The drama surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers ceases to stop and things will only get louder after they inexplicably lost to a struggling Portland Trail Blazers team on Wednesday night.
Russell Westbrook sat out the game with lower back tightness, his first missed contest of the season, which raised eyebrows ahead of the trade deadline. Westbrook was not happy the previous night when he was once again benched in the fourth quarter and later said he has earned the right to close games.
Head coach Frank Vogel responded to Westbrook’s comments and chalked up his decision to doing what it takes to win.
“The needs of the team always come first,” Vogel said. “Russ has accomplished a lot in this league and he’s had some great games and sequences for us here. But my job is to win games and when you get in those situations, you have a script of who you believe is gonna be in there and the game will tell you otherwise if a change is needed. We have to be willing to do whatever it takes to get the Lakers a win. Sometimes he’s gonna be in there for that, sometimes he’s not.”
Vogel’s been mostly justified for sitting Westbrook in crucial moments and noted that when a player is struggling to score the basketball they need to affect the game in other ways.
“If you’re struggling offensively, we want you to impact the game in other ways. Scoring is only one way to help your team win, or playmaking, and that’s what we ask all of our guys to do. But we as a whole are not playing well enough on either side of the ball, we got our tails kicked by Milwaukee and there’s obviously a thousand details that go into executing our system.
“But for Russ, we’re looking for him to attack the basket and make great decisions when he gets there. Put a lot of pressure on the rim to finish, be efficient with his scoring, keep his turnovers down and play hard on the defensive side of the ball.”
The situation feels like it is growing tenser by the second and it is an indictment that Vogel and the coaching staff can not trust Westbrook in crucial moments. It will be interesting to see if Westbrook is able to turn things around, or if he continues to be on the bench in crunch time for L.A.
Lakers lose without Westbrook
The Lakers lost to a tanking Trail Blazers team without Westbrook on Wednesday night. So even if Westbrook is part of the problem, it’s clear that L.A.’s issues go beyond just him this season.
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