Going into the season, the Los Angeles Lakers had the least amount of continuity among the top teams in the Western Conference. Not only did they add nine new players to their roster, but they also hired a new head coach in Frank Vogel.
Luckily, they’ve been able to mesh pretty quickly thanks in no small part to Vogel. Earlier this season, Vogel said he didn’t know just how much he could teach a team full of veterans, many of whom have been in the league for over 10 years, have made All-NBA teams and have won championships with different teams as recently as last season. As it turns out, Vogel is teaching his new team more than he realizes.
During an interview with Sam Amick of The Athletic, Avery Bradley said Vogel’s relationship with team is unlike anything he’s seen during his nine-year career, and for all of the right reasons:
“I’ve never had a coach teach (like this) and feel comfortable enough to teach guys stuff they can improve on the defensive end. Like (Lakers center) Dwight (Howard at a recent practice), he’s showing how he can help our team by not fouling as much on certain plays. And he’s been doing that for everybody. Like even myself, I had been struggling a lot in the preseason, had a lot of fouls. But (now) I’m just trying to be efficient. It’s about a way you can help your team. I feel like it’s selfish when you’re fouling, just making plays that – going for steals every single possession was putting me out of position and putting my teammates in bad situations to commit fouls or for the team to score.
“We’re doing the same thing on the offensive end. We have a great coach in Frank and Jason Kidd. Those guys are talking to us all the time, so we’re improving every single day. When our offense catches up? It’ll be scary. (The Lakers’ offense is currently eighth in offensive rating).”
Rajon Rondo — who was an outspoken fan of the Lakers’ previous head coach, Luke Walton — has also been impressed with the way Vogel has connected to the team, particularly through his use of film:
“I came in with an open mind listening to what he has to say and his philosophies, and I couldn’t agree with him more – 100 percent. What I love most about him is how he teaches in the film room.
“He calls guys out. He teaches the right way, with constructive criticism. And like I said, the guys are so receptive. So then you go out on the court, and we go over it, and next thing you know it shows up in the game. It’s the repetition of what he does in that room, and how it translates to the court, which is big. I haven’t seen a group of guys (like this) who gravitate to a coach who’s brand new, with a new system and a lot of first-year guys coming together. We’ve all bought in.”
Much of the Lakers’ success (or lack thereof) going into the season was dependent on how quickly they bought into what Vogel was selling as a team, and so far it sounds like everyone is on the same page, including arguably the most influential person in the locker room, LeBron James.
What will be interesting to see is how the Lakers respond to Vogel when everything isn’t going their way like it has been to start the season. It’s easy to be happy with a 14-2 record, but what about during a three-game losing streak in March or a playoff series in May? That’s something that Vogel has preached about preparing the team to handle, but they’ll still need to do so once they get there.
Obviously the easiest solution to that problem is to never get to that point, but it’s a long, 82-game season. All we can do is hope that the relationship Vogel is building with the locker room is built to last.