As training camp gets set to open around the NBA, there are plenty of teams that are trying to integrate new additions into their current roster, but two of the most fascinating situations involve players returning to teams they were once thought to be on their way out of.
One is in Brooklyn, where Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving both dabbled in seeking out a trade only to return to the Nets, and the other is in Los Angeles, where the Lakers tried in vain to find a trade that would send Russell Westbrook somewhere else. As such, the Lakers come into training camp with Westbrook still on the roster alongside a pair of offseason additions in Dennis Schröder and longtime Westbrook rival, Patrick Beverley.
As such, it’s not a guarantee that Westbrook is in the plans to be the starter in Los Angeles, as there are a number of potential lineup combinations for new head coach Darvin Ham, depending on how they want to balance defense and shooting — two things Westbrook struggled with a year ago. Given Westbrook’s reported pushback to the idea of a role change a year ago, it was fair to wonder if he’d be willing to accept a potential bench role this season if that’s what the Lakers choose to do.
For now, it appears the answer is yes, as Westbrook told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski he’s “all-in” on doing what’s needed for the team to win.
Maybe that’s as a starter or maybe it’s off the bench. “I’m all-in on whatever it takes for this team to win,” Westbrook said. “I’m prepared for whatever comes my way.”
This, of course, is easier to say in late September when games aren’t happening than it is in mid-October when the season starts, but Wojnarowski notes there’s been a pretty constant dialogue between Westbrook and Ham as the new Lakers coach looks to mend some fences and get Westbrook to understand his vision for how he can be best used, in a variety of possible roles. The biggest thing of note in this quote, to me, is that what Westbrook sees as what is best for the team to win and what the Lakers see may not be aligned, and getting Westbrook on the same page may be more difficult if he’s not seeing the rest of the point guard rotation as being better for the team than him.
For now, Westbrook and Ham, at the least, have said all the right things to get their tenure together off on the right foot. Whether that continues and whether they can be successful is a much bigger question.