While 16 teams are still fighting for a chance at the 2021-22 NBA Championship, the biggest hurdle the Los Angeles Lakers need to overcome is themselves. A series of shortsighted moves and acquisitions led the Lakers to their most disappointing season in years, yet former head coach Frank Vogel came under fire for almost all of the team’s grievances.
Rumors about Vogel’s removal from the team surfaced long before the season was over, and the Lakers’ front office somehow fumbled a highly anticipated move by remaining silent on these speculations. Vogel, who had coached the Lakers to a championship two years ago with his defense-first approach, was left uncertain about his future with the team up until the very last day of the regular season.
While Vogel may not have been popular with everyone on the team, he was credited during his time for giving younger guys a chance. Lakers fans saw multiple lineups throughout the season, with starts from players like Malik Monk and Austin Reaves.
Monk played almost every game this year after Vogel made the move to bring him onto the team in the offseason. He averaged 13.4 points per game and hit career-highs in rebounds, assists and steals. Monk was feeling grateful for his now-former coach after his career-high 41 points in the Lakers’ last game against the Denver Nuggets.
“I love the man. He gave me a chance,” Monk said. “Like I said, this is the only team that called me in the offseason and really gave me a chance. I talked to Frank and Rob, so yeah, I have nothing bad to say about him. All praise goes to him because if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have a chance to play basketball. I probably wouldn’t be here, so kudos to Frank.”
Monk was one of the best parts of a dark Lakers season, as the guard immediately provided valuable playmaking abilities the team was sorely lacking and was one of the few consistent shooters. He is likely to receive hefty contract offers from a number of teams in the offseason, and just may be influenced by the way the Lakers’ office handled Vogel’s departure.
Toward the end of the season, Monk says Vogel kept his mind on the court rather than his own problems.
“He kept his cool the whole time,” Monk said. “He didn’t talk about no problems like that, didn’t talk about anything like that. He came in and worked and always gave us a great game plan before games. He was always about us, it was never really about him. I praise him for that, I know that was pretty hard on him. But yeah, he never talked about it, never changed his demeanor, stayed cool. Kudos to Frank.”
Reaves says he is glad Lakers closed with win for Vogel
Vogel also took a chance on the undrafted rookie, Reaves, whose confident shooting and hustle on defense quickly made him a fan favorite.
“It’s basically the same thing,” Reaves said. “He gave me a chance. Undrafted, threw me in the rotation early, showed that he had faith in me so like Malik said, nothing but praise for him, appreciate him and hope the best for his career moving forward.”
He will have to prove himself for another season with the Purple and Gold, but his last performance against the Nuggets, where he scored 31 points along with 16 rebounds and 10 assists has him off to a good start.
“It’s good to go out with a big win for him,” Reaves said. “Our team struggled all year, didn’t have the success that we wanted, but last game of the year, we all came and competed, left everything out on the line for Coach [Vogel] and the coaching staff and every player.”
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