All offseason, the sentiment was that Russell Westbrook would be traded from the Los Angeles Lakers in order to improve a roster that severely underwhelmed during the 2021-22 season.
However, since bringing head coach Darvin Ham on board, the Lakers seem content keeping Westbrook on the roster to begin the 2022-23 campaign. Ham has been highly supportive of the point guard since coming back to Los Angeles and envisions him being a big part of the team’s turnaround.
Ahead of their first preseason game against the Sacramento Kings, Ham once again came out in support of Westbrook.
“He’s ours, and we love him,” Ham said. “We want him to do well. You know, like I said, I have a plan and that plan included him and they gave me the job. So it’s been a great camp for him. He’s played well, energy has been through the roof. It’s been great. All of the guys for that matter.
“But, it’s the nature of the beast and we understand that and so what we do is just block out all the noise and just kind of focus on work and he’s a big part of what we’ve been doing, big part of why we felt like it’ll work.”
Ham’s praise came on the heels of another report referencing a potential deal with the Indiana Pacers for Buddy Hield and Myles Turner. The Lakers and the Pacers went back and forth on proposals, but L.A. has so far been resistant to the idea of trading both their 2027 and 2029 first round picks.
Ham was again asked about Westbrook and trade rumors after the game and he made it clear that their focus is on what’s happening on the court.
“Russ is a Los Angeles Laker. I’m the coach. We talk about Laker business, more specifically, the business of basketball that we have together in terms of how we’re going to play and how he’s going to be effective in the system.
“Any outside noise, we don’t pay attention to it. It’s pretty difficult when you have smartphones and all that now these days, but at the end of the day, since I got the job, he’s been nothing but supportive. As with Bron and AD as well. So we just coach our team, our players listen to us. They’re trying to figure out this new system, both defensively and offensively. Any outside noise that’s par for the course. It comes with the business, but he’s a Los Angeles Laker the last time I checked, and I’m really not mad at that. And he showed tonight like, he’s going thrive in the system, and that’s about all I can say about that.”
Westbrook is on an expiring deal and will be a free agent this upcoming summer. His future in the NBA could very well be determined by how much he buys in to what Ham and the coaching staff have asked of him, which is to be a defensive pest who moves the ball and does the little things offensively.
It’s a make-or-break year for Westbrook and Los Angeles and it will be interesting to see how everything unfolds.
Kyrie Irving not in Lakers long-term plans
It seemed like a real possibility that the Lakers could swing a trade involving Westbrook for Kyrie Irving. Irving’s future with the Brooklyn Nets is also in question after this year and while the Lakers were rumored to be interested in him in the offseason, new intel has surfaced suggesting they aren’t considering him a long-term option.
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