For most of the summer, there has been one potential Russell Westbrook trade that has always felt like the only real option for the Lakers barring some blockbuster they could sneak into, like when there were rumblings they’d try to be a third team in a Donovan Mitchell to the Knicks trade, only for Mitchell to end up in Cleveland.
We have heard on numerous occasions that the Lakers have engaged in talks with the Pacers on a deal that would bring them Myles Turner and Buddy Hield, sending Westbrook to Indiana alongside their 2027 and 2029 first round picks. There was a report about it on July 9, then again on July 20, only for talks to be dead on July 22, before being resurrected in late September, which led to the Pacers GM insisting Turner wouldn’t be traded before the season.
The refusal to this point to part with both of those picks has been notable from the Lakers, despite reporting that they were willing to do so under the right circumstances. It’s been very clear that the Lakers aren’t completely sold on Turner and Hield being the cure-all for what ails them, but as many have pointed out, those two are far more likely to make them a competent playoff team (with a best case scenario of being a contender pending LeBron James and Anthony Davis’ health) than sticking with Westbrook.
Still, as the Lakers get set for preseason action on Monday, Westbrook remains with the team and everyone is saying the right things about him being a part of the team. That is, until Monday, when we were once again treated to reports that the Lakers “seriously considered” that same deal we’ve been talking about for three months as training camp opened, going so far as to push back some press conferences as the front office debated the move, per Shams Charania.
Vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka, owner Jeanie Buss and senior basketball adviser Kurt Rambis seriously considered sending Westbrook and unprotected first-round picks in 2027 and 2029 to the Pacers for center Myles Turner and guard Buddy Hield, sources said. They held a series of meetings in the days leading up to camp to analyze the possible Pacers deal from every angle, with the views of Ham and Lakers executives Joey and Jesse Buss also being strongly considered in the process. The organization even delayed the midweek news conference for Pelinka and Ham as the debate continued.
In a stunning turn of events, the alleged momentum towards the deal fizzled and the Lakers entered media day and camp with Westbrook in tow. At this point, every time we get another report of the Lakers mulling a Westbrook trade only not to trade him seemingly furthers the schism between the two sides and acts as a self-fulfilling prophecy that things are too far gone to be reconciled, no matter how good Darvin Ham’s plan is for Westbrook this season.
Russ, to his credit, has said the right things and noted that whether the team wants him or not, it’s his job to be a professional and do what he’s always done, which is go out and compete as best he can. Given how many times his name has come up in rumors, it’d be hard to blame him for being more of a malcontent, but even if he’s putting on the right public face, it sure seems like it’d be difficult for there to be much of any trust between player and organization at this moment.
That makes it baffling why the Lakers continue to discuss the same trade over and over, where nothing changes in terms of what’s being asked of them, only to back away from the table while knowing it’s going to come out (or possibly actively leaking it themselves). At this point, if they do end up making this trade it will look ridiculous for a number of reasons, chief among them the fact that they could’ve saved headaches and had a full training camp to integrate two new players, but instead will have chosen to do so on the fly during the regular season. That, maybe more than anything, points to the Lakers keeping Russ and just spending one more year in an unhappy marriage to keep those picks.