NBA Rumors: Lakers Were Worried About Damaging Russell Westbrook's Mental Health

Russell Westbrook
Getty | Tim Nwachukwu

Ernesto Cova

The Los Angeles Lakers made a big gamble when they traded away some core players to land Russell Westbrook.

It's not like a perennial All-Star and former MVP isn't worth the risk, but his fit next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis was questionable, to say the least.

Cut to today and the Lakers have struggled to find any sort of consistency, and fans are pointing the finger at Westbrook for his lack of efficiency and lack of contributions in the defensive end.

The Lakers Wanted To Bench Westbrook For Weeks

Russell Westbrook
Getty | Tim Nwachukwu

The Lakers got up to a point where coach Frank Vogel had no choice but to bench Westbrook late in a game, stating that he had to roll with the players he felt gave him the best shot at winning.

Notably, it seems like that decision had weeks in the making, but the Lakers were worried about taking a toll on Westbrook's confidence and mental health, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

“The coaching staff had been debating whether to pull Westbrook from late-game situations for weeks, sources said, but always refrained because of worries about the lasting impact on Westbrook’s psyche,” McMenamin said.

Lakers Were Worried He Could Turn Defensive

Russell Westbrook
Getty | Michelle Farsi

ESPN's Ramona Shelbourne added that the Lakers also feared that Westbrook could get defensive, as he's often felt singled out during film sessions:

"For weeks, the staff had considered benching Westbrook at a moment like this," Shelbourne wrote. "Team sources said there was always a concern as to how he’d react to such a move. Would he get defensive, as he often had when he felt like he was being singled out in film sessions? Would it erode the confidence that is so important to his game? When Vogel finally did it, it was as understandable as it was stunning. 'Frank ripped the Band-Aid off,' one team source said."

Russ Needs To Turn Things Around

Russell Westbrook dunking
Giphy | NBA

Westbrook shouldn't be the only one to blame for the Lakers' struggles by any means but he needs to be better, and he needs to do it now.

He's one of the most talented and athletically gifted players to ever lace them up and as such, it's normal for people to have high expectations for him, especially considering his salary.

Thus far, Westbrook has averaged 18.6 points, 7.9 rebounds, 7.6 assists, and 4.3 turnovers per game on 44.1% shooting with a PER of 15.4 and that's not gonna get the job done come playoff time.