Darvin Ham looked extremely optimistic about Russell Westbrook during the offseason despite Brodie's struggles in the previous campaign. However, only a few games into the new season, the Lakers weren't noticing any change in Russ.
But the new head coach found another way to get the best out of him: to make Westbrook come off the bench. The veteran guard hadn't been a substitute since Nov. 28, 2008, in his rookie season. Since then, he had 1,118 consecutive starts - until Ham benched him on the Timberwolves loss.
Of course, it wasn't an easy decision to make, but it soon paid off as Brodie contributed with 18 points, 8 assists, and 8 rebounds in the Lakers' first win of the season. The fact that he's accepting this role has drawn respect from his teammates.
Anthony Davis says he's proud of Russell Westbrook
“I just told him, honestly, before I walked in here. I said the way you’re playing and handling everything, it’s tremendous,” Anthony Davis said, via Lakers Nation. “The way he played in Minnesota, the way he played tonight, is unbelievable. Like you said, to be a player of his caliber and ask to come off the bench, that’s truly a guy who’s doing whatever the team asks to get the win. Sacrificed his starting position for the betterment of the team.
“He’s flourished in that role, that’s all we can ask for. I told him just keep doing what you’re doing, everything you’re doing is unbelievable and the last two games he has been doing his thing. Proud of him, obviously it was a tough pill to swallow but he’s been locked in and accepting his role and that’s for all of our guys on the team.”
As AD noted, it can be hard to ask for a player with Westbrook's résumé to come off the bench. But fortunately he took it well, used it as fuel to perform better and prove that he can contribute to this team. For LeBron James, the Lakers are privileged to have Westbrook leading the second unit.
LeBron James says is a luxury for Lakers to have Westbrook coming off the bench
“Russ has always been very efficient in our league," James said. "Played with pace. When you make a sub in our league, you know, you want the pace to continue to be high, or you want a spark you know to even increase the first unit, and we have the luxury of going to somebody who can spark pace.
“Get the ball up the floor and rebound and push. Use his energy to be able to bring like I said that burning energy to whatever lineup that’s out there. Very, very beneficial to our ballclub right now.”
If Westbrook can perform like this consistently, then the Lakers could become a more dangerous team. Having a reliable contributor on the bench is always key for a team that wants to succeed, now we have to wait and see if this continues to work.