Frank Vogel often carries himself like a Bizarro version of Chicken Little. Rather than crowing about the sky falling, the Lakers coach is often insistent that the open air above our heads is very stable, and that everything is going to be fine. Over two-plus years with the team, this has been Vogel’s de-facto disposition, regardless of what is going on around him. Whether Magic Johnson is blasting the organization on First Take the morning of his hiring, or if the team is one game away from a title, Vogel has the perpetually steady and upbeat air of a true believer.
Sometimes his faith has been correct, most prominently during the team’s 2020 title run. Other times it’s looked foolish in retrospect, like the team’s injury-riddled and ultimately disastrous title defense the following season. But if there is one thing no one can ever accuse Vogel of, it’s wavering in his belief that the Lakers will be great.
So when Nick Hamilton of Nitecast Media asked Vogel how dangerous this year’s team will be, the coach’s answer was no surprise:
“As dangerous as any team in the league. We’ve got a lot of firepower, a lot of guys really motivated to have the right skillsets to win it all, and it’s going to be about putting in the work throughout the course of the season... I think we’ve got a great chance.”
But more than that, Vogel has noticed that others don’t feel quite as confident in this roster as he does. The Lakers — for as much as we’ll all surely joke about their underdog status at each sign of suspicion about them — are hardly some plucky overachiever based on the talent on their roster. This is a very good team, and one who has the second-best odds to win the championship with most oddsmakers.
Still, the jokes about the team’s age and actual doubts about their ability to space the floor around Russell Westbrook while maintaining their prior level of defense have flown freely this summer. Sports Illustrated gave their offseason a C-, Bleacher Report gave it a B+, and The Athletic gave their trade for Westbrook a B. So while no one seems to think the Lakers are going to be bad, some analysts aren’t sure their ceiling is as high as the consensus.
From the sound of Vogel’s answer later in his talk with Hamilton, it sounds like he’s heard the lack of certainty:
“I’m excited that teams are counting us out or betting against us. Our team is highly motivated, and we really suffered last year by not having an offseason or the proper build up to training camp... Obviously it resulted in a lot of injuries, and I’m excited to see what this group can do with a full training camp.”
Is some of this LeBron-esque manufacturing of a slight from Vogel? Probably. Next he’ll be calling himself the #WashedCoach. But will the slightly contrived nature of the pushback from a competitor looking for motivation stop us from bringing back the “We Believe Lakers” bit this season? Absolutely not.
With this quote, the scrappy, nobody-believes-in-us Lakers are officially back for one more attempt at proving the doubters wrong. Vogel’s faith has been rewarded once before. It’s hard to blame him for finding reasons to believe again.
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.