Last season, the Los Angeles Lakers missed the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season, rivaling the team’s longest playoff drought by four years. Next season — with two perennial All-Stars in LeBron James and Anthony Davis — they’ll be expected to not only end their playoff drought, but contend for a title as well.
Those may seem like lofty expectations for a team with a new head coach and nine new players, but Frank Vogel told Steve Aschburner of NBA.com that he believes his team has the potential to make a deep run in the postseason as long as they take the time to “learn each other”:
SA: You faced big expectations before, especially in Indiana. But what you’re looking at now in L.A. are enormous expectations, coming from tradition, from passion and maybe from an impatience that’s unrealistic. Are you prepared for that?
FV: We have the pieces to compete for a championship. To have expectations that it’s all going to come together immediately might be reaching a little bit. I’m sure we’ll have some bumps in the road. But hopefully as these guys gel … we have a number of guys with terrific resumes, but they have to learn each other. And they’ll have to learn each other quickly. Then we’ll be in the mix for the regular season and positioning ourselves for a playoff run. You just never know how quickly that process is going to play out. So hopefully, whatever the regular season looks like, by the time you get into the playoffs you’re gelling at the right time and playing your best basketball.
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard someone from the Lakers has preached camaraderie in the locker room. Last month, Danny Green, who won a championship with the Toronto Raptors in June, stressed the importance of chemistry on a championship-conteding team.
”Just getting to know each other off the court. Preseason. Going to camp, being in a different atmosphere, sharing a locker room, seeing where guys come from and what experiences they’ve had on other teams,” Green said. “Once you get to know each other, then you’re more comfortable with each other on the court. And obviously following the coach’s lead and doing the little things he asks us to do, whether it’s defensive rotations or going through drills, or just buying in. But we’ve got to get to know each other first, I think that’s most important, first and foremost.”
Luckily, the Lakers have a few players that are already familiar with each other like Rajon Rondo and Anthony Davis, who spent some time together with the New Orleans Pelicans just over a year ago, and Quinn Cook and JaVale McGee, who won a championship together with the Golden State Warriors in 2018. It’s also worth noting that the team’s two superstars, James and Davis, share the same agent.
The biggest bond that has yet to be formed is the one between Vogel and his team. While Vogel has been in the league for nearly two decades, he’s never had the chance to coach any of the players on the Lakers’ roster. As if that wasn’t already daunting, one of the players he’s going to be tasked with coaching is James.
Hopefully Vogel gets James and the Lakers to buy into what he’s selling, or it could be another long season.