Lakers’ Russell Westbrook doubtful for Denver game
He attended practice Tuesday in El Segundo but didn’t participate and traveled to Denver with the team.
Westbrook has been in the middle of nearly every major Lakers storyline since the end of last season, beginning with trade discussions this offseason and an eventful start to this season.
The Lakers brought Westbrook off the bench in their final preseason game, but he injured a hamstring after five minutes. And then, following the season opener, Westbrook said he “absolutely” thought coming off the bench contributed to his injury.
He’s struggled badly shooting in the last two games, making only four of 26 shots while missing a late jumper against Portland that allowed Damian Lillard to make the game-winner.
Westbrook has been the subject of criticism and rumor without letup.
Russell Westbrook missed a pair of critical shots down the stretch as the Lakers fall to 0-3 on the young season with a loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.
“People are forgetting who Russ is. … We saw it last year as well,” teammate Anthony Davis said. “I can’t imagine how tough it is for him. It’s something you guys have to ask him. But just as a team, as an organization, we’re just trying to be there for him and just keep supporting him and make sure that he doesn’t get caught up in it. ‘Cause that’s when things can go bad for him.
“We want to make sure that he’s continuously in a great space. He was all smiles today, which is a good thing. We want to make sure that no matter he knows we’re on his side and we have his back.”
Coach Darvin Ham said he had not considered making a change to the starting lineup.
“Not today,” he said.
Through three games, the starters have scored 75 points per 100 possessions. That is 15 points per 100 possessions worse than any other lineup that’s played at least three games together this season.
The group is, however, the top-rated defense among five-man lineups that have played 30 or more minutes.
“I just think our commitment to defense — that’s the biggest thing,” Ham said. “That’s the way you lay a new foundation. The success that’s been had here, especially in recent years, they’ve been good defensively. And I feel good about where we are and how we’re trending in that department.
“Shots are eventually going to fall. Offense will indeed catch up to our defense. But we can’t stop competing, we can’t stop defending.”
The Lakers are on a two-game trip with stops in Denver and Minnesota as part of a difficult opening month.
In the last two games, teams defended Westbrook in the fourth quarter with their centers, daring the Lakers to win from the perimeter, where they are by far the worst-shooting team in the NBA so far.
“At this point, it’s just concentrating and knocking them down,” Davis said. “The thing is now teams are going to start making us beat them from the outside. We’ve got to do just that.”
If Westbrook is unable to play, Austin Reaves, Kendrick Nunn, Juan Toscano-Anderson or Troy Brown Jr. could start.
Brown, who debuted for the Lakers on Sunday after dealing with a herniated disk in his back, impressed Ham.
“He looked great,” Ham said. “He came in, gave us some great minutes and I look forward to him being a big part of our rotation.”
When: 7 p.m. PST Wednesday
On the air: TV: ESPN, Spectrum SN; Radio: 710, 1330
Update: The Nuggets (2-2) have played three of their games on the road this season, including a 135-110 loss to Portland on Monday night. Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic was in foul trouble throughout that loss, attempting only four shots and three free throws yet nearly had a triple-double with nine points, nine rebounds and nine assists.
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