Los Angeles Lakers head coach Darvin Ham remains optimistic that longtime rivals and first-time teammates Russell Westbrook and Patrick Beverley can thrive on the court together — and he might even start both 34-year-old point guards.

Well, only if they play defense.

Ham and Westbrook were on-hand at the Lakers practice facility on Tuesday as Beverley spoke to the media for the first time since being traded for Talen Horton-Tucker and Stanley Johnson. Naturally, Beverley’s relationship with Russ — who is still mired in trade speculation — was a topic of conversation.

Beverley, for his part, said that while he’s excited to team up with Westbrook and believes their joint ball-handling abilities (and LeBron James’) will be fruitful, he knows that some “tough conversations” will need to be had. After his remarks, Beverley and Westbrook briefly dapped up. Westbrook also threw a towel at sweaty, post-workout Beverley, causing Pat Bev to joke that it was Russ’ “first dime” of the season.

Ham spoke next, and, once again, expressed confidence that a Beverley-Westbrook backcourt pairing could provide the Lakers with much-needed two-way tenacity, as long as they lock in defensively.

“If they play defense,” Ham said when asked if they can start together. “If they play defense. Definitely.”

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Beverley also sounded optimistic about him and Westbrook’s potential to jell, citing Russ’ grit and toughness.

Ham has been consistent all summer in starting his belief that Westbrook can embrace a newfound role as a defensive stopper, off-ball mover, and corner sniper. Ham’s hopefulness may be genuine, but that’s asking a lot from somebody who was among the worst defenders in the league last season. Ham said Tuesday that he continues to be encouraged by his dialogues with Russ.

One way or another, this should be interesting.