Los Angeles Lakers point guard Russell Westbrook is expected to play in the team’s opening night matchup against the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday, according to Chris Haynes. Westbrook had been listed as day-to-day with a hamstring injury he picked up late last week.
Westbrook suffered the injury on Friday night during the Lakers’ preseason finale against the Sacramento Kings, though it’s unclear exactly when it happened. Five minutes after checking into the game, he hobbled back to the locker room with a slight limp and did not return. He finished with zero points, two assists and two turnovers.
Notably, this was Westbrook’s first appearance off the bench since his rookie year with the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2008-09 season. Earlier in the week, new Lakers head coach Darvin Ham announced that he was going to remove Westbrook from the starting lineup against the Kings and would explore the option for the regular season as well.
It’s unclear how Westbrook’s injury and the lack of a true look at him with the second unit will impact the plan moving forward. It’s also unclear how Westbrook will handle such a demotion — though so far everyone is saying the right things.
“He totally understood,” Ham said earlier in the week. “He totally looked me in my eye and said, ‘Yeah, Coach, whatever you need me to do.’ You can’t take that for granted, for a player of his stature to be willing to try something different, something that he’s unaccustomed to. I mean, he started a bunch of games in this league and performed at the highest level in this league. Hell, even being a MVP.”
“So for him to trust us and trust what we’re trying to do and what we’re trying to take some notes on — to see if him being in that part of the rotation has any benefit to us as a whole — again, my hat’s off to him. I salute him, because a lot of guys would have had a lot of pushback, even if it’s a preseason game. He totally was selfless in that moment.”
During an interview earlier in training camp, Westbrook said he was ready to accept whatever role he’s given. “I’m all-in on whatever it takes for this team to win,” Westbrook said. “I’m prepared for whatever comes my way.”
Of course, giving the right quotes is much easier than making things work on the court, and so far, both last season and this preseason, the Lakers and Westbrook have not been able to do the latter. That’s why the Lakers have shopped Westbrook all summer and will continue to look for trades until the deadline.