Lakers Plan to Bring Russell Westbrook Off Bench for Foreseeable Future

Point guard Russell Westbrook is expected to return to the Lakers, but not in a starting role.Russell Westbrook

Instead, the Lakers intend to bring him off the bench for the “foreseeable future,” per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin and Adrian Wojnarowski, who followed similar reports saying the same thing earlier this week.

Westbrook missed the last game with a hamstring issue, but was listed as “probable” on the official injury report ahead of Friday’s game against the Timberwolves. The Lakers enter the evening 0-4 for the first time since the 2015-16 season, and Westbrook is shooting just 29 percent from the field.

Both Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stephen A. Smith of ESPN said that the Lakers are intending to bring Westbrook off the bench, with Smith first broaching the topic on First Take.

Per McMenamin, the Lakers’ starting five at shootaround Friday consisted of star forwards LeBron James and Anthony Davis, center Damian Jones and guards Patrick Beverley and Lonnie Walker IV.

Davis is listed as questionable with lower back stiffness, and in the event he doesn’t play, Westbrook could be reinserted into the starting lineup, McMenamin noted. But that appears as if it would only be as an emergency starter, and not the immediate plan.

Westbrook did not seem to react favorably when new coach Darvin Ham brought the guard off the bench in the preseason finale — with Westbrook suggesting it may have played a role in his hamstring issue.

“I’ve been doing the same thing for 14 years straight,” he said at the time. “Honestly, I didn’t even know what to do pregame. Being honest, I was trying to figure out how to stay warm and loose. For me, obviously the way I play the game, it’s fast-paced, quick, stop-and-go.

“And I just happened to, when I subbed in, I felt something. Thought it was… didn’t know what it was, but I wasn’t going to risk it in a preseason game. But definitely wasn’t something I was used to. Wasn’t warm enough. But that’s something I just wasn’t accustomed to.”

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