Since moving to the bench, Los Angeles Lakers point guard Russell Westbrook has looked like a completely different player.
Although the Lakers saw their modest two-game winning streak snapped by the Utah Jazz on Friday night, Westbrook had another strong performance. The former MVP led the Lakers in scoring with 26 points on an efficient 9-of-14 shooting to go along with six assists and three rebounds.
Westbrook was the catalyst in Los Angeles’ run in the third quarter, and his play earned him MVP chants at the free throw line, via ClutchPoints:
MVP chants for Russell Westbrook are ringing in Crypto arena 🗣pic.twitter.com/wZ1D1n92Sy
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) November 5, 2022
For someone who has heard boos and fans yelling at him not to shoot at games in his Lakers tenure, getting that support had to have felt good for Westbrook.
When asked about the chants after the game, he attributed it to his play and body of work.
“Honestly, I’m just grateful and blessed, and I give all my thanks and all my credit to the man above to allow me to be able to compete,” Westbrook said. “Good games, bad games. Off nights, good nights. I’ll just let my play and my work speak for itself.”
Westbrook also talked about what has gone into his recent strong play.
“Just constantly just keep bringing it. But I know how to do it. Not just play basketball with a competitive fire and spirit and let my energy kind of be contagious. Try the best way I can to be able to come in and be effective some way, somehow. If continue doing that, it will put us in the right position.”
Head coach Darvin Ham had been highly effusive of Westbrook since coming to Los Angeles because he believed he could put him in positions to succeed. Coming off the bench seemed like a disaster waiting to happen given Westbrook’s prideful nature, but so far it has proven to be a potentially season-saving move after the team started out 0-5.
It’s easy to parse out why Westbrook has thrived off the bench as he’s been given more ballhandling responsibilities rather than having to play off of LeBron James and Anthony Davis off-ball. The veteran guard is at his best when he’s able to grab a defensive rebound and race up the court where he can put pressure on the rim and either finish himself or find teammates for open shots.
The best version of the Lakers still involves James and Davis playing up to their potential, but having someone like Westbrook who can change the tenor of a game with his energy on both ends is a key ingredient for their success. Hopefully Westbrook continues this level of play as the Purple and Gold will surely need it.
Ham pushing for Westbrook to be in Sixth Man of the Year conversation
As a staunch Westbrook supporter, Ham has taken it upon himself to make sure his lead guard is in the best possible position to succeed. Coming off the bench has been a boon for Westbrook and the Lakers, and Ham has already started to lay the groundwork for Westbrook’s Sixth Man of the Year case.
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