Frank Vogel had Lakers’ blessing to bench Russell Westbrook?
Frank Vogel sent a strong message to the NBA when he benched Russell Westbrook late in Wednesday night’s loss to the Indiana Pacers, but it sounds like the Los Angeles Lakers coach had permission to make the move going into the game.
The Lakers were trailing by seven points when Vogel subbed Westbrook out with seven minutes remaining. According to ESPN’s Dave MacMenamin, Lakers management told Vogel recently that he should coach Westbrook as he sees fit, even if that means putting him on the bench. One source told MacMenamin that L.A.’s brass sent a message to the coaching staff that essentially translated to “you got to do what you got to do.”
Westbrook has been a liability for the Lakers at times this season. He is shooting just 32 percent from the field during the month of January. He was 5-for-17 shooting when he was pulled on Wednesday night. The final straw was apparently a defensive mistake with just over seven minutes remaining.
According to MacMenamin, Lakers coaches had emphasized taking away Caris LeVert’s right hand. Westbrook did not position himself properly on the play before he was benched and allowed LeVert to blow by him for an easy layup.
Vogel and his coaching staff had reportedly been considering benching Westbrook in key situations for weeks, but they were worried about how he might react. Vogel may have pulled the trigger against Indiana because management gave the green light.
Reports have said Vogel is on the hot seat and being evaluated on a day-to-day basis. He may have benched Westbrook to send a message about what the real problem with the Lakers has been.
Oct 6, 2021; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook prior to the preseason game against the Phoenix Suns at Footprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports