Lakers’ Russell Westbrook says coming off the bench ‘absolutely’ led to groin injury

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SAN FRANCISCO — Russell Westbrook said his hamstring injury Friday night was a result of Darvin Ham and the Lakers’ bringing him off the bench during the team’s preseason finale.
“Absolutely,” Westbrook said when asked about 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.”

He was listed as “probable” ahead of the season opener.

Westbrook was in the starting lineup Tuesday night during the Lakers’ 123-109 loss. He scored 19 points to go with 11 rebounds, three assists and four turnovers in just less than 31 minutes.

“You want to start the game off the right way in terms of your energy and being in attack mode,” Ham said. “And no one better than him.”

At halftime Tuesday night, TNT analyst Charles Barkley said the situation in Los Angeles has run its course.

“It’s time for the Lakers to move him,”Barkely said on TNT. “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 aren’t a championship contender.

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

Westbrook, who has been the subject of trade rumors dating to the deadline last season, didn’t directly answer when asked about Barkley’s assertion that he had lost his joy in basketball.

“You know what man, I’m super blessed and leaning a lot on my faith,” Westbrook said. “So, I have a lot of great friends and family, good people in my corner that support me through thick and thin and when I have God in my corner, it doesn’t really matter what happens outside of that. I stay on course, stay focused, stay locked in. That’s all I can ask. Everything else that comes around it, I’ll continue doing what I’m doing, stay locked in on my craft and everything else will take care of itself.”

The Lakers host the Clippers Thursday.