Confusion over Russell Westbrook’s future with the Lakers — and his desire for one — came to the forefront Friday night when his longtime agent told ESPN that he and Westbrook were no longer working together.
The Times has confirmed Westbrook’s split with Thad Foucher from the Wasserman agency. Foucher had represented Westbrook, 33, his entire NBA career.
In a statement to ESPN, Foucher said “irreconcilable differences” were the reason for the break with Westbrook. Foucher also told ESPN that Westbrook’s “best option is to stay with the Lakers, embrace the starting role and support that Darvin Ham publicly offered."
Multiple people with knowledge of the situation told The Times that Westbrook has never requested to be traded. Earlier this offseason, he opted in to the final year of his contract, which will pay him $47 million this coming season.
Additional people told The Times that the decision to split with Foucher had “nothing to do with the Lakers.”
The Times attempted to reach Foucher, but messages weren’t returned.
The relationship between the Lakers and Westbrook has looked severely strained this offseason. He attended the Lakers’ NBA Summer League opener in Las Vegas, but he and LeBron James, who was also there, didn’t speak and watched from opposite sides of the court — a stark contrast to their time together last summer.
The awkwardness was noted throughout NBA circles, with strong beliefs that the Lakers’ biggest stars have been pushing for the team to trade for Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving.
Optimism exists among some players that a deal for Irving can be struck.
While Westbrook has never formally requested a trade, a new situation could benefit the nine-time All-Star after a disastrous turn with the Lakers.
Still, the messiness of the situation only complicates things for the Lakers, who are coming off a 33-49 season.
Westbrook has been the subject of trade rumors since the middle of last season, when his partnership with James and Anthony Davis never resulted in consistent winning, with a combination of injuries and poor fits among the stars eventually leading to the Lakers missing the postseason.
The team has discussed Westbrook in trade iterations around the NBA, though there’s no real market for the former league most valuable player and his $47-million price tag.
In his statement to ESPN, which rival agents called unusual, Foucher said a trade would undoubtedly end up hurting Westbrook’s value.
“Now, with a possibility of a fourth trade in four years, the marketplace is telling the Lakers they must add additional value with Russell in any trade scenario. And even then, such a trade may require Russell to immediately move on from the new team via buyout,” Foucher said in the statement. "My belief is that this type of transaction only serves to diminish Russell's value and his best option is to stay with the Lakers, embrace the starting role and support that Darvin Ham publicly offered. Russell is a first-ballot Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame player and will prove that again before he is retired.
"Unfortunately, irreconcilable differences exist as to his best pathway forward and we are no longer working together. I wish Russell and his family the very best."
Last season, Westbrook averaged 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.1 assists in 78 games.
Since he was hired as Lakers coach in late May, Ham has been public in his praise for Westbrook, who attended Ham’s introductory news conference.
“Don’t get it messed up. Russell is one of the best players our league has ever seen,” Ham said when he was introduced. “And there is still a ton left in that tank. I don’t know why people continue to try to write him off.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.