With the Lakers officially eliminated from playoff contention with their loss to the Suns on Tuesday night, the offseason has begun in earnest with three games left in Los Angeles, which means that the last 24 hours have seen plenty of questions posed to figures like Frank Vogel, Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis about what comes next for this team.
We will likely get more answers to those queries over the days to come from the three of them, as well as Rob Pelinka and LeBron James — especially with exit interviews coming next week — but for now, Davis, Vogel and Westbrook have all started to sound off. And, understandably considering their varied situations, they all have slightly different takes on all of this.
Let’s take a look at the biggest headlines and quotes.
Frank Vogel knows he’s getting fired
Considering that the Lakers couldn’t even wait until the end of the season to leak that Vogel is a goner and who they want to replace him, it’s not exactly shocking that the man himself is well aware that he’s coaching his last three Lakers games.
In an exclusive sitdown Bill Oram of The Athletic, Vogel didn’t exactly push back on the idea that he's not going to be around next season, and understandably so:
Unsurprisingly, Vogel was unwilling to speculate on his future on Tuesday.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get there,” he said.
Even if he is not ready to discuss his fate, he seems to understand it.
“It’s been a win-now job for each of the three years I’ve been here,” Vogel said.
Ultimately, and most importantly, that’s the key point here. Vogel didn’t “win now.” And while that’s not entirely his fault, he’s also not blameless in it. From questionable rotation choices in games, to wasting nearly 20 games on the DeAndre Jordan experience, to not really adapting his defensive strategies to fit his personnel instead of hoping to coach a bunch of square pegs into round holes — remember the team funneling drivers towards the rim with Carmelo Anthony at center? That was fun! — Vogel has been far from flawless this year.
Still, the fact that it appears very possible that he will be the only decision-maker to bear consequences for this season — despite being the one with the least power — feels like a half-measure at best. But at this point, what’s done is done. We’ll just have to see if his replacement can better manage whatever mish-mash of parts his superiors give him.
And speaking of people getting blamed for this season...
Russell Westbrook is opting-in
I don’t think this was in very much doubt, but it sure doesn’t sound like Russell Westbrook is planning on declining his $47 million player option for next season.
However, as Jovan Buha of The Athletic added after Westbrook’s response to being asked if he wants to run things back with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, it’s still no sure thing he’ll return.
“Yeah,” Westbrook said. “I mean, that’s the plan. But nothing is promised. You kinda gotta take one day at a time, each day. And like I’ve said all season long, you gotta play the cards you’re dealt. Yes, we want to be able to see what that looks like, what that entails over the course of an 82-game season. But we’re not sure if that’s guaranteed, neither. So I just hope that we have a chance to be able to do something.”
Whether the Lakers — or, specifically, James and Davis — want Westbrook back is an entirely separate matter. All indications are that Westbrook likely will be moved this offseason and that the desire to part ways is assumably mutual.
I’d still bet on the Lakers ultimately trading Westbrook, but obviously nothing is a sure thing given how pricey the final year of his deal is and how toxic his presence was to the Lakers this year. The team having two first-rounders to use in trades this summer (their 2027 and 2029 picks) might make dealing him more possible, but given what Davis himself had to say on Tuesday, the team also may be more willing to have him return than most on the outside expect.
Anthony Davis still believes there’s a good team in here
Davis was still at a loss for words, figuring out how the Lakers squandered the opportunity.
“Our goal was to win a championship,” he said after putting up 21 points and 13 rebounds. “Feel like we had the pieces, but injuries got in the way of that. And that was the difference in the season. I think even though we lost games where all of us was on the floor — me, Bron, Russ — I think we’re three great players, but we would have figured it out if we logged more minutes together. But we weren’t able to do that, which makes it tough to be able to compete for a championship when your three best players haven’t logged enough minutes together.”
That does indeed make it tough to compete for a championship. But to compete for the playoffs? In a horrendous Western Conference where the Lakers are about to get beat out for a play-in spot by the 35-44 Pelicans and 34-45 Spurs? Not as hard as the Lakers made it seem. And they haven’t been good when they are healthy, due to a combination of bad coaching and ill-fitting parts.
As my guy Jovan wrote earlier this week, the Lakers are only 11-10 in games where AD, LeBron and Russ have all played, “a 43-win pace over an 82-game season.” Those three also produced “a minus-3.5 net rating in 393 minutes together. That’s worse than the Lakers’ overall net rating of minus-3.1.”
So... yeah. Sorry AD, I respect your optimism, but no. Maybe a healthy version of this roster makes the playoffs, but from what we’ve seen this year, it was certainly never competing for a title.
This is also true for Brooklyn, Indiana, Orlando, Sacramento, Portland, OKC and Houston. It's nothing special.— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) April 6, 2022
Lakers played 24 different players this season, which is *exactly* league avg.
Lakers were 11-10 with LeBron, AD and Russ playing and a -34. Mediocrity is the problem. https://t.co/gKi37Mxz4a
Sorry, Lakers should be 21, not 20. https://t.co/yrV0hkaLaU— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) April 6, 2022
Hopefully the team realizes that internally, even if Davis isn’t willing to admit it publicly just yet.