LeBron James' return on Saturday was a breath of fresh air for Lakers fans, whose frustrations continue to mount ahead of the All-Star break.
At 25-28 before the game against the Knicks, the Lakers needed all the help they could get to get back on the right side of the win column.
James did his part with a 29-point performance, but it was Russell Westbrook who became the story after the final buzzer. The 9x All-Star was benched by Vogel towards the end of the game, a move that has been widely praised by fans.
Still, seeing a max-level player sitting down in crunch time is hardly a good sign.
Westbrook is facing a harsh reality with this Lakers team.
Just a few years ago, he was the face of the OKC Thunder and a beloved star by the NBA community. Now, he is the target of criticism and slander as he watches his role on the team slowly deteriorate.
On paper, the former MVP has said all the right things and has it seem like he's willing to do whatever it takes to help his team win.
"Never give up or give in. It's not something, in my opinion, that should seep into anybody's mind. Halfway through the season, we're not in a position we wanna be in right now and that's okay. We know what we need to do as a team and just find a way to get over the hump and close games out. That's all we can do."
Behind the scenes, one has to wonder how much longer Russ can keep his cool under such hostile conditions.
Against New York, the guy poured in another terrible performance with 5 points, 6 assists, and 4 turnovers on 1-10 shooting. But if he wants to help turn things around, and keep his place in the lineup, he's going to have to be better.