New Los Angeles Lakers head coach Darvin Ham is still figuring out the starting lineup he wants roll with to begin the regular season. LA has experimented throughout the preseason, and that will continue on Friday against the Sacramento Kings.
Ham is moving Russell Westbrook to the bench to serve as sixth man, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and David McMenamin.
This change comes as the Lakers contemplate what role Westbrook will serve for the team in 2022-23. The ESPN insiders note Westbrook could end up "quarterbacking" the second unit in order to maximize his use.
The offseason addition of veteran point guard Patrick Beverly has clouded's Westbrook's status as a starter to begin the year. Though Westbrook started all 78 games he played for the Lakers in 2021-22, his role as a lead ball-handler was minimized playing alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis. His lack of shooting (29.8% from 3-point range last season) further complicates his fit alongside James and Davis.
It's clear Los Angeles wants to get the most out of Westbrook, so a "demotion" to the bench could actually be a good thing for him. He's coming off of his lowest points per game (18.5) since the 2009-10 campaign, but he could wreak havoc against second units as one of the Lakers' main initiators.
It remains to be seen what Ham ultimately decides to do with the Lakers' starting five. Friday night could prove to be the catalyst for a shakeup involving Westbrook's role. A change involving the nine-time All-Star would only add to the speculation about his long-term future in LA.
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