Report: Frank Vogel's Handling of Russell Westbrook Contributed to Lakers Firing

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVMay 5, 2022

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 8: Russell Westbrook #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers cheers during the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on April 8, 2022 at Crypto.Com Arena 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 2022 NBAE (Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Russell Westbrook's struggles reportedly played a large part in the Los Angeles Lakers' decision to fire Frank Vogel.

Sam Amick of The Athletic reported Thursday there was a "strong sense that it was on Vogel to make the Westbrook experiment work." 

Westbrook struggled throughout his first season in Los Angeles, failing to mesh with LeBron James and Anthony Davis when the three stars shared the floor and struggling to find a common ground with Vogel. 

“I’m not sure what his issue was with me or I’m not sure why, but I can’t really give you an answer why we never really connected," Westbrook told reporters at his season-ending media availability. "That’s something that he has to answer...but I never...from the get go was feeling like I was having to try to prove myself to him and my capabilities and what I’ve been able to do in this game. It’s unfortunate, but it’s out of my hands."

The Lakers fired Vogel the day after they finished the 2021-22 regular season a disappointing 33-49. Vogel went 127-98 over his three seasons with the franchise, leading the Lakers to the 2020 NBA championship.

While there were areas where Vogel could have done a better job this season, it's hard to put the blame on him for the Westbrook fiasco. Many outside observers saw Westbrook as a poor fit with James from the outset. James has spent his entire career conducting offenses with the ball in his hands; Westbrook is essentially useless playing off the ball because defenses don't respect him as a shooter. Even though James is a good off-ball player, taking the ball out of his hands and giving it to a lesser player in Westbrook never made much sense.

The Lakers did not help matters by surrounding their three stars with the NBA's oldest roster, a group of miscast minimum-contract role players who looked every bit past their prime. Extended absences from James and Davis due to injury weren't exactly helping the cause, either.

The Lakers are expected to explore trading Westbrook this offseason, but the takers for his $47.1 million salary (assuming he picks up his player option) will be few. It's possible whoever the Lakers select as their new coach will be stuck trying to make things work with Westbrook again in 2022-23.