Lakers newsletter: What Patrick Beverley trade, LeBron extension mean

Thunder guard Russell Westbrook tries to drive against Clippers guard Patrick Beverley during a game in 2018.
Thunder guard Russell Westbrook tries to drive against Clippers guard Patrick Beverley during a game in 2018. Despite a contentious past, the two will be Lakers teammates in the near future.
(Sue Ogrocki / Associated Press)

Hello readers, it’s L.A. Times reporter Dan Woike. Welcome back to another edition of the Lakers newsletter, where I’m done with an awfully timed family vacation and back on the road working on an exciting story that I can soon share. For now, let’s talk about all the big news I missed — that guy who signed that contract-dealy that will impact the Lakers’ near-term future and that rare mid-August NBA deal.

So to those things that happened while I was away …

Pat vs. Russ

Russell Westbrook wanted a timeout. Patrick Beverley wanted a steal.

Neither got what they were looking for. And for now, they’re teammates on the Lakers.


The Lakers acquired Beverley in a trade Wednesday night, sending Talen Horton-Tucker and Stanley Johnson to the Utah Jazz.

In the 2013 playoffs, as Westbrook crossed the half-court line and pulled up to call a timeout, Beverley manically zoomed toward the all-star guard and barreled into him, trying to poke the ball out before a referee could blow his whistle.

Westbrook immediately started to hobble and pounded the scorer’s table. He’d torn his meniscus — and Beverley ignited a round of controversy.

Was this dirty? There’s playing hard, but was this too hard?

“A lot of people do it throughout the league,” Beverley told reporters that night. “I don’t go out to try and hurt anybody. I tried to make a play on the ball.”

The following March, during a regular-season game between Houston and Oklahoma City, Beverley tried the same thing. Westbrook was livid.

Rockets guard Patrick Beverley steals the ball from Thunder guard Russell Westbrook during a playoff game in 2017.
Rockets guard Patrick Beverley steals the ball from Thunder guard Russell Westbrook during Game 5 of a playoff series in 2017.
(David J. Phillip / Associated Press)

After that, the two routinely antagonized each other — Westbrook with his rock-the-baby celebration, Beverley with his pestering, physical style.

Usually, the two would battle on the court, bark at each other and — more often than not — earn a technical foul.

The most direct conflict between the two came in 2019, after Houston’s James Harden scored 47 points against the Clippers.

“Pat Bev trick y’all, man, like he playing defense,” Westbrook told reporters after that game. “He don’t guard nobody, man. It’s just running around, doing nothing.”


Beverley went on J.J. Redick’s “The Old Man and the Three” podcast earlier this year and fired back.

“He damaged my career,” Beverley said. “Like, coaching staffs and players, fans, they looked at me way different. They looked at me like, ‘You know what? He don’t play defense. He just yells and runs around.’ And held on to that and held on to that. And some people still do.”

When the Lakers played Minnesota — Beverley’s third NBA team in 10 seasons before an offseason trade to Utah — in March, Beverley was at his irritating best, daring Westbrook to shoot, and later swiping a pass before holding his nose and saying to his bench that Westbrook was “trash.”

Westbrook responded to Minnesota’s trash talk postgame nonchalantly.

“The trash talking doesn’t bother me none,” Westbrook said. “Nobody over there has done anything in this league that would make me pick my eyes up, like, ‘Oh, they’re talking mess. Let me respond.’ No. It’s fine.”

Is it?

If the Lakers enter camp with both players on the team, there will be a lot of people trying to figure that out.

What the LeBron James extension means (and doesn’t)

Well, for one it ensures that James will be with the Lakers this season because he’s ineligible to be traded. It also guarantees the Lakers will have his services for at least one more year (James can choose to add another year because of his player option).

This also ensures that the Lakers will have a massive chunk of salary tied up in a soon-to-be 38-year-old who has failed to play 60 games in three of the last four seasons.

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Detractors of the move, like Times columnist Bill Plaschke, say that the decision assures the Lakers of more mediocrity as they’ve further tied their organization’s hopes to James and limited their ability to rebuild.

The Lakers, actually, have no incentive to begin their rebuild until 2024-25 at the earliest. That’s the first year they have an unencumbered first-round draft pick thanks to the costly Anthony Davis trade that netted them a championship (and contributed to their current situation).

The two locked-in years with James (and Davis) align on that timetable and could be part of the reason why the Lakers have been hesitant to trade more future picks this summer.

Rebuild plans, conceivably, could be happening behind the scenes with James’ latest deal having little impact on that.

James undoubtedly has affected the Lakers’ future — the front office has sacrificed first-round picks in two of the three offseasons since winning that championship in ill-fated deals for Dennis Schroder and Westbrook.

Those moves get made only because James has been among the handful of NBA players whose mere presence on a roster equals title contention. Whether or not that’s still true in Season 20, though, remains to be seen.

The Lakers, to date, have operated like it is true — assembling rosters built to win immediately without a lot of priority given to development or continuity (it’s hard to do those things when the back end of the roster isn’t being stocked with rookies on team-friendly deals).

This year, while a course correction from last season’s veteran team (old and slow) isn’t going to be that different from a roster-building standpoint because the Lakers have limited means to keep even their most successful signings. Even with only Davis, James and Max Christie, plus a player option for Damian Jones on the books for next summer, the Lakers are projected to have around $22 million in cap space — money they would need to sign Troy Brown Jr. or Lonnie Walker IV if either is a Malik Monk-type success.

James’ extension might mean the Lakers feel more pressure to win now, to do whatever it takes to maximize his final years. It also could mean that the Lakers try to straddle the fine line between being competitive and looking to the future, waiting on any big moves until something that satisfies both of those needs materializes down the road. (Good luck finding a deal like that.)

The timing is what makes it most curious — he had until the dawn of next year’s free agency to sign an extension. Did James sign because the Lakers assured him they were getting ready to push all in? Did he sign because he looked around the NBA and saw shrinking leverage for aging stars? Did he just want it to not become a distraction?

The only thing we know about the timing is that James didn’t view taking less money down the road as a serious option.

Mostly, the James extension means business as usual — the Lakers taking care of a superstar late in his career because that’s what they do (and because the alternative isn’t really a great option either).

You can blame the Lakers front office for putting themselves in a position like this where there aren’t more options. And maybe that’s what this deal (and the reaction to it) says — more about the Lakers’ past and less about their future.

Song of the week

“Hot Fun in the Summertime (Live)” by Sly and the Family Stone

As my vacation wraps up on the way into the season, we celebrate with one of the best sunny day songs of all time — a vibe that’s relaxed and loose and pairs wonderfully with a cold drink.

In case you missed it

Here’s how Kevin Durant staying in Brooklyn will affect the rest of Lakers’ offseason

‘Mamba Day’: Los Angeles celebrates Kobe Bryant on 8/24 with new mural, light show Arena to step up its game with several years’ worth of renovation and upgrades

Lakers to retire two-time NBA champion Pau Gasol’s No. 16 jersey in March

LeBron James contract extension makes him highest-paid NBA player

Until next time...

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