The Los Angeles Lakers have spent the vast majority of the season down by double digits, and it certainly seems like that has literally been the case since the All Star Break, a time that everyone hoped would to used to recharge and make one final postseason push.
Instead, everyone involved is clearly checked out and there just aren’t many levels left to pull. The last meaningful option is firing Frank Vogel, but would it actually accomplish anything?
This week in “The Lakers Lounge,” Harrison Faigen and I discussed just that.
Ironically, he and I have actually switched in our stances now compared to earlier in the season. Harrison has been pretty hard on Vogel this year, pointing to rigidity in coaching style and rotations. To be absolutely clear, Vogel hasn’t been good. I think it’s been easily his worst season as a Lakers coach and it might honestly be as bad as he’s ever been as an NBA head coach.
Earlier in the season, though, firing Vogel would’ve been scapegoating him for the mistakes the front office made last summer. Now, though, with the season all but lost, there are a few reasons to pull the trigger.
First, he’s gonna get canned at the end of the year anyway. We knew this back when they announced his extension, a halfhearted commitment that signaled they had no confidence in him.
Second, it’s clear he’s lost the locker room both in terms of energy and in terms of execution. LeBron James’ words after Thursday’s loss were particularly stinging:
LeBron James cites that "we're a Frank Vogel team so it's defense first" before talking about the defense— Jacob Rude (@JacobRude) March 4, 2022
"It's been challenging for us this year defensively...We've lost a lot of games because our defense has broken down."
Even if you don’t consider it a direct shot at Vogel, it certainly isn’t a vote of confidence, either.
Lastly, the Lakers have a coach in Phil Handy who everyone seems to like and respect, and, while this obviously would be a pretty brutal situation to be a head coach for the first time, well, there’s nothing really to lose here. If the Lakers continue to look as listless as they have of late, no one can really hold it against Handy. But if they start playing with a little more energy (read: any effing energy whatsoever), then Handy gets a nice little momentum heading into a season where his name will surely be involved in the coaching search we all know is coming anyway.
Look, this isn’t me saying Vogel is the problem. It’s me saying it’s clear as day he isn’t the solution. He’s been bad by his standards, and while there is context to that performance, the truth is the players and front office obviously doesn’t have any faith in him. As unfair as it actually is, it’s too late to change the players here, and that leaves letting Vogel go as the only move that can be made.
In all likelihood, by the way, this team will continue to suck because, well, the team isn’t good and the involved players don’t appear to care all that much. But making this move doesn’t lose you anything, as the Lakers have clearly been preparing to fire him at season’s end anyway.
Harrison and I spoke about this, the latest of my tweets that riled up a bunch of people, and that eventually led to a conversation about James’ interest in playing in Cleveland.
And for a short-form recap pod, check out Lakers Lowdown, in which Anthony Irwin recaps the previous day’s news and gets you ready for the day ahead in LakerLand, every weekday morning on the Silver Screen & Roll Podcast feed.