When Russell Westbrook sat on the bench down the stretch of Tuesday's game against Milwaukee, the NBA community braced themselves for an angry Russell Westbrook, and an angry Westbrook is exactly what we got.
As he addressed the situation, Russ called out Frank Vogel for his inconsistency and pointed out that he has 'earned' the right to close games based on all that he's done through his 13-year career.
“You never know when you’re coming in, you never know when you’re coming out. You never know when you’re playing, you never know... a bunch of things. And I’m speaking for me personally, so it’s a difficult process to be able to figure out and create some rhythm and some consistency where we can actually see what we’re able to do as a team, but those decisions are made by him and his coaching staff, and you’ve got to live with it and move on... No. He hasn’t. But I don’t need him to be clear. He makes whatever decision he makes, and that’s up to him. My job as a professional is to come to work, be in a positive mindset, put my head down and do my work to the best of my ability and be there to encourage my teammates. That’s it.”
The statement was a clear sign that Westbrook is not behind Vogel's decision to sit him down, even despite his poor performance this season.
Ahead of Wednesday's match against Portland, however, Vogel only doubled down on his Westbrook strategy.
"The needs of the team always come first. Russ 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 gone be in there for that, sometimes he's not."
As a 9x All-Star, 2x Scoring Champ, and 9x All-NBA player, Westbrook is a future Hall of Famer that will be remembered as an All-Time great point guard.
Unfortunately, his game at this stage of his career isn't nearly as effective as it used to be. Westbrook's bad shooting, poor defense, and questionable decision-making continue to hurt his team and explain why Vogel has decided not to play him down the stretch of close games.
A 26-29, the Lakers are far from the title-contending team they hoped they'd be and sitting Russ during crunch time may be the best way to stop the bleeding until they can figure out a more permanent solution.