Russell Westbrook, Utah Jazz meet, both sides open to ‘all possibilities’

When the Utah Jazz traded for guard Russell Westbrook on Wednesday afternoon, the prevailing notion was that Utah would buy Westbrook quickly, paving the way for him to achieve full representation and sign with every team.

That can still happen. But as we head into the weekend, it’s not quite what it looked like a few days ago.

The Jazz and Westbrook have met and had several productive discussions about his imminent future as a member of the Jazz organization. With the Jazz starting a four-game road trip against the Raptors Friday night in Toronto, no decision has been made regarding Westbrook. But Westbrook, who joined jazz from the Lakers and has had a career in the Hall of Fame, has expressed a willingness to stay in Utah and don a uniform.

“We’re open to all possibilities,” Justin Zanik, Jazz’s general manager, said Friday afternoon.

The Jazz is dedicated to being transparent about where they stand as an organization and putting the proverbial ball in Westbrook’s playing field. They respect what Westbrook was able to achieve as a player. At meetings with his representation, including agent Jeff Schwartz, they wanted to give Westbrook a say and some control over what happens next in his trial as a player.

So what does that mean? The Jazz let Westbrook and his camp know that if he actually decides to play for the franchise, playtime could be sporadic. Utah just traded away Malik Beasley, Mike Conley and Jarred Vanderbilt. They did this in part because they needed to sort out playing time to find out what they have about some of their younger players. At the point guard point, Westbrook’s dominant position, the jazzmen Collin Sexton and Talen Horton-Tucker will give heavy minutes up front.

And that means that if Westbrook decides to play with the Jazz, he can actually rack up some DNPs for the rest of the season. And that can be a difficult situation for a proud veteran like Westbrook. What Westbrook and his agency appreciated is that the Jazz have been open and honest about where they stand as a team and as an organization. After the trade deadline, this will become a team that will invest in its younger players. That’s the reality.

So those are Westbrook’s decisions as of Friday afternoon. He may choose to play with the Jazz, which could mean the fewest minutes he’s played in his NBA career. The Jazz is happy to keep him on the list and Westbrook just goes home. There will be no uncomfortable feelings either way if Westbrook chooses this path. Jazz would understand him perfectly and support his decision.

The benefits of this decision for Westbrook are many. Apparently he would still get his full contract paid out. The Jazz would also acquire Westbrook’s bird rights over the course of the summer, which would then open the shield and trade route, potentially benefiting both parties. But Westbrook, how ugly his tenure with the Lakers ended earlier in the week, had a good season. He has shown a willingness to come off the bench. He has largely proven that he has enough talent and skill to be an NBA player after this current contract expires, and he has shown a willingness to do what his team asks of him. So if he doesn’t play another game this season, general managers at free agency this summer will remember what he’s done up to this point. If he plays for the jazz and isn’t on the rotation every night, that might have the ability to skew things that way for him.

Westbrook could alternatively aim for the allegedly upcoming takeover and return some money for his contract. And then he would be free to sign with any team. There are already reports of other teams ready to sign the high-octane Guardian. That would give Westbrook the runway to sign with a team that better fits his schedule of wanting to play for a championship contender.

According to league sources, the Jazz are not setting a deadline for Westbrook’s decision the athlete. That decision could come at any time. But that decision is up to him. Jazz will progress accordingly as Westbrook makes his choice.

There is, so to speak, a natural deadline of March 1st. That’s the NBA’s deadline to be on a roster to compete in the postseason. But the Jazz are currently on a four-game journey, taking in Toronto, New York, Indiana and Memphis. Then it’s All Star Weekend. And after that, the Jazz have a few games before March 1st. So that should probably give Westbrook enough time to weigh the pros and cons of what he wants to do.

The Jazz was happy that the two sides were so amicable at this point, and pleased with Westbrook’s professionalism. Now both sides just have to work through the entire process until the process comes to a conclusion, whatever that conclusion is.

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(Photo: Mark J. Rebilas / USA Today) Russell Westbrook, Utah Jazz meet, both sides open to ‘all possibilities’

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