Despite all of the rumors and reports throughout the offseason, point guard Russell Westbrook remains currently a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. And this is not a problem for new Lakers coach Darvin Ham, who has spoken about his excitement at the possibility of coaching Westbrook.
The fit between Westbrook, LeBron James and Anthony Davis was a struggle at best last season and there is certainly hope that Ham will be able to bring a better version of the point guard out this year. But if those issues persist, Westbrook could find himself on the bench more often than he was under Frank Vogel.
Even though Vogel did bench Westbrook a couple of times last season, according to Jovan Buha of The Athletic, Ham will reportedly have more power to do so:
Lakers head coach Darvin Ham will have more power to bench Westbrook down the stretch of games, according to league sources. (Former head coach Frank Vogel did so a few times last season). That could eventually extend to removing Westbrook from the starting lineup as well.
All throughout this offseason, Ham has regularly preached togetherness, competitiveness and accountability and it is that last word that rings the loudest in this case. If Westbrook isn’t performing up to expectations, it will be on Ham to hold him accountable for his shortcomings and turn to a better option if necessary. If he doesn’t, it will look as if he is going back on his word, which could cause him to lose cache and respect within the Lakers’ locker room.
The other question is how will Westbrook react and handle being benched or moved out of the starting lineup if this were to occur. The Lakers point guard didn’t sound too enthused during the couple of times it happened last season and there has been nothing to believe he would happily accept coming off the bench should that be what Ham prefers.
In the end, it will come down to the relationship that Ham and Westbrook have forged. Ham has said he has been upfront about his expectations, so it should be reasonable to expect that Westbrook would understand if he isn’t living up to them that Ham would look elsewhere. But it has proven that nothing is for certain when it comes to the Lakers point guard.
Darvin Ham reiterates what to expect from Lakers this season
Regardless of the lineups, rotations and who will be on the court down the stretch this season, Ham has been consistent in what to expect from the Lakers this year under his watch.
Ham insists that the Lakers will be a competitive, tough, defensive-minded team that will fight together and will share the ball offensively. Ham may be in his first head coaching opportunity, but he has been steadfast about what he wants from the Lakers.
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