Russell Westbrook Says He 'Turned the Page' in Lakers' Win Over Magic After Benching

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 22, 2022

Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook (0) goes up for a dunk in front of Orlando Magic guard Gary Harris (14) and center Mo Bamba (5) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

Los Angeles Lakers point guard Russell Westbrook said he "turned the page" after getting benched for the final four minutes of Wednesday's loss to the Indiana Pacers.

Westbrook played a key role in Friday night's 116-105 win over the Orlando Magic, tallying 18 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and three steals in a team-high 35 minutes. He knocked down eight of his 17 shots from the field.

"My job as a player, as a professional, is to do my job, continue to find ways to be able to help impact winning," Westbrook told reporters. "That's all I was thinking about and turned the page to do and that's what I tried to do tonight."

The Lakers' offseason acquisition of the 2016-17 NBA MVP hasn't delivered the desired results. He's shot just 43.3 percent from the field, including 30.2 percent on threes, while averaging 4.2 turnovers and 3.1 fouls as the team compiled a mediocre 23-23 record.

Westbrook has remained steadfast in his belief L.A. can figure things out and emerge as an NBA title contender, though. He explained his mindset to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski on Friday.

"I want to get better as the season goes on, and I've got to take responsibility for the things I'm doing and how I'm making those around me better," he said. "We have a legitimate chance to be able to win it all, and to do that, I'll have to be better—and I know that I will be."

One promising sign from the Lakers' win over the Magic was the fact Westbrook attempted just a single three-pointer. He's never been an efficient outside shooter but has long continued to force those attempts, which has led to a lot of empty possessions.

The 33-year-old UCLA product is at his best when he's attacking the rim and either using his athleticism to finish or dishing the ball out to more proficiency three-point shooters. LeBron James pointed to that after Friday's game.

"His attacks are great," James said. "Thought he did a great job of getting to the paint, either for his shot or spraying out [to shooters]. And guys just played off of his energy and effort tonight."

If Westbrook focuses more on that drive-and-dish approach, while leaving the outside shots to more effective shooters like Carmelo Anthony, Malik Monk, Wayne Ellington and Avery Bradley, it'll provide an immediate boost to the Lakers' offense.

Talent isn't the issue for Los Angeles, especially when Anthony Davis returns from his knee injury, but getting all of the pieces to fit together has been a challenge for head coach Frank Vogel and his staff.

Maximizing Westbrook's impact will be a crucial part of the equation if the Lakers are going to become a serious threat by the time the playoffs arrive, and he sounds willing to make whatever adjustments are needed.

Friday's performance was a step in the right direction, and he'll look to continue that trend Sunday when L.A. visits FTX Arena to take on the Miami Heat.