The Los Angeles Lakers are yet to unleash the best version of Russell Westbrook for a longer stretch of the 2021-22 season.
Westbrook has had sporadic games during which he played like the dominant, explosive scorer who collected the 2017 NBA MVP award, leading L.A.’s comebacks in a few games at the end of 2021.
And in January, he put up 35 points in a three-point loss to the Charlotte Hornets, scoring 30 of them after halftime — the highest tally in a half since Kobe Bryant’s in his farewell game back in 2016.
Head coach Frank Vogel recently revealed the Lakers discussed bringing Westbrook off the bench but later said the Purple and Gold “weren’t there” to make such a move.
However, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports some within the Lakers franchise are “increasingly pushing” to remove Westbrook from the team’s starting lineup:
There has been an increasing push among many in the Los Angeles Lakers organization to demote nine-time All-Star guard Russell Westbrook from the starting lineup, but so far coach Frank Vogel has resisted bringing him off the bench, sources told ESPN.
The coaching staff and Westbrook have had differing visions on how best to utilize the 2017 NBA Most Valuable Player, and that has partly accounted for some tense moments between Vogel and Westbrook in the past several days, including during a Friday team film session, sources said.
Westbrook recently said he changes his game “every single night,” trying to figure out the best way to help L.A. win.
“I’m not a quitter, it’s not in my genes,” he said.
“I don’t quit regardless of what the hell is going on. I’m a fighter until the end and if it don’t work, that’s cool, I can live with the results. But I’m never gonna give up or give in because of a little struggle that’s happening this time of the year.”
Tensions between ’defiant’ Westbrook and Lakers make his return ‘impossible’
Other reports recently claimed Westbrook’s been pushing back against attempts to change his role, leading to rising tensions between the 33-year-old and the Lakers.
The differences between the two sides have grown so much it seems “impossible” the guard will return to the team for the 2022-23 season.
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