LOS ANGELES – Lakers coach Darvin Ham says he and Russell Westbrook have “moved on” and have “an understanding” after the point guard suggested Ham’s decision to take him off the bench in the preseason could have contributed to a minor hamstring injury he sustained .
Ham, however, has pushed back on any insinuation that his rotation in the Lakers’ preseason final against the Sacramento Kings – in which Westbrook played just five minutes off the bench before leaving with the strained left hamstring – had something to do with the physical. setback.
“Let me be clear about this,” Ham said on Thursday before his team presented the LA Clippers. “The Lakers, myself, my staff, we would in no way, shape or form endanger any player or employee. Physically, mentally, spiritually. That’s not what we stand for. That’s not what we’re about. That’s not who we are.”
Following the Lakers’ 123-109 loss on Tuesday’s opening season to the Golden State Warriors, Westbrook said he “absolutely” believes coming off the bench against Sacramento could have caused the injury.
“I’ve been doing the same thing for 14 years,” he said, referring to starting 1,005 out of 1,022 games in his career. “Honestly, I didn’t even know what to do before the game. To be honest, I was trying to figure out how to keep warm and loose. … That’s something I just wasn’t used to.”
Ham said the two had a “brief discussion” about the comments. Ham went back to Westbrook in the starting lineup against the Warriors and again against the Clippers.
“We have moved on, we have an agreement,” said Ham. “As a coach of this team, we are going to do what is best for our team to be as successful as possible. And I’ll leave it at that.”
Ham said he understands that “respect” and “routine” are important to the league’s former MVP, but acknowledged the team-oriented goals Westbrook must meet.
“He’s been around for a long time. He’s been a high-level player for a long time. So I know what that’s about and what that’s like,” said Ham. “But on the other hand, you have to be willing to do what your team needs to do. And that’s called being a pro. So however we use him, there has to be a willingness to sacrifice for your teammates and generally good for the team if that course of action will lead to success.”
Westbrook played 31 minutes against Golden State and finished with 19 points on 7-for-12 shooting, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal and 4 turnovers.
Ham said he had a “good plan” for Westbrook’s role, but added: “based on performance, the minutes can go up, the minutes down.”
Ham also said he had no problem with Westbrook saying what he said to reporters after the Warriors game, or with LeBron James’ blunt assessment that “we’re not a team made for great shooting” — even if their comments were interpreted as criticism of the coaching staff and the front office.
“It’s a grown man’s league,” Ham said. “Things will be said whether it’s aimed at someone or not. I’m going to be careful with it. I’ve been on this for 26 years. I’ve been on quiet teams and I’ve been on some loud teams” But I have the utmost respect for those guys. I believe they have the utmost respect for me. There is nothing personal about anything. We’ll deal with it and move on.”