Lakers to bring Russell Westbrook off bench for preseason finale, exploring it for regular season, per report


Russell Westbrook has been a starter since his rookie season, but that could change as the 2022-23 season approaches. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Dave McMenamin, the Lakers plan to bring Westbrook off of the bench for their preseason finale Friday. It is a look that they are reportedly exploring for the regular season, so they are getting a preview of it tonight.

The decision makes plenty of sense in basketball terms. Westbrook needs the ball in his hands to be successful. He simply isn’t a good enough shooter, defender or cutter to function as a role player. It just wouldn’t be possible for him to get the ball as much as he needs it in a starting lineup alongside LeBron James. By bringing him off of the bench, the Lakers could maximize both of their former MVP ball-handlers.

Of course, the question here is how excited Westbrook would be about a reserve role. He has started all but 17 games in his NBA career, and those bench games all came in his rookie season. He bristled at the idea of being left out of closing lineups last season—which Frank Vogel did on a number of occasions—but has come into training camp seemingly willing to keep an open mind. “I’m all-in on whatever it takes for this team to win,” Westbrook told Wojnarowski the night before camp began. “I’m prepared for whatever comes my way.”

Westbrook has averaged just 7.3 points on 38.9 percent shooting in the preseason thus far. The Lakers have a 1-4 record in their exhibition season. Clearly, Westbrook in the starting lineup has not worked. With the regular season quickly approaching, it makes sense that the team would want to get a look at another possible alignment as they try to squeeze any sort of value out of their $47 million point guard.

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