Inside the Russell Westbrook talks with LeBron, AD that led to Lakers' blockbuster trade

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·4 min read
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Wizards guard Russell Westbrook celebrates after scoring a basket and getting fouled against the Lakers on Feb. 23, 2021.
Wizards guard Russell Westbrook celebrates after scoring a basket and drawing a foul during a 127-124 win against the Lakers on Feb. 23 at Staples Center. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

About two weeks ago, Russell Westbrook went to LeBron James’ home and together they and Anthony Davis had a conversation about the All-Star guard joining James and Davis on the Lakers.

They talked about putting their egos aside and playing as one in their quest to bring the Lakers another NBA championship. Westbrook talked about how his only intention was winning and coming back home to Los Angeles to become a champion.

James and Davis talked about the two of them changing positions if that was best for the team — James moving from small forward to power forward and Davis from power forward to center.

Westbrook let James and Davis know he doesn’t mind playing off the ball when James initiates the offense, something he did while playing alongside James Harden with the Houston Rockets.

On Thursday, the day of one of the NBA’s biggest and most important nights since the draft was held in Brooklyn, the three of them got their wish when the Lakers and Wizards agreed on a deal to send Westbrook to Los Angeles from Washington, according to two people not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

The Lakers will send forward Kyle Kuzma, guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, backup center Montrezl Harrell and first-round pick at No. 22, Kentucky’s Isaiah Jackson, to Washington, according to both people.

The Wizards will send their 2024 second-round pick and their 2028 second-round pick to the Lakers.

Having Harrell opt-in to his contract for $9.7 million for next season helped the Lakers move the deal for Westbrook along.

So now, Westbrook to the Lakers to play alongside James and Davis gives them a Big 3 and the NBA’s latest super team.

Westbrook, a local product who went to UCLA and Lawndale Leuzinger High, has yearned to return home and had his sights set on the Lakers.

He averaged a triple-double last season, with 22.2 points, 11.5 rebounds and 11.7 assists. He has averaged a triple-double in four of his last five seasons.

Russell Westbrook wears a Kobe Bryant jersey during a playoff game with the Rockets in 2020.
Russell Westbrook wears a Kobe Bryant jersey during a playoff game with the Rockets in 2020. (Kevin C. Cox/Associated Press)

Westbrook, the NBA’s most valuable player for the 2016-17 season, will be on his fourth team in four years, having started his career with Oklahoma City. From there he went to Houston and Washington, and now to the Lakers.

The deal for Westbrook means that he will be the starting point guard and Dennis Schroder probably will no longer be needed. Schroder turned down a four-year, $84-million deal from the Lakers last season.

Westbrook has two years left on his contract, $44.2 million for next season and $47 million for the 2022-23 season.

The Lakers will need shooting around the threesome of Westbrook, James and Davis, especially considering they were a team that shot just 35.4% from three-point range, ranking them 21st in the NBA last season.

Westbrook is an attacker and downhill player and is not known for his three-point shooting. He shot 31.5% from three-point range last season and is a 30.5% three-point shooter over his 13-year career.

But the Lakers won’t have a lot of money to work with when free agency opens at 3 p.m. Monday.

So, to fill out a team with just five players signed to contracts — James, Davis, Westbrook, Marc Gasol and Alfonzo McKinnie — the Lakers will have their work cut out for them. (Alex Caruso is an unrestricted free agent and Talen Horton-Tucker is a restricted one.)

The Lakers will have the tax midlevel exception of $5.9 million and they will have the veteran minimum exception at their disposal.

When it comes to shooters, JJ Redick and Wayne Ellington are players that could be had. Redick is a career 41.5% three-point shooter and Ellington is a 38.2% shooter from three.

When it comes to wing players and power forwards, Carmelo Anthony, Garrett Temple and James Johnson are possibilities.

James and Anthony have long been friends and have wanted to play together. Anthony averaged 13.4 points per game last season in Portland and shot 40.9% from three-point range.

Spencer Dinwiddie had been interested in playing for the Lakers, but his asking price might be too high for the Lakers.

This means Rob Pelinka, the Lakers’ vice president of basketball operations, will have to be solid in putting the right pieces around James, Davis and the newly acquired Westbrook.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.