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Lakers' Russell Westbrook 'Disappointed' in 4th-Quarter Benching vs. Pacers

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 21, 2022

Chris Elise/NBAE via Getty Images

Los Angeles Lakers point guard Russell Westbrook said he felt "disappointed" after getting benched for the final four minutes of Wednesday's 111-104 home loss to the Indiana Pacers.

Westbrook told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski in an interview released Friday his focus is now to "figure s--t out and do what's best for our team to win in the long run."

"Surprised, yes. I was disappointed I didn't go back in, but I'm more disappointed that we lost the damn game," he said. "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."

The Lakers made Westbrook the headline addition of a massive offseason roster overhaul, and so far his lackluster performance has been a major reason for the team's struggles.

Los Angeles owns a 22-23 record, which ranks eighth in the Western Conference, and it's yet to show championship-level form for any sustained period of time during the 2021-22 campaign.

Injuries to LeBron James, who's missed 12 games, and Anthony Davis, who's sat out 18 contests amid an ongoing absence for a knee injury, have been a key factor. But the Lakers added Westbrook to provide another star when one of those core pieces was sidelined, and he's failed to impress.

The 2016-17 NBA MVP has averaged 18.5 points, his lowest total in 12 years, along with 8.0 rebounds and 7.8 assists across 45 appearances. He's also averaging 4.2 turnovers and 3.1 fouls while shooting 43.3 percent from the field, including 30.4 percent from three.

His dip in offensive performance combined with continued defensive struggles result in him ranking 235th out of 250 qualified NBA players in FiveThirtyEight's WAR metric.

That's not what the Lakers expected when they acquired Westbrook, and head coach Frank Vogel provided a blunt response when asked about the guard getting benched late against the Pacers.

"[I was] playing the guys that I thought were going to win the game," Vogel told reporters.

L.A. has the talent to turn things around, and the play-in tournament gives the team even more leeway when it comes to overcoming regular-season struggles, but better play from Westbrook is a must.

The 33-year-old UCLA product told Wojnarowski he's "accepted everything that has been asked of me and tried to do it to the best of my ability" and will continue to work on finding solutions:

"Ultimately, you have to be OK when s--t doesn't go well, and I'm OK. 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."

The Lakers will attempt to begin turning a corner Friday night when they open a six-game road trip at the Amway Center against the struggling Orlando Magic (8-38).

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