Russell Westbrook bounced back from being benched with a solid performance against the Orlando Magic in a 116-105 Los Angeles Lakers win on Friday night.
Westbrook put up 18 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in the victory but said after the game that he and head coach Frank Vogel didn’t have any conversation about the reasoning behind the benching.
“Honestly, no conversations,” Westbrook said in an interview with NBA TV when asked about the situation. “Since I’ve been here — since Day 1 — my objective has been team-first and finding ways to win. Coming to a new system, team and organization, I’m a guy who likes to adjust and make my teammates better around me. Since I’ve been here, I’ve done everything the coaching staff has asked of me to do. I’m just trying to do it to the best of my ability so we can become the best team and the one we sought out to be that can win a championship at the end of the year.”
Vogel seemed to contradict that in his postgame presser with his point of view on the situation involving the former MVP.
“Russ is a high-character guy,” Vogel said after the win. “We knew he was gonna respond. We communicated afterwards to make sure that he understood what was going on, that we were just coaching to win the game, and to turn the page onto Orlando. And he did a great job of maintaining that focus, and we’re all committed to this group getting the job done.”
Westbrook Says Communication ‘Fine’ With Vogel
Westbrook was asked specifically about his communication with Vogel after the contest.
“I think the communication is fine,” Westbrook said after a brief pause. “Frank made a decision that he felt was best. My job as a player and professional is to do my job, continue to find ways to be able to help impact winning, and that’s all I was thinking about and turning the page to do. And that’s what I tried to do tonight.”
As for the benching, Westbrook wasn’t happy but just wants to see his team winning games.
More upset that we didn’t win the game, that’s the most important part, and after that, like I said, I’ve been here. I’ve been doing my job since Day 1, and been doing everything that’s been asked of me since I got here,” Westbrook said. “I’ll continue to do that for the betterment of the team.”
Vogel Cleared to Bench Westbrook as Needed
The reality of the situation is that Westbrook could be on the pine once again if the Lakers struggle, with Vogel — who is on the hot seat himself — having the green light to manipulate the lineup as he sees fit. For now, Westbrook is just taking it day by day.
“I don’t know what to expect. I’m honestly thankful to wake up every morning,” Westbrook said. “If I wake up, I’m blessed to be able to do that, and then I’ll take the day, take what happens that day as that comes.”
The Lakers are back at .500 at 23-23 after taking down the Magic. LA will continue their extended road trip with five more games before returning home.