The Los Angeles Lakers announced Wednesday that they were acquiring point guard Patrick Beverley from the Utah Jazz in exchange for forward Talen Horton-Tucker and guard Stanley Johnson. The moves frees up cap space for the Lakers in future seasons, but the fiscal sense behind the move may not justify the emotional expense.

A perfect storm might be brewing in Los Angeles.

After missing the playoffs last season, the entire Lakers roster was thrown under a microscope for the basketball world to scrutinize. With so much star power, it seemed impossible for such a team to achieve so little, and there were plenty of places to point.

Some blamed Anthony Davis, claiming that the big man was too injury-prone and wasn’t playing with enough passion.

Others went further, placing blame on LeBron James, who only managed to appear in 56 games before signing a massive extension in the offseason.

More often than not, however, Lakers fans put the franchise’s failure on Russell Westbrook. It wasn’t a fair assessment, but Westbrook’s regression was undeniably one of the focal points of the failed season in Los Angeles.

After scoring at least 20 points per game every year since 2010, Westbrook only scored 18.5 per game in the 2021-22 season and was especially ineffective without Davis on the floor. When James was unable to play, however, Westbrook actually scored more, leading many to question the chemistry between some of the team’s top stars.

This offseason has been an effort to regroup for Los Angeles after a disastrous shortcoming. The salary cap has also been an issue, as several massive contracts have prevented the team from building around Davis and James.

In this sense, acquiring Beverley is a shrewd decision, bolstering the roster with a persistent (sometimes obnoxious) defender while clearing cap space for future seasons.

There’s just one problem. Russell Westbrook hates Patrick Beverley.

The rivalry between Westbrook and Beverley cannot be defined by one event, but its source is easy to identify.

In a 2013 playoff game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets, Westbrook suffered a torn meniscus after colliding with Beverley. Westbrook was furious for good reason, as the injury ended his season, and the Thunder lost in the following round to the Memphis Grizzlies.

In nearly a decade since, Westbrook and Beverley have been in multiple altercations on the court and have regularly exchanged words off the court as well.

In 2019, Westbrook told ESPN that Beverley didn’t actually play good defense, an insult that Beverley took personally, claiming that it hurt his career.

For a team coming off a failed season and many already prepared to consider their roster dysfunctional, it may seem like a poor decision for the Lakers to seek Beverley and place him on the same roster as one of his chief rivals. There’s only one answer to demystify the situation.

In order for it to make sense, Westbrook must be traded.

Trade talks surrounding Westbrook have persisted ever since the season ended, one in which he took a lot of money without contributing to a winning effort. Other teams in the league are certainly interested in Westbrook, a nine-time All-Star and one of the greatest scorers in NBA history.

The price won’t be as high as it once would have been, but there’s still plenty to gain if the Lakers plan to make a deal.

For now though, the Lakers have not indicated interest in giving away any of their key pieces. James has been very vocal in his support for Westbrook in the offseason and Beverley expressed excitement about his impending move to Los Angeles in a tweet Thursday morning.

These good feelings haven’t been tested on the court, however, and tensions were high at times last season without a personal feud marinating in the locker room.

If a trade doesn’t send Westbrook elsewhere and injuries continue to plague the franchise’s older stars, the Lakers may only further their own reputation in Tinsel Town as another star-studded mess you can’t look away from.

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