Russell Westbrook 'Absolutely' Viewed as Part of Lakers' Future, Darvin Ham Says

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVJune 6, 2022

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - APRIL 05: Russell Westbrook #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers handles the ball during the first half of the NBA game at Footprint Center on April 05, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, 
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Russell Westbrook's time with the Los Angeles Lakers may not be limited to just one season after all.

New Lakers head coach Darvin Ham told reporters Monday that he "absolutely" views the future Hall of Famer as an important part of the team going forward. Ham also called Westbrook "one of the best players our league has ever seen" with productive years still remaining:


"Russ is one of the best players our league has ever seen. There's still a ton left in that tank." <br><br>Lakers new Head Coach Darvin Ham on Westbrook. <a href="https://t.co/gYCmWMaeZF">pic.twitter.com/gYCmWMaeZF</a>

Ham also seems to have a vision for the point guard considering he said there have been positive one-on-one conversations about "sacrifice" and Westbrook's ability to make plays without the ball and on the defensive end.

The UCLA product has been a ball-dominant playmaker throughout his career, but there was certainly an adjustment period alongside LeBron James this past season.

Not only is James ball-dominant as well, but the King often also benefits from effective outside shooters around him given his impressive passing skills and the defensive attention he consistently draws. Westbrook is far from an effective outside shooter and connected on 29.8 percent of his triples during his first season in Los Angeles.

Defense was also a concern, as opponents shot 3.3 percent better than their normal averages when Westbrook guarded them in 2021-22, per NBA.com.

Los Angeles' failure to make the playoffs despite championship-or-bust expectations fell on more than just the point guard, as James and Anthony Davis both missed time with injuries and the supporting cast struggled to establish consistency.

However, Westbrook was also under the spotlight as the marquee addition for the campaign, and his shortcomings became an easy focal point.

That led to plenty of speculation about his immediate future with the team, as simply running things back with him and James, 37, another year older doesn't seem like the best formula to compete in the Western Conference in 2022-23.

Yet Ham apparently sees the nine-time All-Star and 2016-17 NBA MVP as part of the plans to turn things around and compete for another championship.