Lakers’ Darvin Ham Gets Honest on Russell Westbrook’s Role

Lakers guard Russell Westbrook

Getty Lakers guard Russell Westbrook

New Los Angeles Lakers head coach Darvin Ham was a guest on the “Dan Patrick Show” on June 16 and he spoke about how he plans to use Russell Westbrook next season.

Ham, who told reporters that Westbrook has a ton left in the tank during his introductory press conference on June 6, already has an idea of how he can get the best out of the one-time MVP.

“I think the style of play we’re going to have, you know, all of those guys — not only just Russ but LeBron, AD — they’re going to be able to share the load,” Ham said. “And one thing I mentioned to Russ is the way I’m built, the success I’ve seen — especially most recently in the last nine years and the last four years being with Coach Bud in Milwaukee, also in Atlanta, but in Milwaukee — one thing we always preached and will continue to preach to be our foundation of our teams is a defensive mindset, being able to defend at a high level.

“And I challenged him and he accepted the challenge. That’s a part of the word ‘sacrifice’ we use. And being able to move him around in different spaces on the floor as we go back on the offensive end. Sometimes he’s going to be off the ball slashing. Sometimes he’s going to play in the dunker. Sometimes he’s going to be initiating things. He may post up a little bit. He may be the screener in pick-and-rolls.

“So, being able to diversify his plan of attack where he’s not just rushing the ball up the court facing three defenders every time and having to put his, like I said in the press conference, run to the telephone booth and put their capes on. Everybody needs to be involved with what we’re doing on both sides of the ball and I think it’ll make it easier, lighten the load and also allow us to get stronger as the season gets longer.”

Westbrook 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 NBA in turnovers and his effective field goal percentage of 47.6% was sixth-worst in the league. However, Ham clearly still believes in the UCLA product.

Ham on Westbrook: ‘There’s Still a Ton Left in the Tank’

Westbrook was at Ham’s introductory press conference. The new Lakers tactician, who has won a championship as a player and coach, is looking forward to working with the nine-time All-Star.

“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, who turns 34 in November, has a player option worth $47.1 million for next season and he’s widely expected to pick it up.

Lakers Operating as If Westbrook Will Be on Roster Next Season

According to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report, “sources close to the team, along with several competing executives, believe the Lakers are operating as if Westbrook will be on the roster to start next season.”

Per Marc Stein of Substack, teams are asking the Lakers to give up additional assets to trade Westbrook, but 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 on May 29. “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.”

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