Roster depth has proven to be both a blessing and a curse for the Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel during the 2020-21 season.
L.A. boasts one of the best records in the NBA thanks to the abundance of lineup options at Vogel’s disposal. It allowed the Lakers to grind out victories even despite the absence of their stars such as Anthony Davis and Alex Caruso.
However, with so many valuable assets on the roster, striking a balance between prioritizing the team’s interests and taking care of individual players often causes a headache for Vogel. Broad rotations slowed down the development of chemistry between players particularly as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic severely limited practice time.
Veterans Wes Matthews and Markieff Morris recently fell victim to the Lakers’ wealth problem and found themselves out of the rotation, allowing other teammates to spend more time on the floor in search of in-game rhythm. Morris acknowledged his situation was “tough” but added he would stay ready in case the coach calls him out from the bench.
And Vogel praised the unselfish forward for handling the temporary demotion “like a true pro,” adding that his disappointment is justified. “He’s one of our most important players, but we just have a unique team built around a lot of depth and it’s just the situation we’re in,” Vogel added.
“But I admire the hell out of the guy. There’s no one that exemplifies the way I want to play as much as Markieff Morris in terms of the toughness, physicality, and attitude that comes along with that. And he’s got a great skillset.”
Morris proved his value in the 2020 NBA Playoffs, often making a difference off the bench as the Lakers cruised to the title in the Orlando bubble. The 31-year-old shot team-best 42% from downtown and provided Vogel with lineup flexibility he heavily relied on from one series to another.
“We’ve just got to manage this throughout the course of the season, keep everybody lifted, keep everybody, and have as many weapons at our disposal come playoff time,” Vogel said. “He’s been terrific in terms of being disappointed but staying ready.”
Vogel satisfied with Kuzma’s embrace of new role
Kyle Kuzma was one of the players who saw their role grow in recent weeks as Vogel tightened his rotation. And the 25-year-old forward repaid the trust with several encouraging performances, providing the Lakers with a major boost on the glass.
Kuzma created several second-chance opportunities for L.A. with offensive rebounds and made a number of defensive stops with flashy chase-down blocks.
Vogel praised the Utah product for embracing his new role. “It’s just a testament to understanding there’s many ways you can impact the game without scoring, and what he’s doing on the glass is one of them,” he said.
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, exclusive coverage from events, participate in live shows, and more!