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Russell Westbrook isn’t flinching in the face of Kyrie Irving trade rumors

Lakers guard Russell Westbrook controls the ball against the Indiana Pacers on Thursday.
Lakers guard Russell Westbrook controls the ball against the Indiana Pacers on Thursday. The Lakers’ pursuit of Kyrie Irving has once again put Westbrook at the center of trade rumors.
(Michael Conroy / Associated Press)
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This is the second consecutive season Russell Westbrook has heard his name come up in trade rumors, the second straight season he’s heard that the Lakers were interested in acquiring another player and that he would be the player used in that transaction.

On Saturday night, the day after Nets star Kyrie Irving had requested a trade and the Lakers became one of the teams kicking the tires on acquiring the mercurial point guard, according to people not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, Westbrook said, “no, I don’t,” when asked if he was feeling any pressure before the NBA trade deadline coming up Thursday.

“That’s not up to me,” Westbrook said. “Like I said, I’ve known this was a business since I was 18, 19 years old, since I got into it. My dad taught me that at that age, getting to this league is a business, and people make whatever decision they make. And I’ll make sure I’m ready and professional, like I always have been and always will be.”

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Feb. 4, 2023

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Lakers coach Darvin Ham said he hasn’t had any conversations with Westbrook about trade rumors.

Ham said their conversations have been about Westbrook being the best version of himself as the point guard and lightning rod off the bench.

“I’ve checked in with him on attacking more and not turning down shots,” Ham said. “He’s constantly focused on trying to get his teammates the ball. That trade news and all that, that’s gonna be now. I’m in a honeymoon phase now, but I’m sure here pretty soon, probably the next year or two or three maybe, who knows, they’ll be talking about firing me. And I’m gonna have to still come in and do my damn job. And I’m not afraid of that. Like, it is what it is. I know what we signed up for.”

Westbrook had another solid game for the Lakers in a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, scoring 15 points on six-for-11 shooting, with four rebounds and four assists.

He played just 23 minutes, and departed with 11:02 left in the fourth quarter and didn’t play again.

“Whatever decision they make, that’s up to them,” Westbrook said about his limited playing time in the fourth. “I can only speak to what I’ve been doing, being professional, coming to work, doing my job the best way I know how to.”

The Lakers will continue to make calls and do their due diligence in looking for ways to improve the team, Ham said. If a trade takes place, or not, Rob Pelinka, the team’s vice president of basketball operations and general manager, will put in the work.

“Rob and the crew in the front office, everyone collaborating trying to see what needs can be filled,” Ham said. “If there are special talents out there that can enhance our chances to get us to where we’re trying to get to, that’s great. But until something is done, it’s all hearsay, all rumor, innuendo. Again, we don’t play fantasy basketball. When it’s real, it’s real. When it’s not, we don’t pay attention to it.”

Troy Brown Jr. solid in his role

Lakers forward Troy Brown Jr. runs on the court against the New York Knicks on Jan. 31.
(Frank Franklin II / Associated Press)
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Troy Brown Jr. hasn’t started the last two games for the Lakers, but he was very good in his role off the bench against the Pelicans.

He defense was on point and his scoring was very much needed.

He played 30 minutes, 10 of them in the fourth quarter as part of the Lakers’ closing lineup.

Brown made two big three-pointers in the fourth, one from the corner to pull the Lakers to within three and one from the top of the arc to tie the score at 118-118, both shots with confidence, both off passes from his teammates.

He finished the game with 13 points on five-for-nine shooting, and had six rebounds.

“I think over the year I’ve gotten used to my role,” Brown said. “I’ve kind of grown over the year to be more accustomed in the second half of being able to hit big shots and just trying to play my role.”

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