Los Angeles Lakers point guard Russell Westbrook was at new head coach Darvin Ham’s introductory press conference on June 6. During the press conference, a reporter asked Ham if he’s thought about bringing Westbrook off the bench and the one-time MVP had a strong reaction.
According to Michael J. Duarte of NBC Los Angeles, Westbrook laughed when the question was asked.
Westbrook hasn’t come off the bench since his rookie season with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2008-09. The nine-time All-Star started 78 games for the Lakers in 2021-22. He averaged 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.1 assists while shooting 44.4% from the field, 29.8% from beyond the arc and 66.7% from the free-throw line.
The NBA’s all-time leader in triple-doubles, Westbrook was second in the league in turnovers and his effective field goal percentage of 47.6% was sixth-worst in the NBA in 2021-22. However, Ham still believes in the future Hall of Famer.
Ham on Westbrook: ‘There’s Still a Ton Left in the Tank’
Ham told reporters during his introductory press conference that Westbrook still has a “ton left in the tank.” The 48-year-old said he’s looking forward to working with the two-time scoring champion.
“Don’t get it messed up. Russell Westbrook is one of the best players our league has ever seen and there’s still a ton left in the tank,” Ham said. “I don’t know why people tend to try to write him off. Russ and I had some really, really great one-on-one convos, man, and the biggest word I think that came out of that, those discussions, was sacrifice. I’m going to expect him to be the same tenacious, high-energy player that he’s been all his entire career. A lot of that now may have him without the ball in his hand. Most of it now may have it on the defensive end. But again, we have to sacrifice. There’s no achieving anything without all parties sharing the load, sacrificing, instead of one-on-one.”
Westbrook has a player option worth $47,063,478 for next season and he’s widely expected to pick it up. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, Ham was asked how he planned to use Westbrook in his system during his interview with the Lakers.
Lakers Would Rather Keep Westbrook Than Surrender Additional Assets
According to Marc Stein of Substack, teams are asking the Lakers to give up additional assets to trade Westbrook and the purple and gold have no interest in doing that.
“The Lakers are tuning out the skeptics yet again and insisting to anyone who will listen that they would rather keep Russell Westbrook on the roster for next season than surrender additional assets to convince someone to trade for him,” Stein reported. “The Lakers are also said to be adamant that they won’t release the former MVP and eat his $47.1 million player option for next season after Westbrook picks it up.”
Westbrook being at Ham’s introductory press conference is a pretty strong sign that he’ll be on the Lakers next season. The three-time assists champion will certainly be under a lot of pressure to play well in 2022-23 after struggling in 2021-22.