Russell Westbrook’s role with the Los Angeles Lakers is still to be determined, with coach Darvin Ham leaving the door open for the former MVP to come off the bench.
Westbrook’s future in LA has been a polarizing topic for the majority of the offseason, with the Lakers unsuccessfully trying to move him via trade. But with camp set to kick off, Westbrook remains on the roster, although whether he’ll start or come off the bench is still up for debate.
“We’re ways away. We have different options,” Lakers head coach Darvin Ham said at Lakers media day on Monday. “We signed Dennis [Schroder], we signed Pat Bev, we got healthy Kendrick Nunn along with Russ himself, Austin Reaves. We have a variety of options to fill our backcourt.”
The main focus will be on the defensive side of the ball, where Westbrook was a liability at times last season. Ham assured that those invested in getting stops will be the ones who garner the minutes.
“Defensively we got to have a defensive mindset,” Ham said. “Those are the guys that gonna get the minutes, guys who are going out there to get stops.”
Westbrook Not Phased by Trade Rumors
It’s safe to say nothing went as planned last season when the Lakers assembled a big three of Westbrook, LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Injury issues prevented them from building chemistry and the Lakers stumbled to a 33-49 record, missing the postseason.
Westbrook averaged 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.1 assists last season but struggled to find consistency. Westbrook was benched during crunch time in some crucial games, which didn’t sit well with the future Hall of Famer.
Despite the drama and rampant rumors about his future, Westbrook is focused on doing his job.
“Whether [the Lakers] want me here or not doesn’t matter, honestly,” Westbrook told reporters on Monday. “My job is to be a professional. Show up to work like I’ve always done.”
Westbrook Has Internal Support From LeBron James
Westbrook said in his exit interview last season that he wasn’t able to be himself with the Lakers, which effected him play on the court.
“Sometimes I may not agree with it, but that I kept to myself and did what I could have for the team regardless,” Westbrook said in April. “The frustrating part is losing. Like, making a big sacrifice and trying to find ways to play differently and do different things, and I’m putting in position, and we’re still losing — to me, [it] didn’t make much sense.”
During media day, Westbrook called his offseason conversations with James and Davis “very beneficial” and his superstar teammates have his back.
“It’s gonna be a great year for him and we’re gonna be right there with him,” James said during media day.
Westbrook has also worked with Ham during the summer and the first-year skipper has been impressed with the nine-time All-Star’s team-first approach.
“He’s been awesome. Everything that I’ve asked of him he’s done,” Ham said. “Everything has been about being selfless, being team-oriented, defense.”
We’ll see where Westbrook ultimatley ends up and whether or not he’s wearing purple and gold when the season begins. In the meantime, it appears all sides are invested in making it work.