It looks like this NBA season won't be much different from the last for the Los Angeles Lakers. They kicked off the new year with an opening night loss to the defending champion Golden State Warriors and the problems shown on the court looked rather familiar. There wasn't enough shooting, perimeter defense was suspect, and Russell Westbrook put up a decent box score without really contributing to a winning effort.
So for the second year in a row the conversation surrounding the Lakers that we will hear every day (like it or not) will be about the drama or potential of drama rather than any on-court analysis. Skip Bayless happily led the charge today and said Westbrook's presence in the starting lineup is a clear sign that new head coach Darvin Ham has already capitulated to the superstar's attitude after having him come off the bench in the final preseason game.
That's probably not true! Ham is working with a pretty poor hand and will be trying every lineup combination possible before the season is out to find something that works. Sure, Westbrook whining about coming off the bench to the media doesn't help anyone. But this team is so poorly-constructed that having Westbrook come off the bench is not the obvious solution everyone seems to think it is.
It might help but Ham isn't going to immediately try it out because the bench is bad, too. There are a lot of problems to work through. It feels unlikely we've heard the last of any murmurings about Sixth Man Westbrook.