The situation in Los Angeles regarding Lakers guard Russell Westbrook’s role in the final year of his contract has been brewing for some time.
Westbrook, who opted-in to his $47.1 million player option during the offseason, is coming off a difficult first season in LA, with the guard averaging his lowest point totals since his second season in the league while shooting just 29.8% from beyond the three-point line as the Lakers went 33-49 and missed the playoffs.
With the addition of Patrick Beverley in August, the question of who will start for the Lakers during the regular season has been bandied about.
In the Lakers’ final preseason game against the Sacramento Kings Friday night, Westbrook will come off the bench in a move that could spill into the regular season, according to ESPN.
First-year head coach Davin Ham has reportedly engaged in conversations with Westbrook about being the sixth man off of the bench and leading the Lakers’ second unit.
“It’s different combinations of seeing different guys play together,” Ham said Thursday when discussing the Lakers different preseason lineups.
“You have to prepare yourself. You got to get out in front of the fact that there’s going to be injuries. We don’t want them to happen. We don’t want them to happen to any of our guys, let alone our main guys. You just have to prepare yourself and be at the forefront of that by plugging in different lineups, different players and different positions so that when that day comes, you feel a little bit more prepared.”
Westbrook has been rumored in numerous trade scenarios during the offseason but has received support from teammate LeBron James and owner Jeanie Buss.
“All I can say is that, from my point of view, (Westbrook) was our best player last year,” Buss told The Athletic in September. “He played pretty much every single game, showed up, worked hard. You know, I would have loved to have seen what this team would have looked like if they stayed healthy.
“It’s really tough to win when Anthony Davis isn’t on the court. LeBron was hurt a lot of the season. But Russ showed up every game and played hard every night. And, you know, I just really appreciate him for who he is and what he brings to the team.”
Buss later clarified in a text to The Athletic that she meant to say that Westbrook was the Lakers’ most consistent player, as he played in 78 games last season.
The Lakers open the regular season against the Golden State Warriors on October 18.