Russell Westbrook’s poor fit on the Los Angeles Lakers over the past two years frequently led to speculation on whether he would be more productive coming off the bench.
Last season, then-head coach Frank Vogel entertained the idea. Ultimately, Westbrook wasn’t receptive. This season, new-head coach Darvin Ham received more leeway to do what needed to be done.
Thus far, the results have been mixed.
Initially the move didn’t lead to any meaningful change for the Lakers in terms of being able to win games. But on Sunday that changed.
Los Angeles earned their first win of the season against the Denver Nuggets thanks in part to Westbrook’s 18 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and a team-high plus-minus of +18 off the bench.
Time will tell if this is the start of something special or not.
Either way, it’s important to recognize that Westbrook coming off the bench is no small feat.
This week Derek Fisher appeared on Sirius XM Radio and offered his thoughts on L.A. ultimately benching Westbrook and why it’s a lot to ask of a Hall of Famer player.
— SiriusXM NBA Radio (@SiriusXMNBA) October 30, 2022
“That’s not an easy thing for a Hall of Fame player to go from a usage rate of possibly low to mid-30s, maybe higher, down to 18-20. Which may mean, okay I gotta go out and take 24 shots whenever I feel like it, sometimes 30, get to the free throw line 8-10 times. That helps me keep my rhythm, that helps me keep my shot in flow,” Fisher explained.
“And now, all of a sudden, you come in here and cut all of that in half, maybe you cut it by two-thirds, and you expect the guy to be the same. It just doesn’t work that way.”
Fisher did not stop there.
“It’s not an excuse for not trying to find a way to positively impact your team,” he continued.
“That’s ultimately what all of this is about. You can talk about numbers and data and percentages, but is your team winning? That’s the only percentage you gotta figure out as a group, is winning percentage. There is not one three-point field goal percentage on the side of an NBA Championship ring.”
If this experiment ultimately fails, there are two star players out there the Lakers could acquire that would immediately turn their season around.
Moreover, there are three teams who are willing to take Westbrook off L.A.’s hands for the right price.
Olivia Dunne did Halloween right. https://t.co/mhuN95pPb6
— Game 7 (@game7__) October 31, 2022
The next few weeks will be telling. Fisher is right – the Lakers have asked a lot of Westbrook by benching him. If he delivers and the team wins, this could be the beginning something truly special for all parties involved.
If Sunday night was a fluke and the losses continue, don’t be surprised if Westbrook is traded sooner rather than later.
Jennifer Withers Hoey is a former Business Development Manager who transitioned to writing about sports. With valuable connections all over the West Coast, she has used those contacts to break some of the most interesting stories pertaining to the Portland Trail Blazers, Oregon Ducks, LA Lakers, LA Clippers, Seattle Supersonics (RIP), and more.