Russell Westbrook has reportedly made a significant decision on his future with the Los Angeles Lakers.
According to a September 5th report from NBA insider Marc Stein, Westbrook is expected to attend the upcoming Lakers minicamp hosted by superstar LeBron James.
“The Lakers’ LeBron James typically hosts a players-only minicamp somewhere on the West Coast before training camp starts, so stay tuned. Word is that another Lakers minicamp is likely in coming days and that Russell Westbrook would indeed attend if it comes together,” Stein wrote. “Any sort of pre-camp gathering involving LeBron and his fellow purple-and-gold vets would represent a key step in the Lakers’ efforts to move past all the tension that bubbled throughout last season’s rocky 33-49 campaign, bringing James and Anthony Davis together with Westbrook and the newly acquired Patrick Beverley before the Lakers report for their first practices under new coach Darvin Ham on Sept. 26.”
Unless the Lakers make another trade, their roster heading into minicamp and training camp will consist of James, Westbrook, Anthony Davis, Patrick Beverley, Lonnie Walker IV, Kendrick Nunn, Damian Jones, Wenyen Gabriel, Thomas Bryant, Troy Brown Jr., Juan Toscano-Anderson, Austin Reaves, Max Christie, Jay Huff, Fabian White Jr. and Javante McCoy. Cole Swider and Scotty Pippen Jr. signed two-way contracts.
Los Angeles acquired Beverley from the Utah Jazz for Talen Horton-Tucker and Stanley Johnson on August 25th. Westbrook and Beverley have reportedly already been in contact since becoming teammates, according to an August 30th report from Stein.
Darvin Ham Determined to Carve Out Real Role for Westbrook
According to an August 28th report from Stein, new Lakers head coach Darvin Ham is determined to carve out a “real role” for Westbrook if the nine-time All-Star isn’t traded. The Lakers are exploring trade possibilities for Westbrook, but 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.
“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, who turns 34 in November, started 78 games for the Lakers last season. 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 Lakers have been linked to the Jazz and Indiana Pacers in Westbrook trade talks. The 2016-17 MVP was second in the NBA in turnovers last season and had the sixth-worst effective field goal percentage.
Lakers Increasingly Unlikely to Send Westbrook Away from Team
Two well-placed sources have expressed to Stein that the Lakers “lean very strongly against the concept of sending Westbrook home a la John Wall in Houston last season in the event that they can’t find a trade for him.”
Ham was a guest on “The Dan Patrick Show” on June 16th and the 49-year-old spoke about how he planned to use Westbrook next season alongside James and Davis.
“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 was at Ham’s introductory press conference in June. On July 18th, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported that Westbrook, James and Davis spoke on the phone, with each player expressing their commitment to one another.