Lakers coach Ham tears up about 'phenomenal' Westbrook in new bench role

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Los Angeles Lakers head coach Darvin Ham was almost brought to tears when speaking about Russell Westbrook buying in and delivering as a bench player after ending their winless start to the season.

Westbrook made a strong contribution for the Lakers, coming off the bench for the second straight game and playing 32 minutes with 18 points, eight rebounds and eight assists as the Lakers won 121-110 over the Denver Nuggets on Sunday to end their five-game losing run.

The 2017 MVP shot six-of-12 from the field including two three-pointers, while he was perfect with four-of-four from the free-throw line.

Westbrook's new role under Ham, who took over from Frank Vogel in the off-season, comes after the point guard was the subject of widespread criticism for the Lakers missing the playoffs in his first year at the franchise last season.

"I'm so happy for him," Ham told reporters. "Last couple of games, Minnesota and tonight, he's been phenomenal. Nothing short of amazing. But I'm so happy. I can't even imagine what that kid is going through.

"One of the biggest things about me getting this job was for him to get that respect that he deserved because a lot of what went on last year was not his fault.

"And everything, all the blame was placed on him. I told him, 'man, just listen to me, believe in me bro. I'm gonna put you in a position to succeed with the group, but you have to put the group first. I can't be about me or I or mine. It's got to be us, ours, we'. And he's done that."

Westbrook, who had 18 points and eight rebounds against the Timberwolves on Friday, may not have started on Sunday but he played a key role down the stretch, with a lay-up and two free-throws in the final two minutes.

"Like I've mentioned since day one, whatever is needed from me to help the team win, that’s what I'll do," Westbrook said.

The win improved the Lakers, who were the last winless team in the NBA, to 1-5 having missed the playoffs last season with a 33-49 record.

"I just think guys got tired of going through the same motions through the last four, five games where we've been highly competitive," Ham said. "I saw a different type of focus… It's a part of the process.

"Tonight we needed to prove something to ourselves, not the world, not to the media. That felt great how we responded throughout the game."

LeBron James top scored with 26 points, while power forward Anthony Davis was exceptional with 23 points and 15 rebounds but appeared to labor with a back issue.

"It's day by day," Davis said. "One day I feel great, the next day [I don't]. Just try to manage it and keep getting treatment. I'm not going to let that stop me."