On one hand, Frank Vogel is walking into a situation where he gets to coach the Los Angeles Lakers while they employ both LeBron James and Anthony Davis. That’s a pretty great opportunity!
On the other hand, Vogel was pretty clearly at least their second choice and possibly third, and will begin his tenure with one of their other preferred head coaches forced onto his coaching staff. That’s less ideal!
He might be a dead man walking, but of all the dead men who have ever walked, Vogel might be the closest to living. So at least there’s that.
Vogel was asked in an interview with Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated about this situation, James, and how the Lakers might actually play next season. Even given the situation detailed above, Vogel sounds thrilled for the opportunity:
“I did feel support right from the start from LeBron,” Vogel said. “He’s always shown me a great deal of respect dating back to our battles when I was in Indiana and competing with the Heat in the conference finals, and coaching him in the All-Star Game. He’s always shown me a great deal of respect, so I felt like there would be a lot of support, and there was immediately and that’s continued on through up to this point. Hopefully we can work together to build something special.”
Based on what the Lakers have been saying since their offseason has been wrapped up, that “something special” Vogel mentions is probably a title run. This is definitely the roster for such competition, and the league is set up for upwards of eight teams to have a legit shot at the Larry O’Brien trophy.
Some hints as to how the Lakers will play have been dropped just by how the roster has come together, but Vogel says he isn’t quite ready to go into full detail yet — though he didn’t exactly pull punches when talking about the coach he’s replacing.
“The style of play is an important piece of this,” Vogel said. “I actually did not disagree with a lot of the things that Luke Walton did stylistically in terms of playing with pace, really attacking the basket and being the one of the leading free throws shooting teams. And they worked hard on the defensive end. But to me it was about putting LeBron James in positions to try to play with space the way Giannis Antetokounmpo did with Brook Lopez being added as a three-point shooter, with what Kawhi Leonard was able to have in Toronto with Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka at the center position.”
BREAKING: Frank Vogel hates Luke Walton; thinks he sucks and should feel bad (Editor’s Note: Vogel did not actually say this, although that does indeed seem to be a thinly veiled critique).
In all seriousness, expect the Lakers to run far less, but be more efficient when they do run. As Vogel points out, unless JaVale McGee is on the court, whoever is playing the five will be expected to space the floor, so DeMarcus Cousins regaining his shooting form from two years ago will be a must. Even Davis (maybe even especially Davis) will have to improve on his shooting from deep, if Vogel’s idea for spacing is to come to fruition.
More important than any x’s and o’s aspect of Vogel’s coaching ability, though, will be how he handles the locker room. What is best for the team won’t always be the most popular move among the stars (LeBron playing the four, Davis playing the five, Rajon Rondo never playing ever, etc.), so how Vogel manages those egos is going to be absolutely vital to the Lakers’ success.
Thus far, though, he’s said all the right things and maintained the kind of positivity that can get him through the tougher times. Even while Jason Kidd sharpens knives in the shadows, so long as Vogel wins, he’ll (probably) keep his job.