NBA News: Darvin Ham Says Lakers Will Keep Russell Westbrook

Russell Westbrook
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Ernesto Cova

The Los Angeles Lakers had a big Russell Westbrook problem. He's a lock to pick up his $40+ million player option for next season, meaning they're pretty much stuck with him unless they find a trade suitor, which seems unlikely.

Some analysts even urged the Lakers to just waive Westbrook to fix their salary cap situation. But that's not what coach Darvin Ham wants.

Ham Wants Westbrook To Feel Loved

Russell Westbrook
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Ham all but affirmed that Westbrook will be a big part of the team going forward, shutting down all speculation regarding his future with the organization:

"I want him to feel loved, I want him to feel comfortable," Ham said. "You gonna bring him off the bench you gonna do this, no none of that stuff matters. I need him to set the tone defensively. He said he's willing to do that. He's made it his own personal mission to be better defensively."

Ham Says Westbrook Is Still A Star

Russell Westbrook
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Ham urged people to show Westbrook some respect. He believes he's still one of the best players in the league and should be treated as such:

“Don’t get it messed up. Russell is one of the best players our league has ever seen,” Ham said. “He still has a ton left in that tank. I don’t know why people tend to write him off. I’m going to approach him like every player I’ve ever encountered. We’re going to talk about our running habits with the ball, without the ball."

Defense Will Be A Point Of Emphasis

Anthony Davis
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Regardless of who's on the floor or running the offense, Ham wants the Lakers to take pride in their defense and start getting stops for a change:

“But again, the team, the rhythm of the team, and trying to establish the rhythm with LeBron, Russ, AD," Ham added. "Again, share the load defensively and offensively. Defensively is where you’re going to see us make our biggest leaps and bounds. We have to commit to the defensive side of the ball or we don’t have a chance to do anything. The offense won’t even matter if we don’t get stops."

Russ Will Need To Make Adjustments

Russell Westbrook
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It's always nice to know that your coach has your back, especially if you're a star who's being questioned by the fanbase and the media.

But Ham and the Lakers can only do so much. It'll be up to Westbrook to pay back that confidence and prove that he's right by sticking with him and not asking for him to be traded again. Westbrook needs to find a way to be efficient alongside other stars and that's entirely up to him.