Report: Russell Westbrook handling played a role in Lakers firing of Frank Vogel

Russell Westbrook
LOS ANGELES, CA – NOVEMBER 4: Russell Westbrook #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers walks on the court while Frank Vogel draws up a play against the Oklahoma City Thunder on November 4, 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)

Frank Vogel has exited the Los Angeles Lakers organization, but his presence still looms large. The championship run the team completed during the 2019-20 season is feeling distant by the day. The team is coach-less for now. Their roster is in flux. All of these things are sandwiched between the futures of LeBron James and Russell Westbrook.

The Lakers are awaiting Westbrook’s decision to officially opt into a $47.1 million next year. But they won’t know how much further it goes after he makes his choice. What they believe, allegedly, is that Vogel’s voice and game-planning may not have been able to get the best of the former All-Star. The Athletic’s Sam Amick dropped this nugget in his recent piece:

When the decision was made to fire Vogel, sources say his handling of Westbrook and the inability to find a way to make him a more productive part of the program were among the factors that played a big part. There was a strong sense that it was on Vogel to make the Westbrook experiment work, and the fact that it didn’t led to questions about whether Westbrook had been put in a position to succeed. That sure smells like the hope of a Russ revival to me.

As mentioned, this could very well be a tip of the hand by the Lakers. Maybe the market isn’t as robust for a huge expiring deal as imagined. It could also means the packages constructed for Russ aren’t attractive. At this point, it’s honestly too early to call it, with the NBA playoffs still going on.

The other interesting point is the Vogel-Russ dynamic. Lineup hijinks and offensive sputtering are two of my favorite ways to describe Vogel’s shortcomings. He had a knack for playing the guys he trusted to win as he wanted to win. He also was resistant to quick adjustments for the sake of trial and error. It must’ve been a tall task to try to set up Westbrook for success as he’s getting older.

The tune must’ve changed in the front office, as it was reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski in March that Vogel was against benching him, despite a push from powers up above. With the conflicting details piling up, it’s safe to say that fans will be in for a doozy as the dog days of the season’s end rolls around.

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