Lakers Make Final Decision on Russell Westbrook’s Role: Report

Lakers point guard Russell Westbrook dribbles the ball during the 2021-22 season

Getty Lakers point guard Russell Westbrook dribbles the ball during the 2021-22 season

The Los Angeles Lakers have made a final decision on Russell Westbrook’s role for the upcoming season if he’s not traded.

On September 19th’s episode of “NBA Today,” ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne said the Lakers still view Westbrook as a starter despite acquiring Patrick Beverley from the Utah Jazz and signing Dennis Schroder in unrestricted free agency.

“From what I understand now, they still see Russell Westbrook as a starter,” Shelburne said. “He’s a former MVP. He’s given that respect. Everyone’s gonna compete for jobs. … Russell Westbrook is the starter there.”

Westbrook, the 2016-17 MVP, hasn’t come off the bench in an NBA game since November 28th, 2008, a month into his rookie season with the Oklahoma City Thunder. When new Lakers head coach Darvin Ham was asked about the possibility of Westbrook coming off the bench during his introductory press conference in June, Westbrook — who was at the press conference — laughed at the notion.

Along with Westbrook, Beverley and Schroder, the Lakers have Kendrick Nunn, Austin Reaves and Lonnie Walker IV on the roster, creating a possible logjam at the guard position if Westbrook isn’t traded.


Who Will Lakers Start?

CBS Sports is predicting that the Lakers will start Westbrook, Beverley, Juan Toscano-Anderson, LeBron James and Anthony Davis next season if Westbrook isn’t moved. Ham told reporters on September 6th that he believed Westbrook and Beverley could play together.

“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.”

Westbrook 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 nine-time All-Star ranked 42nd in true shooting percentage, making him a poor fit next to James and Davis.


Westbrook Has Been Working on His Jumper

Westbrook has been working on his jumper this offseason. The Lakers guard went viral on September 15th after showing off a new jump shot in New York.

According to an August 9th report from Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, the Lakers are optimistic that Westbrook will improve his 3-point shooting from the corners next season. The corner 3-pointer is the shortest shot from beyond the arc. Westbrook hit 43.8% of his 3-pointers from the corner last season, which was fourth on the Lakers.

Westbrook, who picked up his $47.1 million player option for next season, is expected to attend the upcoming Lakers minicamp hosted by James if he’s not traded, per a September 5th report from NBA insider Marc Stein. On July 18th, Haynes reported that Westbrook, James and Davis spoke on the phone, with each star expressing their commitment to one another.

James, Davis and Westbrook appeared in only 21 games together last season. The Lakers were 11-10 with their three superstars on the floor together, a 43-win pace over the course of an 82-game season.

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