Maybe head coach Darvin Ham is onto something. Or maybe it’s just too small of a sample size to really see any results. But however you want to break it down, pushing Russell Westbrook to a sixth man role may be the move that helps the Los Angeles Lakers figure things out.
Since his benching, the team is 1-1 but is playing at a much higher level. Westbrook is free to run the second team offense while also getting limited reps with LeBron James and Anthony Davis as well.
It was clear that having Westbrook start games with this current ideation of the Lakers wasn’t sustainable. But getting him to accept a bench role has made a major difference on and off court. Both James and Davis have praised Westbrook for his willingness to let go of his pride and do what’s best for the team.
Anthony Davis said he approached Russell Westbrook in the locker room postgame to tell him how he is proud of him for how he accepted his role that Darvin Ham laid out for him, saying Westbrook is “flourishing” off the bench so far
— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) October 31, 2022
It can be difficult for players such as Westbrook, who is a former league MVP, to let go of his ego. Westbrook has been a player that many view as a non-team first kind of guy over the course of his career. But if he can continue to thrive in the sixth man spot, he may not only help this Lakers team but prolong his career.
Westbrook has been at the center of controversy since his arrival in Los Angeles due to his poor play and fit around the other star players. Laker fans have wanted him gone for awhile but the front office has remained strong on the front of trying to see this move through.
Westbrook is much more effective when he is running the offense and setting guys up for easy shot attempts. However when you have LeBron James also on the roster, the ball is going to be in his hands. Westbrook still isn’t a great shooter but if he can get to the rim and create chance for others, he can be a productive member of the roster.
Westbrook finished the game against Denver with 18 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists. But he had a plus/minus of 18 in the box score and did all the little things throughout the game.
He has been a polarizing player since entering the league but he showed that he can still be an effective player if put into the correct posotion to succeed. It’s clear that his trust in coach Darvin Ham is strong otherwise the idea of a bench spot probably wouldn’t fly.
It was only one game but the teams victory last night against the Denver Nuggets gives a blueprint of what this Lakers squad could be. Going forward, the Lakers may have found something if Westbrook can keep up this team first mentality.