LeBron’s former teammate sends harsh message to Russ: ‘Our job is not to start you and sacrifice our team…because you can’t figure it out’

Peter Dewey
4 Min Read

The Los Angeles Lakers started guard Russell Westbrook on Tuesday night in their season opener against the Golden State Warriors.

This came after the Lakers moved Westbrook to the bench for their final preseason game in order to test a new lineup. However, Westbrook injured his hamstring in that game.

Following a loss to the Warriors on Tuesday night, Westbrook said that coming off the bench could have contributed to his hamstring injury.

Former NBA player Richard Jefferson, who played with Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James on the Cleveland Cavaliers, had some criticism for Westbrook’s actions.

“He was sending a message,” Jefferson said of Westbrook. “That if you guys try and do this, this is what’s going to go down. Like, ‘Oh my hamstrings hurt.’”

Jefferson believes that Westbrook would have not been ready to start the season had the Lakers planned to bring him off the bench.

“And then it becomes this distraction that all off a sudden the ball starts to move a little bit faster than everyone thinks,” Jefferson said. “But this was a message. That’s all it was. Then he sends another message, no different than what we talked about last season at the end of the year. ‘Oh I didn’t know what to do.’ You’re a professional. Be a professional, figure it out. Our job is not to start you and sacrifice our team and everything because you can’t figure it out.

“I don’t think it’s fair to Russ because Russ doesn’t have the things around him he needs to succeed. I talked about that earlier. But ultimately, this is a message, and it’s whether or not he’s going to get it.”

Had the Lakers moved Westbrook to the bench, it would have allowed them to put more shooting on the floor around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. James explained after last night’s loss that the team is seriously lacking in the shooting department this season.

Westbrook finished Tuesday’s game with 19 points, 11 rebounds and three assists while shooting 7-for-12 from the field. He made one of his three shots from beyond the arc and also turned the ball over four times.

The Lakers lost Tuesday’s game for a variety of reasons, but Westbrook’s defiance to come off the bench has put head coach Darvin Ham in a tough spot.

By starting Westbrook, the Lakers are not putting a lineup on the floor that allows Davis and James to operate in space. It also hurts the Lakers’ bench unit since the team’s three most ball-dominant players are all in the starting lineup.

It’s unclear how Los Angeles and Ham will handle the lineup moving forward, but the team has a quick turnaround with a game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night.

Share This Article
Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.