As the Los Angeles Lakers try to narrow in on their next coach, perhaps the most important topic of conversation in these interviews is Russell Westbrook and how these potential hires might go about getting more out of him than we saw last season.
One candidate for the job is former Portland Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts, who is and believes he can, in fact, put him in better positions to succeed.
There's a lot to unpack here. For starters, Westbrook might not even be on the Lakers next season. There's little question that the front office would like to trade him. The dilemma is what kind of tax they're willing to pay to do so. According to The Athletic, the Lakers have "no intention" of including a first-round pick in a deal just to dump Westbrook.
Whether they would include a future first-round pick in a deal that would send back a player who would help more than Westbrook, that could be another story. Westbrook has a $47.1 million player option for next season that he'll presumably pick up, which would make him one of the highest-paid players in the league, but after that he's off the books. You would think it would be a possibility for a team that doesn't have immediate contending expectations to swap a longer contract for Westbrook's money knowing it's only for the one season.
If Westbrook does stay with the Lakers, thinking a coach, Stotts or otherwise, can somehow turn him into a different player borders on insanity. Westbrook is who he is. Has been for a long time. No coach is going to turn Westbrook into even an average shooter, let alone one who doesn't take awful shots or turn the ball over like crazy or go braindead on defense.
As far as using him differently, what is Stotts or some other coach going to do; take the ball out of LeBron James' hands to give it to Russ? Sure, you can play one-big lineups with Anthony Davis -- assuming he remembers how to shoot himself -- and theoretically open up lane space for Westbrook to cut and penetrate as a secondary attacker, but that's on paper.
But we've been down this road. In reality, Westbrook is not a committed or particularly instinctual off-ball player, and besides that, having one of the worst shooters in history spacing the floor for Davis and LeBron is going to hurt the Lakers more than whatever uptick Westbrook might enjoy individually.
Stotts already took the fall in Portland for the shortcomings of a flawed roster, and if, hypothetically, he were to take this job in L.A. with the expectation that he can do something with Westbrook that no coach in the last half decade has been able to do, he'll very likely end up a scapegoat again.