Shams: Lakers' Russell Westbrook May Be Benched for Austin Reaves After Injury Return

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVOctober 26, 2022

SACRAMENTO, CA - JANUARY 12: Russell Westbrook #0 and Austin Reaves #15 of the Los Angeles Lakers face the Sacramento Kings on January 12, 2022 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Austin Reaves reportedly could be auditioning for a starting role when the Los Angeles Lakers take on the Denver Nuggets in Wednesday's game.

Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium reported Reaves will start for Russell Westbrook, who will miss the game with a hamstring injury. If the 24-year-old plays well, it may be more of a permanent move.

"This is very much a move that the Lakers could continue depending on how tonight's game goes and depending on how they feel about the rotation," Charania added.

The idea of Westbrook potentially coming off the bench for the Lakers this season is not a new one.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski suggested it is "probably inevitable unless his performance changes," and the future Hall of Famer came off the bench during the team's preseason finale against the Sacramento Kings on Oct. 14.

He happened to suffer a hamstring injury during that game and he blamed not starting for the ailment, telling reporters, "I've been doing the same thing for 14 years straight. Honestly, I didn't even know what to do pregame. Being honest, I was trying to figure out how to stay warm and loose. ... That's something I just wasn't accustomed to."

Westbrook started the Lakers' first three games of the regular season and was downright abysmal.

Los Angeles lost all three contests, and the guard shot 28.9 percent from the field and 8.3 percent from three-point range. The team was outscored by 7.9 points per 100 possessions when he was on the floor, per Basketball Reference.

It is a continuation of the issues that plagued him in 2021-22 as he struggled to adjust to a new role on a new team where he wouldn't be as ball-dominant like he was during his prime. His shooting woes also don't play well alongside LeBron James given the space the King creates with all the defensive attention he draws.

The Lakers didn't even make the play-in tournament last season and could be in for a similar fate if nothing changes after an 0-3 start to the 2022-23 campaign.

Perhaps shifting Westbrook to more of a bench role where he can be more aggressive as a creator and ball-handler as part of the second unit could change that. Or maybe a trade will happen down the line.

For now, Reaves is in line to start after averaging 4.7 points, 1.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 19 minutes per game to start the season.