The Los Angeles Lakers finally ripped off the Band-Aid this week and benched Russell Westbrook in the closing moments of their game against the Indiana Pacers. The 33-year-old has been 5-of-14 up to that point and a massive defensive liability. Instead, Malik Monk got the nod.
Although LA still ended up losing the game, many acknowledged that head coach Frank Vogel made a tough but necessary move.
Both LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony had strong reactions to Westbrook’s benching.
Westbrook, similarly, had a very strong response.
According to Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register, Westbrook nearly stormed off the court when he was benched.
“The 33-year-old point guard nearly left the floor after he was subbed out for Malik Monk, but teammate DeAndre Jordan shepherded him back,” Goon wrote.
“Westbrook watched the next few minutes unfold, apparently jawing from the bench with his jersey untucked, although exactly what was said (and at whom) is still unclear.”
Although Westbrook didn’t speak to the media in the immediate aftermath of getting benched, he did eventually break his silence in a conversation with ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski.
“Surprised, yes,” he said of Vogel’s decision to sit him. “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 also made it a point to note that he has done everything that has been asked of him thus far. And if it hasn’t work? Well, that’s not his fault.
“I have accepted everything that has been asked of me and tried to do it to the best of my ability,” he said.
“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.”
The Lakers are in a rough spot right now. The team is sitting at under .500, only realistically has two minor trades it can make at this juncture, and has no real path to unloading Westbrook’s awful, awful contract.
Paige VanZant kept it real. https://t.co/68mlyaHLpE
— Game 7 (@game7__) January 20, 2022
Although the 2021-22 NBA season is only halfway done, it seems like the book on this particular incarnation of the Lakers has already been written.
Can things improve from here? Sure. Will they? It’s hard to see how they would.