Westbrook Says Coming Off The Bench "Absolutely" Caused His Hamstring Injury

In the final game of the Los Angeles Lakers' preseason last week, head coach Darvin Ham tried something with Russell Westbrook that hasn't been tried in 14 years—over 1,000 games: he asked him to come off the bench with the second unit. 

That experiment last about seven minutes as Westbrook left the game with a hamstring injury. Now Russ is blaming the injury on the fact that he was not in the starting lineup. 

“Absolutely,” Westbrook told Dan Woike of the LA Times when asked if the injury came about because of the role change. “I’ve been doing the same thing for 14 years straight. Honestly, I didn’t even know what to do pregame. Being honest, I was trying to figure out how to stay warm and loose.

"For me, obviously the way I play the game, it’s fast-paced, quick, stop-and-go. And I just happened to, when I subbed in, I felt something. Thought it was... didn’t know what it was, but I wasn’t going to risk it in a preseason game. But definitely wasn’t something I was used to. Wasn’t warm enough. But that’s something I just wasn’t accustomed to.”

It will interesting to see if second-unit guys across the league start to use that as an excuse why they need to start. 

In the meantime, Charles Barkley told the NBA on TNT crew that he thinks it's time for the Lakers to move Westbrook to a new situation.

“It’s time for the Lakers to move him,” Barkley said. “They have taken all his joy out of life and basketball … He doesn’t look … this guy used to be so exuberant, play with great energy and great emotion. I think the wear and tear mentally, last year, starting this year, playing with Patrick Beverley … and the thing is he’s going to get the blame no matter what because the Lakers ain't a championship contender.

“… I think he needs a fresh start; I think the Lakers need a fresh start.”

Russ did play—and start—for the Lakers in their season opener Tuesday night; he scored 19 points to go with 11 rebounds, three assists and four turnovers in about 30 minutes in their blowout loss to the Golden State Warriors.

Photo: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports