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The Russell Westbrook Sixth Man Conversation Begins

Kyle Koster
Kevork Djansezian/GettyImages
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The Los Angeles Lakers' experiment to field a team completely comprised of geriatric Millennials failed to yield a victory in Tuesday night's season opener. Stephen Curry notched a triple-double as the Golden State Warriors reminded everyone that LeBron James' friends and family roster is very much a work in progress. Russell Westbrook's first game in gold and purple was particularly shaky as he went 4-for-13 while posting a -23 plus/minus. With so many pieces available, Frank Vogel will experiment and likely find something that works more often than not in the coming months.

Tim Legler, appearing on First Take this morning, offered up a rather dramatic solution to what is an existing problem of 24 minutes of lackluster basketball. Step one: bring Westbrook off the bench. Step two: profit. Legler believes that a committed Russ would walk to a Sixth Man of the Year award and ultimately provide more value to his team.

Westbrook played 35 minutes against Golden State, third-most on the team behind LeBron and Anthony Davis. There's no doubt that an MVP-caliber player is capable of winning an award for bench players. And there's an obvious method to such madness.

Splitting up James and Westbrook would allow the latter to take more ownership of the second unit. The same drive-and-kick offense would be available. Yet shifting the primary ball-handler doesn't solve what promises to be the Lakers' largest issue: unreliable outside shooting. Trusting Carmelo Anthony to be the knockdown outside shooter is a risky proposition. The veteran was 2-for-4 last night from distance to contribute to L.A.'s overall 15-for-42 number, which was buoyed by an unusually productive 5-for-11 from James. It's concerning that the Lakers matched a team led by Curry in getting points from beyond the arc and still lost. It's also a tremendously small sample size.

Surely Vogel has already considered the possibility of Westbrook leading the bench mob. Westbrook too, probably before he joined the Lakers. Making such a move one game into the season would send a negative message so it may take awhile. Which is fine, because the season is more marathon than sprint.

Definitely something to keep an eye on, though.

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