ORLANDO, Fla. – Two days after what felt like an epic coaching decision, there’s an eerie sense of normalcy to the scene where Frank Vogel calls Russell Westbrook over as he diagrams a play on his whiteboard.
Given the backdrop of Wednesday night against Indiana, the Lakers coach and guard having been benched during bad times about their business is a relatively boring follow-up.
While the two men admitted a difficult discussion led to Friday night’s game in Orlando, both were trying to push it forward in hindsight as Westbrook was a major contributor to the 116- win 105 before Magic.
Westbrook admitted he was furious when he was kicked at home in a close-up game, but he said he was even more upset when the Lakers lost. He said he was committed to being professional and playing the role that was laid out for him.
“I’ve been doing my job since Day One and doing everything I’ve been asked to do since I got here,” he said. “And I’ll continue to do that to improve the team and do what’s best for us and find ways to implement how I can make an impact on this team.”
ESPN reported on Thursday that Vogel was punished by management for doing with Westbrook as he saw fit. Vogel explained that he has not specifically discussed with the main office the possibility of playing Westbrook in close matches but said he knows that decision is within his jurisdiction.
“I have full discretion to make any decisions necessary by the coach to win games. It’s something that’s always been persistent there,” he said. “I communicate with the front office about everything I am looking at and there is a strong connection there. In the end what matters… we talk about many different things and I have the autonomy to make the final decision.”
That said, the coaching staff are more interested in solving problems with Westbrook’s help – not around him. Vogel said he discussed the decision, which he considers non-personal, with Westbrook. While neither of them entered the conversation, Vogel said the main thrust was heading towards Orlando. Westbrook made a poignant admission of that.
“I think the communication is fine,” he said. “Frank made the decision that he felt was best.”
Of course, the best thing for everyone is success, which is what happened on Friday night when Westbrook scored 18 points with 11 rebounds, seven assists and three steals.
James said Westbrook helped set the tone for the game with his energy and command. Carmelo Anthony looked relieved to see his teammate put on a strong run following the events of the week.
“Tonight he was attacking, taking his time, making open shots and he caught and fired three,” Anthony said. “He played at a more controlled pace tonight and as a result I think he benefited from that and then the others did too.”
The tension remains unresolved on several fronts. Vogel is under pressure to turn the tide of his .500 roster, and could be moved to Sub Westbrook after tight games in the future. General Manager Rob Pelinka’s presence a few rows behind the bench on Friday was a reminder of the third-year coach’s oversight.
Westbrook has racked up roller coasters throughout the season, and although his paint finish has improved much on Friday (7-13), he will have to string together performances like so together to gain confidence and trust. A first-quarter jump shot off the top of the console is a nasty reminder of his game’s wild divergence.
Even Westbrook didn’t want to call the match a turning point.
“I will continue to preach that it is a process, man, it is a process,” Westbrook said. “I know every week we can win a game, we can lose a game and it will happen, man. And we’re still trying to figure that out. We’re still trying to figure out how, the best way to play with our team and keep the boys healthy.”
But the most important thing between Vogel and Westbrook seems to be the recognition of professionalism, which could help them close the gap following the post-match rampage against Westbrook.
“Russ is a guy of high character,” Vogel said. “He did a great job maintaining that focus, and we are all committed to this team to get the job done. We still believe in what we can be. It has been difficult throughout the year. But we made a commitment. ”
https://www.sbsun.com/2022/01/21/lakers-russell-westbrook-frank-vogel-try-to-move-on-from-benching-against-pacers/ Lakers’ Russell Westbrook, Frank Vogel try to switch to the bench against the Pacers – San Bernardino Sun