Frank Vogel: Lakers Trying To ‘Lighten Load’ For LeBron James
LeBron James
Adam Pantozzi-NBAE

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel faced a real head-scratcher when issues started piling up only a few weeks before the 2020-21 season reached its halfway mark.

L.A. already struggled to develop on-floor chemistry due to limited practice time caused by coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions. Anthony Davis’ Achilles and calf injuries threw another wrench — as did Dennis Schroder’s seven-day quarantine that blindsided the Lakers hours before the blockbuster clash with the Brooklyn Nets.

The subsequent blows not only resulted in a four-game losing streak but also heavily extended LeBron James’ time on the court. The 36-year-old All-Star has averaged 37.2 minutes per game in February, fourth-most in the NBA.

James recently came out saying he was upset with the “narrative” regarding the extra rest he allegedly should be given — even though Vogel admitted the team would continue evaluating a potential night off for him.

In the meantime, Vogel has been trying to assist James in other ways, most recently by designating another ballhandler on the floor alongside him. “I think in both of these two games [win over Portland and loss to Washington], that’s something we’re trying to get accomplished where ‘Bron doesn’t have to do as much within his minutes,” he said.

“That he can play off the ball more, we wanted him to play in the post a little bit more tonight, and have either Alex or Dennis — and Talen at times — initiating the offense, just lightening that load a little bit. I thought it paid dividends.”

To address other lingering issues, the Lakers have made a couple of personnel moves waiving guard Quinn Cook and signing big man Damian Jones to a 10-day contract.

Vogel explains waiving Cook

Vogel’s aptitude for tinkering with the rotation is well-known and worked wonders in the 2020 NBA Playoffs. Similarly, Cook’s departure suggests the front office recognized the team’s shortcomings and decided to fix them right away.

Waiving the guard gave L.A. some leeway under the hard cap and allowed the Lakers to sign another center in Jones. Vogel explained the abundance of guards on the roster was the only reason behind L.A. parting ways with Cook, who the coach held in high regard. “First of all, he’s a heck of a basketball player,” he said.

“We have depth at that position, so that’s the only reason he wasn’t getting in.”

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