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Los Angeles Lakers’ Darvin Ham has ‘more power’ to bench Russell Westbrook in 2022

Matt Johnson

Los Angeles Lakers coach Darvin Ham talked about his plans for Russell Westbrook’s role in the upcoming 2022-’23 NBA season. However, that specific role might be the precise opposite of what the All-Star point guard wants.

The Lakers have shopped Westbrook around the NBA this summer, exploring deals with the Brooklyn Nets and Indiana Pacers. Nothing came to fruition, causing Los Angeles to release information that Westbrook met with Lakers stars and there was a commitment to making things work.

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Westbrook, the 2017 NBA MVP, wants to play his style of basketball. However, fluctuating minutes and a different role under former coach Frank Vogel are what the 33-year-old blames for his disappointing season. If things are going to turn around for him on the court, he’ll need to prepare himself for an even more challenging situation this winter.

According to Jovan Buha of The Athletic, Ham has already been empowered with the ability to bench Westbrook late in games next season. Furthermore, the coach’s authority could even extend to removing the All-Star guard from the starting lineup altogether.

  • Russell Westbrook stats (2021-’22): 18.5 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 7.1 APG, .030 WS/48

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It further highlights the team’s genuine disinterest in bringing Westbrook back next season. Leaking that Ham can bench the 13-year veteran might also be an effort to fuel Westbrook’s desire to get out of Los Angeles.

Owed $47 million this season, it comes as no surprise that the Lakers couldn’t find any takers for Westbrook without attaching significant assets. With a Kyrie Irving trade becoming increasingly unlikely, Los Angeles might have to bite the bullet by paying Indiana’s asking price in a trade for Myles Turner and Buddy Hield to improve the team and locker room.