The Los Angeles Lakers have been one of the most talked-about NBA teams in 2021-22 because of their average performance in the first half of the season.
The comments on the current state of affairs in L.A. range from writing off the Lakers’ chances in this year’s title pursuit to giving them an edge in the playoffs due to the vast experience on the roster. The discourse intensified in recent days amid the rumors of head coach Frank Vogel’s possible firing and Russell Westbrook’s crunch time benching in the loss to the Indiana Pacers.
TNT’s analyst Charles Barkley has offered his take on the two most recent talking point, saying he thinks Vogel and Westbrook have been unfairly blamed for many of the team’s troubles, via NBA on TNT:
“I just want to say, I never root because I don’t care who wins. I just want the season to be over so we can go play golf and fish. But the Lakers are such wussies. And I only say wussies because I can’t say the word I want to say. The way they have tried to throw Russell Westbrook and Frank Vogel under the bus is really pissing me off. … I’m not going to sit here like all these clowns on other networks who got their heads up the Lakers’ booties. They’re blaming Frank Vogel and Russell Westbrook. Listen, if people up top who put that trash together are running and hiding like cowards, saying, ‘Oh, it’s Frank. It’s Russ.’ You put all them old geezers out there, listen, the best guy other than LeBron in the last month has been who? Stanley Johnson. For y’all to bring in a guy who was on the street, and he becomes your second-best player, the general manager, or whoever is running that trash out there is getting away. It’s ridiculous, man.”
Lakers legend Shaquille O’Neal partly agreed the franchise’s front office should be to blame for the team’s poor results. However, O’Neal thinks Westbrook’s shortcomings have hurt L.A. this season:
“Russ is not playing up to part. I think he knows that; we’re not trying to bash him. I think Russ is at the point where he doesn’t know what he’s supposed to do or how he’s supposed to do it. He’s not really shooting the ball well and he’s averaging four turnovers.”
“I agree with everything Chuck said. Rob Pelinka put tis team together. He should definitely take responsibility and definitely make some moves. When you have an old star, you want to get younger. You don’t want to add a bunch of old guys next to him. They’re in the eighth spot, so they’re not out of it yet.”
Westbrook scores 18.5 points per game this season, his lowest average since the 2009-10 campaign. The 2017 NBA MVP also adds 8.0 rebounds and 7.8 assists per night.
Vogel explains benching Westbrook in Lakers’ loss to Pacers
After the 111-104 loss to the Pacers, Vogel briefly talked about why he took Westbrook off the court four minutes before the end of the game.
“Playing the guys that I thought were gonna win the game,” the head coach said.
Vogel’s call to bench Westbrook has reportedly been a subject of internal discussions between the Lakers’ management, which backed the head coach’s decision.
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