All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook is coming off the worst stretch of his career. With his numbers down all across the board, and his team finishing 11th in the West, Russ has been the primary target of blame for most of Lakers Nation.
And while head coach Darvin Ham has preached faith in Westbrook's abilities, he will have the power to bench the star guard if he fails to live up to expectations this next season.
Based on the current roster, I project the closing lineup to look something like this: Davis, Toscano-Anderson, James, Brown and Reaves. I think Westbrook will often be in there, too, but it will depend on how he’s shooting, his decision-making and his defense.
Lakers head coach Darvin Ham will have more power to bench Westbrook down the stretch of games, according to league sources. (Former head coach Frank Vogel did so a few times last season). That could eventually extend to removing Westbrook from the starting lineup as well.
With the fifth spot, Westbrook may have the advantage considering his status, but he may end up rotating with Brown, Nunn or Walker, depending on how they’re shooting that night.
So what does all this mean for the Purple and Gold? Simply that Russ is on a very short leash. Last year, he was allowed to do his thing for months before Frank Vogel decided to make the decision to bench him down the stretch of games.
And while Westbrook was never kicked from the starting lineup, it seems that could be on the table for Ham if things aren't working out in the backcourt.
In the end, it will be up to Russ to show that he deserves to start and earn significant minutes alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Hopefully, it won't have to come to that -- but don't expect L.A. to continue trying something that doesn't work.