Is Russell Westbrook Back In Fans' Good Graces?

After Sunday night's game, maybe Russell Westbrook will even admit that this whole bench unit thing really is a good idea after all. Leading the Los Angeles Lakers' reserves to a dominant performance over the Denver Nuggets' second unit, Westbrook had 18 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists in helping lead the Lakers to their long-awaited first win of the season.

And yes, Laker fans were even cheering him. Repeatedly. 

In fact, in two games since moving to the bench, the Lakers have been a far better team with Westbrook on the floor than off it. Who'da thunk?

The Lakers are actually +18 with Russ on the floor and minus-16 with him off the floor since his transition to the second unit. 

In the 4th quarter, when he checked into the game, Russ was actually met with loud cheers from the Crypto crowd. And again after a blocked shot, and again when he went to the free throw line. 

Led by Westbrook, the Lakers’ bench outscored Denver’s reserves by 19 in their 121-110 win. 

As noted by Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times, "in his second regular-season game as the Lakers’ sixth man, Westbrook looked more like himself than he had at any other time in his Lakers tenure."

“Whatever is needed for me to help the team win, that’s what I’ll do,” Westbrook said. “One thing I never will let happen is people outside of my family, [the] people that support me, take my joy. Always have fun and embrace this game, and embrace the gift I’ve been given to be able to go out and compete. And yes, winning makes you feel better about yourself. But when you’re losing, it’s not as much fun. Tonight was a night where we were able to have a chance.”

Until these past two games, Westbrook had been in the starting lineup for every one of his NBA games in the last 14 years, over 1,000 consecutive contests, dating back to the 18th game of his rookie season. 

Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports