Lakers News: Russell Westbrook Comments On If He Should Start When So Many Teammates Are Out
Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers missed two of their three leaders in the 126-113 loss against the Toronto Raptors as LeBron James and Anthony Davis were out with health-related issues — making Russell Westbrook the most senior player on the court.

Westbrook still came off the bench because head coach Darvin Ham liked the 2017 NBA MVP’s synergy with L.A.’s second unit. The 34-year-old ended the night with 16 points, nine rebounds, four assists and a steal. However, Ham said Westbrook also delivered off the bench, inspiring his teammates to play with more effort to put up a fight even as they fell nearly 30 points behind before halftime.

Speaking of his leadership, the experienced playmaker said his goal is to help his teammates understand the importance of each and every game, via NBA.com:

“I don’t think our first half was completely bad. I think the second quarter was primarily, probably, the worst quarter just defensively. But as far as the leadership side, just doing what I do best. I believe leadership is a trait that I have and I take pride in being able to do that regardless of what’s going on, who’s in, who’s out. And it’s important that each individual on our team understand how important each night is and not taking this game — and being able to play — for granted. And that’s a part of leadership, and I want to get that message across to the guys and go out and compete, and play the right way.”

Westbrook is also leading by example, accepting to come off the bench even with Davis and James out. Ham did deploy the Lakers guard earlier than usual as he came on the court less than three minutes into the game. Westbrook reiterated he is at the head coach’s disposal at any time and in any role:

“I’m just… Whenever my name is called, I’m ready to go.”

Westbrook has been averaging 15.4 points, 7.8 assists and 5.2 rebounds since he became the leader of the second unit, playing a huge role in the Lakers’ turnaround over the last couple of weeks.

Westbrook praises Thomas Bryant for stepping up in Davis’ absence

Thomas Bryant registered his best performance of the season after replacing Davis on the court when the forward’s flu-like symptoms worsened in Tuesday’s loss against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Westbrook then praised the big man for stepping up when his name was called. “He plays hard, plays the right way,” Westbrook said.

“Tonight he did a helluva job of being solid, doing what he does well. Playing hard, and he was good.”

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