Without a doubt, one of the biggest reasons for the Los Angeles Lakers’ improved play has been the success of Russell Westbrook in his reserve role. While many believed that would be the role best suited for Westbrook, there was no proof that he would embrace it as someone who has been a starter throughout his entire NBA career.
But head coach Darvin Ham was able to convince Westbrook to buy into the role and he has responded with his best stretch of play as a Laker. And not only has Westbrook’s own play greatly improved, but he has done a lot to help lift the other reserves as well, making the Lakers’ bench unit far more formidable.
“Just trying to do whatever I can to make the person next to me better,” Westbrook said when asked about the vibes surrounding the Lakers. “Whatever is asked of me I’m doing it. Whether it works or not I’m just doing the best I can with the position that’s given to me.
“I know what I’m capable of when I’m on the floor so when I get on the floor I make sure I do what I can to make others around me better. Hopefully it rubs off on the rest of the guys and we can make something out of it.”
This was certainly the case in the Lakers’ victory Friday night over the Denver Nuggets where Westbrook finished with his second triple-double of the season with 15 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists. Many of those assists went to Thomas Bryant, who finished with 21 points off the bench, while Austin Reaves added 16 as the Lakers bench outscored Denver 58-to-23.
“To me, I honestly live for those moments. That’s why I play basketball, to see others do well,” Westbrook said. “And to see the joy from Thomas, Austin, Lonnie, those guys, Pat, whoever, Dennis, guys who have been out injured and have been through so many different things the last couple of years. To see them do well, it’s something that just gives me so much joy to see them do well. I just embrace that moment just being in this league and seeing guys do that is something that I think we can build on. It’s something that we should try to strive for every night. Tonight was one of those nights where everybody had their hand in it and it showed.”
The idea of Westbrook still being a member of the Lakers, let alone being an important piece of the team’s success is something few saw coming at the start of the season. But Westbrook has found new life as the Lakers’ sixth man and it is one of the many reasons the team is much improved from the start of the season.
Lakers are ‘increasingly unlikely’ to trade Russell Westbrook
It is due to this improved play from Westbrook that it seems more likely that he will remain with the team through the February trade deadline.
The latest rumors suggest that the Lakers are ‘increasingly unlikely’ to deal Westbrook. This would fall in line with the reports stating the Lakers are focused more on smaller deals involving the likes of Patrick Beverley and Kendrick Nunn.
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