Lakers point finger after first loss: Russell Westbrook blames hamstring injury on new coach Darvin Ham’s decision to take him off the bench in final preseason game before LA drops season opener to Golden State
- Russell Westbrook blamed his hamstring injury on new Lakers coach Darvin Ham
- Westbrook said he strained it because he got off the bench in the preseason
- Instead of starting, Westbrook said, his leg stiffened as he sat on the couch
- He started Tuesday in the season-opening defeat against the Golden State Warriors
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The Los Angeles Lakers have a new coach, but many of the same old problems after their season-opening loss to the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday.
After his disappointing first year with the team, Russell Westbrook said he “absolutely” believes new coach Darvin Ham’s decision to take him off the bench in Friday’s preseason final contributed to his nagging hamstring injury.
Although he started with a loss in San Francisco on Tuesday, Westbrook came off the bench in Sacramento on Friday but only played five minutes into the preseason game after suffering a hamstring injury.
On Tuesday, he played 31 minutes in the season opener, finishing with 19 points and 11 rebounds, while scoring 7 of 12 field goals. Afterwards, however, Westbrook told reporters that his hamstring injury on Friday was the result of muscle stiffness that occurred when he was forced to sit after warming up for the exhibition.
“I’ve been doing the same thing for 14 years,” Westbrook said Tuesday night after the Lakers lost 123-109 to the Golden State. “Honestly, I didn’t even know what to do before the game. To be honest, I was trying to figure out how to stay warm and loose. … I just wasn’t used to that.’
After his disappointing first year with the team, Russell Westbrook said he “absolutely” believes new coach Darvin Ham’s decision to use him off the bench in Friday’s preseason final contributed to his nagging hamstring injury.
On Tuesday, Ham said he wanted Westbrook in the starting lineup because of the energy and competitiveness he brings to his team-mates.
“You want to start the game the right way in terms of your energy and attack mode, and nobody better than him,” Ham told reporters before addressing the media. “I mean, it’s what we’ve got, and we’ve injured a few key people. It’s Game 1, give them a chance to go out and compete at the highest level. I thought he was sturdy. I thought he was sturdy. A few possessions I wish I could get back, but overall I thought it was solid.’
Taking over Washington’s aging Westbrook for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma and Montrezl Harrell didn’t quite work for the Lakers last season. The nine-time All-Star could James & Co. failed to replenish and was often criticized for his poor shot while the Lakers failed to reach the postseason.
Westbrook finished with one of his worst performances of his career, averaging 18.5 points (his lowest since 2009-10), while making just 29.8 percent of his 3-point attempts as his assist-to- turnover ratio fell to 1.9.
Worse, Westbrook, LeBron James and Anthony Davis barely shared the word last season, as the latter was plagued with knee and foot problems.
“This Lakers team not making the playoffs is one of the biggest disappointments in NBA HISTORY!!!” tweeted former NBA center Kendrick Perkins, an ESPN personality who was once teammates with James. “It’s one thing to perform below the playoffs, but not to make it at all is RIDICULOUS.”
Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook (C) in action against Sacramento Kings guard Davion Mitchell (R) and Sacramento Kings forward Domantas Sabonis (L) during preseason