The biggest story coming out of the Los Angeles Lakers’ loss to the Indiana Pacers, their latest in a number of disappointing losses this season, was Frank Vogel benching Russell Westbrook for the final four minutes of the game.
Vogel was honest after in the game in why he benched Westbrook, saying he was “just playing the guys that I thought were going to win the game,” which was reportedly supported by Lakers management.
And that made some sense as Westbrook was having one of his worst games, finishing with 14 points, two rebounds and three assists on a poor 5-of-17 shooting.
Westbrook is used to closing out games though, so it’s understandable why he would be upset. He did not speak to the media postgame, but Westbrook finally spoke out in an interview with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Friday morning:
“Surprised, yes. I was disappointed I didn’t go back in, but I’m more disappointed that we lost the damn game.
“I want to be able to be on the floor to help my teammates and be able to help our team win in games like that — but that was a decision that was made.”
Westbrook went on to add that he is feeling OK mentally and focused on doing whatever it takes to win a championship on this Lakers team:
“Ultimately, you have to be OK when s— doesn’t go well, and I’m OK,” Westbrook told ESPN. “I’ve done everything that’s been asked of me here, and I’ll continue to do so and ride this out as long as we can toward our ultimate goal — and that’s to win a championship.
“We obviously haven’t been fully healthy, but I’m committed to making this thing work. The communication is there with everybody in the organization to make this thing work, to make this team we all want it to be in the future.
“I have accepted everything that has been asked of me and tried to do it to the best of my ability. I’m not the ultimate decision-maker of if it’s working — or if it’s not working. I’m OK with sacrificing some of the things that I’ve been able to do in this game to win, because that’s the most important part of this game. I’ve done everything they’ve asked me to do to this point.”
As things currently stand, the Lakers sit below .500 at 22-23. Every time they have begun to build momentum throughout the year, they have taken a step back with a disappointing loss. Despite that though, Westbrook again emphasized that it’s a process and the Lakers will get to where they want to be eventually:
“I think it’s important to know that part of the process of being on a new team is that there are going to be a lot of ups and downs and struggles throughout a season,” Westbrook told ESPN. “It’s been a challenge for the last three years — just trying to figure things out. I lean on a lot of my faith to be able to stay locked in on my craft and work my a– off and find ways to make situations work. The challenge is how to be the version of myself for this team, that’s what I’m trying to figure out.
“I want to get better as the season goes on, and I’ve got to take responsibility for the things I’m doing and how I’m making those around me better. We have a legitimate chance to be able to win it all, and to do that, I’ll have to be better — and I know that I will be.”
Even though Westbrook’s play has been subpar as of late, it’s hard to truly judge this Lakers team until Anthony Davis returns from injury and the three stars can all get extensive minutes together, which has not yet been the case this season.
The trade deadline is around the corner though, so it will be interesting to see how they handle things.
Westbrook explains why he didn’t speak to media
When Westbrook didn’t speak to the media on Wednesday night, it was assumed the reason was that he was upset and reports even came out that he quickly left the locker room and the arena after the game without talking to teammates.
In his interview with Wojnarowski though, Westbrook pushed back on that and it turns out it was the Lakers organization that didn’t want him speaking to the media:
Westbrook was unhappy with characterizations that he stormed out of the Crypto.com Arena locker room without meeting with reporters in a postgame news conference. Both Westbrook and team officials said on Thursday that the organization requested that he skip the interview session.
The Lakers have a chance to begin their turnaround on their six-game road trip that begins in Orlando on Friday night. Depending on how Westbrook plays, it will be interesting to see if Vogel closes with him or if he is on the bench in a close game once again.
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