Growing up in the Los Angeles area, Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder went to UCLA and was a Lakers fan. With Kobe Bryant playing in his 20th and final season, there have been reports of Westbrook becoming the next face of the franchise.
While all the attention is on Kevin Durant this off-season, Westbrook becomes an unrestricted free agent following the 2016-17 NBA season. Although there are a lot of games to be played, Westbrook has not been able to escape questions regarding his free agency.
With Westbrook set to make his fifth All-Star appearance in Toronto on Sunday, he was asked about the possibility of playing for the Lakers according to Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman:
A reporter asked Russell Westbrook today if he wants to play for the Lakers pic.twitter.com/FwTiQx30pV
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) February 13, 2016
Although the media is trying to get a quote out of him regarding the Lakers, Westbrook is only focused on helping the Thunder return to the NBA Finals in the extremely competitive Western Conference. Despite the knee injuries in recent years, Westbrook remains one of the best players in the league.
For the Lakers, they have been tied to Durant and Westbrook as they will have a projected $65 million in cap space to pursue free agents this off-season. However, the development of D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson will be crucial if the Lakers want to speed up their rebuilding process.
With 27 games remaining in the season, Russell is expected to return to the starting lineup at some point according to head coach Byron Scott. As Bryant is set to retire, it will be interesting if the Lakers finally shift their focus to player development in the second half of the season.