The Los Angeles Lakers are now 0-5 to start the season, and NBA Twitter went wild after the team's loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Notably, Russell Westbrook started the game off the bench for the first time since his rookie season. After the contest, Lakers coach Darvin Ham and star LeBron James offered optimistic takes about Westbrook's move to the second unit.
"He was great."
At the postgame conference, Ham was asked about the results of swapping in fourth-year wing Troy Brown Jr. for Westbrook in the starting lineup. The rookie head coach seems to imply that the former MVP taking a reserve role will be a fixture in a Lakers game moving forward.
"And Russ, my hats off to him once again," Ham said. "Came off and showed the type of impact he can have in that reserve role, shoring up our bench, and not just coming in and trying to maintain anything, but coming in and taking it up a notch. So, he was great in that role tonight, and I look forward to seeing him in it more once we start getting healthy bodies back."
As for James, he was interviewed in the locker room. A reporter asked his thoughts about Westbrook directing the bench unit.
"He was great," the four-time MVP answered. "Definitely catapulted us. He was great all game."
Was he great?
The Lakers' leaders' statements about Westbrook beg the question of whether the enigmatic point guard actually performed well against the Wolves on Friday.
His box score shows that he played solidly in his first game in a reserve role since the 2008-09 campaign. He finished the night with 18 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 assists, although he did commit 5 turnovers. "Brodie" also had a plus-minus of 0, indicating that Los Angeles was not worse off with him on the floor.
Unfortunately, Los Angeles could not contain Minnesota in the paint, allowing 46 points in the shaded area. In addition, the Lakers committed 22 turnovers, tying a season-high.
Even though Westbrook was able to provide some spark off the bench on Friday, it is becoming more and more apparent that the Lakers' current core has run its course.
It also wouldn't be surprising if Ham's and James' recent pronouncements are calculated moves to paint Westbrook as a team player and entice other franchises to take a flier on him. It is no secret that L.A. is looking for trade packages involving the nine-time All-Star, but nothing has come out of it yet.
Will Westbrook continue playing off the bench or make a return to the starting lineup? Or will he be on another team before the end of the season? Only time will tell.