Lakers Coaching Finalist ‘Intrigued’ by Russell Westbrook: Report

Lakers guard Russell Westbrook

Getty Lakers guard Russell Westbrook

Darvin Ham, Terry Stotts and Kenny Atkinson have interviewed with the Los Angeles Lakers for their head-coaching job. Stotts met with the Lakers in person on May 24 and Ham and Atkinson will do the same in the near future, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Stotts, who has coached the Atlanta Hawks, Milwaukee Bucks and Portland Trail Blazers, is intrigued with potentially coaching Lakers point guard Russell Westbrook, according to Mark Medina of The Iowa native believes he can help the one-time MVP be more effective and comfortable with his role than he was in 2021-22 under Frank Vogel.

Westbrook and Vogel didn’t have a good relationship. According to Dan Woike and Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times, Westbrook never respected Vogel, who was fired by the Lakers on April 11.

“Russ never respected Frank from Day 1,” said one Lakers staff member with knowledge of the situation. “The moment Frank said anybody who gets the rebound can bring it up the court, which is just how the NBA is played these days, Russ was like, ‘Naw, I’m the point guard. Give the ball to me. Everybody run.’ Frank was like, ‘No, we have Talen [Horton-Tucker]. We have Austin [Reaves]. We have Malik [Monk]. We have LeBron [James]. We have AD [Anthony Davis]. They can all bring the ball up.’ He was like, ‘Nope, I’m the point guard. Give me that s—. Everybody get out the way.’ From that point on, in training camp, it was a wrap, ‘cause now Russ is a fish out of water. He doesn’t know what to do. That’s how that started.”

Westbrook on Vogel: ‘I’m Not Sure What His Issue Was with Me’

Westbrook spoke about his lack of rapport with Vogel during his exit interview on April 11. The all-time leader in triple-doubles said he was never on the same page with his head coach.

“I think it’s unfortunate to be honest because I’ve never had an issue with any of my coaches before,” Westbrook said. “I’m not sure what his issue was with me or I’m not sure why, but I can’t really give you an answer to why we really never connected. That’s something that he has to answer, but I never, from the get-go, was feeling like (we were on the same page.) I was having to try to prove myself to him and my capabilities and what I’ve been able to do for this game and it’s unfortunate but it’s really not (my fault). It’s kind of out of my hands.”

Stotts coached Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum on the Blazers for several years, so he has experience coaching high-profile players. It doesn’t get more high-profile than LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Westbrook, three future Hall of Famers.

Westbrook Has Been Talked About During Coaching Interviews

According to Sam Amick of The Athletic, Stotts, Ham and Atkinson have been asked how they would use Westbrook in their system. It appears maximizing Westbrook’s play is important since the All-NBA guard struggled in 2021-22.

“More specifically, the notion of Russell Westbrook remaining part of their program is seeming more real all the time,” Amick reported. “Despite the widely held belief that the Lakers would find a way to trade Westbrook before the start of next season, sources say their coaching candidates have been asked to discuss how they would use him in their system during interviews. The takeaway for candidates, it seems, is that maximizing Westbrook’s presence after his disastrous 2021-22 season is considered an important part of this job.”

Westbrook shot only 44.4% from the field, 29.8% from beyond the arc and 66.7% from the free-throw line in his first season with the Lakers. The two-time scoring champion was second in the NBA in turnovers and his effective field goal percentage of 47.6% was sixth-worst in the league.

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