Darvin Ham has declared open competition among Russell Westbrook, Patrick Beverley and Dennis Schroder for starting roles for the LA Lakers. The head coach vowed to name the starter and give the minutes to the players who will put in the effort on defense.
If Ham sticks to his word, then there is a chance that “Russ”, a former MVP, could come off the bench. Chris Broussard, on “The Odd Couple” podcast, seriously doubted Westbrook would agree to head the bench mob. He said:
“I just don’t know if he’ll be capable [come off the bench]. After you’ve been an icon, one of the best players of this generation and one of the best players ever, and you still physically can kind of do what you’re used to doing for the most part.
“What is he? 50x the player Patrick Beverley is? 30x the player Dennis Schroder is? And he’s gonna come off the bench behind them?”
Russell Westbrook has already said on record that he is a professional who will do the job that’s asked of him. It’s implying that should someone win the starting point guard role, he would willingly come off the bench for the team.
In last year’s training camp, “Russ” also told the media and former head coach Frank Vogel that he would make an impact off the ball. He mentioned his willingness to adjust because he didn’t need to have the ball to have his imprint on the game.
Russell Westbrook didn’t follow through on what he said in last year’s LA Lakers Media Day, except probably in the first few games. He eventually refused to screen for LeBron James and lacked effort on defense when he didn’t have the ball on offense.
Darvin Ham could ask the 9-time All-Star for more off-ball duties, particularly if he plays alongside James and Anthony Davis. The new head coach seems to have a stronger relationship with the fiery point guard than Frank Vogel ever did.
However, it remains to be seen how their communication and trust will work out once the season gets underway.
Russell Westbrook’s best chance to be Russell Westbrook will be available if he comes off the bench
There’s only one ball and Darvin Ham has already made it known that LeBron James will not sacrifice anything on offense. Most of the time, and rightly so, “King James” will orchestrate the LA Lakers’ offense.
Russell Westbrook, who needs the ball in his hands to make an impact, will have a diminished role together with James and Anthony Davis. The LA Lakers simply can’t allow “Russ to be Russ” when the two other superstars are on the court.
It becomes a different story if he agrees to come off the bench. He will undoubtedly become the Lakers’ best player and will get a lion’s share of ball possession. Westbrook has proven to excel when surrounded by less talented players in his OKC Thunder and Washington Wizards days.
If the former MVP agrees and plays his best if handed a bench role, then the Lakers will become a more balanced unit. More importantly for him, he gets to play his game while still making an impact on winning.