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Russell Westbrook says coming off bench led to hamstring tweak in preseason game

Michael Holley and Vincent Goodwill recap the subpar showing from the Los Angeles Lakers on opening night, and wonder how Russell Westbrook will be able to fit in with the Lakers as a role player.

Russell Westbrook started in the Lakers’ opening-night loss to the Warriors. There had been a question if he would even play in the opener after Westbrook tweaked his hamstring just five minutes into the Lakers’ final preseason game, the one game where Westbrook came off the bench.

Did coming off the bench lead to Westbrook’s hamstring issue? He said yes. Here’s the full quote, via Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times.

“Absolutely,” Westbrook said when asked about the role change. “I’ve been doing the same thing for 14 years straight. Honestly, I didn’t even know what to do pregame. Being honest, I was trying to figure out how to stay warm and loose. For me, obviously the way I play the game, it’s fast-paced, quick, stop-and-go. And I just happened to, when I subbed in, I felt something. Thought it was... didn’t know what it was, but I wasn’t going to risk it in a preseason game. But definitely wasn’t something I was used to. Wasn’t warm enough. But that’s something I just wasn’t accustomed to.”

Westbrook said all the right things throughout the preseason about doing whatever new coach Darvin Ham asks, fitting in and putting the team first. Of course, he said all the right things before joining the Lakers, too, but that wasn’t previous coach Frank Vogel’s experience. This passive-aggressive “I should start” comment is more the norm.

Westbrook had 17 points, 11 rebounds and three assists in the Lakers opener Tuesday night, and he was 1-of-3 from 3. He isn’t a great shooter, which, to start the season, looks like the Lakers’ biggest weakness.

Westbrook’s fit with this roster will be a topic, as will trade talk — as the season settles in the Lakers will again start to look at Westbrook trades (unless they get off to a fast start, so far they are 0-1 with the Clippers next on Thursday). Will a rough start have the Lakers reconsidering their position on giving up two first-round picks (2027 and 2029) to get Myles Turner and Buddy Hield out of Indiana?

For now, Westbrook is starting for the Lakers. If that changes, his attitude and play will be something to watch.