Lakers’ Russell Westbrook benched in Pacers loss amid shooting slump

The Lakers’ continued struggles are mounting ahead of the Feb. 10th trade deadline.

Russell Westbrook’s recent shooting slump reached a boiling point when he was benched in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s 111-104 loss to the Pacers at home.

Now, in what appears to be a desperation move to climb out of a below .500 hole, the Lakers are reportedly shopping Talen Horton-Tucker three weeks before the trade deadline.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Lakers are aware that “no significant trade is getting made” without the 21-year-old — who tallied 20 points and seven assists in the loss to Indiana.

Tucker is under contract for $9.5 million this season. He is one of the Lakers’ five non-minimum salary players, including Kendrick Nunn, who has yet to make his season debut after suffering a setback while rehabbing a knee injury.

Westbrook, meanwhile, recorded 14 points on 5-for-17 shooting in Wednesday’s loss. His effort on the defensive end has also been poor.

Russell Westbrook reacts to a call
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Lakers coach Frank Vogel, whose job security has been questioned amid the team’s struggles, kept the former MVP on the bench for the final 3:52.

When asked about his decision, Vogel said, “Yeah, playing the guys I thought were gonna win the game.”

Westbrook left Arena before speaking to reporters. According to ESPN, “long before” the benching, Vogel received support from the Lakers’ organization to “take a hard line” approach while coaching Westbrook.

Lakers’ management reportedly sent a message to Vogel and his staff saying, “You got to do what you got to do.”

LeBron James talks with a referee
LeBron James talks with a referee
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After another disastrous loss for the Lakers, LeBron James said “there is no blame” for how L.A.’s coaching staff has affected their recent struggles.

Vogel has reportedly been “coaching for his job” and is being evaluated on a game-to-game basis after the Lakers’ 37-point loss to the Nuggets over the weekend.

Following the loss, Magic Johnson ripped the team in a tweet, tagging Lakers owner Jeanie Buss, and telling her she deserves better. 

The Lakers have also been without their star big man in Anthony Davis, who suffered an MCL sprain in his left knee in a loss to the Timberwolves in December. He was reevaluated on Monday, and Vogel said there is no timetable for his return.

Lakers head coach Frank Vogel
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel
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“We gotta help him figure it out,” Lakers forward Carmelo Anthony said about Westbrook. “It’s frustrating as a player who’s trying to make it right, trying to do things right. This is new for him. This is a new situation. This is a new environment.

“We got to help him through it. I mean, that’s the only thing we can do, is make sure his mental is right. That’s the only thing I care about. I don’t care about any basketball stuff when it comes to Russ. As long as his mental is right, then I’m good.”

The 22-23 Lakers play the Magic on Friday to kick off an East Coast road trip against the Heat, Nets, Hornets, and Hawks.

As the Lakers try and power through adversity, change appears to be coming sooner than later to its newly constructed roster.

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