The Los Angeles Lakers hosted media day on Monday at their El Segundo facility kicking off the 2022/23 season. Patrick Beverly, the newly acquired guard, was a breath of fresh air, bringing levity to a day focused on point guard Russell Westbrooks; whether he would remain a Laker for the entire season, whether he’s committed to playing nice with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, will he start or come off the bench, and if Westbrooks wants to play in Los Angeles.
For his part, Westbrooks, 33, attended the recent player-organized mini-camp in San Diego and spoke optimistically about working with the new head coach Darvin Ham.
“Me and Darvin have been in communication since Day 1,” Westbrook said. “Being able to connect with him right away was extremely important to me,”
Westbrook said he’s open to whatever coaching Ham provides, even if that means coming off the bench.
“Whatever unfolds, unfolds,” Westbrook said. “I’m just happy and blessed to be able to play the game I love.”
Coach Ham returned the excitement at the prospect of coaching Westbrook, who averaged 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 7.1 assists last season.
“I’m thrilled to coach Russ,” Ham said. “He and I have had a great rapport since I took over the job. That was one of the things that got me excited about this job.”
Westbrooks talked of doing his job at a high level as he is being paid to do.
“Whether they want me here or not doesn’t really matter, honestly,” Westbrook said when asked if he feels wanted by the organization. “My job is to be professional, show up to work as I’ve always done, and do my job the best way I can. And that’s it. As a professional and working man, I have to do my job and do it the best way I know how to and be able to support and take care of my family, and that’s what I will do.”
Beverley dispelled rumors that he and Westbrook were at odds calling Westbrook his best friend “so far.”
“I have been on the team for four, three weeks, and if I were to name a best friend, it would be Westbrook. We’ve worked out together, lifted weights, and we talk all the time,” Beverly recalled Westbrook’s generosity towards his sister when he played for the Houston Rockets, giving her courtside seats. “He doesn’t know me from a can of paint. That’ s real that (he) did that.”
Being available to play this season was the focus of LeBron James as he enters his 20th season in the league.
“I’m gonna focus my game on being available … to be available on the floor,” said James.
He recently signed a two-year, $97.1 million contract extension with the Lakers through the 2024-25 season. James enters this season at 37, chasing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s scoring record of 38,387 points. Currently, James has 37,062 points. “I’ve never chased a record in my life. I’ve never sat down and said, ‘OK, let me see if I can get this record, let me see if I can get that record.’… “It’s one of those things that you never think could possibly happen.”
Eight-time All-Star Anthony Davis missed more than half of the regular-season games, appearing in 40 games during the 2021/22 season. However, Davis is treating this season “like we have a chip on our shoulder.”
“We’re the underdogs. Obviously, the world is looking to see what we do,” Davis said. “But they’re not talking about us, and that’s fine. You know, we’d rather be under the radar.”
The Lakers will open the season on the road against the defending champion Golden State Warriors on October 18 and then play the home opener against the Los Angeles Clippers on October 20.