Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka has had several meetings with Russell Westbrook this offseason and he has made it clear to the former NBA MVP that if he returns they want him to be a "defense-first player."
Westbrook has a $47 million player option for the next season and he has yet to announce his decision. “Russ has a decision to make about his option. He earned that in his contract just with his play and when he negotiated that contract originally,” Pelinka said.
I think Darvin [Ham] and I have had meetings with Russ and have just been honest about how we think he fits with this team and what we expect of him next year if he decided to opt in and be here," Pelinka said, via TalkBasket.
“He’s ready to embrace philosophy of defense-first as well and he’s made that clear to Darvin and me. If he chooses to come back. But he hasn’t given a final decision on that yet. He has more days to figure all that out with his family.
But if he comes back, he will be embraced here with open arms and want to put a path in front of him to have a successful season”.
Westbrook will be aiming for a bounce back season
Last summer, the Lakers went all in to acquire Westbrook from the Washington Wizards.
What was expected to be a big season for the Lakers, ended in one of the most disappointing seasons in the team's history. The Lakers, who were considered among top contenders for the title this past season, finished the year with a 33-49 record and missed out on the playoffs.
Shortly after the Lakers played their final regular season game, head coach Frank Vogel was dismissed. Vogel and Westbrook weren't really on good terms and Westbrook acknowledged there was a fallout between him and Vogel.
"I think it's unfortunate, to be honest, because I've never had an issue with any of my coaches before," Westbrook said during his exit interview after the Lakers' season ended. "I'm not sure what his issue was with me or I'm not sure why, but I can't really give you an answer to why we really never connected."
Now, the Lakers have a new head coach, Dervin Ham. Westbrook is hoping to put this past season behind him and have a big bounce back season next year.