Russell Westbrook has until this coming Wednesday to decide whether or not he wants to opt into the final year of his current contract with the Lakers. By all accounts, and a $47M payday, Westbrook is going to pick up his option. He would be foolish not to. There's likely isn't a massive, multi-year free agency deal coming his way this summer (or even next summer).
To put it concisely, Westbrook's first season with the Lakers was underwhelming. On top of piling up turnovers, Russ never seemed willing to adapt his game to the team's overall needs. Especially, on defense.
According to Lakers reporter Mike Trudell, that has to change next year:
"Asked about Russell Westbrook, Rob Pelinka said if Russ picks up his player option to return, there have been multiple convos between Pelinka/Darvin Ham and Westbrook, with the message that they want Russ to focus first on defense."
Even in his brief time as the Lakers head coach, Darvin Ham has reiterated time and time again how LA is going to make their biggest leap on the defensive side of the ball. For that to happen, Ham's going to need Westbrook's buy-in or it will all be for naught.
During the peak of his athletic prowess, which is one of the best peaks the NBA has ever seen, Westbrook was rarely, if ever, a standout defender. He's not the athlete that he used to be, but he has the physical tools, and now, Ham is trying to create the desire to defend.