There has been plenty of criticism to go around for the Los Angeles Lakers’ struggles this season, but the two under the biggest microscope have arguably been head coach Frank Vogel and point guard Russell Westbrook.
Vogel’s job security has been in question recently and with the Lakers struggling late against the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night, Vogel chose to go away from his highly-paid point guard.
Vogel inserted Westbrook with 8:15 remaining in the fourth and the Lakers having just dropped the lead for the first time. But things continued to get worse for the Lakers and he would ultimately turn to Malik Monk instead of Westbrook with just under four minutes remaining in the contest.
For the majority of the season, Westbrook has always been on the floor to close the game regardless of how he has played. When asked why he decided to sub Westbrook out, Vogel had a simple and honest answer.
“Playing the guys that I thought were gonna win the game,” Vogel said.
On paper, the move made sense. Though Westbrook did shoot well from 3-point range making four of his six attempts, he shot just 6-of-17 from the field overall. Though Monk finished with just 10 points, he is still the much more dangerous shooter, and Talen Horton-Tucker also earned his spot in the closing lineup with his performance as well.
In the end the moves didn’t matter as the Lakers suffered yet another disappointing loss and Vogel believes everyone is to blame.
“It’s everyone. It’s all of us. We got to coach better, they got to play better, everything has to be better. Got to execute, the effort, focus. Everyone.”
In a report put out by Dave McMenamin of ESPN, Lakers management supported Vogel’s decision:
Long before Russell Westbrook was benched down the stretch of Wednesday’s 111-104 loss to the Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Lakers coach Frank Vogel was given assurances that the organization would support him in taking a hard line while coaching the star, sources told ESPN.
Over the past week and a half, Lakers management has told the coaching staff to coach Westbrook as they see fit, even if that means pulling him from a game, as Vogel did for the final 3 minutes, 52 seconds of the fourth quarter against Indiana, sources told ESPN.
One source close to the situation described the message from management to the staff as, “You got to do what you got to do.”
Overall, Vogel has been put in a tough position with the roster he has at his disposal. Westbrook has worked hard to improve his turnover situation and he again had just one against Indiana, but his shooting woes and defensive issues have really hurt the team. Players such as Monk, Horton-Tucker and Austin Reaves have made a positive impact more often than not, but benching a player of Westbrook’s caliber is never easy.
Whether this becomes a recurring thing will likely be up to Westbrook and how he plays moving forward, but Vogel is showing that he is willing to do any and everything to help this Lakers team get wins.
No current plans in place for Lakers to replace Frank Vogel
The future of Vogel remains in flux as it stands with reports stating that the front office considered firing him after the team’s recent blowout loss to the Denver Nuggets, although the team’s win over the Utah Jazz helped calm things down.
The latest reports state that there are no current plans to replace Vogel as head coach of the Lakers, though the front office did meet recently with Vogel and assistant David Fizdale.
Vogel is expected to head out on the upcoming six-game road trip with the Lakers, although if things don’t go well, his days very well could be numbered.
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