Lakers' Russell Westbrook blames back injury on 'sitting down for long stretches'

The Lakers have been so bad with Russell Westbrook on the floor this season, that head coach Vogel has taken to leaving him on the bench.

Russell Westbrook in the new LA Lakers jersey, Image credit: Twitter
By Amruth Kalidas | Feb 12, 2022 | 3 Min Read follow icon Follow Us

To say there’s trouble in paradise regarding the Los Angeles Lakers would imply that some sort of utopia existed from the start. So far the 2021-22 season has more closely resembled the “White Lotus” resort, with catastrophe and tension lurking around every corner. Most of the drama has surrounded guard Russell Westbrook, who has endured one of the worst seasons of his NBA career, generating ample frustration and rage among Laker fans throughout the globe.

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The Lakers have been so bad with Westbrook on the floor this season (a minus-4.8 net rating), that head coach Frank Vogel has taken to leaving him on the bench during the final minutes of games. Westbrook didn’t see the floor in overtime of a 122-115 win over the New York Knicks, then was benched for the entire fourth quarter of a 131-116 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. Westbrook was booed by his home fans in both games, which he called a “sign of respect.”

Westbrook then sat out Wednesday’s brutal 107-105 loss to the depleted Portland Trail Blazers with back soreness, with many speculating that his absence was a precursor of a potential trade before Thursday’s deadline. As we all know, Westbrook was not traded, and on Friday he elaborated on his back injury in an extremely pointed way.

“It comes and goes,” Westbrook said of his back injury. “I’m not accustomed to sitting down for long stretches and getting up and then, like, moving quickly. It kind of stiffens up a little bit.”

Westbrook’s fourth-quarter benchings have been a topic of discussion for a long time now, so he surely knew exactly what he was doing when he named “sitting down for long stretches” as the culprit for his injury. After Tuesday’s loss to Milwaukee, Westbrook didn’t hold back on his criticism of Vogel’s rotation choices.

“You never know when you’re coming in, you never know when you’re coming out,” Westbrook said. “You never know when you’re playing, you never know … a bunch of things. And I’m speaking for me personally, so it’s a difficult process to be able to figure out and create some rhythm and some consistency where we can actually see what we’re able to do as a team, but those decisions are made by [Vogel] and his coaching staff, and you’ve got to live with it and move on.”

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Those of us who work at desks all day surely know the pain of standing up after sitting for too long, but there are plenty of other ways Westbrook could have phrased the analysis of his injury that didn’t once again bring up his lack of clutch playing time. This, combined with a recent report saying that Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka was not on the same page as superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis regarding the team’s lack of activity at the trade deadline, paints the picture of a disjointed organization struggling to put the pieces together.

The Lakers entered Wednesday night at 26-30, good for the No. 9 seed in the Western Conference and three games up in the loss column over the 10th-seeded New Orleans Pelicans. Vogel said he isn’t sure what injury designation Westbrook will carry into Saturday’s nationally televised matchup with the Golden State Warriors.