Whether Russell Westbrook’s future is in Los Angeles or not, it felt notable that he was at Monday’s introductory press conference for Darvin Ham. Westbrook’s future is as uncertain as any Laker on the roster despite him almost certainly being on the books for $47 million next season, assuming he picks up his player option.
At that press conference, Ham openly discussed Westbrook and his role for next season — perhaps another indicator of him being on the roster — but also spoke about conversations he’d had with Westbrook already. Those conversations have apparently been positive ones, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
Before Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Wednesday, Wojnarowski, who also may have unintentionally called him “Westbrick” to start the segment, talked about Westbrook’s reaction to the Ham hire.
Russell Westbrook expressed "tremendous enthusiasm" for new Lakers head coach Darvin Ham, per Woj on "NBA Countdown"#NBATwitter #LakeShow pic.twitter.com/2Igd18fK18— ’ (@_Talkin_NBA) June 9, 2022
And here’s a full transcript of what Woj said:
“Westbrook really expressed tremendous enthusiasm for the Darvin Ham hire, really has started to connect with him. On a human level, he said he really admires his path to becoming a head coach. His no-nonsense approach, results-oriented, those are all things Russell Westbrook said he really identified with. One thing he really loved hearing from Darvin Ham so far, the idea that not only is he going to hold Russell Westbrook accountable as they move forward but he’s going to hold the entire team accountable and certainly that’s, in his mind, a step for this organization. Now, Russell Westbrook can opt into the final year of his contract at $47 million. He’s expected to do that at the end of this month but Russell Westbrook really enthusiastic in getting to know Darvin Ham so far and expects to talk a lot more with him about his role, how he fits into it as they move through the summer toward training camp.”
On paper, most of what Westbrook said seems par for the course in terms of typical superstar reactions to a new head coach. But there’s one specific segment in there that deserves some unpacking.
One thing he really loved hearing from Darvin Ham so far, the idea that not only is he going to hold Russell Westbrook accountable as they move forward but he’s going to hold the entire team accountable and certainly that’s, in his mind, a step for this organization.
It’s hard to read that quote and not roll your eyes, particularly on the heels of Westbrook’s most recent public comments. At his exit interview, Westbrook blamed everyone but himself for the team’s failures. Whether it was LeBron and Anthony Davis for not letting “Russ be Russ,” the coaches for changing his role or the media for creating stories about him, no one was safe from his ire.
At no point did he really accept any responsibility for his putrid season, and now he’s reportedly worried about other people being held accountable? Again, it’s hard take his reported sentiments seriously given the level of hypocrisy they seem to contain.
These feelings sound similar to the ones shared by Westbrook with Ham per Ham’s recounting of that conversation in his intro presser. It’s just hard to give Westbrook any benefit of the doubt after how things have played out over the last year.
Also thrown in at the end of Woj’s report is that Westbrook will likely accept his player option, which is a change from his previous claim that he hadn’t thought about whether he would during his exit interview.
Perhaps Ham has the magic touch that can fix all these issues surrounding Westbrook and the Lakers. Until that proves to be the case, though, it’s hard to take any of this at face value.
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