LOS ANGELES –
The Los Angeles Lakers fired Frank Vogel on Monday, picking their championship-winning head coach for the first season of one of the most disappointing seasons in NBA history.
Los Angeles is completely out of shape this season, finishing 33-49 and missing the Western Conference 10-team knockout round in a humiliating end to a year that began with LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and a long-awaited veteran support cast are in the running for another championship.
Vogel was fired exactly 18 months after he led the Lakers to the franchise’s 17th title in his first season in charge. Almost nothing went smoothly for the next two seasons for a squad assembled by general manager Rob Pelinka and coached by Vogel, who clocked in at 127-98 in three seasons running the club. He has a contract until the end of next season.
“Frank is a great coach and a good man,” Pelinka said in a statement. “We will forever be grateful to him for his service in guiding us to the 2019-20 NBA championship. It was an incredibly difficult decision to make, but we felt it was necessary to come into the game. this moment.”
ESPN reported Vogel was about to be fired shortly after the Lakers ended the season by beating Denver in extra time Sunday night. In an awkward post-match press conference, Vogel admitted he had yet to be informed of the club’s decision before it was leaked to ESPN.
It was a bleak, shameful end to a tenure that started out incredibly difficult for Vogel, the former Orlando and Indiana coach. The Lakers won a title in the Florida bubble in October 2020, but failed to win another playoff round for the next two seasons.
Los Angeles never looked like a championship team this season despite trading Westbrook and signing Anthony to play alongside James and Davis. The Lakers were stumbling at near 500 until January 7, when they entered a 10-30 phase exacerbated by Davis’ most recent protracted injury absence.
Despite another impressive season from 37-year-old James, the Lakers have never repeated this season with a roster that included nine over-30s and 11 out-of-team players last season. Davis played just 40 of their 82 games, while Westbrook struggled to adapt to the Lakers’ concept of the team during one of the worst seasons of his professional career.
After lots of pre-season ballyhoo games around the James, Davis and Westbrook partnership, the trio played just 21 games together – and won 11-10. The Lakers use 41 different starting lineups.
“At the end of the day, the reason why we weren’t nice to each other was we weren’t on the damn floor together,” James said. “You never get a chance to see what the box-shadow could be.”
Despite Vogel’s public confidence in his ability to overcome injury problems and two years of assembling a high-risk squad, the coach has never offered any consistent solutions to these problems. woes of Los Angeles.
But while Vogel received a lot of criticism for his curious decisions about player rotation and lack of attacking play, the Lakers’ biggest problem in Vogel’s final two seasons was that Davis ‘wasn’t able to hold. health.
The eight-time All-Star big has dominated the bubble, but Davis has played only 76 of the Lakers’ 154 games over the past two seasons while facing some major injury problems.
James has also struggled with injuries over the past two years, making just 101 appearances. He’s only played one of the Lakers’ final eight games this season because of a sprained ankle, and Los Angeles was knocked out of the playoffs in that span even though Davis is back from a six-week absence in three late game.
James spoke to the media Monday morning before Vogel’s fate was revealed by the Lakers’ main office.
“I respect Frank as a coach, as a man,” James said. “Our partnership that we’ve had for several years here is nothing but frank and great conversations. This is a guy who gives everything for the game and prepares for it. us every night. …I don’t know what will happen to Frank here, but I have nothing but respect for him.”
Vogel was hired in May 2019 to assemble a cohesive team around James and Davis, who were officially acquired from New Orleans two months later. Vogel’s plans were an immediate success: His first team weathered the NBA coronavirus shutdown and then won a ring, with Vogel leading a deep, defensive dominant group to title.
Pelinka has completely transformed the championship roster since then, and the results have been dire. Less than a calendar year after the bubble win, only James, Davis and Talen Horton-Tucker are left on this season’s starting roster – along with Dwight Howard, who has left the team and returned.
Los Angeles went through 42-30 last season before dealing with severe injuries to Davis and James before losing to Phoenix in the first round of the playoffs.
Vogel’s dismissal is the first change after a comprehensive failure of the aging, high-risk squad and team-building strategy chosen by Pelinka, Kobe Bryant’s former agent. He took control of the Lakers’ basketball decisions following the sudden departure of Magic Johnson in 2019.
Pelinka disassembled the entire support structure of the Lakers champion supporting cast last summer, allowing Alex Caruso to move to Chicago and then swap Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma to Westbrook. Pelinka hopes to build a Big Three of elite talent to be supplemented by cheap veterans rather than homegrown Lakers.
Instead, Pelinka’s moves forced Vogel to rebuild the defense from scratch with poor defensive players. The Lakers don’t come close to the defensive success of the previous two teams, coming in at 21st in defensive ratings after being the top team in Vogel’s first two seasons, and their offensive output cannot make up for it.