Russell Westbrook Oct 12, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook (0) looks to shoot the ball while Minnesota Timberwolves Jaden McDaniels (3) defends during the third quarter at Arena. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Things did not go particularly well for Russell Westbrook in his first year with the Los Angeles Lakers, and while Year 2 hasn’t officially started yet, the early trends are not positive for the former league MVP.

On Friday, the Lakers revealed that Westbrook would come off of the bench for the team’s preseason finale and strongly hinted at that being a possibility in the regular season.

Just don’t call it a demotion, at least not in the presence of first-year coach, Darvin Ham.

In speaking of the decision to use Westbrook off of the bench, Ham said (per Chris Haynes, Yahoo Sports) “it’s not a demotion, it’s a realignment.”

Naturally, several people in the NBA world had a lot of fun with Ham’s choice of words.

And there’s another issue. The man who will be taking Westbrook’s starting spot is Patrick Beverley, who’s been a longtime irritant of Westbrook’s.


Ham can use whatever word he wants to describe Westbrook coming off of the bench, but the decision is warranted. Westbrook struggled offensively throughout the 2021-22 season and while it’s only preseason, those issues don’t seem to be fixed in the 2022-23 campaign.

Making matters worse for Los Angeles is that the Lakers didn’t make the playoffs, or even the play-in tournament. Given that the Western Conference is expected to be better this year, Los Angeles needs a seismic shift from what happened a season ago. The Lakers couldn’t trade Westbrook in the offseason. But whether it’s a “demotion,” “realignment” or some other fancy word Ham wants to use, a different role is worth considering.

[Chris Haynes on Twitter]

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