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#pounditSaturday, January 22, 2022

Basketball

Frank Vogel had savage quote about benching Russell Westbrook

Frank Vogel coach

If Frank Vogel is going out, he’s going out with a bang.

The Los Angeles Lakers coach benched his $44 million guard at the end of his team’s 111-104 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night. The Lakers trailed by seven points when Russell Westbrook was subbed out with just under four minutes remaining. They ended up losing by seven points.

Westbrook did not speak with the media after the game.

Vogel was asked after the game why he benched Westbrook. He gave a savage reply and did not go politically correct.

Yes, Vogel said he was “playing the guys I thought we’re gonna win the game.”

That is the truth, and it’s not often you hear a coach say something like that.

Reports have said that Vogel is on the hot seat and that the Lakers were evaluating him on a day-to-day basis. Perhaps feeling that he is being scapegoated by the Lakers, Vogel may have benched Westbrook to send a message that he feels Westbrook is a problem.

The view around the league seems to be that the Lakers’ roster is their biggest issue, not the coaching. Vogel seems to be sending the same message.

Russell Westbrook skips media availability after being benched

Russell Westbrook dribbles

Russell Westbrook was benched at the end of the Los Angeles Lakers’ 111-104 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night, and he was not happy about it.

Westbrook shot 5-17 and scored 14 points in 27 minutes during the Lakers’ loss on Wednesday. Westbrook made a 3-pointer with 6:33 left to make it a 5-point game. Then he committed a foul a minute and a half later, and he was replaced by Malik Monk with 3:52 left. The Lakers were losing by seven when he exited and lost by the same margin.

Westbrook never came back into the game after being subbed out for Monk.

After the game, the veteran guard was dismayed and did not speak with reporters.

LeBron James apparently indicated Westbrook was not happy about his benching.

This reaction from Westbrook is to be expected. He was steamed and in no mood to talk to reporters, though he should face them regardless. Obviously he’s upset, and he’s pulled this move before.

Westbrook has been taking heat for weeks over his poor play and poor fit with the Lakers. Getting benched late in the game is the cherry on top of a bad season. There’s almost no turning back once that happens.

Photo: Dec 28, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook (0) in action during the game against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Wizards upset with David Vanterpool for committing interference

David Vanterpool reaches in

The Washington Wizards were upset with David Vanterpool for committing interference during Wednesday’s game and getting away with it.

During the fourth quarter of the Brooklyn Nets’ 119-118 win over the Wizards, Vanterpool interfered with a pass thrown by the Wizards and helped created a turnover (video here).

Vanterpool’s move was as illegal as it gets, but the refs missed it.

Wizards acting head coach Joseph Blair said he was in “utter disbelief” over the play and lack of a call.

Kyle Kuzma called it “horses—.”

The officials missed the play live and are unable by rule to review such a play. That’s how Vanterpool was able to get away with it.

It’s unfortunate the Wizards were on the wrong end on the play and that the refs were unable to correct it. Vanterpool seems to be bringing back the old school player-coach role.

Nets coach David Vanterpool got away with illegal move during game

David Vanterpool reaches in

One Brooklyn Nets coach got away with an illegal move during Wednesday’s 1-point win over the Washington Wizards.

During the fourth quarter of the Nets-Wizards game, Nets assistant David Vanterpool caused a turnover by reaching towards the court and deflecting a pass.

Spencer Dinwiddie was passing the ball to Kyle Kuzma in the corner when Vanterpool reached out his arm to deflect the pass.

Yes, that is a coach from the sidelines who interfered with the play and got away with it. The refs completely missed it.

The Nets got a turnover on the play and won the game 119-118.

Kuzma was understandably ticked off after the game and called it “horses—” (profanity edited by LBS).

Maybe this is what Damian Lillard loved about Vanterpool: his desire to do anything to win.

Larsa Pippen admits she is making 1 big change to her dating life

Larsa Pippen poses

Larsa Pippen makes her way onto our website sometimes for one simple reason: because she was married to a famous athlete and continues to be involved with them. But Pippen says she wants to change that now.

Larsa, whose divorce from Scottie was recently finalized, says she’s trying to avoid dating athletes.

“I’m trying to avoid athletes,” Pippen told US. “If that’s the question, I’m definitely trying to avoid athletes.”

Pippen also admitted she somewhat regretted her relationship with Malik Beasley, which resulted in some negative attention for both of them. Even Scottie had some criticism for Malik, according to Larsa.

Larsa, 47, stars on “Real Housewives of Miami.” If she sticks to her plan of avoiding athletes, this may be the last we hear of her for a while.

Former NBA coach offers strong defense of Frank Vogel

Frank Vogel looking on

One former NBA coach thinks that the recent blame being heaped onto current Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel is wildly misplaced.

Ex-New Orleans Pelicans head coach Stan Van Gundy reacted this week to the news that Vogel’s job with the Lakers may be in imminent danger.

“This is just ridiculous,” tweeted Van Gundy. “He won a championship less than 2 years ago. The Lakers have had injuries and a roster that, to be kind, has some flaws. Firing Frank would just be an attempt to scapegoat Frank for the mistakes others have made.”

Van Gundy is absolutely right here. If anyone deserves blame for the Lakers’ struggles this season, it is management and not Vogel. General manager Rob Pelinka put together a raggedy roster when he traded away quality assets for a poor fit in Russell Westbrook and then filled out the team with a bunch of mismatched veterans, many of whom are now out of the rotation.

Lakers president and controlling owner Jeanie Buss has also quietly fostered a culture of nepotism over the last several years. Whether it be hiring Magic Johnson as their president of basketball operations or bringing in this other ex-Lakers great who may now be undermining Vogel’s leadership, Buss has given power in the Lakers organization to those who might not necessarily deserve it. That may only be exacerbating the team’s issues.

LeBron James’ arrival in 2018 largely managed to cover up the fact that the Lakers have been one of the worst-run teams in the NBA over the last half-decade or so (maybe longer if you count the years that Buss’ older brother Jim ran the team). Van Gundy’s point that firing Vogel would deflect from the errors that others in the Lakers organization have made is one that is well-taken, especially coming from someone who coached in the league for 13 years. Even former Lakers seem to feel the same that Van Gundy does.

Photo: Oct 10, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel during the fourth quarter against the Phoenix Suns at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Ex-Laker comes to Frank Vogel’s defense amid hot seat rumors

Frank Vogel in a suit

One former Los Angeles Lakers player came to the defense of Frank Vogel amid rumors the coach is on the hot seat.

The Lakers have a .500 record this season and received criticism from franchise legend Magic Johnson after a blowout loss to Denver on Saturday.

A recent report said that if the Lakers followed up that loss with something similar, it could have resulted in Vogel’s firing.

But Danny Green, who won a championship on Vogel’s Lakers in the 2019-2020 season and now plays for Philly, believes firing the coach would be foolish. Instead, he thinks the problem is due to poor roster construction.

“Coach Vogel man, I liked Coach, he was great,” Green said of Vogel on his “Inside the Green Room” show. “And this is one of the reasons why I don’t want to coach. He’s been dealt – I don’t want to say a bad hand – but it’s a situation where it’s hard to figure out, especially with injuries, Covid. He hasn’t had some of his best players in the lineup, and he’s getting blamed for a lot of things that I don’t think are his fault at all.

“It doesn’t make any sense. Poor stretches – I mean, they do what they do. It’s their business. They make up their mind. They figure out where they want to move to, but I think Frank– Coach Vogel is a great coach.”

Green also put some of the blame on the players over their performances.

“You can’t make guys make shots. You can’t make guys not turn the ball over. You can’t make guys play defense. Those are three major things that you need to win a basketball game,” Green said.

Green’s comments reflect what most people seem to recognize. The Lakers were mocked in the offseason for building a team full of aging players. Adding the high-priced Russell Westbrook to the mix didn’t appear to work. And the roster has been all over the place due to injuries and COVID.

The same coach who won the championship a year and a half ago is the problem? That’s hard to believe, especially when you consider the Lakers lost five games in a row without him recently. But, as they say, you can’t fire the entire team, so it’s easier to just fire the coach when things aren’t going well.

Photo: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Zion Williamson, Pelicans disconnected over rehab?

Zion Williamson at a press conference

The three words to best describe Zion Williamson’s continued rehab process may very well be “Not great, Bob.”

The New Orleans Pelicans announced on Jan. 5 that Williamson, who has not played all season due to a foot injury, would be continuing his rehab away from the team. The press release stressed that Williamson would remain under the supervision of the Pelicans’ medical staff though.

Christian Clark of The New Orleans Advocate gave a somewhat worrisome report this week about Williamson’s rehab however. The report stated that Williamson has been rehabbing in Oregon, where Nike’s headquarters are located, and that he flew there on Pelicans owner Gayle Benson’s private jet. But Clark’s report also says that no Pelicans officials actually accompanied Williamson on the trip. Instead, Williamson has been working with Jasper Bibbs, an ex-LSU strength coach who was fired last August after less than two months at the university.

Clark’s report contains other details about Williamson’s rehab as well as about LSU’s firing of Bibbs. You can read it in its entirety here.

Nothing about the Williamson situation seems to be going well right now for the Pelicans. The former top pick has faced scrutiny over his weight and has reportedly been approaching his rehab with a lousy work ethic. Now the team appears to be disconnected from Williamson’s rehab process altogether, which is yet another concern.

Photo: Sep 27, 2021; New Orleans, LA, USA; Zion Williamson during a press conference at the New Orleans Pelicans Media Day. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Bradley Beal has endorsed key Wizards trade target

Bradley Beal

The Washington Wizards have long been eager to find the ideal star to pair with Bradley Beal. They now appear to be targeting a player that has Beal’s firm endorsement.

The Wizards are poised to be aggressive at the trade deadline and have made Indiana’s Domantas Sabonis their top trade target, according to former NBC Sports Washington reporter Quinton Mayo. Sabonis has reportedly received Beal’s “ringing endorsement” and there is a belief that the Pacers forward would fit the team’s system and pair well with Beal.

Sabonis will be expensive to trade for. Mayo believes Washington would have to part with one or both of Rui Hachimura or Deni Avdija to interest the Pacers, and draft picks would also be necessary. However, Sabonis would provide a clear No. 2 option behind Beal, along with the upside of his rebounding skills and ability to play in the frontcourt.

The Pacers have appeared willing to make significant trades before the Feb. 10 deadline, and Sabonis might want a move himself. He definitely appears to be available, but the Wizards will face stiff competition if they want to make a deal for him.

Photo: Jan 30, 2020; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3) warms up before the game between the Washington Wizards and the Charlotte Hornets at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Celtics looking to trade one of their biggest names

Brad Stevens

Rev up those fryers because the Boston Celtics are open for business.

Jared Weiss of The Athletic reported on Wednesday that the Celtics are exploring a trade of big man Al Horford as they pursue another center.

A five-time All-Star and ex-All-NBA selection, Horford is one of the biggest names on Boston’s roster. But he is now 35 years old and is averaging just 10.8 points per game this season, Horford’s lowest since his rookie year. Weiss notes that Horford, though he has been an great defender for the Celtics, has failed to find a consistent offensive role as the team is not featuring him in the pick-and-roll game.

Horford is on his second stint in Boston with the Celtics having given up a first-round draft pick to reacquire him last offseason. He is under contract for $26.5 million next season but only about half of that is guaranteed.

The Celtics are back above .500, but that may not be enough to even make the play-in tournament in the East. A Horford trade would be a fairly major shake-up and is the latest potential move the team is rumored to be eyeing.