Despite the team continuing to struggle around the .500 mark on the season and recent reports that his job may be in jeopardy, Frank Vogel may not be in quite as much peril as it seemed last week.
On Monday, Dave McMenamin of ESPN — one of the most reliable insiders when it comes to the Lakers — reported that Vogel will likely see out the season as head coach (h/t Ralph Mason on Twitter):
“(The Lakers) had an off night against the Pacers, kind of been up and down since; beat the Magic, lose to the Heat. But it’s my understanding that the Lakers are moving forward with Frank Vogel. I anticipate him to be the head coach for the remainder of the season.”
Ramona Shelburne of ESPN confirmed as much in her big story on the Lakers’ Westbrook experiment on Tuesday morning as well:
A series of listless losses throughout the season have put the onus on Vogel at several points, most recently last week when the team contemplated whether a midseason change could jump-start the team. Ultimately, the Lakers decided against replacing Vogel, for the time being at least, multiple sources said, because no one believes changing the coach will yield dramatically different results.
A number of things could factor into the decision to keep Vogel around. For one, no matter how many faults Vogel has, no coach was going to succeed given the hand Vogel has been dealt on the injury front this season. Past the midway point of the year, Anthony Davis, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook have played together just 291 minutes this season.
Comparatively, Utah’s trio of Donovan Mitchell, Royce O’Neale and Bojan Bogdanovic lead the league in minutes played by a 3-man grouping at 1,075 minutes. Simply put, Vogel hasn’t had his best players available simultaneously this year for any prolonged stretch of games. Quibble with some of how he’s handled them all you want, but these have not been ideal circumstances.
In that vein, Davis’ impending return likely helps Vogel as well, as it would be brutally unfair to fire him this close to the team getting close to full health. While Kendrick Nunn is not nearly as close to returning, the Lakers are almost as healthy as they have been all season.
At this point in the year, it would be hard for the Lakers to rebound from firing a head coach as well. No matter how bad the team may be performing present-day, transitioning to a new style under a new head coach would include a learning period that the Lakers can’t afford to have as they are battling to stay out of the play-in game already.
This certainly doesn’t mean Vogel’s job will be safe in the offseason, but a very similar situation played out in Milwaukee last season when Mike Budenholzer looked to be on his way out the door if not for Kevin Durant’s foot being on the line in Game 7 of their playoff match-up with the Nets. Instead, that game went to overtime, the Bucks won the title and Budenholzer got a multi-year extension. Things can change rapidly around the NBA and just because a coach is on the hot seat does not mean his team can not succeed and fortunes can’t be turned around.
But right now, even if Vogel’s job appears safe for the short-term, it’s going to take a miracle akin to Durant’s foot being on the line to save him in the long-term. The whole season had made that much clear, even in the wake of this report.
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