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Lakers’ Russell Westbrook says he will ‘focus on competing’ and ignore trade rumors

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Lakers guard Russell Westbrook passes the ball by jumping in front of Kings forward Trey Liles.
Lakers defenseman Russell Westbrook passes the ball and Kings forward Trey Liles defends Monday in Los Angeles. (Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)

Even Lakers open preseason Monday evening, questions about The future of Russell Westbrook with the organization continued to ask.

After another story detailing a potential Westbrook deal – Buddy Heald and Miles Turner’s deal again – Westbrook and Lakers coach Darwin Ham discussed the place of the former MVP in the organization.

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“I am very blessed and grateful for what I have and what I have been given,” Westbrook told The Times after the opening of preseason on Monday. “I have an incredible support system, a family based on my faith. Everything else will follow by itself. So, all summer, all my life, I’ve been hearing stories about myself. Today this will not change. So nothing new for me. I’m going to keep my head down, focus on the competition. Everything else will take care of itself.”

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Westbrook, like LeBron James and Anthony Davis, only played in the first half on Monday. The Lakers led the Kings by five in the first half before losing in the second half.

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The team has been discussing Westbrook’s deals inside and out throughout the summer, although they have fought against including two future first-round picks in almost all talks, unless a comeback would throw them to the top of the West, sources familiar with the talks not authorized to speak publicly told The times. Publicly, they praised Westbrook for his off-season approach and commitment to Ham’s new system.

Asked about pre-game trading rumors, Ham continued his public support for his point guard, who has been the subject of speculation since the middle of last season.

“He’s ours and we love him and we want him to do well,” Ham said. “Like I said, I have a plan for him. This plan included it when they gave me the job. So it was a great camp for him. He played well.”

After Westbrook scored five points on three shots to go, three assists and two rebounds, two baskets straight to the rim, Ham said the performance meant Westbrook could work with the Lakers.

“That’s how the offense, running and system is built so that he can have those lanes. … This opens up large gaps for him to attack down the slope. And I told him that when you see a gap, no stationary dribbling. Everything should be north and south. Go straight to the edge.

As for speculation, Ham said, they ignore it.

Any extraneous noise is normal. I mean, it comes with business. But he’s from the Los Angeles Lakers when I last checked,” Ham said of Westbrook. “And I’m really not mad about it. And tonight he has shown that he will thrive in this system.

And that’s all I can say about it.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.


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