Russell Westbrook says Lakers benching is ‘not about me’

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Russell Westtbrook doesn’t mind being benched in overtime, so long as his team wins.

After Frank Vogel sat him for the extra period of the Lakers’ 122-115 win over the Knicks on Saturday, Westbrook said the victory made all the difference in him accepting the decision, compared with when he got pulled in a recent loss against the Pacers.

“I just talked to [Vogel] about how I was upset about it,” Westbrook told reporters, referring to the Indiana game. “But I was more upset I didn’t win the game. But not about when or how he would do it. But it doesn’t matter. Like I said, it’s not about me. I don’t want to make it about me. It’s more about our team and our guys. Tonight we got a good win and now move onto the next one.”

Westbrook struggled down the stretch against the Knicks, failing to score and missing two free throws with less than a minute left in regulation. He finished the game with five points on 1 of 10 shooting with six assists and four turnovers.

Lakers guard Russell Westbrook (0) misses a layup as he is defended by Knicks guard Evan Fournier (13) in the second half at Crypto.com Arena.
Russell Westbrook during the Lakers’ win over the Knicks on Feb. 5, 2022.
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports

“The best part of this game is that you win,” he said. “Guys competed. We won the game and that’s all that matters.”

Vogel said Westbrook’s fourth quarter had to do with the benching, adding that he wanted the ball in LeBron James’ hands and felt Talen Horton-Tucker could contribute more defensively and in off-ball actions.

“You just make tough decisions in the spirit of whatever the team needs to win a game,” Vogel said.

Westbrook has been at the center of the Lakers’ struggles this year, and was booed after badly missing a second-quarter shot on Saturday.

“I told him to keep going, to stop second-guessing himself during the game,” LeBron James said. “There were a couple of times where he had good looks, second-guessed himself and a couple times where he had some drives and he had them and second-guessed himself. He’s an instinctive player and he should never — what he’s done in this league — he should never second-guess himself if he’s put the work in. And he’s put the work in. So I just told him to just hit me later.

“And I don’t need to harp on what we say to him. He’s a big-time player. And I have the utmost confidence in his ability, not only for this team but for himself, individually.”

Westbrook said that during a long season, bad nights happen, and alluded to the expectations on his shoulders that the media has imposed.

“When I play bad, you guys ask me a s–t ton of questions,” Westbrook said. “And then when I shoot the ball well, I don’t hear too many of those questions. So I don’t want to keep making it about me and what I’m doing. We won the game and that’s the most important part.”

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