Lakers' Russell Westbrook on Frank Vogel: 'I'm Not Sure What His Issue Was with Me'

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVApril 11, 2022

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 29: Head Coach, Frank Vogel high fives Russell Westbrook #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on October 29, 2021 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images)
Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

The relationship between Russell Westbrook and Frank Vogel never worked out for the Los Angeles Lakers in the point guard's eyes.

"We never really connected," Westbrook told reporters Monday after the Lakers announced they parted ways with Vogel as the head coach. "From the get-go, I was feeling I had to prove myself to him."

Westbrook also said of Vogel, "I'm not sure what his issue was with me."

If there was an issue for Vogel, it may have been rooted in Westbrook's play.

While the nine-time All-Star is a future Hall of Famer and former league MVP, he didn't look the part in his first season with the Lakers. It was an awkward fit from the start with LeBron James since they are both so ball-dominant, and his shooting struggles continued as he hit 29.8 percent of his triples.

His 18.5 points per game was his lowest mark since his second season in the league in 2009-10, and he posted a career-worst 15.0 player efficiency rating, per Basketball Reference.

It quickly became clear that the supposed Big Three of James, Westbrook and Anthony Davis wasn't going to dominate the league, especially since the UCLA product couldn't consistently hit from the outside and take advantage of the spacing created by playing alongside the other two. Likewise, the trio played only 21 games together this season as a result of various injuries to James and Davis.

It isn't difficult to envision the Lakers' season unfolding in a different direction if they acquired DeMar DeRozan or Buddy Hield this past offseason instead, but ESPN's Ramona Shelburne (h/t RealGM) recently reported "enthusiasm" for Westbrook from James and Davis drove Los Angeles to trade for him.

It reached a point where Vogel benched Westbrook in fourth quarters and crunch time multiple times throughout the season.

Perhaps that didn't sit well with the 33-year-old, and Monday's comments suggest he believes the veteran head coach who helped the Lakers win the championship during the 2019-20 campaign was not his biggest fan.

One of the biggest questions about the offseason is where Westbrook will play in 2022-23 since he has a player option. While he will likely opt into it considering it is set to pay him $47.1 million next season, the Lakers could look to move him after they struggled on the way to a 33-49 record.

James discussed Westbrook's future during a Monday press conference and told reporters, "I'm not here to make decisions for the front office and that nature. But I loved being teammates with Russ."

Westbrook will have a different coach next season if he does return, which apparently won't be a problem in his eyes.