The Los Angeles Lakers are in need of a healthy LeBron James, but the pressure is mounting on head coach Frank Vogel to turn things around when the team is back to at full strength. If the Russell Westbrook trade proves to be unsuccessful, Vogel could end up being the “scapegoat,” per Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus.
“His [Westbrook’s] lack of ball security could prove to be the team’s Achilles’ heel in the playoffs,” Pincus detailed. “But the Lakers still have several months to sort out their issues. Will that be enough to keep Vogel employed? He could end up the scapegoat for a situation well beyond his control. The team recently re-signed him to a one-year extension that didn’t necessarily come with long-term job security.”
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Vogel’s Contract Only Runs Through the 2022-23 Season
Vogel has not been given the same job security of some of his coaching peers. Back in August, the Lakers announced Vogel signed a contract extension but only included vague details on the deal.
The Athletic’s Bill Oram, Shams Charania and Sam Amick reported that Vogel only signed a one-year extension, a fact left out of the Lakers press release. It is a key detail that makes it easier for the Lakers to move on from Vogel if things do not get better.
“It’s a robust collection of talent for Vogel to sort out,” Oram, Charania and Amick explained on September 27. “The third-year head coach’s own contract status was a source of intrigue for much of the summer. After initially signing a three-year deal in 2019, Vogel was not rewarded with a contract extension after helping the franchise win its 17th championship in his first year at the helm. Vogel’s second year may have ended in a first-round flameout, but the Lakers coaching staff still had constructed the league’s top-rated defense, despite playing without Davis for exactly half of the regular season.
“…Could Vogel really be expected to challenge a team with possibly six Hall of Fame players if he didn’t have job security to lend weight to his message? Finally, late on Aug. 6, the Lakers issued a statement announcing Vogel had signed an extension. More important than what the statement said, however, was what it left out: the terms of the deal. Multiple sources told The Athletic that Vogel’s extension added only one year to his contract, securing him through 2022-23.”
Pincus on Vogel: ‘He Doesn’t Have the Same Reputation as a Creative Offensive Mind’
Whether Vogel should be blamed can be debated, but the reality is it could be easier for the Lakers to change coaches than players. The Lakers’ “win now” window with James in his prime may be shrinking as the superstar is battling injuries for the second straight season. Pincus pointed to Vogel’s offensive philosophy as the one thing that could threaten his tenure in Los Angeles.
“In James’ absence, the Lakers haven’t shown any consistency with the two-star combination of Westbrook and Davis,” Pincus detailed. “That may fall on head coach Frank Vogel, who is struggling to get his team to compete at a high level in the second halves of games.
“Vogel is widely respected in NBA circles as one of the league’s best defensive coaches, but he doesn’t have the same reputation as a creative offensive mind. The Lakers have been one of the most defensively dominant teams in the NBA over the past two seasons, but points were often hard to come by, especially when Davis was sidelined with a groin injury in last year’s playoffs. James couldn’t carry the offensive load without Davis, which led the Lakers to acquire Westbrook this offseason.”
All this could sound a bit rash if the Lakers go on a tear once James is back in the lineup, but the team’s slow start has called into question the future of both players and coaches. It makes sense that Vogel will at least be given this season to prove what he can do with the revamped roster, but the rumblings could get louder this offseason if the Lakers have another early playoff exit.