Over the last month or so, Frank Vogel has been asked at least twice a week by various reporters who don’t show up to every Lakers zoom availability if his team is about where he thought it would be a quarter of the way through the season. Nearly every time, his answer is patient but almost always the same: He can’t say, because he wasn’t sure what to expect.
“I wasn’t sure what the short amount of time would mean,” Vogel said after getting one of those boiler-plate queries. “Would that cost us some games early? It hasn’t had a major impact on our guys (though), so I’m happy about that.”
As is usual, his star Anthony Davis was a bit more unfiltered and candid when Mike D. Sykes II of For The Win asked him if he was surprised the season started so soon, and how the team has done so far.
Yeah, we were definitely shocked. We didn’t think we were going to be starting that soon. I think there was a stat that the rest of the league had a crazy amount of time off and we only had 70 days. I think it was like 250 to, like, 71 or something like that. It was a crazy turnaround.
Due to that short turnaround, Davis said that Vogel has been careful about letting him and other members of the team ramp up slowly as the Lakers begin the season. But Davis also revealed to Sykes that Vogel had a message for the team, right at the start of training camp.
He knew the defending champs would have a target on their back, and told them to be ready:
In our first meeting, coach [Frank Vogel] told us that no one was going to feel sorry for us. So we weren’t going to feel sorry for ourselves. We were going to go out, while we were still trying to manage our bodies and make sure we’re not overdoing it so early, we’re still going to win ballgames. And we’ve been able to do that. We’ve made sure guys are staying healthy and getting the proper rest while trying to compete at a high level. It’s been good for us. It’s been a great balance for our team.
I think bringing in Dennis [Schröder] and bringing in Trez [Montrezl Harrell] and Wes [Matthews], guys who didn’t play into October, they’re coming in and giving us that spark. So it’s been great. It’s been good for us. But, nah, we don’t want to make no excuses. We’ve got to go out there and play. The season started when it started. We’ve just got to go out and compete.
They have done that so far. They’ve had their share of miscues and lulls in effort and energy, but it’s hard to complain too much when they’re 15-6, only recently dropping from first to third in the Western Conference.
Do they have room to be better? Certainly, but they’re also more than aware of that fact, and coming off of a turnaround that was so short that the players themselves didn’t even expect it, taking an even-keeled approach and playing things safe is probably the right way to go.
The Lakers will always have a target on their backs by virtue of opposing teams knowing that more media and fans will watch those games. That goes doubly so when they’re the defending champs and other teams smell blood in the water due to the short turnaround. But from Vogel on down, this team appears to understand all of that, and be managing it as well as could reasonably be expected. That’s really all any of us can ask for during this strange season.