Russell Westbrook saw the bigger picture in his response to being benched in the final minutes of Wednesday’s 111-104 loss to the Pacers.
“I was disappointed I didn’t go back in, but I’m more disappointed that we lost the damn game,” Westbrook told ESPN on Friday. “I want to be able to be on the floor to help my teammates and be able to help our team win in games like that — but that was a decision that was made.”
Lakers coach Frank Vogel, who has been under a microscope throughout the Lakers’ recent struggles, was given support by the organization to “take a hard line” approach to coaching Westbrook,” ESPN reported.
When asked about his decision to bench the 33-year-old star, Vogel told media Wednesday he was “playing the guys [he] thought were gonna win the game.”
Westbrook is seemingly stuck in a major shooting slump and unable to find his rhythm on both ends of the floor.
Last week, he said, “I can’t make f–king shot,” after a loss to the Kings in which he went 2-for-14 shooting (14.3%), and was 0-5 from 3.
Westbrook told ESPN he is determined “figure sh-t out and do what’s best for our team to win in the long run. Ultimately, you have to be OK when sh-t doesn’t go well, and I’m OK.”
The nine-time NBA All-Star sounded optimistic that he and the Lakers are communicating well and on the same page about his role in L.A.
“I’ve done everything that’s been asked of me here, and I’ll continue to do so and ride this out as long as we can toward our ultimate goal — and that’s to win a championship. We obviously haven’t been fully healthy, but I’m committed to making this thing work. The communication is there with everybody in the organization to make this thing work, to make this team we all want it to be in the future.
“I have accepted everything that has been asked of me and tried to do it to the best of my ability. I’m not the ultimate decision-maker of if it’s working — or if it’s not working. I’m OK with sacrificing some of the things that I’ve been able to do in this game to win, because that’s the most important part of this game. I’ve done everything they’ve asked me to do to this point.”
Would Westbrook be open to a sixth man role, like Dwayne Wade accepted and soared through in the latter half of his illustrious career?
It’ll be interesting to see how the Lakers navigate their Westbrook issue, and whether they make moves.
The NBA trade deadline is just weeks away on Feb. 10.