Darvin Ham and Rob Pelinka have had multiple meetings with Russell Westbrook, imploring him to be defense-first player - Lakers Daily

Darvin Ham and Rob Pelinka have had multiple meetings with Russell Westbrook, imploring him to be defense-first player

Russell Westbrook Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Darvin Ham and vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka reportedly have had multiple meetings with guard Russell Westbrook to tell him he needs to be a defense-first player.

Westbrook, who has a player option for the 2022-23 season, struggled to fit in with the Lakers last season.

It appears that Ham and Pelinka are trying to find a way for Westbrook to still be a key contributor to the team if he decides to opt in and stay with the Lakers.

During the 2021-22 campaign, Westbrook averaged 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game while shooting 44.4 percent from the field and 29.8 percent from beyond the arc.

Westbrook struggled at times on the offensive end, as he and LeBron James are both ball-dominant players. Westbrook’s shooting struggles made it tough for him to play off the ball for Los Angeles.

If Westbrook can commit to being a stopper on the defensive end, the Lakers may be able to run it back with him, James and Anthony Davis in the 2022-23 season.

Los Angeles missed the playoffs in the 2021-22 campaign, but it wasn’t all due to Westbrook’s struggles. The Lakers also dealt with significant injury woes, as James and Davis both missed large chunks of the season.

Ham clearly is trying to establish a defense-first culture in his first season as the Lakers’ head coach. If he can get Westbrook to buy in, there’s a good chance Los Angeles leaps back into the playoff conversation this season.