To make it work with the Lakers, Russell Westbrook can’t be the old Russell Westbrook

Lakers guard Russell Westbrook looks to pass in front of Orlando Magic guard Galen Suggs during a game Jan. 21 in Orlando, Florida. (Phelan M. Ebenhak/The Associated Press)

Russell Westbrook He didn’t speak, but he didn’t have to say anything.

his presence in Inaugural Press Conference by Patrick Beverly It was in itself a statement: I’m still here.

Westbrook isn’t the same player he used to be, but he’s still the same competitor, and now he’s determined to make a point that he’s not going away because everyone wants him.

This was not compliance.

This was a challenge, as Westbrook rejected the popular view he was responsible for Lakers“The disastrous season last year.

He could be here when the Lakers start their season, or he can’t, but while he awaits his fate, he seems driven to show he’s not the malevolent existence he was.

He was one of a handful of players in Coach Darvin HammUnveiling. He spent some time on the bench for the Las Vegas Summer League team. On Tuesday, he was by the media room at the Lakers training facility where Beverly answered questions about his return to Los Angeles.

Hamm praised Westbrook’s commitment, who noted that “it starts with getting involved.”

Except that this is only the beginning of your purchase.

The investments players make in their teams are not measured by the number of press conferences or summer league matches they attend.

In Westbrook’s case, the purchase would be to play without the basketball in his hands. The purchase will play the role of defense.

In other words, the purchase would require him to accept his inability to play the way he did in the previous 14 seasons of his Hall of Fame career.

As Beverly said, “Everyone wants to go to the bank and get out, and get out, but you have to offer something as well to be [successful] Team. So what will you give up? “

Westbrook has to give up being a Westbrook.

That may not be fair to 33-year-old Westbrook, or even possible, but it’s what Ham challenged the former MVP to do shortly after being named as Frank Vogel’s replacement. And for good reason: without a deal, that’s the only way for a team to win it LeBron JamesAnd the Anthony Davis Westbrook. The Lakers couldn’t win when Westbrook played the way they did last season.

As much as Hamm praised Westbrook, there are doubts in his head about whether the player can adapt.

Minnesota Timberwolves goalkeeper Patrick Beverly reacts after blocking a shot by Lakers goalkeeper Russell Westbrook.

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Patrick Beverly reacts after blocking a shot from Lakers guard Russell Westbrook during a game at the Arena on Jan. (Ringo HW Chiu/The Associated Press)

When asked if 6-foot-3 Westbrook and 6-1 Beverley could start together in the backcourt, Hamm replied: “If they play defense.”

Beverly is a pest as far as a colony of fire ants. Defense will play. Clearly Hamm was talking about Westbrook.

The question now is how Westbrook responds to his coach’s threats and reports on how the team continues to shop with him as training camp approaches. Westbrook should know he’s the Lakers’ most consumable of the three stars and that he would have been traded now had it not been for the team’s reluctance to give up future recruiting choices.

The test facing Westbrook is as old as esports itself, a once-dominant player who is discovering his place in the game as his powers decline with age.

Often, the athlete is betrayed by the same indomitable spirit that made him great, his stubborn determination prevented him from taking the step back needed to move forward two steps.

This was the fate of the late copy printwho ended his career shooting the Lakers in a hole from which their only escape was to hand the franchise to James.

But there are also cases when something clicks, as happened with Clayton Kershaw or Albert Pujols, for example. Kershaw learned how to play with decreasing speed. Pujols has accepted a role as a part-time player and mentor.

This process takes time. Kershaw initially tried to continue promoting the Dodgers as he did when he was in his prime, relying on Fastball and Slider. Pujols has been a below average offensive player over his last four years with the Angels. The failure led them to consider other options.

Westbrook suffered this kind of failure last season when a dream of coming home turned into a nightmare.

How will he now direct his competitive career?

Will he use it to support his ego and keep banging his head against the wall? Or will he use it to stare at hard facts and try to rediscover himself as a player?

his choice.

This story originally appeared Los Angeles Times.