As previously reported, the Lakers look likely to bring Russell Westbrook off the bench on Friday in his return from injury against the Timberwolves. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, though, it’s a move that isn’t going to be a short-term adjustment as the team plans on bringing him off the bench for the “foreseeable future.”
Westbrook coming off the bench is the Lakers' plan for the foreseeable future, sources tell ESPN. They'll see how it goes tonight -- barring Anthony Davis needing to sit out with his back. https://t.co/vmTiQQTsKu— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) October 28, 2022
The move out of the starting lineup has been a long time coming even in a short season. Russ’ decline predates the beginning of this season and he’s probably been long overdue for a benching. After being given a legitimate shot this season in the starting lineup, Westbrook’s continued struggles and faux pas left head coach Darvin Ham with really no choice.
Now, the question will be how Russ handles this benching. While it may not specifically come in Friday’s game if Anthony Davis is unable to go, at this point it is clearly the Lakers’ intention moving forward. The last time he even had a brief cameo off the bench, he suffered a hamstring injury that he indicated was a byproduct of moving out of the starting lineup.
Russ can adapt to the move, work with whatever trainers he needs to in order to get his body right for the transition and embrace the situation. However, one wouldn’t be faulted for pessimism as to whether that’s the mindset Russ would take here, based if only on what we saw in the preseason.
It feels like a make-or-break moment moving forward for Russ as he tries to hang on to his NBA career. If he can adjust to this role, it could be a lifeline for him and the Lakers. If he doesn’t, it likely will lead to a very abrupt end to this partnership with options having been exhausted.