New Lakers head coach Darvin Ham isn’t committing to having Russell Westbrook in his starting lineup to open the 2022/23 season, telling reporters on Monday that the team has a “variety of options to fill in our backcourt,” as Kyle Goon of The Southern California News Group tweets.
It might have made a bad situation in Los Angeles worse if Westbrook had been pulled from the team’s starting lineup last season, but the former MVP appears to be keeping an open mind as he prepares for the coming year. Prior to his Media Day session, Westbrook told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that it doesn’t matter whether or not he feels “wanted” by the Lakers and that he’s “all-in on whatever it takes for this team to win,” even if that means coming off the bench.
Westbrook – who told Wojnarowski that he thinks he, Anthony Davis, and LeBron James can be “unstoppable” – said to reporters on Monday that he has talked to Davis and James at length this summer about what worked and didn’t work last season, and has found those conversations “very beneficial” (Twitter link via Jovan Buha of The Athletic).
While there’s no guarantee that Westbrook – long considered a trade candidate – will spend the entire season in Los Angeles, Lakers head of basketball operations Rob Pelinka said today that the point guard is still one of the NBA’s great players, and expressed confidence that Ham will bring out “another level” in him this season (Twitter link via Goon).
Even Westbrook’s longtime nemesis Patrick Beverley had nothing but praise for his new teammate, suggesting that the rumored animus between the two guards has been overblown and telling Dave McMenamin of ESPN (Twitter link) that Westbrook has been his “best friend” on the team since he was traded to L.A. last month.
As we wait to see whether this season goes any smoother for Westbrook than his first season in Los Angeles did, here’s more on the Lakers:
- Now that James has signed an extension with the team this offseason, the Lakers are willing to trade future draft assets to upgrade the roster, Pelinka confirmed today. However, Pelinka stressed that the team will only get one chance to trade those 2027 and 2029 first-round picks and said that any deal involving those draft assets must clearly improve the club’s title chances (Twitter links via ESPN’s Dave McMenamin).
- Kendrick Nunn has been cleared for all contact work after missing the entire 2021/22 season with a knee injury, but new additions Troy Brown (back) and Lonnie Walker (ankle) are limited for the time being, Pelinka said today. Walker downplayed his ankle issue, telling reporters that he has been running, jumping, and cutting on it, and is pretty close to being fully healthy (Twitter links via Goon).
- Dennis Schröder isn’t at training camp yet because he’s working through a visa issue, per Pelinka, but it shouldn’t be too long before he joins the team (Twitter link via Goon).
- Neither Pelinka nor Ham is worried about the Lakers’ wing defense, tweets Buha. “We should be one of the elite defensive teams in the league,” Ham said. “… We have the personnel for it.”
- In a full story for The Athletic, Buha poses 10 key questions facing the Lakers, starting with Westbrook’s role and future. Buha also considers the team’s starting lineup battles, where the shooting will come from, and what to realistically expect from LeBron in his 20th NBA season.