Russell Westbrook is splitting with longtime agent Thad Foucher of Wasserman over what the agent is describing as "irreconcilable differences," he told Adrian Wojnarowski. While a player and agent separating is nothing new, Foucher released a lengthy statement about his now expired partnership with Westbrook that doesn't exactly paint the former MVP in the best light.
"I represented Russell Westbrook for 14 years and am proud of our partnership which included a highly successful 2008 draft, a super-max contract and the only renegotiation-and-extend max contract in history. I also supported Russell throughout his rise into a prominent fashion industry figure and recently orchestrated three successive trades on Russell's behalf -- culminating with the trade to his hometown Los Angeles Lakers.
"Each time, teams gave up valuable players and assets to acquire Russell - and each time, a new organization embraced his arrival. We did it together with grace and class.
"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.
"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."
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If Foucher is ending his relationship with Westbrook because they disagree on how best to move his career forward and he wants the former star point guard to remain with the Lakers, it stands to reason that Westbrook himself would prefer to leave Los Angeles. However, according to Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times, Westbrook has never requested a trade.
Of course, it's also worth pointing out that he hasn't exactly needed to. It's no secret that the Lakers would prefer to trade him, they've just been picky about the specifics of a deal. Reports have indicated that they do not want to attach a first-round pick just to dump Westbrook, and thus far, only Kyrie Irving has reportedly been worth a pick to them. Irving, a superior shooter and former teammate of James', would seemingly be an easier fit at point guard without sacrificing the star talent the Lakers hoped they'd be adding in Westbrook.
At least publicly, the Lakers had given every indication that they still think Westbrook can be that sort of star. As Foucher said, new head coach Darvin Ham has been extremely supportive of Westbrook publicly. "Don't get it messed up, Russell is one of the best players our league has ever seen, and there's still a ton left in that tank," Hamat his introductory press conference. "I don't know why people tend to try to write him off...Russ and I have had some really, really great 1-on-1 conversations, and the biggest word that came out of those discussions was sacrifice. We're gonna sacrifice whatever we have to do, and it's not just Russ. There's gonna be sacrifices LeBron has to make, that A.D. has to make, all the way down the line of the rest of our roster."
Yet, if you read between the lines, the messaging from Lakers players hasn't been as positive. James and Westbrook infamously sat on opposite sides of the arena when both attended summer league last weekend. After the news of the split between Westbrook and Foucher came out, Rich Paul, who represents James and several other Laker players, tweeted "it's a cold game!" All along, the notion that the Lakers might keep Westbrook has felt like a leverage play. That leverage is losing power.
Agents almost never speak publicly about their relationships with former clients. It's typically bad business. Why send a message to possible future clients that you're willing to air their dirty laundry like this? It's hard to say at this stage who that statement benefits and how it will affect Westbrook's future. It can't exactly make him harder to trade because, well, nobody wants him as it is. Perhaps this could give the Lakers a renewed sense of urgency. If Westbrook wants out of Los Angeles badly enough to separate from an agent who thinks he should stay there, then perhaps that sends a message to the Lakers that keeping him would be foolish.
This is all speculation at this stage. The circumstances here are fairly unprecedented, but then, so is most of what happened to the Lakers last season. For now, the goal remains the same. In a perfect world, the Lakers will be able to trade Westbrook and draft picks for Irving. But if this compels them to cast a wider net in possible deals? That couldn't hurt them. If even Westbrook's agent can no longer work with him, there is little reason to believe that the Lakers want to.