Lakers guard Russell Westbrook was back in the starting lineup for the team’s regular season opener on Tuesday after playing a reserve role in last Friday’s preseason finale and leaving after just five minutes of action due to a hamstring strain. Asked on Tuesday whether coming off the bench may have been a factor in injuring his hamstring, Westbrook didn’t hesitate to draw a link between the two.
“Absolutely. I’ve been doing the same thing for 14 years straight,” Westbrook said, per Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. “Honestly, I didn’t know what to do pregame, I was trying to stay warm and loose.
“I felt something, didn’t know what it was. Wasn’t gonna risk it in a preseason game. But definitely wasn’t something I was used to. Wasn’t warm enough. It was something I wasn’t accustomed to.”
Westbrook has started over 1,000 regular season games since last coming off the bench as a rookie in 2008. While he has spoken publicly about embracing whatever role new head coach Darvin Ham asks him to play, it sounds like he’s still not enthusiastic about the idea of not being part of the starting five.
It’s possible the concept of bringing Westbrook off the bench is one the Lakers will revisit in the coming days, weeks, or months following the aborted experiment last Friday. But Ham spoke before Tuesday’s game about wanting to establish a consistent starting lineup, as ESPN’s Dave McMenamin relays.
“We don’t want to be one of those teams where teams are swaying according to who their opponent is starting,” Ham said.