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Russell Westbrook’s poor play has been an issue for the Lakers this season. However, it has not been THE drawback.

And whereas nationwide pundits are pointing to the Lakers level guard and their head coach Frank Vogel, NBA on TNT’s Charles Barkley is not shopping for it. 

Talking Thursday night time forward of the community’s broadcast of the Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks sport, Chuck was fed up.

“The Lakers are such wussies,” Barkley mentioned, admitting he wish to use extra colourful language. “The best way they’ve tried to throw Russell Westbrook and Frank Vogel underneath the bus is simply pissing me off.”

“The folks up high who put that trash collectively are operating and hiding like cowards saying, ‘Oh it’s Frank. It’s Russ.’ You place all of them outdated geezers on the market— whoever operating that trash on the market… it’s ridiculous.”

Bingo. 

The Lakers have been a large disappointment largely due to the poor roster building by common supervisor Rob Pelinka and possession’s unwillingness to go deeper into the posh tax. But there have been varied scapegoats trotted out to deflect the blame in current days. 

Positive, they introduced in Stanley Johnson on a 10-day contract, which has paid off. However that is principally a part of the issue. 

“Hear,” Barkley continued, “the perfect man apart from LeBron [James] within the final month has been who? Stanley Johnson. And for y’all to herald a man who was on the road and he turns into your second greatest participant… it’s ridiculous.”

MORE: Which NBA teams are most likely to be active at trade deadline?

Coach Frank Vogel seemed to be the goal when rumors of him being on the hot seat surfaced earlier this week. Now the eye has shifted onto Westbrook, who was benched to shut the Lakers’ loss towards the Pacers on Wednesday.

There is no such thing as a denying that Westbrook has had an especially down yr, however the rationale for this benching didn’t actually move the sniff take a look at. According to Dave McMenamin’s ESPN reporting, the reason given was that Westbrook didn’t observe the scouting report on the Pacers’ Caris LeVert:

The teaching employees had repeatedly emphasised the scouting report to remove LeVert’s proper hand, and Westbrook, guarding LeVert on the high of the important thing one-on-one, did not angle himself correctly to thwart the drive and allowed LeVert easy accessibility to the paint en path to the ring.

Right here is the possible play in query, discovered by former NBA assistant coach and video coordinator Steve Jones. 

MORE: Who are the top trade targets for contenders?

LeVert did have an enormous sport, dropping 30 factors within the Pacers’ win. Moreover, Westbrook’s protection on that play was poor. However he was not the rationale why LeVert exploded towards the Lakers. 

That play in query was the one one the place LeVert scored with Westbrook as his main defender. LeVert was guarded for many of the sport by both Avery Bradley, Stanley Johnson or Talen Horton-Tucker. Different gamers, reminiscent of Austin Reaves and Carmelo Anthony, additionally had defensive breakdowns that led to straightforward scores for LeVert. But Westbrook was singled out for his lone error on LeVert, regardless of stripping him just a few possessions afterward a assist project. 

Jones went on to notice different incongruities within the teaching employees’s benching clarification. Westbrook was allegedly pulled for failing to maintain LeVert from going to his proper. Nevertheless, a few of the Lakers’ defensive protection all through the sport seemed to be intentionally pushing LeVert to his right hand

LeVert was additionally wide open at times due to questionable schematic choices, reminiscent of not switching screens. And in the course of the occasions when other players such as Avery Bradley did push LeVert to his left, a scarcity of ball stress allowed LeVert to get wherever he wished on the ground. 

Westbrook was benched for the ultimate 4 minutes of the sport, and LeVert went on to hit all three of his pictures after that exit. The Lakers’ protection additionally carried out statistically worse throughout that portion of the sport sans-Westbrook.

It’s truthful to query Westbrook’s defensive depth, which has waxed and waned each with the Lakers and all through his profession. He’s under no circumstances a plus defender. A part of the crew’s precipitous drop from the No. 2 protection final season to No. 22 this yr per Cleansing the Glass will be attributed to him. However the entire crew has defended poorly. Look to twenty-eight of LeVert’s 30 factors as proof. To single Westbrook out is lacking the larger image. 

Westbrook has basically been a web impartial by on/off numbers at Cleaning the Glass. Superior statistics reminiscent of estimated plus-minus additionally peg him as a principally common NBA participant when it comes to impression at this level in his profession. The place the Lakers are getting killed is in having to play so lots of their minutes with Pelinka-chosen gamers who’ve contributed nothing. 

The actual purpose why the Lakers look damaged is due to the dearth of depth on the roster, and the items that they haven’t becoming nicely. There have been different choices obtainable too, however that is the route that Pelinka selected. 

MORE: Why the Lakers are one of the most interesting teams to watch at trade deadline

Pelinka shipped Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell, Kyle Kuzma and the No. 22 first-round decide to the Wizards to amass Westbrook. Kuzma has improved his all-around sport, Caldwell-Pope has been stable and Harrell has re-established himself. The Lakers may actually use that depth. 

Pelinka’s strikes across the fringes have additionally been crippling. Malik Monk and, to a lesser extent, Carmelo Anthony, had been good signings for the crew. Stanley Johnson has performed nicely as a hardship exemption addition. However selecting Horton-Tucker over Alex Caruso appears like a large mistake proper now.

The Lakers additionally wanted to nail their minimal signings. As a substitute, they flubbed them. De’Andre Jordan and Kent Bazemore are not within the rotation. They’ve already moved on from Rajon Rondo, who was traded to the Cavs. Per Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times, administration appears to assume that taking part in Jordan extra alongside Dwight Howard will repair a few of these issues. Spoiler: It won’t. 

Westbrook is an costly and straightforward goal. There are 44 million causes to level the finger at him. However benching him isn’t going to get this crew again on monitor. The Lakers want so as to add depth. With the roster constructed the best way that it’s, they don’t have many avenues to do this on the commerce deadline. That may be a Pelinka drawback. The franchise can carry on pointing its finger at different sources, however ultimately the crew will preserve struggling and there will likely be nobody else left to level to. 



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