The Los Angeles Lakers got their first win of the season against the Denver Nuggets last night, and Russell Westbrook’s performance off the bench was a big reason for the dub.
This was his second consecutive game coming off the bench, and he once again looked like himself, with his usual mix of fire, passion, tenacity, and athleticism. Westbrook finished with 18 points, eight boards, and eight assists on 50 percent shooting from the field (and from three) in 32 minutes. He led a seminal 17-point spurt to give the Lakers the lead at the end of the third quarter, and the Lakers never looked back from there. No one was happier for him than Coach Darvin Ham.
“I’m so happy, man,” Ham said, per The Athletic. “I can’t even imagine what that kid is going through. One of the biggest things about me getting this job was for him to get that respect that he deserved because a lot of what went on last year was not his fault. And everything, all of the blame, was placed on him.”
Westbrook was serenaded in cheers by the Lakers home crowd on their way to Ham’s first win as head coach. He called for them, and they answered, getting rowdy and raucous; they energized a decisive second-half run on both sides of the ball. The relationship between Lakers fans and Westbrook has been contentious up to this point, but Westbrook hasn’t let it take away his joy. He could be seen smiling, dancing, and celebrating all game long.
“One thing I never will let happen is people outside of my family, [the] people that support me, take my joy,” Westbrook said via the Los Angeles Times. “Always have fun and embrace this game and embrace the gift I’ve been given to be able to go out and compete. And yes, winning makes you feel better about yourself. But when you’re losing, it’s not as much fun. Tonight was a night where we were able to have a chance.”
Whether or not this move to the bench will be a long-term move for Westbrook continues to be seen, but the first two instances have drawn better results than his earlier performances this season. His All-Star teammates, LeBron James, and Anthony Davis, have commended his lack of ego and for his sacrifice. Westbrook is prepared for whatever comes his way.
“Like I’ve mentioned since Day One, whatever is needed from me to help the team win, that’s what I’ll do,” Westbrook said.The Lakers are now 1-5 on the season, and they’ll get their first chance to improve on that Wednesday against the New Orleans Pelicans.