Head coach Frank Vogel has been one of the leading defensive specialists in the NBA for years, raising even more questions over the 2021-22 Los Angeles Lakers’ defensive capability.
After L.A.’s defense played a major part in the 2019-20 championship and ranked No. 1 in the league the following season, it has fallen to 18th in the league during the current campaign. The Lakers allow 112.3 points per 100 possessions, the worst defensive rating of Vogel’s career.
Even when his Orlando Magic finished near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings between 2016-2018, they didn’t leak points as much as the Lakers do in 2021-22.
Vogel admitted to this year’s struggles on defense needing him to keep his ego in check. “It’s not been fun,” he said.
“You have to put some of your own ego aside at times. If an offensive lineup is what you feel like is gonna help you win the most games, you have to put that aside and you have to go with it. I’ve done that a lot this year, it hasn’t resulted in enough wins and it’s been very disappointing some of the defensive performances we’ve put out.”
Vogel added any Lakers success this season will require the offense to lead the way and make up for the defensive insufficiencies of the team.
“[Y]ou have to make the pieces fit offensively for us to win, the goal is to perform well enough on both sides to score more points than the other team, it’s not just to be a great defensive team,” he said.
“So I’ve had to remove some of that and that’s just part of this job and we’re up for the challenge. We still have a lot of life left and we’ve found plenty of ways that will not work. But that doesn’t mean we haven’t found the one that will work yet so we’re gonna continue to stay to the grind and continue to point out that what we’re doing defensively is not enough and that falls on our whole group.
“It’s my responsibility to put enough defenders out there, enough size out there but also our guys carrying their own weight in terms of what their assignments are defensively.”
Vogel: Lakers’ better players have to do ‘the dirty work’ themselves
The difference between a loss and a win has often boiled down to effort for the Lakers this season. Vogel said L.A. has hustlers on the roster, allowing the team’s stars to take an occasional “shortcut.” But the head coach said that overall, everyone needs to do the dirty work if the Purple and Gold were to turn things around.
“I think you have to stay on top of everyone,” Vogel said. “We have a group put together this year that some of our better players have had dirty work guys around them, so they’ve been able to shortcut some things here and there. But when you have a collection of them together, they have to do the dirty work things themselves and they haven’t always done that as consistently as they can.
“It’s just something we’re challenging our guys throughout the year.”
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