The Los Angeles Lakers have had an underwhelming first quarter of the 2021-22 season, reportedly putting head coach Frank Vogel’s job security into question.
L.A. occupies the eighth spot in the Western Conference standings with a 12-12 record, sitting at the .500 line together with the Denver Nuggets, Dallas Mavericks and L.A. Clippers. The Lakers own the 23rd offense in the NBA with a 107.1 offensive rating.
But they rank 16th in defensive rating (108.8) despite some abysmal performances from the team on that end of the floor this year.
The Lakers’ worrisome defense has become a major talking point, especially considering Vogel’s reputation as a top defensive-minded coach. Even though questionable effort from the players have often contributed to L.A.’s inability to make stops this year, Vogel’s tactics and personnel decisions have drawn plenty of criticism since the current campaign’s tip-off.
But LeBron James says neither the coach nor the players allow the adversity to get into their heads.
“I think criticism comes with the job, you know?” the four-time NBA champion said. “Frank is a strong-minded guy. He has a great coaching staff, and we as his players need to do a better job of going out and producing on the floor. So, we’re a team and an organization that don’t mind some adversity, that don’t mind people saying things about us, obviously, because it comes with the territory.
“And we have a lot of guys on this team that have been bulletin board material for quite a long time, so it don’t quite bother us. So everything that we do stays in house when it comes to our preparation and how we prepare for our next opponent and how we prepare to get better. Frank doesn’t care and we don’t either about what people are saying.”
Vogel himself has downplayed the significance of the pressure he has been subjected to — even if he has faced more scrutiny than others due to working in one of the NBA’s biggest markets.
“There’s going to be criticism with this job,” Vogel said.
“That’s something that we’re all accustomed to. I’ve been a head coach for 10 years. I’ve seen it all. So, is it more national? Yes, it’s more national. Is there a bigger fanbase in this market in L.A.? Yes, there is. But it’s been there for every head coach and something I’m not unfamiliar with.”
Vogel ‘trusts’ Lakers’ rotations despite defensive mistakes against Clippers
The major roster overhaul in the offseason combined with the many injuries the Lakers have suffered forced Vogel to experiment with different schemes and lineups throughout the 2021-22 campaign.
That inevitably led to some in-game errors, most recently when the Lakers fell 119-115 to the L.A. Clippers last Friday — allowing the rivals to smother their comeback rally with multiple dagger 3s late in the game.
But all in all, Vogel thinks the Lakers’ defense functioned well despite the errors they committed in crunch time.
“We trust our rotations,” the Lakers head coach said. “We feel really good about our ability to get the ball out of somebody like Paul [George]’s hands and scramble around the perimeter and get to their shooters. We were just a step late. We had one breakdown where we left Luke [Kennard] open in the corner and a couple others where AD got a great contest on guys.
“They made tough shots, but we trust our rotations in those situations.”
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