Los Angeles Lakers’ Russell Westbrook opens up on disconnection with Frank Vogel, disappointing season

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — With Frank Vogel dismissed as Los Angeles Lakers coach earlier today, Lakers point guard Russell Westbrook opened up about the disconnect that existed between the two of them during his first season in LA.

“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 don’t know what his problem was with me or I don’t know why, but I can’t really tell you why we really never connected.”

Westbrook, who was the highest-paid player during the Lakers’ nightmarish 2021-22 season, wasn’t done with his coach either. He took aim at several other aspects of his Lakers experience gone wrong during his 21-minute press conference, detailing how he felt aggrieved.

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

Westbrook then blamed fake news for contributing to his struggles last season.

“The famous ‘source’ stories that have come out of 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. “You always have to constantly fight against that. 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 one. Now I will fight this one. Now I have to fight this one.'”

When asked directly to cite an example of a fabricated story about his time with the Lakers, he didn’t offer a specific answer.

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

The 2017 league MVP also said LeBron James and Anthony Davis’ repeated intentions to “let Russ be Russ” by unlocking the former All-Star’s best version were dishonest.

“Yeah, [they said it]”, Westbrook said. “But it was not true.”

When asked to elaborate, Westbrook said it came down to the fact that the pieces couldn’t complement each other.

“It’s a combination of where we are on the court, the positioning, the fit and the challenge, the trial and error, the ability to play on the floor with each other,” said said Westbrook. “Finding ways that we can use ourselves to the best of our abilities. It’s as simple as that.”

Westbrook, who has a player option next season worth $47 million, didn’t have a straight answer when asked if he plans 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 has not committed to giving the James-Davis-Westbrook group another shot next season, if Westbrook opts.

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

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

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

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

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

After all the grievances Westbrook shared on Monday, he was asked what would make him want to play for the Lakers again, with the added context not seeming to match his earlier statement.

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