For the first time this season, Russell Westbrook missed a game as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers as he sat out the team’s disappointing loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night.
The reason given for Westbrook’s absence was lower back tightness, which came as a surprise to many as there had been no signs or rumblings of any issues for the Lakers point guard.
This led many to question whether there was another reason for Westbrook to sit out the game, especially with the NBA trade deadline less than 24 hours later. Often times teams will sit players they plan on trading away as they don’t want to risk possible injury and with Westbrook openly voicing his frustration about being benched in the fourth quarter of the Lakers’ loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, there has been increased talks about a potential trade.
But apparently this injury didn’t pop up out of nowhere. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Westbrook’s back was bothering him ahead of the Bucks game but he simply played through it:
Westbrook felt the same tightness in his back on Tuesday night vs. Milwaukee, but played through it — and ultimately felt too much discomfort on a back-to-back vs. Portland tonight, sources tell ESPN. https://t.co/W19CA3QyWn
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 10, 2022
Before Wednesday’s contest, Westbrook had been the only Lakers player to play in every game this season. While he may have been under a ton of criticism, Westbrook was on the court every night and had looked completely healthy in every appearance, which is why him sitting out turned so many heads.
The Lakers’ need to make a change is no secret and Westbrook’s struggles to figure out and excel in his role on the team has caused him to be viewed as a major reason for the team’s struggles. Frank Vogel benching him late in a couple recent games, and Westbrook’s recent comments, have led many to speculate where it’s best for the two sides to part ways
Westbrook believes he’s earned the right to close games
Westbrook not being on the court in the fourth quarter of the Lakers’ loss to the Bucks turned some heads and was the second instance in recent games that he found himself on the bench late. Westbrook has undoubtedly struggled recently, but the Lakers point guard believes he has earned the right to close games.
“I shouldn’t have to hit any benchmark, to be honest. I put a lot of work. I’ve got a lot of respect in this game. I don’t have to hit a benchmark. I shouldn’t have to. I’ve earned the right to be in closing lineups. Numbers will tell you.
“I don’t have to explain that, but like I said, once again, it ain’t my decision. That’s his decision that he and his coaching staff think that’s best for the game. Unfortunately, just kind of have to go with it and figure it out the best way that I can and be there for my teammates as much that I can and make sure that I come to work and do my job as a professional.”
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, exclusive coverage from events, participate in live shows, and more!