Most Lakers fans have been looking for ways to move on from Russell Westbrook but new head coach Darvin Ham sounds quite optimistic about the veteran guard.
For much of the offseason already, talk around the Los Angeles Lakers has focused on two things: How to reunite Kyrie Irving and LeBron James and how the team can move on from Russell Westbrook. In most cases, those two moves have often been linked to one another.
New Lakers head coach Darvin Ham, however, seems to have something else in mind in regards to Westbrook.
Namely, the newly appointed leader of LeBron and Co. isn’t ready to join the majority of the fanbase and most analysts in finding a path that doesn’t include the veteran guard. In fact, Ham was quick to say that Westbrook has been counted out far too soon and that he has a plan for him.
Lakers: Darvin Ham sounds hopelessly optimistic about Russell Westbrook
In an interview with Marc J. Spears of Andscape, he was asked for his thoughts on Westbrook. Ham responded pretty strongly about the current Lakers guard.
"Counted out prematurely. Counted out. Prematurely. I’ve had some great interactions with Russ, in person, over dinner, over the phone, over text messages. I love Russell Westbrook, man. Just his mentality, his approach. Just to see him, a guy of that magnitude and everything he’s done in the league to get hated on. But being me, I got a wholehearted plan, a clear plan on how I’m going to use him. I showed it to him, sat down, brought stuff up for him. I think he’s going to flourish. We ain’t going to try to curtail his energy. We’re just going to diversify it, redirect it."
On one hand, you have to respect the optimism from Ham. On the other hand, you have to wonder what player Ham has been watching to say this is premature.
Westbrook’s first season in Los Angeles was arguably his worst as a pro. He finished the season with a -1.6 Box Plus/Minus, the worst efficiency mark of his career, and LA’s insistence on relying upon the veteran while he performed at that level was surely reflected in their dubious record on the season. And that’s without even getting to the eye test, which yielded troublesome results at the least.
For Ham, he has to be positive about Westbrook as he takes this new position — everyone should understand that. With that said, anyone thinking this endorsement means that the guard isn’t available in the right trade is walking with blinders on. It’s clear that Westbrook represents an area where the Lakers could upgrade and even an optimistic new head coach wouldn’t turn away the right deal.