The Los Angeles Lakers are desperate for any kind of spark. Yes, they got a win over the Warriors on Saturday, thanks to a season-high 56 points from LeBron James, but prior to that they'd lost four straight and 11 of their last 14.
Short of LeBron working a nightly miracle, might moving Russell Westbrook to the bench be their last card to play?
According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, there is an "increasing push" from the Lakers' higher-ups to demote Westbrook from the starting lineup, "but so far coach Frank Vogel has resisted" making that move. Westbrook started Saturday night vs. the Warriors and finished with 20 points on 9-of-17 shooting.
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Vogel has flirted with this idea of moving Westbrook to the bench, and he has held him out of closing stretches of games on a few occasions this season. He's just not suited to play off the ball. He's shooting 28 percent from 3.
Westbrook isn't the Lakers' only problem. But he's at the core of what ails them. He cost them a lot of depth, shooting and perimeter defense to acquire. The Lakers, reportedly at the behest of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, squashed a potential Buddy Hield trade to bring in Westbrook instead.
They went all-in on a player who just isn't very good anymore. Moving Westbrook to the bench isn't going to make him a better fit; it would simply be about subtracting him from the first unit. The question would then become: Will he close games? If a player isn't in the starting lineup, there's definitely no assumption that he'll close.
Westbrook has made it clear he sees himself as a starter and a closer, and he would not be OK with being demoted. Vogel is in a sticky situation. Yanking a former superstar from the starting lineup is a touchy deal. Per Wojnarowski, there have been "some tense moments between Vogel and Westbrook in the past several days, including during a Friday team film session."
We'll see if Vogel eventually pulls the trigger on this move. There's not much of the season left, and the Lakers are running out of time to figure something out.