he was the most available of the team’s three superstars, including James and Anthony Davis, Westbrook struggled with weeks-long shooting drops and had one of the highest turnover percentages (17.3% ) of the NBA. When he was on the court, the Lakers were outscored by a total of 211 points in his minutes.
Shortly before the trade rumors heated up in late June, Ham and general manager Rob Pelinka had announced Westbrook’s communication and sacrifice pledges over the coming season. The two referenced numerous one-on-one conversations in which Westbrook promised to play more effectively on defense and off the ball in an effort to help turn around the Lakers’ results.
“Make no mistake: Russell is one of the best players our league has ever seen,” Ham said during his introduction, “and there’s still a ton left in that tank.”
But Westbrook and the Lakers have had a rocky relationship for some time, dating back to January when then-head coach Frank Vogel benched Westbrook in a tight game, and it was later revealed that he had been sanctioned by management. The tension increased near the trade deadline, when Westbrook missed a game the day before he passed – the Lakers ended up standing.
Westbrook let loose during his end-of-season exit interview, criticizing Vogel (who was fired) and acknowledging he had an uncomfortable relationship with fans in his own hometown. The Leuzinger High and UCLA product said, “I just felt like I never had a fair chance to be who I needed to be to help this team.”
The report likely puts additional pressure on the Lakers to deal with Westbrook before the season begins. The biggest hurdle to any trade is the size of his contract: Westbrook exercised a $47.1 million option late last month, making it difficult for teams to match his salary, or even sell it. included in their payroll. The Lakers have also been reluctant to include draft picks in the deals, with only their 2027 and 2029 selections available for trade.
Getting traded is now a familiar game for Westbrook. He has played for four teams (Oklahoma City, Houston, Washington formerly) over the past four seasons after starting his career as the Thunder’s first-round pick. He was the MVP of the 2016-17 season after averaging a triple-double and became the league’s all-time triple-double leader in 2021.
Not averaging a triple-double seemed to be a sticking point this past season with Westbrook: “Obviously, I’m starting from averaging a triple-double. So anything less than that wouldn’t be a good season for me in my eyes, you know what I mean?
In the statement provided to ESPN, Foucher celebrated his accomplishments with Westbrook (including the supermax contract which ends in 2023). But he also lamented that his star client could be treated again under less than ideal circumstances.
“Now, with the possibility of a fourth trade in four years, the market is telling the Lakers they need to add additional value with Russell in any trade scenario,” he wrote. “And even then, such a trade may require Russel to leave the new team immediately via a buyout. My belief is that this type of transaction only serves to diminish the value of Russell.
For Westbrook and the Lakers, that day could be on the way.