Coach Darvin Ham told reporters on Thursday that he and Russell Westbrook have “moved on” and have formed “an understanding” after the former MVP linked the hamstring injury he suffered to coming off the bench during the Lakers’ preseason finale against the Kings.
Westbrook has started every game he’s played since he was a rookie. Because of that, Westbrook has developed a routine during his decorated 14-year career. Brodie said he wasn’t sure how to warm up and prepare himself pregame after being told that he was coming off the bench against the Kings.
“I’ve been doing the same thing for 14 years straight,” said Westbrook per ESPN, who’s started 1,005 out of 1,022 games in his career. “Honestly, I didn’t even know what to do pregame. Being honest, I was trying to figure out how to stay warm and loose — That’s something I just wasn’t accustomed to.”
On Thursday, Ham pushed back on any narrative suggestion that his decision-making led to Westbrook suffering his leg injury. He told reporters that the Lakers and his staff would “in no way, shape or form put a player — in harm’s way.”
“Let me be clear with this,” Ham said before his team fell to the LA Clippers 103-97 on Thursday night. “The Lakers, myself, my staff, we would in no way, shape, or form put a player or an employee in harm’s way. Physically, mentally, spiritually. We don’t stand for that. We’re not about that. That’s not who we are.”
Ham went on to say that the two had a “brief discussion” about Westbrook’s comments and have “moved on” and that they have a “better understanding now.” As a former player, Ham said he understands “respect” and “routine” are essential to the nine-time All-Star. However, he did acknowledge that he has Lakers-specific goals that he needs Westbrook to meet.
“He’s been around a long time. He’s been a high-level player for a very long time. So, I know what that’s about and how that is,” Ham said. “But on the other hand, you have to be prepared to do whatever your team needs you to do. And that’s called being a professional. So, however, we choose to use him, there has to be a willingness there to sacrifice for your teammates and overall good of the team if that course of action is going to lead to success.”
Westbrook started the Lakers’ 103-97 loss to the Clippers, the seventh straight Hallway Series game they’ve lost. The triple-double king shot 0-11 from the field and 0-16 from distance in 31 minutes of action but found other ways to help the Lakers by contributing two points, three rebounds, four assists, and four steals.
Ham reiterated that he had a “good plan in place” for Westbrook’s role moving forward but added that Brodie’s “minutes can go up, minutes can go down” depending on the 2017 MVP’s performance.