Los Angeles Lakers’ Russell Westbrook Opens Up About Disconnect With Frank Vogel, Disappointing Season

THE SECOND, Calif. — With Frank Vogel ousted as Los Angeles Lakers coach earlier in the day, Lakers point guard Russell Westbrook spoke about the disconnect that existed between the two in his first season in Los Angeles.

“I think it’s unfortunate, to be honest, because I’ve never had a problem with any of my coaches before,” Westbrook said Monday after his exit interview with the Lakers’ front office. “I’m not sure what his problem with me was or I’m not sure why, but I really can’t give you an answer as to why we never really connected.”

Westbrook, who was the highest-paid player during the Lakers’ nightmare 2021-22 season, also didn’t end his grievances with just the coach. He pointed to several other aspects of his experience with the Lakers that went wrong in his 21-minute news conference, detailing how he felt he was wronged.

“When I first came here, the ability to be able to do what I can do for a team and an organization didn’t have a fair chance,” he said.

Westbrook blamed false news reports as a contributing factor to his problems last season.

“The famous ‘source’ stories that have come out about me, whether it’s between me and the staff, me and Frank, me and the fans, there are so many made up stories that aren’t true,” Westbrook said. “It’s always having to fight it constantly. It’s just not [being] given a fair chance. It’s like, ‘OK, now I have to fight this made-up story. Now I have to fight this. Now I’m going to fight this one. Now I have to fight this.'”

When asked directly to name an example of a made-up story about his time with the Lakers, he didn’t offer a direct answer.

“No,” Westbrook said. “I can’t. You know the examples. I don’t want to go into details, what story, who wrote it, why…it doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t really matter because it’s not true. Otherwise it’s not from me.” [it is not true].”

The 2017 league MVP also said LeBron James and Anthony Davis’ repeated attempts to “let Russ be Russ” in order to unlock the best version of the former All-Star were false.

“Yes, [they said it]Westbrook said. “But that wasn’t true.”

When asked to explain, Westbrook said it was about the pieces not being able to complement each other.

“It’s a combination of where we are on the court, positioning, adjusting and challenging, trial and error, being able to play on the court with each other,” Westbrook said. “Find ways that we can use ourselves to the best of our ability. It’s that simple.”

Westbrook, who has a player option for next season valued at $47 million, didn’t have a simple answer when asked if he planned to exercise it. “Umm, I’ll make the decision,” he said. “That’s why it’s called ‘player option’.”

Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka did not commit to giving the James-Davis-Westbrook group another chance next season, should Westbrook opt in.

“Like any player, we will partner with him after the decision is made on what is best for his future,” Pelinka said. “Rest assured, we will look under every stone for ways to be better and we will be open to anything that improves our team and puts us in a position to compete at a higher level this year than this year.”

Westbrook, who played in 78 games and averaged 18.5 points on 44.4% shooting (29.8% from 3), 7.4 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game, admitted his production didn’t meet his personal standards.

“Just my game in general, not my best season, I just went off my own personal scale,” he said. “Obviously, I’m averaging a triple-double, so anything less than that wouldn’t be a good season for me, you know what I’m saying? So that’s why the scale of where it comes from is a little bit different.”

After a loss to the Phoenix Suns last week that officially eliminated the Lakers from entry tournament contention, Westbrook said “the plan” would be to play for LA again next season so he, James and Davis could see how they look together. with health benefit. They played just 21 games together this season due to various injuries, going 11-10.

“I just hope we get a chance to be able to do something,” he said.

After all the complaints Westbrook shared on Monday, he was asked what would prompt him to want to play for the Lakers again, and the additional context apparently doesn’t line up with his earlier statement.

“I mean, obviously there’s going to be a lot of different changes depending on who’s the manager and how our style of play and how we play,” he said. “So that question is up in the air. But once the decision is made, we’ll go from there.”

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