The hiring of Frank Vogel in May was generally well-received by Lakers fans, even in spite of the fact that Vogel’s hiring came after the team’s failed negotiations with Tyronn Lue, who LeBron James won a championship with in Cleveland in 2016. However, the only person whose opinion really mattered at the time of Vogel’s hiring was James.
Whether it’s fair or not, James has a reputation for not getting along with his head coaches, especially ones he has no pre-existing relationship with like Vogel. So far, though, Vogel seems to have earned the respect of James, who credited Vogel and his coaching staff for how quickly the team has gelled to start the season.
“They’ve played a huge part of that. They’ve just held us accountable from day one. They want us to share the ball and be great offensively as a team,” James said after the Lakers’ win over the Sacramento Kings on Friday.
“Then defensively take the challenge. First of all, individually — in the individual matchup — and then protect your brother. There is great NBA players and you’re gonna get beat just like the last play of the game, and we have one of our brothers protecting the rim. So, that’s gonna happen. But, like I said, the coaching staff has been great and we just try to hold our end of the bargain up and just try to be great as well.”
The defensive end is where the Lakers have hung their hat this season, which was the expectation when Vogel was hired. In the five years Vogel was the head coach of the Indiana Pacers, they finished in the top-10 in defensive rating every season and finished with the league’s best defensive rating twice. Through 12 games this season, the Lakers are ranked No. 1 in defensive rating.
However, Vogel is just one piece of the puzzle. The Lakers could have all the defensive talent in the world and it wouldn’t matter if the team didn’t buy in as quickly as they did. As long as Vogel and James are on the same page, the Lakers will keep winning — and as long as the Lakers are winning, they’ll be on the same page.
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