A Scapegoat in the City of Angels

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Updated: November 27, 2021
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After a triple-overtime catastrophe, the Lakers again find themselves sinking towards the bottom as a sub-500 ballclub. Ironically, the loss comes at the hands of the Sacramento Kings who recently put Luke Walton into early retirement, now rumors are swirling around the job security of NBA champion head coach Frank Vogel. Up until a week ago, the media was still being fed those early season slogans of finding their chemistry and integrating their new pieces, namely ex-MVP high-usage point guard Russell Westbrook.

Last week though, Anthony Davis and Avery Bradley both made comments about the team and their lack of intensity and buy-in. Notably, Davis and Westbrook’s on-court numbers are sub-par at best, and Bradley, although picked up late in free agency and making 42 million less than Westbrook is probably a better fit in the backcourt to close games. You know things are bad when the Lebron Stans are posting GOAT propaganda after OT jumpers against the struggling Indiana Pacers.

With Bron in and out of the lineup, much has been placed on Vogel and his decision-making with regards to rotations and allocating minutes. Even without James, the roster has such a surplus of Marky names and future hall of famers that there are expectations for them to beat the bottom half of the league with the right execution. Unfortunately, for everyone in LA it hasn’t been the case. They opened the preseason win-less and continued their flaws in the game opener against the Warriors that set the tone for both franchises.

Since then, the Lakers have dropped an embarrassing pair of losses to the 22-year-old OKC Thunder, were blown out by the Blazers, T’Wolves, Celtics, and Bulls—nearly got put away by the Detroit Pistons up until the Lebron-Isaiah Stewart scuffle, and needed overtime to beat the Pacers and Hornets. This recent loss to Sacramento who is barely keeping their heads above water as a franchise may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. The Lakers are only two short seasons removed from being not only the Bubble Champions but one of the best defenses in the league and they currently look allergic to stops.

The interesting part of the equation though is the recent heat applied on Vogel implies that he was even consulted on the moves made in the last two offseasons. It is hard to imagine that a coach who has notoriously been a defensive-minded strategist would sign off getting rid of all of his two-way wings in exchange for Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, and DeAndre Jordan. It also is assumed that it was not his choice alone to have DeAndre in the starting lineup for the majority of games this season. We saw his clout in the NBA fraternity play itself out last year in Brooklyn and for some reason, the All-Stars of the league have yet to read the news that DJ is not only washed but dried.

The biggest problem they have though is that Russ is the worst decision-making All-Star down the stretch of games maybe in the history of basketball. He also is a terrible off-ball defender despite his steal totals and is adequate at best on-ball. Back in October, the Lakers took a close win against the hot Cleveland Cavaliers, where Vogel chose to sit Russ the last 8 minutes of the ball game. With THT and Malik Monk back into the rotation, and Rondo and Bradley both available, one would assume if it was only up to Vogel that we would see more 4th quarters without Westbrook on the floor.

But what exactly is he supposed to do, continuously sit a super-maxed ex-MVP making 44 million for guys on the vet-minimum? They traded half the current Washington Wizards’ rotation to get him and was obviously chosen by King James as the missing piece of the puzzle for this year’s title run. So hypothetically, if they fired coach Vogel and replaced him with David Fizdale on their bench or anyone else, is that coach going to be empowered to sit Westbrook down the stretch of games? Because there is a handful of close L’s LA has collected that if any other guard on their roster was in the place of Russ, they would’ve won those games. That includes last night’s triple-OT exchange that looked like two bottom-feeder teams that were too out of sorts to find a way to any sort of ending.

However, Vogel’s eyes look like he’s properly uncomfortable telling these new additions in Melo and Westbrook what to do. In the Bubble, he had a goofy cohesive group who all knew their place. These two hall of fame additions still think they’re All-NBA talents and yet the pair may be the worst off-ball defensive tandem currently closing games in the entire league. Fitz presumably won’t have the same problem, however, he is clearly not the defensive mastermind Vogel has proven himself to be the last few years. Or maybe, just maybe, we simply didn’t value how good Caruso, KCP, Green, and Kuz actually were, just the Lakers didn’t value them when they sold them away for magic beans in hopes for a fairytale Finals run with all of King James’ men…

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