With the days counting down until the 2022-23 NBA regular season begins, it is still unclear what the Los Angeles Lakers plan to do with Russell Westbrook.
Differing reports in recent weeks have either stated the Lakers are still hotly pursuing a trade including the former MVP or that they could end up having the veteran guard in their starting lineup by the time the season begins.
While Westbrook’s future with the Lakers remains murky, one thing that NBA insider Ramona Shelburne feels rather confident about is that Westbrook will not accept a buyout.
The Lakers are unlikely to offer a buyout, but it is possible that Westbrook could be offered one by a team if he did indeed end up getting traded. According to Shelburne, the reason why Westbrook wouldn’t accept a buyout is because he knows that once a player is bought out, his reputation around the league changes.
“Russell Westbrook is not a buyout guy,” she said during a recent podcast appearance. “You have to agree to a buyout, and that’s not how he is wired. This is a guy who is very proud, and if you accept a buyout once in your career, you’re seen differently throughout the rest of your career.”
Shelburne continued to explain why Westbrook wouldn’t accept a buyout.
“Russ is Russ because of his swagger and the way he bleeds with it, the way he plays with it,” she said. “You can’t retreat from that. You can’t let go of that because that’s what made Russ, Russ — it’s his swagger. If he accepts that, then he’s no longer Russell Westbrook.”
There is ample proof that the reputations of players do change after they accept buyouts. Even though the player remains the same, there does often seem to be a drop in his perceived value.
A great example of that fact is none other than Carmelo Anthony. In the summer of 2018, Anthony accepted a contract buyout from the Atlanta Hawks after being traded to the team by the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Though he signed with the Houston Rockets a couple weeks later, his time with the team was short. He was traded in January 2019 to the Chicago Bulls and waived a few days later. He was unable to find NBA employment until the following season.
This is the kind of scenario Shelburne clearly believes Westbrook wants to avoid.
Though that is indeed understandable, Westbrook’s perceived unwillingness to consider a buyout could end up impeding the Lakers’ ability to trade him.
There is a lot of uncertainty still as it pertains to Westbrook’s status with the Lakers. Hopefully, things will become more clear as the start of the season gets closer.