Russell Westbrook is planning to exercise his $47.1 million player option to return to the Lakers for the 2022-23 season, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Yahoo Sports’s Chris Haynes confirmed the report.
Westbrook’s agent, Thad Foucher, plans to file the paperwork Tuesday but the deadline isn’t until Wednesday.
Westbrook’s decision to opt in shouldn’t come as a surprise. Because of his massive contract and struggles last season his possible destinations in a sign-and-trade scenario were limited or non-existent if he wanted out of Los Angeles. He’ll have the 2022-23 season under new coach Darvin Ham to prove to the basketball world that he’s still one of the premiere players in the NBA and is deserving of another big contract when he hits free agency next offseason.
Westbrook was acquired by the Lakers in a blockbuster trade with the Wizards last offseason to team up with LeBron James and Anthony Davis and the trio automatically warranted championship expectations. But Westbrook struggled to fit in and both Davis and James struggled with injuries. Shockingly, the Lakers missed out on the postseason which prompted the team’s front office to fire coach Frank Vogel and ultimately hire Ham with the expectation that he can better utilize Westbrook and return the team to the postseason.
Westbrook, 33, averaged 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.1 assists on 44.4% shooting from the field and 29.8% shooting from behind the arc. The team’s supporting cast, a group that featured several former All Stars far past their prime, didn’t offer much help during the season as well. Nevertheless, both the Lakers and now Westbrook have positioned themselves to improve on a forgettable 2021-22 season.