Heading into this season, there were reports that LeBron James would play point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers. Frank Vogel pushed back against those reports because that’s what head coaches do, but it was always a farce, and that’s perfectly fine. James in this role is what makes the most sense for the team. That’s all that matters.
Vogel told Bill Oram of The Athletic that upon reflection, this strategy made the most sense given the construction of the roster and the success James has had on the ball over the course of his career:
After the Lakers acquired Anthony Davis and started to fill out the rest of the roster, Vogel began to embrace the idea of doing away with pretense and just putting the ball in James’ hands full-time. Making LeBron the point guard would be a flashback to the way he would play in the postseason with the Heat, and later in those four trips to the Finals with the Cavaliers.
“I went back and watched all of the offensive series for the six games that we played them that final year (in 2014),” Vogel said. “To look at different actions, but primarily to look at what volume were (Mario) Chalmers and Norris Cole and those guys handling the ball and what volume was he handling the ball. … (That) gave me confidence this is not something he’s unfamiliar with.”
Man, poor Chalmers and Cole were just sitting there having themselves a nice little day and they now find themselves victims of an impressive drive-by shading.
Vogel goes on to discuss the relationship between him and
his boss/the actual head coach James:
After years of being on the opposite sideline, Vogel can now appreciate the advantages of being the coach with James on his team. With LeBron running the offense from between the lines, Vogel thinks he can focus his attention on defense and elevate the Lakers to the top of the league on that side of the court — a hallmark of his most successful Pacers teams.
“I’ve always tried to empower my point guards with play-calling responsibilities to run the team on the court, and I’ve had lukewarm success with that because I have not had quarterbacks with the brainpower of Rajon Rondo and LeBron James,” Vogel said. “So for me to be able to trust the play-calling and the offense is going to be run through (LeBron), not just getting him the ball, but him dictating the action and calling a lot of the plays and sets, hopefully allows me to focus even more on the defensive end and make us stronger there.”
Jokes aside about who actually coaches this team, quite frankly, it makes sense that James should be one of the loudest voices in the room this year in particular. This could be his final season in his prime, and he finally has a Lakers roster around him that he can be personally invested in.
Obviously, there are things that Vogel can bring to the table as a head coach — like the defensive focus he mentioned — but he likely knows the deal here. James doesn’t have any time whatsoever to mess around, and the person he is going to trust with the ball in his hands is obviously going to be himself. Any coach who actually pushed back on that probably wouldn’t be long for this specific job.
And again, all that matters here is that the best decision is being made for the team. If Coach James pushes too hard for a lesser player, then it’s on Vogel and his staff to convince everyone why Rajon Rondo should never, ever play. But in this instance, James’ instincts and past experience aligned with what makes the most sense, so Vogel can just agree with the strategy and move on to the next aspect of coaching the team.