LOS ANGELES – Darvin Hamm, Lakers coach, said he and Russell Westbrook They “go ahead” and have “understanding” after the rule suggested that an important decision to take him off the bench in pre-season could have contributed to a minor hamstring injury.
However, Hamm pushed back at any hint that his alternation in the Lakers’ final pre-season loss to the Sacramento Kings – with Westbrook playing just five minutes off the bench before coming off with a strained left hamstring – had anything to do with the physical setback.
“Let me be clear with this,” Hamm said before hosting the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday. “The Lakers, I, my crew, will in no way put a player or staff in harm’s way. Physically, mentally and spiritually. We don’t stand for it. We’re not about it. That’s not who we are.”
After the Lakers lost their season opener 123-109 to the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday, Westbrook said he “absolutely” believed sitting on the bench against Sacramento could have caused the injury.
“I’ve been doing the same for 14 years in a row,” he said, noting that he started 1,005 out of 1,022 matches in his career. “Honestly, I didn’t even know what to do before the match. And honestly, I was trying to figure out how to keep warm and get away…that’s something I wasn’t used to.”
Hamm said the two launched a “brief discussion” about the comments. Hamm returned to Westbrook in the starting line-up against the Warriors and again against the Clippers.
“We moved on, and we came to an understanding,” Hamm said. “As the coach of this team, we will do what is best for our team to be as successful as possible. I will leave it at that.”
Hamm said he understands that “respect” and “routine” are important to the previous league’s best player, but acknowledged the team-focused goals he would be asking Westbrook to meet.
“He’s been around for a long time,” Hamm said. “He’s been a top-level player for a very long time. So, I know what it’s about and how it’s done.” “But on the other hand, you must be willing to do whatever your team needs from you. This is called being a professional. So, whatever we choose to use, there must be a willingness to sacrifice for the sake of your teammates and the benefit of the team in general if this course of action is to lead to success.”
Westbrook played 31 minutes against Golden State and earned 19 points in 7 for 12 shots, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal and 4 turns.
Hamm said he had a “good plan” to move forward in the Westbrook role, but added, “Depending on the performance, the minutes can go up, the minutes can go down.”
Hamm also said he had no problem with Westbrook saying what he said to reporters after the Warriors game, or with him. LeBron JamesA frank assessment that we “are not a team built on great shooting” – even if their comments are interpreted as criticism of the coaching team and front office.
“It’s a mature man’s bond,” Hamm said. “Things will be said whether it’s directed at someone or not. I take it one step at a time. I’ve been around this thing for 26 years. I’ve been on quiet teams and I’ve been on two loud teams. But I have the utmost respect for these guys. I think they respect me very much. No. There is something personal about anything. We deal with it and move on.”
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