MINNEAPOLIS — Russell Westbrook got here off the bench for the primary time since his rookie yr in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 111-102 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves in a regular-season sport and impressed his staff by taking over the position.
“He was great,” mentioned LeBron James, who mentioned Westbrook’s vitality “catapulted” LA’s total efficiency. “He was great throughout the game.”
Westbrook performed 33 minutes, greater than in any of the three video games he began this season, and completed with 18 factors, eight rebounds and three assists. However, he shot 6-for-17 total and 5-for-10 from the free-throw line and was answerable for 5 of the Lakers’ 22 staff turnovers.
While it wasn’t an ideal evening, it was an encouraging have a look at a match that new coach Darvin Ham mentioned with Westbrook a number of occasions over the summer time earlier than kicking off the second week of the season.
“From day one, I mentioned that I’m the guy who’s willing to do anything for the team,” Westbrook mentioned. “I’m going to sacrifice anything that needs to be sacrificed – parts of my game that I’ve been doing for years to live up to what the coach is asking of me and I will continue to do so.”
That sacrifice included being the principle defender for Minnesota’s 7-1 middle Rudy Gobert in the closing lineup, with Ham selecting to play small on the stretch, with massive males Anthony Davis (low again rigidity) and Thomas Bryant ( thumb surgical procedure) weren’t obtainable.
“Russ, I take my hat off to him again,” Ham mentioned. “He came off and showed the kind of impact he can have in that reserve role and shore up our bench – not just coming in and trying to keep everything up, but coming in and taking it up a notch. So he was great in that role tonight . And I look forward to seeing him in it more often once we start getting healthy bodies back.”
Westbrook mentioned he wanted to make some changes to his routine to remain prepared. For instance, he often sprints from one facet of the court docket to the opposite simply earlier than the highest to get his coronary heart fee up. On Friday, he rode an train bike via the tunnel earlier than coming into play halfway via the primary quarter.
But his response on Friday was completely different from the one he gave after the pre-season ultimate, when he got here off the bench and lasted simply 5 minutes earlier than retiring with hamstring ache. He later requested if Ham’s choice to convey him in as a reserve might need triggered the harm.
This time Westbrook agreed.
“I’m actually not mad at how we played tonight,” he mentioned. “Our vitality was in the fitting course, which I’m glad about. And I feel it is clearly necessary to get AD again and get the fellows wholesome, to get us going. But till then nobody will really feel sorry for us. We must discover a method to compete and get a win.
In truth, the Target Center crowd serenaded the Lakers with an “Oh and five! Oh and five!” Singing in the final minute of the sport.
And Davis missed one sport simply 5 video games into the season after declaring his objective throughout coaching camp to play in all 82 video games on the schedule.
But there was nonetheless endurance and optimism expressed by among the Lakers’ key stakeholders.
“He has to do what’s best for his body,” James mentioned of Davis. “He has to do what is best for his body and his mind. When his mind is gone, everything else will fall by the wayside. So he has to trust himself. Yes, he wants to play every game. Yes, he wants to be there for our team be outside.But he’s had a lot of bumps and bruises over the last few years so he has to trust himself, trust his staff and not put his body at risk.
And Westbrook said the preseason injuries aren’t causing him to worry everything could go sideways like last year when he, James and Davis were limited to just 21 games together.
“To be trustworthy, no,” Westbrook said. “Like I said, I feel good today. AD takes care of his body, which is most important. Make sure his mind is in the right place because I think that’s the most important part of any injury. When he comes back we’ll be ready to go and hopefully sooner rather than later.”