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NBA Exec Talks Market for Russell Westbrook; Compares Lakers PG to Allen Iverson

Adam WellsDecember 13, 2022

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 9: Russell Westbrook #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates a play during the game against the Philadelphia 76ers on December 9, 2022 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Two months into his first real foray into being a sixth man off the bench, Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook is earning high marks for his play from people in the NBA.

One high-ranking team executive told Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix that Westbrook's willingness to come off the bench "will change how people view him" around the league.

"If he's willing to be a change-of-pace point guard, to play less minutes, to have defensive energy, top-tier teams are going to be interested in him this summer. The Iverson comparisons are fair," the executive said. "Allen could have played three or four more years if he had been willing to come off the bench. He would have had a field day against second units. Westbrook can do the same."

There have been comparisons made between Westbrook and Iverson for a long time. Iverson's NBA career came to an abrupt end after the 2009-10 season in part because he was unhappy about coming off the bench.

When Lakers head coach Darvin Ham first experimented using Westbrook off the bench during the preseason, the former NBA MVP suffered a hamstring injury that he blamed on sitting for too long after pregame warmups.

"I've been doing the same thing for 14 years straight," Westbrook told reporters. "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."

After starting the first three games of the season, Westbrook has come off the bench in each of his next 25 games. The nine-time All-Star is averaging 15.0 points, 8.0 assists and 5.4 rebounds in 25 games since Oct. 28. He's shooting 42.0 percent from the field and 32.1 percent from three-point range.

The results haven't been stellar, but it's at least an indication he can be a productive player in a different role.

Westbrook is still playing almost 28 minutes per game during this stretch.

Being willing to take on a different role at this later stage of his career shows other teams that Westbrook is capable of doing what's in the best interest of the team.

This is a crucial step for a player who may or may not finish this season with the Lakers, is also going to be a free agent next summer and presumably wants to make a good impression on teams that might be interested in signing him.