Lakers guard Russell Westbrook has undoubtedly performed better since head coach Darvin Ham decided to bring him off the bench. In three games (28.5 minutes) as a starter, he averaged 10.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists on .280/.083/.800 shooting compared to 18.3 points, 5.1 rebounds and 8.1 assists on .449/.415/.810 shooting in nine games (29.6 minutes) as a reserve.
However, as Kyle Goon of The Southern California News Group writes, turnovers and unpredictable play have tempered Westbrook’s otherwise solid production since the transition. He’s averaging 4.4 turnovers off the bench and sometimes meanders through important possessions without setting the offense.
According to Goon, Ham replaced Westbrook with rookie Max Christie with eight minutes left in the fourth quarter of the Lakers’ victory over Brooklyn on Sunday, and the team’s lead went from six points up to 18 in five minutes. Westbrook struggled to close the third quarter, going 0-for-3 with a turnover during a stretch that saw the Lakers’ 16-point lead cut down to three.
There’s mounting evidence that it might be wise for Ham to sit Westbrook at the end of games, Goon notes. Even though it’s been a team-wide issue for the 3-10 Lakers, Westbrook is shooting just 1-for-7 in clutch situations and has the worst plus/minus (-19) on the roster in those minutes.
Here’s more on the Lakers:
- Christie, the 35th overall pick of June’s draft, has entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols, ESPN’s Dave McMenamin tweets. The 19-year-old has been in the rotation over the past four games, averaging 4.5 points and 4.8 rebounds while shooting 50% from three-point range in 20.2 minutes per game over that stretch.
- Ham told reporters that Dennis Schröder and Thomas Bryant are probable for Friday’s game against the Pistons, per Mike Bresnahan of Spectrum SportsNet (Twitter link). Both players underwent thumb surgery just before the regular season began and have yet to play this season, so Friday could mark their 2022/23 debuts.
- LeBron James was a non-contact participant in Wednesday’s practice, Bresnahan adds. James is considered day-to-day with a left adductor strain. His status will be updated Thursday.