LA Lakers News Roundup: Russell Westbrook gets key to OKC for community work, Malik Monk could be out of LA next season, and more

Russell Westbrook may now be with the LA Lakers, but he remains a big part of Oklahoma City. The former MVP recently received the key to the city for his work in the community.

With Westbrook looking more and more likely to keep his spot with the Lakers, Malik Monk could end up somewhere else. LA’s mid-level exception allows them to offer around $6 million for the shooter but could be easily outbid by rival teams.

LeBron James’ lack of commitment to extend his stay in Hollywood is leaving the LA Lakers in a quandary. While the four-time MVP could still sign an extension by August, GM Rob Pelinka has some crucial moves to make two months before that.

Here are the latest pieces of news involving the Lakers as on June 14, 2022:

Russell Westbrook honored by Oklahoma City

Russell Westbrook is a beloved figure in Oklahoma City. [Photo: Hoops Habit]
Russell Westbrook is a beloved figure in Oklahoma City. [Photo: Hoops Habit]

Russell Westbrook played 11 years of NBA basketball in Oklahoma, which has allowed him to build relationships that are still growing strong. He’s been very active in giving back to the community in the city even if he’s no longer with the team that drafted him.

Westbrook, who built a basketball court for the youth, among other things, has earned himself the key to Oklahoma City. The nine-time All-Star had this to say during an open-air ceremony that was attended by public officials, friends and beneficiaries of his various projects:

“I want to continue to support things in Oklahoma City as much as I can. This place was home for me and still is home for me.”

Russell Westbrook was given a key to the city.

Although he left the Oklahoma City Thunder three years ago, Russell Westbrook continues to be a pillar of the community. He still gets loudly cheered on even when he plays for the opposing team.

“Brodie” is expected to opt into the final year of his contract with the LA Lakers soon, which will be a mammoth $47 million on LA’s payroll. Whether he gets to play again as a member of the Lakers remains to be seen as the offseason heats up.

Malik Monk could have priced himself out of LA Lakers’ reach next season

The LA Lakers could end up losing Malik Monk if Russell Westbrook is a part of the Lakers' roster. [Photo: Lake Show Life]
The LA Lakers could end up losing Malik Monk if Russell Westbrook is a part of the Lakers’ roster. [Photo: Lake Show Life]

Malik Monk was perhaps the LA Lakers’ biggest and most pleasant surprise of the 2021-22 season. After starting only once in his career previously, Monk was a big part of the Lakers’ rotation this season under former head coach Frank Vogel. He played in 76 games, starting in 37 of them.

On numerous occasions during the Lakers’ horrific season, Monk played like he was the best complement to LeBron James on the roster. The 23-year-old’s shooting and hustle were an important part of his game that LA could miss in their next campaign.

Here’s Bleacher Report Eric Pincus’ analysis of the former Charlotte Hornets star’s situation:

“The Lakers will only have a $6.4 million taxpayer mid-level exception and minimum contracts to spend to add talent if they retain Westbrook. That may not be enough to bring back Malik Monk with several other teams armed with at least the $10.3 million non-taxpayer mid-level exception (NTMLE).”

NBA execs say Lakers guard Malik Monk can earn $6-10 million a year in free agency. Lakers only have the taxpayer MLE to offer. Plus, more on Russell Westbrook’s trade value and a possible LeBron James extension with @YossiGozlan on the @hoopshype podcast.…

LA’s stance of refusing to add more draft capital to any Westbrook trade could force Monk to look for another team.

LA Lakers are in a bind waiting for at least a verbal commitment from LeBron James to sign an extension

GM Rob Pelinka's (right) job is more difficult without any sign of what LeBron James (left) might do in the last year of his contract. [Photo: Silver Screen and Roll]
GM Rob Pelinka’s (right) job is more difficult without any sign of what LeBron James (left) might do in the last year of his contract. [Photo: Silver Screen and Roll]

New head coach Darvin Ham expressed excitement to work with LeBron James as soon as possible. The LA Lakers franchise player is also raring to go as he vowed never to miss the postseason again in his career.

While all of that is great news for the Lakers, James still hasn’t given any signals yet of his intentions with regards to a contract extension. Rumors have already surfaced that he will be playing out the final year of his contract to have the utmost flexibility after next season.

Team owner Jeanie Buss has gone on the record that she will not trade the four-time MVP even if he doesn’t sign an extension. While the waiting game happens, the Lakers are also in an unenviable spot when it comes to roster construction.

Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report weighed in on the LA Lakers’ head-shaking quandary:

“The Lakers were paralyzed at the trade deadline without clarity from James, and they remain so. The star forward is eligible for an extension on August 4, but most of the team’s moves will need to happen in June and July.”

Trade him for picks and young talent ASAP, can’t let him play out his contract and leave the team in shambles. #Lakeshow Lakers Need to Figure out Their LeBron James Problem Sooner Than You Think…

Pincus continued:

“Unpleasant salary is easier to digest in trade if the Lakers are reinvested in James with Davis. The last thing the team would want to do is eat up its 2023-24 cap space on players it doesn’t value with James leaving as an unrestricted free agent.”

Whether James signs on to continue with the LA Lakers will be a major talking point over the next two months.

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