LOS ANGELES (AP) –Lakers coach Frank Vogel ignored widespread reports of his job insecurity on Wednesday night, saying it was all part of being in charge of a 17-time NBA champion franchise.
“In this business and with this team, if you don’t win at a very high level, you’re going to have this type of noise,” Vogel said before the Lakers hosted the Indiana Pacers. “I’m good at blocking it. I feel good about the work we are doing, and obviously we believe that the results will come. But in an 82-game season with a new squad, you’re going to have some bad nights.
Several news outlets tied to the Lakers front office reported Tuesday that Vogel’s job was in serious jeopardy after his reconfigured roster started the season 22-22. Vogel would have been on the verge of being fired had Los Angeles not responded to a searing 37-point loss to Denver last Saturday with an impressive victory over the Utah Jazz on Monday.
Vogel won a championship ring just 15 months ago when he led a deep, defensively dominant team led by LeBron James and Anthony Davis to a title in the Florida bubble. General manager Rob Pelinka has gutted that championship roster in the 13 months since the start of last season, with only James, Davis and Talen Horton-Tucker remaining.
Vogel is 116-69 in his 2 1/2 seasons since taking over the Lakers in May 2019, but the former Orlando and Indiana boss knows the only thing that matters in Hollywood , this is what comes next. With his injury-plagued roster finally close to full health, Vogel said he’s confident Los Angeles can still become a title contender.
Vogel said he met with Lakers executives after the loss to Denver and again after the win over Utah, as he does after every game.
“I don’t feel like I’m under siege,” Vogel said. “It’s not difficult to do my job. I am very focused on the task at hand. I’ve always been like that. It’s really not up to me whether it’s fair or not. It comes with the territory. That comes from being the coach of the Lakers. We have high expectations. This fanbase really cares. It’s a big market. I wouldn’t want it any other way, to be honest with you. I want people to care. I want people to want the best and command excellence from our group. This is what we order ourselves.
These Lakers have been extremely inconsistent, alternating nights of excellence with many other nights of incompetence and inconsistency. With nine players over 30 and 11 current starters who weren’t on the team last season, Los Angeles has hovered around .500 all year, never getting more than three games over the Brand.
Since mid-December alone, the Lakers have enjoyed a three-game winning streak followed by a five-game losing streak, and a four-game winning streak followed by a three-game skid that ended in victory from Los Angeles on the Jazz. Vogel pointed to this defensive performance as proof that his plans can still work.
“It was a lesson in what we can be,” Vogel said. “We have the capacity. We took the league’s No. 1 offense and held them to 96 points because we were extremely focused and played with effort and tenacity. … We have to do it every night and we are going to form the habits necessary to win a championship.
If Vogel can keep his job until the Lakers are fully healthy, they might finally find out if he’s right.
Davis, oft-injured, has missed 14 games since Dec. 17 with a left knee sprain, and only recently returned to field duty. James has missed 11 games with various ailments, and major COVID-19 setbacks have plagued the Lakers along with numerous minor injuries.
Pelinka dismantled the remnants of the Lakers championship supporting cast last summer when he allowed Alex Caruso to leave, then traded Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma for Russell Westbrook, hoping to build a Big Three of veteran talent alongside James and Davis.
But the former NBA MVP is off to a lackluster start with his hometown team. Westbrook is averaging 18.6 points – the 14-year-old veteran’s lowest mark since his second NBA season – and is third in the NBA with 4.3 turnovers per game, an incredible number coming at crucial times for his club top and bottom.
Vogel has been adamant in backing Westbrook and his players have consistently backed him in public.
“I feel good about what we’re doing with our team, and I don’t always feel good about the results,” Vogel said. “But I believe in what we can do this year, and so (I) remain resolutely focused on the task at hand.”