With All-Star weekend in sight, teams around the association are gearing up for their late-season push.
Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, the Lakers are simply trying to avoid implosion. Amid a season-long struggle from Russell Westbrook, tensions are starting to boil over for the 17x Champs and it could spell disaster if things continue to get worse.
In Wednesday's 111-104 loss to Indiana, head coach Frank Vogel made the bold move to bench Westbrook down the stretch of the game and it didn't do much to improve the state of his team.
Besides taking the loss, it had Russ fuming -- to the point where he almost left the court during the game. Even after he was eventually convinced to stay, he spent his time going on a rage-induced rant on the sidelines.
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.
Benching a 9x All-Star, 2x Scoring Champ, and 1x MVP during the last minutes of a close game is never an easy call to make. In this case, Westbrook's enormous $44 million salary makes the decision to sit him even harder.
Nevertheless, it seems the Lakers are in a desperate state. As it gets later into the season, the Purple and Gold are running out of time to secure a good position for the playoffs. If they don't turn things around soon, they could find themselves in a play-in situation once again.
Westbrook, despite his amazing career, just isn't working out and it appears inevitable now that his days wearing the Purple and Gold are numbered.