2. Coach Frank Vogel
Anytime a team wins, supporters naturally praise its players. But when that team underperforms, the knee-jerk reaction of its fans is to blame the coach. So when the Lakers didn’t explode out of the gates this season, couch coaches screamed that Frank Vogel should be fired.
How quickly they forget. Just 13 months ago, Vogel coached the Lakers to their 17th title in the Orlando bubble and was widely and properly praised for his performance on the bench.
Yes, the team relied heavily on stars James and Davis. But that’s true of any championship team. Would Phil Jackson have won 11 titles without the accomplishments of guys like Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol? Of course not.
In the 2020 playoffs, Vogel made all the right adjustments to his player rotation. He stayed big when the matchups favored it and went small when that was a better way to go. He did a masterful job with his rotation, putting the team in the best possible position to win, which is exactly what the best coaches do.
This season, it is absolutely absurd to believe that Frank is the biggest reason that the Lakers have started slowly. With a roster full of new players and so many of them sidelined by injury, Vogel has had to experiment almost nightly to find what combinations work.
Yes, his rotations have varied game to game. Sometimes they’ve been successful, other times they haven’t. It’s natural for fans to shout at their TVs to put in Player X or take out Player Y. But Vogel is also looking at the bigger picture beyond any one game in November.
One of the biggest criticisms of Vogel is that the Lakers defense so far has fallen well short of his usual standards. The #1 reason for that is trying to incorporate so many new players into his defensive scheme. Team defense requires repetitions together and takes time to develop. It is also not easy to get older veterans to adapt to new concepts.
The Lakers have a deep but flawed roster from which Vogel can choose. He is still finding out which players to use in particular situations to win games not only now but also in more meaningful contests later in the season. This process will continue as players return from injury.
Fans should realize that the Lakers are fortunate to have Frank Vogel as coach. In the history of the Lakers franchise in LA, he is arguably the third or fourth-best coach behind Jackson, Pat Riley and possibly Bill Sharman.
The chances are very good that Vogel will have the team playing better, especially on the defensive end, as the season progresses. Fortunately, he seems to have the full support of the front office and the team’s star players, who understand that patience is needed.