Lakers’ Russell Westbrook ‘turned the page’ after benching to have solid performance in win over Magic

Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook was benched for the closing minutes of the team’s 111-104 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night, but he bounced back in Orlando on Friday night. Westbrook played a team-high 35 minutes in the Lakers’ 116-105 victory over the Magic, and he finished the game with 18 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and three steals. 

Afterward, Westbrook said all of the right things about being benched, and he made it clear that he doesn’t plan to let the setback derail the rest of his season 

“Frank [Vogel] made a decision that he felt was best,” Westbrook said of the situation, via The Athletic. “My job as a player, as a professional, is to do my job, continue to find ways to be able to help impact winning. That’s all I was thinking about and turned the page to do and that’s what I tried to do tonight.”

“I’ve been here, I’ve been doing my job since day one,” Westbrook added. “And doing everything that’s been asked of me since I got here. And I’ll continue to do that for the betterment of the team and doing what’s best for us and finding ways to implement how I can make an impact on this team.”   

After removing Westbrook from the closing lineup against Indiana due to his poor play, Vogel was encouraged by the way that the former MVP responded in Orlando. “Russ played a really good basketball game,” Vogel said, via ESPN. “He came in very focused and played efficient offensively and brought a pure energy to the game. He just wanted to impose his will, play his part and played a hell of a game.”

“Russ is a high-character guy,” Vogel added. “We knew we were going to respond. We communicated afterwards to make sure that we understood what was going on — we’re just coaching to win the game. And to turn the page on to Orlando. And he did a great job maintaining that focus and we’re all committed to this group getting the job done. We still believe in what we can be. It’s been bumpy throughout the course of the year. But we’re committed.”  

Orlando owns the NBA’s worst record this season, so only so much can be gleaned from the game. But it was a positive performance nonetheless, and the Lakers could certainly use those right now. Moving forward for Westbrook, it’s all about efficiency. If he can avoid taking some of the difficult midrange shots that he is known for, and also take better care of the ball than he has so far this season, then perhaps the Lakers can start living up to their lofty potential as a team. 

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