(News4usonline) – The Los Angeles Lakers have stockpiled their present and their future on forward Anthony Davis. In the immediate short term, things worked out very well with the Lakers winning their 17th NBA championship as a franchise in Frank Vogel’s first year as the team’s head coach.
It’s gone downhill since then. Last year, Davis and the Lakers were knocked out of the first round of the NBA playoffs by the Phoenix Suns. This season with the ascension of the Suns to be the best team in the league during the regular season, the Lakers got worse. Much worse.
Worse to the point that Vogel and the Lakers didn’t even have what took to make the postseason, losing nearly 50 games in an 82-game season. This is not acceptable progress. There were games where the Lakers were booed right out of their own gym. In this case, Crypto.com Arena.
It’s a stunning transformation for the Lakers to go from winning a title just a couple of seasons ago to being one of the worst teams in the Western Conference. The Lakers didn’t just look bad. The product they put on the floor was terrible.
What’s even more head-scratching is that on paper at the beginning of the season, the Lakers appeared to be an imposing squad with Davis, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, and Dwight Howard on the roster. All viable All-Stars in their own right.
However, as the season progressed what the Lakers had assembled were a bunch of players who were either injury-prone or with one foot towards retirement. The Lakers just were not a good team this season. As a result of the team’s failure or inability to generate some of the organization’s past glory, Vogel paid the price for it.
Vogel is gone. After seeing his team go 33-49 during the 2021-22 regular season, Vogel was let go of his head coaching duties by the Lakers.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Frank both on and off the court,” said Rob Pelinka, the Lakers vice president of Basketball Operations and general manager.
“Frank is a great coach and a good man,” Pelinka added. “We will forever be grateful to him for his work in guiding us to the 2019-20 NBA championship. This is an incredibly difficult decision to make, but one we feel is necessary at this point. All of us here wish Frank and his wonderful family all the best for the future.”
So, that’s it. Vogel is banished from the Lakers brand even though he was the coach in residence to bring the franchise its 17th NBA title following the 2019-20 NBA season. Two years after basking in the glory of a championship, Vogel could not produce enough juice to be able to stick around for at least one more season.
The problems for the Lakers are bigger than getting rid of Vogel. Firing Vogel is like putting a Band-Aid on a deep-cut wound. What the Lakers are dealing with cannot be coached. An NBA franchise cannot coach its way out of old players way past their prime offering just a sneak peek of their past.
The Lakers need studs. Young and athletic ones. The Lakers need players who can get up and down the floor the way Magic Johnson’s “Showtime” squad used to do. To be more specific, the Lakers could use a Ja Morant on their roster.
It’s as simple as that. What’s making their ride into the offseason more complicated is what will the Lakers do about looking down the road to eventually replace James, who will be going into his 20th year in the league next season? How about the aging Howard and Anthony?
How is the team going to keep Davis healthy enough to play 82 games? Given his record of injuries, is staying healthy even possible with Davis? And what about the million-dollar question on the future of Westbrook? Westbrook played decently, averaging 18 points and 7 rebounds per game.
The problem for some folks is that the mercurial point guard didn’t play like All-Star Russell Westbrook, the guy who can turn a triple-double about as easy as making a hamburger. To that end, Westbrook, during his exit interview, said from the time he arrived he was never given the opportunity to just be himself.
“When I first got here, and just being a person that unfortunately that…people create narratives of me and who I am and what I do and what I believe in that are, you know, just not true,” Westbrook said. “I’m always have to like prove myself again and year after year, which to me is unfair. There’s really no reason not to do that. So, when I first got here, I just felt that I never was given a fair chance just to be who I needed to be able to help this team.”
The remarks by Westbrook, who went further into detail on the way he has been treated during his exit interview, seem to be an earmark to the dilemma the Lakers are facing this offseason.
The code translation of Westbrook’s remarks is that he is not happy. At all. Given the context of what he said, it would be pretty remarkable for Westbrook to come back for a second season.
Now that Vogel is no longer in the picture that could be a real possibility. As for James, his thoughts are on trying to get healthier and trying to win another title. That starts by shaking off the emotional toll this season has had on him, he said.
“Emotionally, it was taxing,” James said. “Physically, I train myself throughout the summertime to be able to do and be able to endure anything physically. But emotionally, it was very taxing on me and the team and every individual playing in our locker room, coaching staff, and things of that nature. Just trying to figure out how and why are we in this predicament or why are we in that position, you know. We definitely went on the floor and tried to figure it out and tried to help each other and hold each other accountable. It just seemed like every time we would like take a step forward, you know, we would take three to four back.”
Feature Image: Frank Vogel served as the Los Angeles Lakers head coach for three seasons, winning an NBA title in his first year on the job. Photo by Mark Hammond/News4usonline