Lakers Coach Has More Power To Bench Russell Westbrook

Russell Westbrook, Los Angeles Lakers, NBA
NBA Analysis Network

The Los Angeles Lakers have tried tirelessly to trade point guard Russell Westbrook this NBA offseason. Thus far, nothing has come to fruition as there just isn’t much interest in an aging, expensive player that has shown very little willingness to change his approach on the court.

As a result, there is a very good chance that Westbrook remains on the roster throughout the remainder of the offseason and into the regular season. If that is what occurs, new head coach Darvin Ham is going to have his hands full making lineup decisions.

The inability to find a niche role for Westbrook last season was part of the reason that Frank Vogel was let go as head coach. He won a championship in 2020, his first season with the club, but the leash was short for Vogel as the team worsened in the following two seasons. Some of that was outside of his control, as he doesn’t make roster decisions and can’t control injuries, but someone had to be the scapegoat and it was him.

Ham will now be tasked with finding a role for Westbrook to succeed in. That is easier said than done, as Westbrook has shown stubbornness when it comes to changing the way he plays. His inefficiency on offense is tough to overcome without the ball constantly being in his hands and with how much of a negative that he is on defense.

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Alas, it sounds as if Ham will have more freedom and power to make adjustments to the lineup as he sees fit according to Jovan Buha of The Athletic.

“Lakers head coach Darvin Ham will have more power to bench Westbrook down the stretch of games, according to league sources. (Former head coach Frank Vogel did so a few times last season). That could eventually extend to removing Westbrook from the starting lineup as well.”

That is certainly an interesting tidbit that Buha shared. Based on the current roster, he doesn’t believe Russell Westbrook is a lock to be in the lineup for the Lakers at the end of games. While that is something that could perturb Westbrook, it is likely what is best for the team.

Westbrook isn’t a great fit off the ball as his jump shot is inconsistent, to put it nicely. He doesn’t get after it on defense, so turning to other players that can around LeBron James and Anthony Davis makes sense.

There will be instances that Westbrook is played late in games, but it does not sound like it will be the norm. Expect Ham to experiment with certain things throughout the season and if Westbrook is unwilling to buy in, the team will look elsewhere. 

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