Russell Westbrook on Bench Role: 'I'll Sacrifice Whatever...Needs to Be Sacrificed'

Adam WellsOctober 29, 2022

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 28: Russell Westbrook #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first quarter of the game at Target Center on October 28, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. 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 License Agreement. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
David Berding/Getty Images

As the Los Angeles Lakers search for quick answers amid their 0-5 start to the season, Russell Westbrook is making himself open to ideas after Friday's 111-102 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Speaking to reporters, Westbrook said he's willing to "sacrifice whatever it is that needs to be sacrificed" after coming off the bench for the first time since his rookie season in 2008-09.

Even though Westbrook made it sound like he's been amendable to playing a different role for the Lakers, some of his previous comments at least suggested he would be unhappy changing anything.

While dealing with a back injury last season, Westbrook told reporters the pain was exacerbated by sitting on the bench for extended periods of time.

Kyle Goon @kylegoon

Russell Westbrook said he felt discomfort in his back against Milwaukee, and adds that part of the issue is that he's not accustomed "to sitting down for long stretches".

The Lakers used Westbrook off the bench for the final preseason game on Oct. 14 against the Sacramento Kings. He tweaked his hamstring after playing just five minutes and cited the change in role as a contributing factor to the injury:

"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. For me, obviously the way I play the game, it’s fast-paced, quick, stop-and-go. And I just happened to, when I subbed in, I felt something. Thought it was… didn’t know what it was, but I wasn’t going to risk it in a preseason game. But definitely wasn’t something I was used to. Wasn’t warm enough. But that’s something I just wasn’t accustomed to."

Head coach Darvin Ham told reporters on Oct. 20 he had a "brief discussion" with Westbrook about the situation and said he would do what's best for the team when figuring out a role for the former MVP.

The hamstring injury did keep Westbrook out for Wednesday's loss to the Denver Nuggets. Friday snapped his streak of 1,007 consecutive regular-season starts dating back to Nov. 29, 2008. He came off the bench for the first 17 games of his career with the Oklahoma City Thunder before moving into the starting five.

Westbrook did have his best game of the season in the Lakers' 111-102 loss to the T-Wolves. The 33-year-old had 18 points and eight rebounds in 33 minutes. He still struggled shooting the ball, making six of 17 field-goal attempts, and committed five turnovers.

The Lakers will return home on Sunday for another game against the Nuggets. They are one of two winless teams remaining in the NBA and are looking to avoid their first 0-6 start since 1957-58 when the franchise was in Minneapolis.