Russ has been showing out in his new role with L.A.
In a vacuum, it may not be ideal to have your most expensive player be coming off the bench. But your Los Angeles Lakers have figured out that the best way to get the most out of $47.1 million point guard Russell Westbrook and the team’s best player, 18-time All-Star forward LeBron James, is to separate the two on the floor when possible.
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Both players thrive with the basketball in their hands, and thus Westbrook operates best in the second unit conducting L.A.’s offense sans James.
Speaking with Camron Smith on Live on the Line recently, Bally Sports’ Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson made a fascinating comparison between the growth of Westbrook and “Coach Carter” lead character Timo Cruz (Rick Gonzalez), who loses his way early in the film before eventually learning to truly appreciate the game as a key reserve under the titular prep school coach (Samuel L. Jackson).
Robinson and Smith discussed the Lakers’ first victory of the season, a 121-110 win over the visiting Denver Nuggets Sunday, achieved in Westbrook’s second game as the club’s energy-changing sixth man.
“Him coming off the bench definitely helped them last night in their first win of the season,” Robinson observed. “It is still very early, and it seems as though the Lakers are still figuring out a lot… Darvin Ham spoke glowingly about how both he and Russell’s relationship has matured… I look at Russell Westbrook similarly to how I look at both Latrell Sprewell when he was a Knick, coming off the bench in that second unit [during the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season], and he also gives me vibes of ‘Coach Carter,’ when Timo came off the bench and kind of led that second unit in that legendary movie. I look at Russell Westbrook as a guy that can score, that can rebound, and can really lead the break with some of those young guys, and I think that’s really where he’s most beneficial… I think they’re slowly figuring it out, I wouldn’t be surprised if they start to go on a run.”
Robinson was spot-on with this last note, as the Lakers went on to win their next game, and seem to really have figured out how to maximize their existing talent. Let’s see if they can extend this winning streak a bit more tonight.
The Sprewell and Cruz comparisons are intriguing. Both players were ostensibly overqualified to quarterback their respective teams’ bench units, but both excelled in their required roles. Thus far, Westbrook has done the same.