The Los Angeles Lakers were able to get back in the win column against the Houston Rockets on Monday night. LeBron James once again led the way with 48 points while Russell Westbrook added 24 points off the bench in a nice outing. It was mostly positive on this night for the Lakers, but there was one moment that raised some eyebrows.
Just before halftime, Westbrook was seen in a conversation with assistant coach Phil Handy that some might call heated. Westbrook reportedly told the Lakers coaching staff that they ‘had to be better’ according to NBA TV reporter Jared Greenberg, via Talkin’ NBA Twitter:
LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and Lakers assistant coach Phil Handy having a little chat before halftime
— 𝐓𝐚𝐥𝐤𝐢𝐧' 𝐍𝐁𝐀 (@_Talkin_NBA) January 17, 2023
This obviously led many to wonder if there was some frustration and unhappiness building within Westbrook towards the Lakers and the coaching staff. But after the game when asked about it, Westbrook dismissed it as just a regular conversation.
“Honestly, it was just a conversation,” Westbrook said after the contest. “I didn’t get into it with anybody, but obviously, people are going to perceive how they want to. Just voicing my opinion. That was it.”
Lakers head coach Darvin Ham was of the same mindset as his point guard when asked about the incident as well. “I think it’s everyday NBA business,” Ham said. “I think the conversation had something to do with rotations. But at the end of the day, I trust my staff. We encourage guys, coaching staff members, to all be communicative so that way we’re all on the same page. There’s no grey areas and we’ll talk things out.
“It’s a passionate sport, we’re trying to get a win, we’re trying to correct the ship and get on the right side of the win-loss column and we talked. It may be passionate but it’s never disrespectful. That’s the 100% thing that I was tell you. But we talk, we communicate and sometimes it’s animated, somethings it’s dormant but it’s just another day in the life of an NBA member, player or coach.”
As Ham noted, conversations can get heated, especially with those who are passionate about what they do and Westbrook is nothing if not passionate. But as long as things don’t turn to disrespect on either side, the Lakers should be able to move forward with no issues.
Communication is key between players and coaches and Ham will continue to encourage that dialogue within this Lakers team. And perhaps no one is better at that than Handy, who is one of the most respected assistants around the league.
Darvin Ham on Lakers’ trade deadline needs: ‘Shooting always helps’
Darvin Ham is undoubtedly more focused on continuing to improve the Lakers as opposed to any sort of possible argument that by all accounts was not anything serious. With the trade deadline coming up, Ham insisted that he is most focused on getting his own players healthy, but also noted that it never hurts to get more shooting.
“I can’t really pinpoint a need at this point, shooting always helps, but at the end of the day, our team is coming together,” Ham said. “They’ve been playing really well together. It sucks that we’ve had guys out for various reasons, injuries, illnesses, but as we start to get these guys back then we’ll be able to better identify if there’s anything that we want to do.”
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