The Lakers will have Russell Westbrook come off the bench in their preseason finale against the Kings on Friday night, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Dave McMenamin, who say that lineup decision could carry over into the regular season, depending on how it goes.
As ESPN’s duo explains, the Lakers believe Westbrook could be a better fit as the “quarterback” of the second unit, which would allow him to have the ball in his hands more.
The former MVP and Lakers head coach Darvin Ham have had talks throughout the offseason about the possibility of him playing a Sixth Man role, and revisited that discussion on Thursday, sources tell Wojnarowski and McMenamin.
Westbrook struggled last season in his first year as a Laker, and is still trying to establish chemistry with stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis. When all three players are on the court together, L.A. generally wants its offense to run more through James and Davis, so moving Westbrook to the second unit could give him a better chance to thrive — the team envisions him playing “faster and freer” in that role, per ESPN’s report.
Westbrook hasn’t come off the bench since early in his rookie season in 2008, having started over 1,000 consecutive regular season games since then.
The Lakers are experimenting with a number of different starting lineups during the preseason as they try to find the best fits for James and Davis. With Westbrook coming off the bench on Friday, Los Angeles will be using its sixth starting lineup in six games.
Here are a couple more notes on the Lakers and their point guards:
- Westbrook brushed off a pair of viral videos that appeared to show him not joining his Lakers teammates in on-court huddles and dismissed the idea that there’s any discord in the team’s ranks, as McMenamin writes at ESPN.com. “Honestly I’m just trying to compete and do my job. Everything, videos, get nitpicked. You can cut any video and make anything you want out of it,” Westbrook said. “It’s not up to me to be able to judge that. I know I’m a genuine team player. I’ve never had a problem being with my teammates, so I’m going to continue doing what I’ve been doing.”
- Lakers guard Dennis Schröder is dealing with a finger injury and his status for next week’s regular season opener is up in the air, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). Schröder won’t play vs. Sacramento on Friday as he undergoes more testing on the finger. The injury is on Schröder’s right hand, according to Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times, who says (via Twitter) doctors are still determining whether the veteran can play through the injury or if it will need more time to heal.