Prior to the Lakers‘ game against Indiana on Wednesday night, head coach Frank Vogel addressed recent rumors about his tenuous job security, suggesting he’s unfazed by reports that state he’s on the hot seat and is being evaluated on a game-to-game basis.
“I don’t feel like I’m under siege,” Vogel said, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “It’s not hard to do my job; I’m very focused on the task at hand. I’ve always been that way.”
Although Vogel downplayed concerns about his status, his decisions down the stretch in the Lakers’ loss to the Pacers seemed to reflect some added urgency. As McMenamin writes in a separate story, Vogel removed nine-time All-Star Russell Westbrook from the lineup during crunch time after Westbrook continued to struggle with his shot and failed to execute on defense. Vogel said after the game he was “playing the guys that I thought were going to win the game.”
According to McMenamin, the Lakers’ coaching staff has been debating for weeks whether to remove Westbrook during late-game situations, but had hesitated due to concerns about how it would affect the guard’s psyche. The staff finally pulled Westbrook in the fourth quarter on Wednesday after receiving assurances from management that it supported the hard-line stance, sources tell ESPN.
Westbrook left the arena after the game without speaking to reporters, but it’s probably safe to assume he wasn’t thrilled to be on the bench for the final 3:52 of the loss. “Would you think that would bother Russ not being in a late game?” teammate LeBron James asked rhetorically when reporters pressed him on the subject.
Here’s more on the Lakers:
- James expressed no desire to see Vogel replaced when asked on Wednesday about the coaching situation. “Coaching staff has been great,” LeBron said, per McMenamin. “They put us in position to succeed, and it’s up to us to handle the business, so there’s always things that we all can do better, but there’s no blame.” Veteran forward Carmelo Anthony took a similar stance: “Frank’s not out there. It’s up to us to go out there and execute and play basketball and win some games.”
- The decision to bench Westbrook adds even more intrigue to the ongoing Vogel saga, Bill Oram of The Athletic writes. Both Oram and Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported that Vogel’s job isn’t in immediate jeopardy and that the head coach is traveling with the team to Orlando for Friday’s game. The Magic have an NBA-worst 8-38 record, so it seems safe to assume a loss tomorrow wouldn’t bode well for Vogel.
- In an article for Bleacher Report, Eric Pincus examines the Vogel situation and considers possible roster moves for the Lakers. Sources tell Pincus that Ben Simmons, Jerami Grant, Harrison Barnes, and Myles Turner are among the potential targets L.A. has looked at, but it’s hard to imagine the team having the ammunition to outbid rival suitors for any of those players.
- Speaking to Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated, Lakers forward Stanley Johnson said he isn’t sure whether the Lakers will keep him beyond his second 10-day contract, but he’s trying to “give (his) best effort” to show he deserves a full-season commitment. Spears’ piece includes a few other interesting quotes from Johnson, including his account of how an “honest conversation” with Raptors president Masai Ujiri last year helped inspire him.