The events of the last week struck a significant blow to the hundreds of Los Angeles Lakers fans who were hoping for a Russell Westbrook trade. It all started on Wednesday, when Pacers general manager Chad Buchanan stated that Myles Turner would begin the season in Indiana. Team executives aren’t known for their candor, but with training camps starting next week, it’s hard to believe he was lying. A day later, Utah traded Bojan Bogdanovic, the cornerstone of a prospective Westbrook trade, to the Detroit Pistons. Never say never in the contemporary NBA, but with Utah effectively out of the race and Indiana publically withdrawing, it appears that Westbrook will begin the season in purple and gold.
In April, when Westbrook delivered one of the most shocking farewell interviews in NBA history, such a result seemed unthinkable. The organization has publicly welcomed him back, but he separated with longtime agent Thad Foucher in part because Foucher persuaded him to accept the team’s olive branch. Westbrook doesn’t appear to be eager to return to the Lakers for another season. So, why couldn’t the team come up with a suitable trade?
We can at least acknowledge that the Lakers wanted Westbrook back. Darvin Ham, the new head coach, certainly wanted everyone to believe so during his inaugural news conference, when he claimed to have “a clear plan” for how to handle the former MVP. Of all, if the Lakers enjoyed the idea of having Westbrook on their club, these trade rumors wouldn’t have lasted for five months. Nobody would after Westbrook’s recent season.
A reasonable explanation is price. According to reports, Indiana sought two first-round picks from the Lakers in exchange for a deal centered on Turner and Buddy Hield. The Lakers do not appear to be willing to pay that price. However, the Bogdanovic transaction clouds that notion somewhat. The Pistons acquired him without trading a single first-round pick.
According to Andy Larsen of the Salt Lake Tribune, the Jazz may have received a first-round selection from another team, but any such transaction would have entailed long-term money. Westbrook’s contract is coming to an end. At the very least, this indicates that the Lakers might have made a trade with Utah for a single choice. They didn’t, and if they were never willing to give up a single pick, they had to know from the start that they couldn’t deal Westbrook at all.