Russell Westbrook wants the Lakers to trade him.
If that wasn’t obvious before, it’s been made crystal clear by his now-former agent, Thad Foucher, and the statement he gave Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN to explain why he is no longer Westbrook’s agent:
In a statement, Foucher said: “I represented Russell Westbrook for 14 years and am proud of our partnership which included a highly successful 2008 draft, a super-max contract and the only renegotiation-and-extend max contract in history. I also supported Russell throughout his rise into a prominent fashion industry figure and recently orchestrated three successive trades on Russell’s behalf — culminating with the trade to his hometown Los Angeles Lakers.
“Each time, teams gave up valuable players and assets to acquire Russell – and each time, a new organization embraced his arrival. We did it together with grace and class.”
In and of itself, none of the above would be notable. It’s cordial and respectful enough, but it’s what comes next that makes it plain where Westbrook stands, and what his difference of opinion with Foucher is that is leading to their separation (emphasis mine):
“Now, with a possibility of a fourth trade in four years, the marketplace is telling the Lakers they must add additional value with Russell in any trade scenario. And even then, such a trade may require Russell to immediately move on from the new team via buyout.
“My belief is that this type of transaction only serves to diminish Russell’s value and his best option is to stay with the Lakers, embrace the starting role and support that Darvin Ham publicly offered. Russell is a first-ballot Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame player and will prove that again before he is retired.
“Unfortunately, irreconcilable differences exist as to his best pathway forward and we are no longer working together. I wish Russell and his family the very best.”
If Westbrook’s agent of 14 years — someone who has likely heard what other teams would offer him in terms of role and future prospects — is saying that he thinks the best option for Westbrook is to stay with the Lakers, and they are separating because they disagree… then that makes it pretty clear that Westbrook is pushing hard to leave the Lakers.
It is unclear why Foucher chose to go public like this, or whether he quit or was fired, but when Westbrook and LeBron James couldn’t even pretend to be cordial at a nationally televised summer league game last week, it was fairly obvious that neither wanted to continue together. Still,, this is as explicit as we’re likely ever going to hear it without the use of anonymous sources. A statement like this is very, very abnormal, and I’m not positive I can even remember a situation anything like this happening before in recent NBA history. That Foucher came out and laid this out so plainly to get ahead of this news publicly should tell you all you need to know about just how far about how far dug in Westbrook is on seeing a Lakers exit as his best path forward.
Luckily for him, the feeling is pretty clearly mutual. Less fortunately for all parties involved, there haven’t been a lot of takers on Westbrook yet. We’ll see if that changes as the offseason progresses, but at the very least, now we know where Westbrook stands, and that this does not appear to be a situation where he’s going to come back, buy in, and happily run it back. Now it’s up to the Lakers to figure out how to handle that. And even less fortunately for everyone, in the wake of this statement, their leverage in such a deal has never been lower.
Update 1: After this story first published, Westbrook’s Twitter likes seemed to suggest he disagrees with Foucher’s characterization of their break up.
Update 2: Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times reported a few minutes later that Russell Westbrook has never requested the Lakers trade him.
Multiple sources tell the @latimes that Russell Westbrook has never requested a trade from the Lakers.
— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) July 16, 2022
To some degree, that is a matter of semantics, but worth noting nonetheless.
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