Lakers News: Russell Westbrook Featured in Starting Lineup Early in Training Camp

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IISeptember 30, 2022

Los Angeles Lakers Russell Westbrook arrives to speak to members of the press during the Los Angeles Lakers media day in El Segundo, California, on September 26, 2022. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Darvin Ham revealed Friday the first unit he's been working with at training camp thus far, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

Dave McMenamin @mcten

Darvin Ham says he was been going with LeBron, AD, Russ, Nunn and Damian Jones in the first unit thus far in camp

That starting five notably includes guard Russell Westbrook, who struggled in his first season in purple and gold last year. Sam Amick and Jovan Buha of The Athletic reported Sept. 16 that "the prospect of Westbrook coming off the bench is being strongly considered."

It appears that Westbrook will still remain with the starters, however, as the Lakers look to bounce back from a 33-49 campaign that saw the team finish outside of the playoffs and 11th in the Western Conference.

Trade rumors surrounding Westbrook, who exercised his 2022-23 player option to remain with the team for one more year, persisted throughout the summer. Nothing came to fruition, however, and Westbrook is still with the team.

The Lakers made wholesale changes around Westbrook, LeBron James and Anthony Davis, however, bringing in several players, including Patrick Beverley, Dennis Schroder, Lonnie Walker IV, Juan Toscano-Anderson, Troy Brown Jr. and Thomas Bryant.

L.A. also returns Kendrick Nunn, who signed with the team last year but missed the entire campaign because of a bone bruise in his right knee.

Adding Schroder and Beverley notably led to a more crowded backcourt situation, and Amick and Buha noted that Westbrook will have to outplay both to keep his starting job:

"At a minimum, it seems clear Westbrook will have to outplay new addition Patrick Beverley and Schröder if he’s going to retain his starting role. As with most lineup constructions ahead of training camp and the season, it remains a very fluid situation. But sources say first-year head coach Darvin Ham, with the full backing of the organization, is ready and willing to make whatever difficult rotation decisions might lie ahead in the interest of team success."

That would be a seismic change for Westbrook, who hasn't come off the bench since his rookie year in 2008-09, and he only did so for 17 games during that campaign. Still, it's certainly possible that Westbrook, who is two years removed from averaging a triple-double with the Washington Wizards, can turn it around.

A full offseason with a healthy James and Davis and more consistency with the rotations throughout the campaign could lead to far more success.

The Lakers open the season Oct. 18 on the road against the Golden State Warriors.