A new report indicates that the Los Angeles Lakers could be using veteran guard Russell Westbrook off the bench during the upcoming season.
Jovan Buha and Sam Amick of The Athletic looked at how Westbrook is getting a look as part of the Lakers’ starting lineup, but his role could evolve into using him in a reserve capacity.
“Yet, while the Lakers have been hopeful the Westbrook experiment might be a success this time, sources with knowledge of the situation told The Athletic that the prospect of Westbrook coming off the bench is being strongly considered,” Buha and Amick wrote.
Westbrook arrived last year amid great fanfare as a player capable of delivering a triple-double on a nightly basis. Instead, his inability to adapt to the Lakers on-court approach was one part of last season’s disastrous campaign.
Seemingly endless efforts to find a new home for Westbrook, both during last season and the offseason have come up short. At least some of that reluctance on the part of other teams is likely due to the $47.1 million the Lakers are paying him for the upcoming season.
That contract ends at the end of the 2022-23 season, when Westbrook will be 34 years old. Getting a contract next year that comes close to that amount will be difficult, and depends in part on how much new Lakers head coach Darvin Ham uses him.
During Westbrook’s lengthy NBA career, he’s played in 1,021 contests and started in all but 17 of those matchups. Adjusting to his new role could be a potential concern, especially as it relates to the veteran’s ego about his status.
Of course, the Lakers could end up keeping Westbrook in the starting lineup. His numbers dipped slightly last year, but he still delivered production during the course of the campaign.
In addition, the Lakers’ chances at competing for an NBA title last year were more deeply affected by key injuries to Anthony Davis and LeBron James. Having those two superstars back on the court could help fix the chemistry issues the team faced last season.
The Battle Begins
Westbrook will be in competition for playing time with fellow veterans Dennis Schroder and Patrick Beverley. Schroder is back with the Lakers on a one-year deal, while Beverley was acquired in an offseason deal.
Regardless of what ends up taking place during the Lakers’ training camp, they’ll have an experienced backcourt. Exactly where Westbrook ends up remains a mystery, with Ham making the final decision.