New Los Angeles Lakers head coach Darvin Ham spoke to the local media on September 6th and the 49-year-old sounded off about Russell Westbrook.
Ham, who is entering his first season as a head coach in the NBA, praised Westbrook’s level of buy-in this offseason. The one-time MVP has been in trade rumors ever since the summer started.
“Everything has been clear and upfront between he and I,” Ham said. “Like, he’s been a pleasure. I’ve been a huge fan throughout his time in the league. He’s a salt of the earth. And again, he wants to win. I want to help him get that championship ring. But it starts here. It starts today. It starts with the buy-in. It starts with supporting your teammates and supporting a vision and doing that and working your butt off day in and day out. Everyone’s quick to look at the destination but you really have to appreciate the journey and respect and embrace the journey. He’s been that since Day 1. Anytime I call him or I need him, text messages. The communication has been great both ways. He’s in here. He’s in here putting in the work. I love him and I can’t wait to coach him and I can’t wait to succeed with him.”
According to a September 7th report from Ric Bucher of Fox Sports, the Lakers “have made it readily known Westbrook is available for trade.” Many members of the organization want to move on from the nine-time All-Star.
However, if no trade comes to fruition, Ham will do his best to make it work with Westbrook, who picked up his $47.1 million player option for next season.
Ham Wants to Carve Out ‘Real Role’ for Westbrook
According to an August 28th report from NBA insider Marc Stein, Ham is determined to “carve out a real role” for Westbrook if the UCLA product isn’t traded before training camp starts. Westbrook, who turns 34 in November, was second in the NBA in turnovers last season and had the sixth-worst effective field goal percentage.
“Yet I am also hearing that, if no trade involving Westbrook materializes and if he is on the roster when the Lakers start practicing on Sept. 27, new Lakers coach Darvin Ham remains determined to carve out a real role for Westbrook,” Stein wrote. “Sources say that the Lakers, to date, have strongly resisted the idea of shelving Westbrook completely until they can find a trade for him like the Rockets tried last season with John Wall — even after trading for longtime Westbrook adversary Patrick Beverley. Westbrook, who turns 34 in November, appeared in 78 of the Lakers’ 82 games last season.”
Westbrook was at Ham’s introductory press conference in June. The NBA’s all-time leader in triple-doubles is expected to attend the upcoming Lakers minicamp hosted by LeBron James, per a September 5th report from Stein.
Ham Thinks Westbrook & Patrick Beverley Can Play Together
Ham believes Westbrook and Patrick Beverley can play together despite having a contentious history. In 2013, Westbrook was dribbling the ball toward his bench to call a timeout when Beverley went for a steal and took out the All-Star’s knee, which led to a meniscus tear and multiple knee surgeries. Westbrook and Beverley have gotten into numerous scuffles and verbal back-and-forths since then.
However, Ham sees Westbrook and Beverley “working together fabulously.” The Michigan native also made it clear that both guards have to play defense if they want to start.
“I see them working together fabulously, man,” Ham said. “Their games complement one another. I wouldn’t want to be in a backcourt and deal with these two guys. …If they play defense. We’ve got a while. That’s still a ways off, but definitely. … It’s definitely a bullet in the chamber. We’re looking forward to it, man. Those guys in the backcourt together, man.”