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Russell Westbrook’s new bench role underscores his need for “rhythm”

Russell Westbrook’s role off the bench is off to a great start. There’s one key reason why.

Denver Nuggets v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

The Lakers’ Russell Westbrook experience has been topsy turvy (to say the least!) and the latest turn it’s taken is Westbrook moving to the bench to initially lead the second unit and then, as the game progresses, share minutes with the likes of LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

Early returns have been quite positive, with Westbrook being a net rating neutral (plus/minus zero) during his first game off the bench versus the Minnesota Timberwolves, and a blistering plus-18(!) versus the Denver Nuggets on Sunday night, the Lakers' first win of the season.

Westbrook has anchored the bench units, and there is a component to his role that could prove beneficial regardless of who is on the court. I explained more in the following video.

Only time will tell if these trends continue, but it is certainly a good start and at least shows just how starkly different the relationship is this season between Westbrook and the coaching staff, particularly the contrast between the icy relationship he had with former head coach Frank Vogel and that shared with new head coach Darvin Ham.

It’s a massive testament to the latter’s ability to earn a player’s trust — particularly a superstar who is noted for his stubbornness and at times almost defensiveness to change. Regardless of how this plays out, it illustrates that the Lakers are in good hands with Ham and his ability to cultivate meaningful relationships with his players quickly.

Dr. Rajpal Brar, DPT has a doctorate in physical therapy from Northern Arizona University and runs his own in-person and online sports medicine and performance business, 3CB Performance, in West LA and Valencia, CA in which he further combines his movement expertise and fitness training background to cater to elite athletes. Brar is additionally training at UCLA’s mindful awareness research center (MARC), has a background in youth basketball coaching, and analyzes the Lakers from a medical and skills perspective for Silver Screen and Roll and on his own YouTube Channel. You can follow him on Twitter at @3cbPerformance.

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