Lakers Source Sends Blunt Message on Russell Westbrook

russell westbrook

Getty Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook.

Things appear to be going from bad to worse for the Los Angeles Lakers. Amid rumors of head coach Frank Vogel being on the hot seat, there doesn’t seem to be much clarity for this team going forward. While Vogel’s status will need to be monitored throughout the season, the team has a much bigger problem on its hands.

The Russell Westbrook trade has been a disaster and it’s not getting better. The former MVP has not been a good fit in Los Angeles. The Lakers have been doing their best to make the situation work but patience appears to be wearing thin. Westbrook was benched late in the fourth quarter during Wednesday’s game against the Indiana Pacers. It was a surprise move but was likely necessary as his offensive slump and consistent defensive issues are a liability.

According to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, the Lakers are no longer worried about sparing Westbrook’s feelings anymore. A source even had a blunt message regarding the benching:

Over the past week and a half, Lakers management has told the coaching staff to coach Westbrook as the coaches see fit, even if that means pulling him from a game, as Vogel did for the final 3 minutes, 52 seconds of the fourth quarter against Indiana, sources told ESPN.

One source close to the situation described the message from management to the staff as, “You got to do what you got to do.”

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Specific Play That Led to Westbrook’s Benching Revealed

There have been a lot of things leading to the Westbrook benching. Whether it be baffling shot attempts or poor defensive effort, he has not been impressive to the team. Despite all the issues, it was a specific play that led to the guard getting benched, per McMenamin:

Apart from his offensive struggles, Westbrook failed to execute on the defensive end. The final straw, pushing the staff to honor their instinct to bench him, was when Caris LeVert blew by Westbrook on defense for a layup with 7 minutes, 13 seconds remaining.

The coaching staff had repeatedly emphasized the scouting report to take away LeVert’s right hand, and Westbrook, guarding LeVert at the top of the key one-on-one, didn’t angle himself properly to thwart the drive and allowed LeVert easy access to the paint en route to the hoop.

Lakers Daily found the clip of the play.

Vogel is a defensive-minded head coach so that kind of defensive effort is going to drive him crazy. Westbrook certainly got the message and didn’t speak to the media after the game. He will either come unglued because of this or rise to the challenge. How he responds could determine how this season will play out.

Where Do Lakers Go From Here?

It’s safe to say that the Lakers have massive buyer’s remorse on Westbrook. Had they not traded for him, they could’ve landed Buddy Hield or DeMar DeRozan, who is an MVP candidate with the Chicago Bulls right now. Westbrook’s contract essentially makes him untradeable, which is a problem.

The Lakers can continue to bench him but he’s their highest-paid player. Benching him doesn’t seem sustainable. In a perfect world, he’ll work out the kinks and begin to fit with the roster. That seems unlikely. While the Lakers would love to compete for a championship this year, it’s seeming more and more likely that this will be a wasted year. That’s unfortunate as LeBron James is 37-years-old and can’t have many productive years left.

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