Russell Westbrook 'surprised' by benching, still focused on succeeding with Lakers

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Frank Vogel benched Russell Westbrook on Wednesday night, something that left Westbrook stunned in the moment.

But now, two days removed from the Lakers’ 111-104 loss to the Indiana Pacers, Westbrook said his goals haven’t changed.

“Surprised, yes. I was disappointed I didn’t go back in, but I’m more disappointed that we lost the damn game,” Westbrook said, via ESPN. “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.”

Lakers benched Westbrook amid struggles

Vogel pulled Westbrook from the final minutes of the Lakers’ loss to the Pacers on Wednesday in Los Angeles, something he reportedly had management authorization to do.

Vogel’s reasoning was simple.

“[I was] playing the guys I thought were gonna win the game,” he said.

Vogel has now found himself on perhaps the hottest seat in the league, and it’s easy to see why. The Lakers have lost four of their last five headed into Friday’s game against the Orlando Magic, and the Lakers are currently in eighth place in the Western Conference.

Westbrook has averaged 18.5 points — his lowest scoring output since his second season in the league more than a decade ago — eight rebounds and 7.8 assists per game so far this season. He finished with 14 points and three assists in Wednesday's loss.

The Lakers are his fourth team in four years following Westbrook’s initial 11-year stint with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Though the former league MVP has struggled lately — he shot just 2-of-14 from the field last week in a loss to the Kings, for example — he’s not letting it get him down amid growing criticism of both his game and the Lakers as a whole.

“You have to be OK when s*** doesn’t go well, and I’m OK,” Westbrook said, via ESPN. “I’ve done everything that’s been asked of me here, and I’ll continue to do so and ride this out as long as we can toward our ultimate goal — and that’s to win a championship. We obviously haven’t been healthy, but I’m committed to making this thing work. The communication is there with everybody in the organization to make this thing work, to make this team we all want it to be in the future.

"I have accepted everything that has been asked of me and tried to do it to the best of my ability. I'm not the ultimate decision-maker of if it's working or if it's not working. I'm OK with sacrificing some of the things that I've been able to do in this game to win, because that's the most important part of this game. I've done everything they've asked me to do to this point."

Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook
Los Angeles Lakers star Russell Westbrook was benched in the final minutes of the team's loss to the Pacers on Wednesday night. (AP/David Zalubowski)
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