Despite speculations, Russell Westbrook avoided coming off the bench in an NBA game for the first time since his rookie season and opened the curtain-raiser against the Golden State Warriors in the Los Angeles Lakers’ starting lineup.
Head coach Darvin Ham removed Westbrook from the opening lineup in the loss to the Sacramento Kings that concluded L.A.’s preseason. The 2017 NBA MVP exited the game early with an apparent hamstring injury, but the Lakers quickly revealed the guard would likely be active for the Warriors clash.
However, Ham’s rationale behind Westbrook’s benching suggested it would be a permanent change — even if the playmaker was ready to play on Tuesday. But, the Lakers head coach explained, he thought the starting lineup would need the nine-time All-Star’s aggressiveness, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“I mean, just again, if you want to start the game off the right way in terms of your energy, and you’re gonna be in an attack mode, [there’s] no one better than him. I mean, this is what we have and we got some key guys hurt. And it’s just Game 1, we want to give them a chance to go out and compete at the highest level.”
Ham added Westbrook had a “solid” performance against the Warriors:
“I thought he was solid, I thought he was solid. It’s a couple of possessions. I wish I could get back. But overall, I thought he was solid.”
Westbrook ended the game with 19 points, 11 rebounds and three assists. However, he turned the ball over four times and was a liability on defense, as usual, contributing to the Lakers’ poor offensive performance.
Westbrook fails to address Charles Barkley’s assertion he lost joy for basketball
At halftime of the Opening Night clash with the Warriors, TNT’s analyst Charles Barkley suggested the Lakers and Westbrook part ways soon as the guard seems to have lost his joy for basketball.
Asked about Barkley’s assertion, Westbrook provided a very vague answer. “You know what man, I’m super blessed and leaning a lot on my faith,” Westbrook said.
“So, I have a lot of great friends and family, good people in my corner that support me through thick and thin and when I have God in my corner, it doesn’t really matter what happens outside of that. I stay on course, stay focused, stay locked in. That’s all I can ask.
“Everything else that comes around it, I’ll continue doing what I’m doing, stay locked in on my craft and everything else will take care of itself.”
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