Russell Westbrook arrived at the Lakers’ practice facility on Monday sounding realistic after an uncertain summer.

“Whether they want me here or not, it really doesn’t matter,” Westbrook said. “My duty is to be a professional and to come to work as I usually do.”

Westbrook was candid about what his second season in a Lakers uniform might look like with a new head coach (Darvin Ham) and more court time with LeBron James and Anthony Davis after a turbulent 2021-22 season coexisting with Lakers stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis and playing under coach Frank Vogel.

“Right now, I don’t have that answer,” Westbrook said. “But I understand it’s about competing.” The rest will take care of itself if we compete.”

And, after sitting in crunch time on times last season, Westbrook seems more open to the prospect of a smaller role in starting and ending games in 2022-23.

Westbrook’s Confidence

“I’ll do what’s best for the team and whatever is required of me,” Westbrook stated.

What will the Lakers expect from Westbrook? Westbrook, Dennis Schröder, Patrick Beverley, Kendrick Nunn, and Austin Reaves are among Ham’s “many alternatives” for starting in the backcourt.

“The people who are going to get the minutes are the ones who are going to get the stops,” Ham said. “He’s personally informed me he’s going to commit to that side of the ball.”

After placing 11th in the Western Conference last season with a record of 33-49, the Lakers have adjusted their expectations for this season. They had 246 games missed due to injuries or illnesses, with James (26 games) and Davis missing the most (42). Westbrook also struggled from deep (29.8%), was careless with the ball (3.8 turnovers per game), and was 386th out of 605 players in individual defensive rating.

Following the exercising of Westbrook’s $47 million player option, the Lakers allegedly assessed the market for him in potential trade deals.

“You always have to be analyzing the roster for any player on your club,” said Rob Pelinka, L.A.’s VP of basketball operations. “We will continue to enhance our squad during the season if necessary.”

However, the Lakers feel the former Kia NBA MVP and all-time triple-double leader will have a successful season. Last season, Westbrook showed hints of his former greatness with his durability (78 games), triple-doubles (10) and team-leading rebounds (7.4) and assists (7.1) per game.

It also helps that James and Davis will be totally healthy for the start of training camp.

“We are excited to be a part of his journey this year,” James stated. “It’ll be a fantastic year for him, and we’ll be right there with him.”

The Lakers expect Westbrook, James, and Davis to play together in more than 21 games this season. The squad kept none of its seasoned free agents and instead signed a few new players (Lonnie Walker IV, Troy Brown Jr., Thomas Bryant, Damian Jones and Juan Toscano-Anderson). The Lakers also strengthened their backcourt by re-signing Schröder and adding defensive threat Beverley.

“We need to get down and discuss what works and what doesn’t,” Davis added. “Hopefully, we can find out all of the things that didn’t work.”

Finally, the Lakers selected a head coach who they hope would empower and hold Westbrook responsible. In the NBA, Ham has earned respect for the skills he demonstrated throughout his nine-year playing career as well as three assistant coaching stints, including Milwaukee’s current championship run.

“Russell Westbrook is an excellent member of our squad,” Pelinka said. “He’s a man of outstanding character and work ethic, and he’s one of the best players to ever play the game.” “I believe Coach Ham will bring forth another level in him.”

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