San Francisco — Russell Westbrook He said he “absolutely” believes that Los Angeles Lakers coach Darvin Hamm’s decision to take him off the bench for the final pre-season game in Los Angeles could have caused the hamstring strain he experienced that night.
“I’ve been doing the same for 14 years in a row,” Westbrook said after the Lakers lost 123-109 to the Golden State Warriors in their regular season opener Tuesday night. “Honestly, I didn’t even know what to do before the match. And honestly, I was trying to figure out how to keep warm and get away…that’s something I wasn’t used to.”
Westbrook is back in the starting lineup against the Warriors – playing with the first unit for the 45th time in 1,022 games – having been limited in the days before that with a hamstring injury.
He played just five minutes in a show loss to the Sacramento Kings on Friday. He hinted at being able to play more but chose not to play because “I wouldn’t risk that in the pre-season game.”
Westbrook played 31 minutes against Golden State and finished the game with 19 points in 7-for-12 shooting, 11 rebounds, three assists, one steal, and four turnovers. His plus-minus of minus six was better than both LeBron James (-10) and Anthony Davis (-21).
Hamm said he wants Westbrook’s style of competition to rock his team from the start.
“You want to start the game the right way in terms of your energy and being in an attacking position, and there’s no one better than him,” said Hamm, who spoke to reporters before Westbrook watched the match. “I mean, that’s what we’ve got, and we’ve hit some key players. It’s the number one game, give them a chance to go out and compete at the highest level. I thought it was solid. I thought it was solid. Marital possessions I wish I could come back, but overall, I thought it was solid.”
Prior to the competition, Hamm said he wanted to “create” a consistent starting unit.
“We don’t want to be one of those teams, where teams swing by who their opponent starts,” he said.
However, when asked if this means he’ll stick to opening night freshmen for a while moving forward, Hamm won’t commit.
He said, “We’ll see.” “I am a day-to-day man.”
Davis said after the match that Westbrook’s role on the bench against the Kings was just an experiment.
“I don’t think he ever came out [the starting group]”I think it was a look .” Davis said [at a different rotation] in Sac. “
It was only the 22nd game of the regular season that Davis, Westbrook and James have played together since Los Angeles was replaced for Westbrook in the summer of 2021. Tuesday’s loss beat their record together to 11-11. However, Davis and James were encouraged.
“I think we played really well,” Davis said. “We wanted to go out and have everyone be aggressive. We didn’t want to – I think last year some times we were playing selfless, like, ‘Here’ [you take it]“…He took away our aggression. At certain moments throughout the match, one of the three of us was aggressive, and it worked out to look good.”
As James added, “I thought we’d all play a little bit too freely. That made us all more efficient off the floor.”
Charles Barclay, a TNT analyst, didn’t see it the same way.
“You know how I feel about Russell Westbrook,” Barkley said during the first half of the broadcast. “I admire him. I respect him. It’s time for the Lakers to move him. They took all his joy from life and basketball. … This guy used to be so peppy and play with so much energy and so much passion, I think mental wear and tear last year, starting From this year… and the thing is, he’s going to get the blame no matter what, because the Lakers aren’t a contender for the championship… I think he needs a start, I think the Lakers need a fresh start, because they’re not contenders.”
Westbrook was asked about Barkley’s comments and whether he has lost his joy in the game since joining the Lakers.
“You know, man, I am very fortunate and rely a lot on my faith,” Westbrook said. “So, I have a lot of great friends and family, good people in my corner who support me through thick and thin, and when I have God on my corner it really doesn’t matter what happens outside of that. Of course, stay focused, stay locked up. That’s all I can ask for. .
“Everything else revolves around it, I’ll keep doing what I do, I’ll stay locked into my craft and everything else will take care of itself.”
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