Westbrook makes it a 'Big 3' for Lakers

Blockbuster deal, involving several players, sees him joining James and Davis in LA

NEW YORK • Russell Westbrook joined LeBron James and Anthony Davis on the Los Angeles Lakers in a blockbuster National Basketball Association (NBA) trade deal with the Washington Wizards, according to reports on Thursday.

The 32-year-old All-Star joins playmaker James and dominant big man Davis on the roster that won last year's championship title.

With Westbrook joining, Los Angeles now have a "Big Three" line-up, making them a serious title threat next season.

Injuries had hit the team badly, resulting in a first-round play-off defeat by this year's finalists Phoenix Suns last month.

The deal, as reported by ESPN, USA Today and The Athletic, sends Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope plus the University of Kentucky's Isaiah Jackson - the 22nd pick in Thursday's NBA Draft - to the Wizards for Westbrook and two future second-round draft picks.

Westbrook, who grew up in suburban Los Angeles, averaged 22.2 points, 11.5 rebounds and 11.7 assists a game for Washington last season.

He was the 2017 NBA Most Valuable Player with Oklahoma City, but the guard was traded to the Houston Rockets in 2019, ending an 11-year stint with the Thunder.

Westbrook was traded again last December to Washington, where he helped the Wizards reach the play-offs for the first time since 2018.

The 2012 Olympic basketball gold medallist has led the NBA in assists in three of the past four seasons and was the NBA scoring champion in 2015 and 2017.

In May, Westbrook passed Oscar Robertson for the most career triple-doubles - double digits in three statistical categories in a game - in league history, a mark now at 184.

Crucially, he fills a hole at point guard for the Lakers.

Los Angeles brought in Dennis Schroder from the Thunder last year to replace Rajon Rondo, who was part of their championship-winning team. But the 27-year-old German failed to be fully convincing in that role and ESPN reported that he has opted to test his worth as a free agent.

Westbrook yesterday tweeted a farewell message to Wizards fans, saying: "I'm blessed to have been a part of such a stand-up organisation. It didn't take long to make a home in D.C., and I will forever be grateful and appreciative of my experience with the organisation. Thank you! #thedistrict."

He is still playing on a five-year contract worth US$206.8 million (S$280 million) signed when he was still with the Thunder, meaning he will earn US$44 million next season with a contract option for the following year.

This year's draft saw the Detroit Pistons select Cade Cunningham, a 19-year-old guard who played at Oklahoma State University last season, as the No. 1 pick.

"It's still crazy. Words can't really explain the emotions," he said. "I'm ready to see what I can do at the next level."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 31, 2021, with the headline 'Westbrook makes it a 'Big 3' for Lakers'. Subscribe