The big story in Los Angeles revolves around Russell Westbrook, who has been massively underwhelming since his arrival in the summer.
After months of subpar play, the fans started to turn on Westbrook and many of them have outright given up any hope of making things work long-term.
Earlier this week, the situation reached a whole new level when the coaching staff decided to bench Westbrook in the closing minutes of a tight game. In the immediate aftermath of the incident, it was reported that Westbrook nearly left the court after being subbed out.
For weeks, Westbrook cryptically groused and hinted at the shift in the dynamic – snickering when a reporter prefaced a question with the phrase “from a point guard’s perspective,” and alluding to how his positions on the court affected his game without directly explaining it. But on Wednesday night, the tense standoff reached a tipping point that probably neither Westbrook nor the coaching staff saw coming this soon.
For the last 3:52 of the 111-104 loss to the 13th-place Indiana Pacers, Westbrook watched from the bench. He did not do so quietly: 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. 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.
With a few days to calm down and reassess the situation, Westbrook did issue a public response, where he made sure to let the world know that his first priority is winning.
After the team's victory over Orlando, head coach Frank Vogel gave his own comments on the whole ordeal.
(via Spectrum SportsNet)
“Russ is a high character guy,” said Vogel. “We knew we were going to respond. We communicated afterwards to make sure that we understood what was going on. We were just coaching to win the game and to turn the page onto Orlando. He did a great job maintaining that focus and we’re all committed to this group getting the job done.”
Vogel has been dealing with his own bout of criticism lately. Amid the struggles of the team, Vogel's future has been cast under much doubt by fans and insiders alike.
For now, Vogel remains as coach of the team and it's clear that he and his staff are willing to do whatever it takes to win games.
If Westbrook can't improve his performance and continues to show lapses on the defensive end, he could see more bench time as the season progresses.
Drastic times call for drastic measures, after all.