LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – The drama surrounding the struggling Los Angeles Lakers continued Wednesday night when embattled head coach Frank Vogel made the decision to bench star Russell Westbrook during crunch time of the team's loss to the Indiana Pacers.
Vogel sat the 33-year-old Westbrook for the final four minutes of the fourth quarter of the Lakers 111-104 home defeat at Crypto.com Arena. He was subbed out for Malik Monk.
Westbrook also left the court with just over 8 seconds left in the game, according to ESPN reporter Dave McMenamin.
Sources told McMenamin that Vogel received support from Laker's leadership to make decisions as he sees fit regarding Westbrook's playing time and role on the team.
"(I'm) playing the guys I thought were going to win the game," Vogel responded when questioned by reporters about his decision to bench Westbrook.
"Have you followed Russ throughout his career?" Lakers superstar LeBron James responded when asked whether Westbrook was frustrated about the benching. "Have you followed Russ throughout this season? Do you think that would bother Russ not being in the late game?"
Westbrook finished the game with 14 points on 5-of-17 shooting from the field in 27 minutes. He also had two assists, three rebounds and a steal.
The Lakers have lost four of their last five games and have again dropped to under .500. They are clinging to the No. 8 spot in the competitive Western Conference.
A 37-point blowout loss Saturday night to the Denver Nuggets prompted James to issue an apology to Lakers fans.
"#LakerNation I apologize and I promise we'll be better!" James tweeted Sunday.
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