Stop me if you’ve heard this story before, but Russell Westbrook appears to be feuding with another Lakers coach. After publicly butting heads with Frank Vogel last season, Russ and Darvin Ham reportedly privately butted heads on Tuesday, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
Voices were raised in locker room, but discussion turned back to trying to win game vs. Thunder, sources said. Ham closed game with Westbrook, who had a season-high 14 points in fourth quarter. Ham and Westbrook dapped up prior to leaving arena later in night. https://t.co/8cch24Sgbq— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 8, 2023
In the moment, it was overlooked by most considering all eyes were on LeBron’s chase of Kareem. But our own Cooper Halpern noted in the moment that Russ’ actions had drawn the ire of assistant coach Phil Handy before he even left the floor.
Happened as Russ was subbed out during OKC free throws. Walked off the court very slowly and his teammates tried to dap him up. Instead he stayed standing basically as close to the baseline as possible without actually staying on the court. Then he and Handy exchanged words.— Cooper Halpern (@CooperHalpern) February 8, 2023
It’s far from the first time there have been signs of tension between Russ and Handy, and it was that moment that led to Ham and Russ arguing in the locker room at halftime. Again, it flew under the radar in the moment for most, but it clearly was something that lingered within the team and coaching staff.
Even if Woj wants to say the two dapped up and are good now, it’s hard to actually believe that. These types of moments don’t happen for no reason. Ham wasn’t mad at Russ only for staying on the court for too long, but rather a long course of moments like this with this being the straw that broke the camel’s back.
That this all comes in the days and hours leading up to the trade deadline is noteworthy. The constant stream of rumors linking Russ to other teams probably wore on him, in his defense. He probably feels some type of way about LeBron coming out and stating he was disappointed that the team didn’t land Kyrie Irving, a trade that could have only been completed by sending Russ out.
That’s not to explain away his actions or make the argument that he was right for what he did. It’s still a pretty unprofessional way to handle the situation and emblematic of how Russ has handled himself in Los Angeles when he hasn’t gotten his way.
Last year, after being benched in the fourth quarter rightly by Vogel, Russ exploded in the post-game presser and let his feelings be known. Behind the scenes, he wasn’t any more pleasant as he pushed back in film sessions when he was singled out.
The final result of this should be all the same: The end of the Westbrook experience in Los Angeles. It was a failure from nearly day one, has gone on for far too long and should have ended at multiple different moments in the past. At some point, enough is enough and it’s addition by subtraction.
You can’t have a player openly feuding with coaches in front of the team and expect everything to be hunky-dory moving forward, regardless of how much they may have dapped up afterward.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.