Frank Vogel is unfortunately going to be the first casualty resulting from the Lakers struggles thus far this season. Coming into the year, the Lakers had high hopes of putting together another run towards a championship with a veteran roster and loads of talent, which the front office believed shored up many of the flaws the team experienced throughout the previous year. The Lakers made the choice to trade defense for offense in their roster construction and now halfway through the season, it has proved to be a faulty decision. Since entering the league, Vogel has been known for his strong defensive schemes and ability to maximize players to the best of their abilities on that side of the floor, however that hasn’t been the case this season.
Many are aware that when the Lakers brought Vogel on, it may have only been because they needed to scramble and find a coach, in part because Ty Lue and the Lakers couldn’t come to an agreement on a contract. Yet, to Vogel’s credit, he led the team through some extremely tough times and eventually to a championship in his first season. When judging Vogel, last season should be looked at in a different light due to some key injuries and yet, he and the Lakers still finished as one of the best defensive teams in the league. However, this season was going to be a different monster as the cast of characters he was given to work with, set him up to fail.
The idea to fire Vogel does make some sense due to his questionable rotations at times but when he has been forced to play aging players such as DeAndre Jordan and Rajon Rondo for long stretches at a time due to injuries or players out of the lineup, you can’t solely blame it on him. Additionally, star Anthony Davis has missed the last month with an injury, so Vogel has had to patch together lineups around LeBron James and Russell Westbrook. It has felt like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole at times and doesn’t seem to be improving.
It remains unknown if Vogel still has the trust of the locker room but with reports coming out about how he is coaching for his job on a “game-by-game” basis, it doesn’t seem positive for him. This is a dangerous precedent that the team is playing, if true, because it shows instabilty within the locker room and organization as a whole. For a franchise as storied as the Lakers to be running in this manner, it says a lot about where the team currently is. For now it seems Vogel may be safe but his seat is extremely hot. Now if the team does indeed fire Vogel, who replaces him? The likely option would be David Fizdale, who really wouldn’t be much of an improvement. Teams have had success after firing a coach mid-season, just see the Cleveland Cavaliers championship team in 2016, but the likelihood of that happening is low.
Breaking: There are "no current plans" to replace Frank Vogel, per a source with knowledge of the situation. More details/story coming later.
— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) January 18, 2022
The Lakers made the decision to trade for Russell Westbrook to form a three-headed star trio but in the process were forced to give up wings Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma, both of whom were key members of the title team and strong defenders. Halfway through the season, it has been clear that Westbrook doesn’t fit well next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis. While Westbrook can still be an effective player, has a high usage rate and turns the ball over often. The Lakers would be wise to gauge trade interest around the league for Westbrook, even if it means giving up a first-round pick to get his salary off the books.
Yet the most egregious move from the offseason was the front office allowing guard Alex Caruso to walk out of the door for nothing amid reports that the team lowballed him during contract negotiations. Caruso, during his time with the Lakers, earned the reputation as a strong defender and a player that LeBron James thrived playing alongside. Caruso was also a fan favorite and has said that he never wanted to leave Los Angeles. However, Caruso ultimately moved over to the Chicago Bulls and his impact for the young Bulls squad has been immeasurable in their success.
The Lakers brought many one-trick type of players onto the team in order to create more offense and has resulted in the team struggling. While Vogel does deserve some of the blame for the teams’ problems, it shouldn’t completely fall on him. General Manager Rob Pelinka and owner Jeanie Buss must look in the mirror and take blame for the struggles as well. The Lakers don’t just have a Frank Vogel problem, they have a roster problem and it starts with the front office.