The 2022-23 Los Angeles Lakers have been predicted to start a $13 million guard and $2 million center alongside superstar LeBron James.
In a Sept. 22 article titled “Predicting Each NBA Team’s Starting Lineup and Top Reserves This Season,” Bleacher Report’s Greg Swartz predicted that the upcoming season will see the Lakers feature Russell Westbrook, Patrick Beverley, James, Anthony Davis and Thomas Bryant would start.
“The addition of Beverley was a great fit for this Lakers team that needs shooting, defense and toughness,” Swartz wrote. “Head coach Darvin Ham conceded that both Beverley and Westbrook could start side-by-side in backcourt ‘if they play defense’, with Kendrick Nunn and Austin Reaves also vying for a spot. Playing small with Davis in center will likely be this team’s goal in the fourth quarter of games, but starting Bryant in center gives the Lakers another shooter and allows Davis to protect power forwards.
The Lakers acquired Beverly from the Utah Jazz for Talen Horton-Tucker and Stanley Johnson. The Chicago native, who will earn $13 million in 2022-23, averaged 9.2 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.6 assists for the Minnesota Timberwolves last season.
Bryant, who began his career with the Lakers, played 27 games for the Washington Wizards last season. The big man averaged 7.4 points and 4.0 rebounds. Bryant has signed a one-year, $2.1 million contract with the Lakers.
New Lakers head coach Darvin Ham told reporters Sept. 6 that he believes Westbrook and Beverley could play together despite a controversial history. In 2013, Westbrook dribbled the ball towards the Oklahoma City Thunder Bank for a timeout when Beverley went for a steal and extracted the nine-time All-Star’s knee, resulting in a torn meniscus and multiple knee surgeries.
“I see them working fabulously together, man,” Ham said. “Their games complement each other. I wouldn’t be in a backcourt and want to deal with those two guys. …when they play defense. we have a while There’s still a long way to go, but definitely. … There is definitely a bullet in the chamber. We look forward to it man. Those guys in the back together, man.”
Beverley, who has never missed the playoffs, said Sept. 6 that he was “super excited” to play with Westbrook, who was at Beverley’s inaugural press conference with the Lakers. The former MVP interrupted Beverley’s press conference with reporters to throw him a towel after seeing his new teammate sweating.
“Super excited,” Beverly said of the game against Westbrook. “I was asked this question two or three years ago, [about] someone I’ve always wanted to play with and [Westbrook] was the first name. I have [known] Bron, since I was a baby, a rookie in this league so obviously I want to play with him. But I’ve never had a player with this fighting spirit, this fire, this will, this dog, this malice, this courage to have such a comrade-in-arms. So I’m very excited to see where it’s going.”
After the Lakers took over Beverley and signed Dennis Schroder, rumors circulated that Westbrook might come off the bench for the Lakers, who missed the playoffs last season. However, on the Sept. 19 episode of “NBA Today,” ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne said the Lakers still consider Westbrook a regular.
“From what I understand now, they still see Russell Westbrook as a starter,” Shelburne said. “He’s a former MVP. He showed me that respect. Everyone will compete for jobs. … Russell Westbrook is the starter there.”
Westbrook has not been a substitute in an NBA game since November 28, 2008, a month into his rookie season with the Thunder. When Ham was asked about the possibility of Westbrook coming off the bench during his inaugural press conference in June, Westbrook – who attended the press conference – laughed at the idea.