Russell Westbrook had a terrible game against the New York Knicks on Saturday night. While LeBron James returned to action in a great fashion, the point guard once again struggled to make an impact on the Lakers, only posting 5 points, 4 rebounds, and 6 assists.
Russ' performance was so bad that Frank Vogel benched him during overtime, favoring LeBron James' game, who took the Lakers to the win. This marked the second time in less than a month that Vogel sends Westbrook to the bench during crunch time.
Following the game, the head coach explained his decision. Vogel said that Westbrook's struggles during the entire game played an important role in his decision. Plus, LeBron's good pace helped the Lakers during those minutes, and he didn't think twice.
Via LeBron Wire:
“That (fourth quarter) stretch was part of it. Obviously, Russ was having a tough night on both sides of the ball, and ‘Bron was really going. So like I knew the ball was going to be in Bron’s hands, and I felt like we were going to get more from a defensive perspective and off-ball action with Talen,” Vogel said. “So, you make tough decisions in the spirit of doing whatever the team needs to win a game.”
Moreover, he hopes that Westbrook bounces back from this situation, seemingly calling out the former NBA MVP for his poor performance.
“Well, there’s nothing wrong with any player, if someone’s not playing well enough where they don’t get to close the game out, there’s nothing wrong with giving somebody else that you feel is going to give you a better chance, giving them that opportunity,” Vogel said. “And hopefully the response is that that player (Westbrook) plays better. That’s the hope.”
The relationship between the coach and the player is very tense at this moment. The Lakers want Russ to do better and his teammates have his back. It's safe to assume that Vogel does, too, but this team needs to win games and if taking Westbrook off the court helps them, then he'll do it.
The good thing about this is that the Lakers won the game, beating the Knicks 122-115 at Crypto.com Arena. Now it's time for Brodie to turn things around and demonstrate he can help this squad win important games.