Watching the team’s season slip away, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel has put everything on the table in hopes of stopping the team’s losing skid. Among those options? Benching Russell Westbrook.
After a seventh loss in their last eight games and four straight losses out of the All-Star break with a blowout loss to the Clippers on Thursday, Vogel talked postgame about coaching staff searching for possible answers to get the team back on track.
“We’re trying to find solutions that are best for the team,” Vogel said. “That’s everything that we’re doing. We’re looking at all of our players and how we’re using them. If we’re getting down 20 every night, we’re going to adjust our team.”
Asked as a follow-up if bringing Westbrook off the bench, a growing sentiment among fans, is an option, Vogel cut-off the question to give his answer.
“We’ve talked about everything, yes. We’ve talked about everything.”
Westbrook was far from the reason the Lakers lost on Thursday to their crosstown rivals for the fourth time this season. In fact, his performance, by Westbrook’s standards this season, was solid as he went 7/16 from the field for 17 points with eight rebounds and three assists to two turnovers.
But save for a 14-0 run in the second quarter by the purple and gold that made the halftime score look respectable, the gap between the Lakers and Clippers was an enormous one on the night. And with so much else having changed around Westbrook and LeBron James in the starting lineup, it certainly doesn’t seem like Westbrook’s spot is guaranteed.
“We’re just persistent and staying with the work,” Vogel said of his coaching staff. “We’re relentlessly seeking solutions to get us playing better. We come in the next day (after games) with some tweaks or fundamentals that need to be better or ways we can improve our team and (leave) no stone unturned in terms of trying to find solutions to get this right.
“It hasn’t taken shape but there’s no quit in us. We’ll continue to persist. We’re trying to adjust and shift and find ways to win with Anthony out. We haven’t found that yet. But it’s not something we can’t do, we just haven’t found it yet. Disappointing loss and we just have to persist.”
The Lakers have continued to seek out solutions during their streak. Thursday’s starting lineup was the 31st different lineup in 62 games. As was the case with Tuesday’s starting lineup against Dallas, which was different from Thursday’s, the five-man grouping had spent zero minutes on the court together before the game.
The results on Tuesday were better than those on Thursday, but both games ultimately ended with losses. With so many other things having changed in the lineup, Westbrook seems like the next potential change if Vogel and the team wants to cross that bridge.
Earlier in the season, he benched Westbrook to close games, which led to the point guard expressing his frustration very publicly with the coaching staff. With Anthony Davis injured, though, Westbrook has remained a mainstay in the Lakers closing lineups of late.
But that move of benching Westbrook, which came with the support of the front office, shows the coaching staff and Vogel will make the move that they feel best helps the team win. And having exhausted seemingly all options with changing the starting lineup, Westbrook feels like the potential next change to make.
And if that happens, considering how he responded to a lineup change last time, it could lead to even more fireworks.