Russell Westbrook has never been the one to shy away from telling the truth. He will bark at his opponent in the heat of the game. He’ll even go as far as barking at himself for a self-inflicted mistake. However, while being angry, he can find an understanding when he’s held accountable.
To top off a week of leaks and rumors, Westbrook was benched in the Lakers’ Wednesday night loss against the Indiana Pacers. The benching was for the final 3 minutes and 52 seconds of the game. In that short of time, it must’ve felt like an eternity for Russ. He spoke candidly about his feelings on the move, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski:
“Surprised, yes. I was disappointed I didn’t go back in, but I’m more disappointed that we lost the damn game. I want to be able to be on the floor to help my teammates and be able to help our team win in games like that — but that was a decision that was made.”
He goes on to speak about his past experiences and what he anticipates going forward this season:
“I think it’s important to know that part of the process of being on a new team is that there are going to be a lot of ups and downs and struggles throughout a season,” Westbrook told ESPN. “It’s been a challenge for the last three years — just trying to figure things out. I lean on a lot of my faith to be able to stay locked in on my craft and work my a– off and find ways to make situations work. The challenge is how to be the version of myself for this team, that’s what I’m trying to figure out. 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. We have a legitimate chance to be able to win it all, and to do that, I’ll have to better — and I know that I will be.”
The scene when the benching occurred was less than ideal, as described by the OC Register’s Kyle Goon:
For the last 3:52 of the 111-104 loss to the 13th-place Indiana Pacers, Westbrook watched from the bench. He did not do so quietly: The 33-year-old point guard nearly left the floor after he was subbed out for Malik Monk,but teammate DeAndre Jordan shepherded him back. Westbrook watched the next few minutes unfold, apparently jawing from the bench with his jersey untucked, although exactly what was said (and at whom) is still unclear.
To see him put the results ahead of his feelings is promising. It was widely anticipated that this would drive a wedge between Frank Vogel and Westbrook. Truthfully, that remains to be seen. It’s a lot of basketball to be played and many moments ahead where this decision may be made again.
Both Westbrook and the Lakers are in a place of urgency. They’re in need of a shift to fit around a roster that is still seeking an identity. For Russ, it appears the days of being the engine that pumps out triple-doubles are no longer in demand. But he’s been playing this role for so long that one can’t help but wonder if he’s unable to make the pivot. Only time will tell, but for now, things should be motivated strictly by winning.