SAN FRANCISCO — Russell Westbrook mentioned he “fully” believes that l. a. Lakers coach Darvin Ham’s decision to carry him off the bench in L.A.’s preseason finale could have induced the hamstring stress he suffered that night.
“I even have been doing the identical factor for 14 years straight,” Westbrook mentioned following the Lakers’ 123-109 loss to the Golden State Warriors of their common-season opener Tuesday night. “truthfully, I did not even know what to do pregame. Being reliable, i used to be making an try to get hold of out study the strategy to protect warmth and free. … that is one factor I simply wasn’t accustomed to.”
Westbrook was again inside the starting lineup in the direction of the troopers — having fun with with the important unit for the 1,005th time in 1,022 profession video games — after being restricted inside the occasions main as a lot as a consequence of it attributable to his hamstring harm.
He performed simply 5 minutes inside the exhibition loss to the Sacramento Kings on Friday. He alluded to with the flexibility to play extra however choosing to not as a consequence of, “I wasn’t going to hazard it in a preseason recreation.”
Westbrook performed 31 minutes in the direction of Golden State and accomplished with 19 factors on 7-for-12 capturing, eleven rebounds, three assists, 1 steal and 4 turnovers. His plus-minus rating of minus-6 was larger than that of each LeBron James (minus-10) and Anthony Davis (-21).
Ham mentioned he needed Westbrook’s strategy to opponents to jolt his staff from the opening tip.
“you want to start out the sport off the right strategy by the use of your power and being in assault mode, and no-one larger than him,” mentioned Ham, who spoke to reporters earlier than Westbrook did following the sport. “I imply, it is what we have gotten, and we obtained some key guys damage. it is recreation 1, give them an alternative to exit and compete on the very biggest stage. i assumed he was strong. i assumed he was strong. a pair possessions I want I can get again, however whole, i assumed he was strong.”
earlier than the opponents, Ham mentioned he needed to “set up” a fixed starting unit.
“we do not want to be a kind of teams,” he mentioned, “the place teams are swaying in response to who their opponent is starting.”
nonetheless, requested whether or not that meant he would stick collectively with his opening-night starters for a stretch of time transferring forward, Ham wouldn’t commit.
“We’ll see,” he mentioned. “i am a day-by-day man.”
Davis mentioned after the sport that Westbrook’s bench function in the direction of the Kings was merely experimentation.
“i do not assume he was ever out of [the starting group],” Davis mentioned. “i really feel it was a look [at a different rotation] in Sac.”
It was solely the twenty second common-season recreation that Davis, Westbrook and James performed collectively since L.A. traded for Westbrook inside the summertime of 2021. The loss on Tuesday dropped their report collectively to eleven-eleven. but Davis and James have been inspired.
“i really feel we performed effectively,” Davis mentioned. “We needed to return out and all people be aggressive. We did not want to — i really feel final 12 months at occasions we have been having fun with selfless, like, ‘right here [you take it].’ … It took away our aggression. At sure moments all by way of the sport, one in all us three have been aggressive, and it labored out for it to look good.”
James added, “i assumed all of us simply kind of performed free. And it resulted in all three of us virtually being environment nice from the floor.”
TNT analyst Charles Barkley did not see it the identical strategy.
“you understand how I really feel about Russell Westbrook,” Barkley mentioned at halftime of the printed. “i like him. I respect him. it is time for the Lakers to maneuver him. they’ve taken all his pleasure out of life and basketball. … This man was so exuberant and play with good power and good emotion, i really feel the harm and tear mentally final 12 months, starting this 12 months. … And the factor is, he’ll get the blame it would not matter what, as a consequence of the Lakers ain’t a championship contender. … i really feel he wants a current start, i really feel the Lakers want a current start, as a consequence of they are not contenders.”
Westbrook was requested about Barkley’s suggestions and whether or not he has misplaced pleasure for the sport since becoming a member of the Lakers.
“you understand, man, i am large blessed and leaning heaps on my religion,” Westbrook mentioned. “So, i’ve an superior deal of good household and buddies, good people in my nook that assist me by way of thick and skinny, and as quickly as I’ve God in my nook, it would not actually matter what occurs exterior of that. I carry on course, hold centered, hold locked in. that is all I can ask.
“the whole lot else that comes round it, i am going to proceed doing what i am doing, hold locked in on my craft and the whole lot else will tackle itself.”