In the Los Angeles Lakers’ preseason finale, head coach Darvin Ham decided to test out Russell Westbrook coming off the bench. The experiment didn’t last too long, however, as Westbrook suffered a hamstring injury early on in that game and his availability for the Lakers’ Opening Night contest against the Golden State Warriors was suddenly in question.
Westbrook would ultimately play and start despite some beliefs that his bench role would be a permanent one. Westbrook was solid as well, hitting 7-of-12 shots from the field to finish with 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Considering Westbrook played 78 games last year, an injury to him came as a bit of a surprise, but it turned out to be minor. When asked whether coming off the bench that night helped contributed to the injury, Westbrook believed that it did according to Dan Woike of the L.A. Times:
“Absolutely,” Westbrook said when asked about the role change. “I’ve been doing the same thing for 14 years straight. Honestly, I didn’t even know what to do pregame. Being honest, I was trying to figure out how to stay warm and loose. For me, obviously the way I play the game, it’s fast-paced, quick, stop-and-go. And I just happened to, when I subbed in, I felt something. Thought it was… didn’t know what it was, but I wasn’t going to risk it in a preseason game. But definitely wasn’t something I was used to. Wasn’t warm enough. But that’s something I just wasn’t accustomed to.”
While some may want to pile on Westbrook as making excuses and simply not wanting to come off the bench, his assessment makes sense. As he noted, Westbrook wasn’t able to keep his body warm as he has been used to doing things a certain way for his entire career. Not being properly warmed up or stretched can lead to those soft tissue injuries and Westbrook simply didn’t know how to stay warm coming off the bench because he has never had to.
This wasn’t a complaint by Westbrook about being a reserve, but simply an admission that his unfamiliarity with the role and having his body prepared for it likely contributed to his minor injury. Regardless, the injury was not serious enough to keep Westbrook out of the lineup on Opening Night and it looks like he will continue to be in that starting lineup moving forward.
Durant discusses ‘toxic’ criticism of Westbrook
Westbrook saw his greatest success with the Oklahoma City Thunder where he and Kevin Durant formed arguably the best duo in the NBA during that time. Durant would eventually move on and there seemed to be an issue between the two for some time. But surprisingly it would be Durant coming to Westbrook’s defense recently.
Durant noted that while he understands certain levels of criticism, and that the magnifying glass is even greater with the Lakers next to LeBron James, he believes the criticism of Westbrook has gotten toxic and many are making him the butt of their jokes unfairly.
The Brooklyn Nets star added that he hopes Westbrook is able to block out the noise before saying that the criticism around him is turning into something else completely.
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