The Los Angeles Lakers open up the 2022-23 season on Tuesday night against the defending champion Golden State Warriors.
After a long offseason, the Lakers have the chance to start things off on a high note, hopefully setting the tone for a much more successful season than last year. One thing that remains from 2021-22 though is that Russell Westbrook is on the roster despite the Lakers’ efforts to trade him this past summer.
The Lakers are hoping that the addition of head coach Darvin Ham can get Westbrook to buy in and have a bounce-back season for L.A.
Part of getting Westbrook to buy in involves something that Frank Vogel never tried in 2021-22 and that’s bringing him off the bench to run the second unit. Ham has been clear since the beginning that they may test it out at some point, and they finally did in the preseason finale against the Sacramento Kings.
Westbrook only played five minutes before suffering a hamstring injury, however, so Ham didn’t get the look he wanted to with the point guard coming off the bench. That leaves a big question mark going into the Lakers’ season opener as it remains to be seen which direction Ham will go.
Patrick Beverley is not expecting Westbrook to come off the bench though and stated as such on the latest episode of his podcast:
“Obviously him with guys where he’s the main ball-handler [is good], but he’s not gonna come off the bench. We all know that. That was just to try to see how it works with the second unit. To be the catalog catalyst, I need him in the first unit with me. Getting downhill, point guard with big size, can pass the rock. But the coaches are just trying to find ways to use Russ the best way, whether that’s the second unit or however it goes. But we all know he’s a Hall of Famer, he’s a starter and he’s our starting point guard. So that’s how it goes, when the media takes that and runs with that and think it’s the new thing. So we got to keep his sanity, man, they’re trying to kill our boy Russ.”
Beverley’s co-host suggested a potential lineup involving Beverley, Westbrook, Lonnie Walker IV, LeBron James and Anthony Davis and Beverley responded in agreement, perhaps even giving insight regarding that being the Lakers’ starting lineup:
“You might be head coach,” Beverley responded. “I ain’t gonna give you our starting lineup but you might be head coach because that sounds like exactly what the starting lineup is.”
If Westbrook is indeed in the starting lineup then that likely means Austin Reaves would come off the bench. Regardless of whether Westbrook starts or not though, expect Ham to stagger his minutes with James so the point guard can get some minutes where he runs the offense as opposed to playing off ball.
James gives thoughts on Westbrook coming off bench
James himself recently commented on the prospect of Westbrook coming off the bench and expects his teammate to excel regardless of his role.
“I really don’t have an opinion,” James said. “I think whatever it takes for our team to be as well-equipped and for guys to feel as comfortable as possible. I think it was just something for us to look at tonight. It wasn’t something that’s set in stone, but I’m also focused on putting the guys in position to be successful when I’m on the floor no matter who’s out on the floor.
“Russ is gonna be a big piece for our club no matter…I mean, whatever role that he has and the rest of us. We all have to be ready for whatever.”
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