Lakers commit to making Russell Westbrook-Patrick Beverley combo work

Patrick Beverley raises his arms during pregame introductions last season with Minnesota.
Patrick Beverley was introduced by the Lakers to the Los Angeles media on Tuesday.
(Andy Clayton-King / Associated Press)

They were the biggest questions as soon as the Lakers acquired Patrick Beverley — will Russell Westbrook still be a Laker? If he is, can he coexist with Beverley, his on-court nemesis?

As Beverley officially was introduced as a member of the Lakers during a Tuesday news conference, Westbrook was the only other player in the room. As sweat poured down the face of Beverley, fresh from an on-court workout, it was Westbrook tossing him a towel.

“First dime of the year,” Beverley joked.

How the two are used on the court — and whether it even materializes — is up in the air. With training camp three weeks away and Westbrook trade rumors aplenty, plans probably should be being written in pencil.

Yet, Lakers coach Darvin Ham said he’s excited about the path forward with Beverley and Westbrook as part of a backcourt that includes Austin Reaves, Lonnie Walker IV and Kendrick Nunn.


Westbrook and Beverley, who have an on-court rivalry that dates to the 2013 playoffs, could be starters.

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“If they play defense,” Ham said when asked about the possibility. “We’ve got awhile. That’s still a ways off, but definitely. People get caught up in the starting lineups a lot, but you look at who is finishing games. Those starters, they’re out there to set that tone for the entire team throughout the game. But that’s still a long way off.

“But, I’m not scared of that. It’s definitely a bullet in the chamber.”

Beverley said he’s long wanted to play with Westbrook despite their on-court battles, which included a lot of trash talking as recently as a Lakers game last spring in Minnesota.

“A player with that competitive spirit, that fire, that will, that dog, that nastiness, that grit, to have a running mate like that, I have never had that,” Beverley said. “So I am super excited to see where it goes. Obviously like any relationship or any marriage, things, we are going to have tough conversations. That is what comes with winning but I am excited about those conversations, I am excited about the practices. I am just excited to be able to compete with someone like that.”

Beverley, who was dealt to the Lakers for Talen Horton-Tucker and Stanley Johnson after being blindsided by a deal that sent him from Minnesota to Utah, said he’d have no problem bringing the same kind of underdog mentality to 17-time NBA champions like the Lakers.


“I don’t think it’s any different,” he said bluntly. “I just feel like they didn’t make the playoffs last year. We’re being honest, that’s just the truth, so you can see all the banners, but you know, it’s what have you done for me lately? And lately, haven’t been a good team lately.”

What the team looks like is still uncertain, a fresh Westbrook trade rumor seemingly always just a tweet away.

Ham said despite the speculation, Westbrook has been engaged. He was on the bench with the team for a Las Vegas Summer League game and was among the few players to attend Ham’s introductory news conference.

“Everything has been clear and up front between he and I. And he’s been a pleasure,” Ham said. “I’ve been a huge fan throughout his time in the league. He’s the salt of the earth and he wants to win. He wants to win. And I want to help him get that championship ring. But it starts here, starts today. It starts with the buy-in. It starts with supporting your teammate, supporting a vision. … The communication has been great both ways. And he’s in here, in here putting in the work. I love him and I can’t wait to coach him and I can’t wait to succeed with him.”

Beverley is a role player who can help with that, a selfless defender and willing spot-up shooter already envisioning the places on the court where he can help when Westbrook heads to his favorite spots in the post or on the perimeter.

It’s a little different than it was in Houston, with the Clippers or last season in Minnesota, with the Lakers trying to remain relevant. But Beverley still feels he can make a difference.

“I changed the culture of all three of them,” he said of his former teams. “But I am not here to change the culture. I am trying to implement what I feel like has worked over the past years and that is the more closer you are, the more you are a team, the more [time] you spend together, the better you’ll be as a team.

“If you can’t have those tough conversations amongst each other, you damn sure ain’t going to have them in front of 20,000 people when the crowd is going against you. So my thing has always been camaraderie, team, team, team, and if you do that and play hard, you just let the dominoes fall wherever they fall from there.”