Lakers Guard Russell Westbrook will apply his player option and stay under contract for another season, guaranteeing a $47-million salary.
Westbrook needed to make a decision whether to opt in or become an unrestricted free agent by Wednesday. The move was widely expected.
Westbrook posted a video of himself singing the chorus to Beyonce’s “Break My Soul,” repeatedly singing “You won’t break my soul” Tuesday morning.
After being acquired by the Lakers last offseason, Westbrook struggled, averaging 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.1 assists, all numbers below the standards he is set for himself.
The Lakers failed to make the playoffs.
The Lakers enter free agency Wednesday with just the taxpayer mid-level (worth about $6 million) and minimum contracts to fill out their roster around LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Westbrook.
New coach Darvin Ham said he viewed Westbrook as a key piece of the team’s immediate future during Ham’s introductory news conference.
“Russ and I had some really, really great one-on-one convos, man, and the biggest word I think came out of that, those discussions, was sacrifice. That was the biggest word, sacrifice,” Ham said. “We’re going to sacrifice whatever we have to do. And it’s not just Russ. It’s going to be a sacrifice that LeBron has to make, that AD has to make, on down the line to the rest of our roster. Again, we have to start on the defensive end in terms of what his role is going to be.
“I’m going to expect him to be the same tenacious, high-energy player that he’s been all his entire career. A lot of it now may have him without the ball in his hand. Most of it now may have it on the defensive end. But, again, we have to sacrifice.”
Westbrook attended that news conference.
The Lakers, who flirted with Kyrie Irving before Irving opted in to his deal on Monday, have explored Westbrook trades without success.
In Ham’s first press conference, Los Angeles Lakers head Coach Darvin Ham was not shy about what he wants from the team next season — accountability, toughness, sacrifice and togetherness.
Hopefully, Ham didn’t pay too much attention to the Lakers last season because they lacked practically all of those, especially on defense. Ham has his hands full with injecting the roster and finding the right players that offer those traits.
First, he has to find his vision as a coach. Whereas Frank Vogel had the reputation of a defensive mind, Ham would have to build his. Being that it’s his first gig as head coach, Ham’s philosophy might take time.
It’s implied Ham will start on defense because of his time with Mike Budenholzer. However, he laid out a different approach for his on-court vision.
Ham will likely look for more two-way players that fit his vision of being well-rounded. There aren’t many players who fit the build Ham’s talking about, but he has some at his disposal for his vision.
In Milwaukee, Ham worked with two adaptive stars that had relentless effort — Giannis Antentokounmpo and Khris Middleton. Anthony Davis and LeBron James breathe versatility on both ends. Russell Westbrook struggled with it last season.
Ham hopes continuity across all aspects of the team will help his vision appear on the floor.
Westbrook struggled mightily on both sides of the ball last season. While his offense became a weak link, his defense hurt the Lakers as much. He was often caught ball watching and seemed disinterested in defending.
However, it may be different this season. Ham recently said that Westbrook is prepared to buy in on defense and sacrifice for the team. Sacrifice has been a key point for Westbrook so far and it seems he is ready to commit to it.