In his first season as the Los Angeles Lakers head coach, Frank Vogel helped to lead the team to a 52-19 record.
That was good enough for the Western Conference’s No. 1 seed in the Lakers first playoff appearance since 2013. What’s even more impressive is all that the Lakers — and most of the league — went through to reach the 2020 NBA Playoffs.
The Lakers’ unprecedented season began with the NBA’s controversy with China happening while they were in China for preseason games. They then had to face the tragic loss of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna Bryant, and seven others in a helicopter crash in January.
Finally, a global pandemic stopped the season as they were playing their best basketball. “We’ve been through a lot this year, but really all of it is just a buildup to us,” Vogel said.
“Whether we finish one, two, three, doesn’t really matter. It just matters what we’ve been able to build from a habits and performance standpoint going into the playoffs. We’re here, we’re excited about it and confident in what we can accomplish.”
Looking back on what has happened since October, Vogel is proud of the perseverance of the group and is hopeful it can take them far.
“No one could have foreseen the way this year was going to play out. It was full of challenges, but adversity strengthens you,” he said. “It gives you an opportunity for your group to come together, and I feel like our group is very tied together and confident in what we can accomplish. Hopefully we can persevere through all that stuff and go on a heck of a run.”
Perhaps all the Lakers have dealt with has allowed them to bond in a way that other teams simply didn’t. If so, that chemistry can help will L.A. through the postseason, and great basketball can attempt to bring the Lakers their first championship since 2010.
Vogel feels team got what they needed from scrimmages and seeding games
All 22 teams in the bubble were able to play 11 games — three scrimmages and eight seeding games — before the beginning of the playoffs. Vogel believes the Lakers got to where they need to be, even if he wishes they had more time.
“As a coach you always want more time to get more of your stuff tightened up and more guys to get opportunities to get familiar with the system and each other,” he said. “There’s a continuity element with a core group that’s been together with a coaching staff, you have a little bit of an advantage.
“For us, we’re all new to each other this year. I always feel like there’s more we can get accomplished and improve upon, but with the circumstances of the pandemic and restarting in a bubble and all those types of things, I think this was an appropriate amount of games to get ready.”
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