Frank Vogel: Small-Ball Lineup With Trevor Ariza As Main Wing Defender Was Lakers’ Vision For 2021-22
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers have had to improvise in the early weeks of the 2021-22 campaign due to the injury wave that hit the team in the preseason.

Injuries ruled out Kendrick Nunn, Talen Horton-Tucker, Wayne Ellington and — perhaps most importantly — Trevor Ariza before the season even started, prompting head coach Frank Vogel to change the game plan he had envisioned for L.A.

The Lakers started the campaign with a starting unit including DeAndre Jordan even though Anthony Davis was expected to play heavy minutes as center in 2021-22. But the small-ball lineup quickly proved to be vulnerable on the defensive end amid Ariza’s absence, one of the few 3-and-D players on the roster.

Vogel has admitted the veteran’s unavailability contributed to adjustments in L.A.’s vision for the team early on.

“I don’t know exactly how much you have talked about him, but to have AD at the five, Bron playing along another 6’8″, 6’9” defensive wing is the vision that we had with this team,” the head coach said.

“So not having him in the mix and being smaller if we want to put AD at the five, or not have enough spacing if we play with AD at the four, has been one of our challenges really in this season. There’s no other way to look at it. So we’re all eager for him to get back, we don’t want to put a lot of pressure on him, we still got to win games whether he’s in or he’s out.

“There’s gonna be guys in and out, but that’s been a big factor in the early part of our season.”

Ariza recently took part in his first full scrimmage since undergoing surgery on the injured ankle. Although he didn’t feel pain during the drills, Vogel said the forward would take time to regain the necessary strength before he can make his return.

Vogel not concerned about his job security

With a 13-12 record, the Lakers occupied the sixth spot in the Western Conference after the 117-102 victory over the Boston Celtics. But despite the underwhelming first quarter of the current campaign — and certain rumors suggesting his future in Los Angeles was uncertain — Vogel said he wasn’t concerned about his job status.

The head coach added he hasn’t talked about his future at Staples Center with the franchise’s management.

“No, we haven’t discussed it,” Vogel said.

“We’re focused on the job. We stay in the moment and focus on the task at hand, trying to win the next game, trying to get some momentum around our season.”

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