EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Frank Vogel wasn’t the Los Angeles Lakers’ first choice to become the 27th head coach in the history of the franchise. That isn’t even really heresy, as it was widely reported that Tyronn Lue was set to be the hire, and the two sides were far enough down the road that Lue even celebrated his birthday with a Lakers cake.
Give Lue’s history with Lakers star LeBron James, most assumed that the latter probably wasn’t thrilled that hire didn’t work out, but to hear James himself tell it after the Lakers’ third practice of training camp on Monday, he actually was hands-off when it came to the coaching search.
“I pretty much let the people upstairs handle everything that needs to be done with the ball club. I trust in them and they trust in me,” James said. “We’re set up with a great coach. I look forward to working with Coach Vogel and his coaching staff. It’s been a great couple of days so far and I look forward to it getting better and better.”
So for those of you in the “when do we get the first ‘does LeBron have issues with Frank Vogel???’ headline” pool that picked “day three of training camp,” you’re out of luck. That was probably an overly ambitious bet, if we’re being honest.
In all seriousness, though, James’ endorsement of Vogel is a small thing, but a positive development for the franchise in a week that’s also seen him give a full-throated endorsement of the front office at the team’s Media Day. James mostly side-stepped similar questions about his relationship with Luke Walton last year, usually opting to just list a fact — like Walton being the coach of the team or something — or to say that they hadn’t been together very long rather than explicitly endorse him.
Things have been different this year, as James has gone out of his way to make it clear he’s fully invested in the Lakers, from his praise for the team and its decision makers, to cutting off further questions about SB 206 at practice because he said he didn’t want it to distract from the fact that he was at Lakers training camp.
“We’re here at the Lakers facility,” James said. “I don’t want to take away from being here now. This is the season, this is the Lakers.”
Now, is that a response to the popular internet perception that James isn’t fully bought in to being a Laker? Possibly, but does it really matter? Perception often becomes reality for reason, and the reality right now is that James is saying all the right things about being invested in this team, which is exactly what the Lakers (and their fans) should want to hear after James’ first season in purple and gold didn’t exactly go according to plan.
But getting back to James and Vogel’s burgeoning relationship, James was also asked about what he wants out of coach at this stage of his career, and he said that he doesn’t necessarily have different expectations of a coach than anyone else on the roster would have.
”I don’t think it’s personal,” James said. “We all want a coach that holds us accountable and puts us in a position to win. It’s not what LeBron wants with a coach. It’s never just about me. It’s about the whole team and how we can all be as great as we can be.”
The whole team will be a lot better with James and Vogel on the same page, something that seemingly never really happened with Walton last year. So far James is saying all the right things to indicate they are, and that’s great news for the Lakers.
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.