Frank Vogel

Western Notes: Lakers, Looney, Ball, Nuggets

Lakers head coach Frank Vogel told reporters on Wednesday that Alex Caruso and Danny Green are listed as probable for Thursday’s Western Conference Finals Game 4 against the Nuggets, per Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times (Twitter link).

According to Vogel, Caruso is dealing with soreness in his right wrist and is getting a precautionary MRI. Green has an injured left ring finger. The 26-year-old Caruso only scored two points in 25 minutes off the bench in the Lakers’ Game 3 loss, while Green had four points in 20 minutes.

If Caruso or Green cannot play on Thursday, the Lakers may need to increase point guard Rajon Rondo‘s minutes.

Here’s more from across the Western Conference:

  • According to John Dickinson of 95.7 The Game (Twitter link), Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said Wednesday that center Kevon Looney is healthy and was a full participant at the team’s practice. Kerr added that Klay Thompson and Eric Paschall didn’t practice, as they were going through the NBA’s COVID testing protocol.
  • William Guillory of The Athletic takes a look at the pros and cons of the Pelicans keeping Lonzo Ball. Earlier this week, Ball announced that he signed with Rich Paul of Klutch Sports. The 22-year-old point guard had a solid first season with New Orleans, averaging 11.8 PPG, 7.0 APG, and 6.1 RPG. Furthermore, Guillory explores what a potential extension could like for Ball after next season.
  • Ethan Strauss of The Athletic writes about the similarities between the 2013 Warriors and this season’s Nuggets team. For starters, Strauss points out how current Denver head coach Mike Malone was under then-head coach Mark Jackson in Golden State. He also explores how both teams built their rosters in the age of free agency and feature an unlikely superstar player.

Vogel On Rondo, Starters, Waiters, Smith

Though the Lakers suffered a surprising 100-93 loss to the Trail Blazers in the first game of their conference quarterfinals series on Tuesday, head coach Frank Vogel has indicated that he will not make any adjustments to his current starting lineup ahead of tonight’s second “home” game, according to Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times (Twitter link).

On Tuesday, the Lakers started All-Star forwards LeBron James and Anthony Davis, along with center JaVale McGee, and guards Danny Green and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

McGee played just 12 minutes on Tuesday. Backup power forward Kyle Kuzma, meanwhile, logged 30 minutes of game action, with Davis shifting to a center role when playing alongside Kuzma. Point guard Alex Caruso played 29 minutes off the bench, the same amount of time as Caldwell-Pope and six more minutes than sharpshooter Green.

Backup center Dwight Howard and power forward Markieff Morris also logged more time than McGee, a solid post defender without much offensive range. Starting Davis at center, with either Kuzma or Caruso replacing McGee in the starting lineup, could present a unique opportunity for the Lakers to spread the floor against Portland.

Backup point guard Rajon Rondo, who has been recovering from a fractured right thumb suffered five weeks ago, will remain inactive for tonight’s game. Rondo was medically cleared for action on August 17. Rondo had the thumb surgically repaired on July 16. He has yet to suit up for the Lakers during the team’s summer games.

Vogel also noted that he will find playing time for recent waiver additions Dion Waiters and J.R. Smith, per Mark Medina of USA Today (Twitter link). In the first game of the series, Waiters saw the court for just one minute, and took no field goal attempts, while Smith did not play at all.

Mike Budenholzer, Billy Donovan Win Coaches Association Award

Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer and Thunder head coach Billy Donovan have been voted the co-coaches of the year by the National Basketball Coaches Association, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

This award, introduced in 2017, isn’t the NBA’s official Coach of the Year award, which is voted on by media members and is represented by the Red Auerbach Trophy. The winner of that award is expected to be announced at some point during the postseason this summer.

The Coaches Association’s version of the award – named after longtime NBCA executive director Michael H. Goldberg – is voted on by the NBA’s 30 head coaches, none of whom can vote for himself.

Budenholzer, who also won the NBCA’s award in 2019, has had even more success with the East-leading Bucks this season. His team has a 54-13 record and – before the season was suspended – had been on pace to surpass the 60 victories that last year’s Milwaukee squad racked up.

As for Donovan, he has exceeded expectations with a Thunder team that was viewed as a borderline playoff contender and a candidate for a full-fledged rebuild. Instead of returning to the lottery following the offseason departures of Russell Westbrook and Paul George, Oklahoma City is 41-24, good for sixth in the Western Conference. A strong finish over the next couple weeks could result in a top-four record in the conference for the Thunder.

Raptors head coach Nick Nurse, widely viewed as the favorite to win the official Coach of the Year award in 2020, was one vote away from finishing in a three-way tie with Budenholzer and Donovan, per Wojnarowski.

Sources tell ESPN that Taylor Jenkins (Grizzlies), Nate McMillan (Pacers), Erik Spoelstra (Heat), and Brad Stevens (Celtics), and Frank Vogel (Lakers) also received votes.

Pacific Notes: Lakers, Warriors, Wiggins, Johnson

Two Lakers tested positive for the coronavirus last month, but head coach Frank Vogel said on a conference call on Thursday that he wasn’t tested at that time and he doesn’t think his assistants were either. As Dave McMenamin of ESPN outlines, Lakers players underwent tests even if they weren’t experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms, but the coaching staff wasn’t given the same directions.

“It’s just, we were not told to be tested,” Vogel said. “And obviously everybody recognized the shortage of tests and we were only going to do what the local health department told us to do. So, we weren’t asked to be tested at that point.”

Interestingly, according to Vogel, it’s not just the general public that doesn’t know the identities of the Lakers players who were affected by the coronavirus. The veteran coach told ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan that he’s also in the dark about which two players who tested positive.

“I don’t even know who are they,” Vogel said, “and I’m totally fine with that.”

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • On Thursday’s call with reporters, Vogel also said it would be a “huge disappointment” if the Lakers don’t get a chance to compete for a title this summer, but said he and his team understand the situation. “We get it, and this is bigger than basketball,” he said, per Bill Oram of The Athletic. “And us getting back on the court is not the most important thing for the world right now. Hopefully we have that chance, and if we’re not able to, it would be a big disappointment.”
  • The Warriors‘ ability to spend on free agents during the 2020 offseason will be limited, but Anthony Slater of The Athletic suggests there are dozens of players who could be fits, ranging from long-shots like Paul Millsap to lower-cost options like D.J. Augustin or Meyers Leonard. In Slater’s view, veteran wing Jae Crowder would be the best fit for Golden State among the realistic mid-level-type targets.
  • Can Andrew Wiggins, who has a .372 winning percentage in 454 career NBA games, be a reliable contributor on a contender? That will be one of the key questions facing the Warriors during the 2020 offseason as they decide whether to stick with Wiggins or flip him in a trade, according to Mark Schanowski of NBC Sports Chicago.
  • With the help of Gina Mizell of The Athletic, Suns rookie Cameron Johnson details his recovery from mononucleosis and how that experience gave him something of a “head start on the whole quarantine thing.”

Lakers Notes: Waiters, Smith, Davis, James

Shooting guard Dion Waiters had an impressive showing in his workout with the Lakers on Monday, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. Waiters also met with coach Frank Vogel and front office executives Rob Pelinka and Kurt Rambis.

Waiters has had a trouble-filled season which included three team-imposed suspensions with the Heat. He was traded to the Grizzlies and then waived. A report surfaced last week that the Lakers would give Waiters a look. The Lakers opened up a roster spot on Sunday by waiving guard Troy Daniels.

We have more on the Lakers:

  • The team also brought in another veteran shooting guard, J.R. Smith, for a workout on Monday, Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times reports. Smith had a casual conversation with Pelinka and Vogel after his workout. The team might look at more free agents and is in no hurry to fill the roster opening, Ganguli adds. Smith hasn’t appeared in an NBA game since November 2018.
  • The Anthony Davis blockbuster trade with New Orleans has turned into a a win-win situation, Andrew Lopez of ESPN notes. Davis has turned the Lakers into serious contenders for the title this season, while the Pelicans’ rebuild has been accelerated with the additions of Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, along with the multiple draft picks they acquired. Ingram will be a restricted free agent this offseason, while Ball and Hart will be eligible for extensions.
  • LeBron James offered high praise for the league’s top rookies after defeating both of their squads, Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register relays. James led Los Angeles to wins over Memphis and Ja Morant and a pair of victories over New Orleans and Zion Williamson“It’s a hell of a rookie class, I’ll tell you that,” James said. “These kids are special.”

Community Shootaround: Coach Of The Year Favorites

This season, the Coach of the Year race appears to have plenty of intriguing candidates. With the All-Star break upon us, we at Hoops Rumors deemed it a good time to reflect on where things stand currently.

Mike Budenholzer is leading the 46-8 Bucks towards potentially the NBA’s third-ever 70+ win season. Superstar forward Giannis Antetokounmpo may win his second consecutive MVP award under Budenholzer’s tutelage, while wing Khris Middleton has made his second straight All-Star team.

In their second year under Nick Nurse, the Raptors are miraculously on pace for a better record than they had during a champion run last year, minus 2019 Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. Pascal Siakam has blossomed into an All-Star starter. Fellow All-Star Kyle Lowry has remained a steadying presence on the court. Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby and Norman Powell have all taken notable leaps.

Erik Spoelstra has coached the new-look Heat to a 35-19 record in the East, helped center Bam Adebayo become a first-time All-Star, and made the most out of promising rookies Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn, plus second-year sharpshooter Duncan Robinson.

The Celtics lost Kyrie Irving and Al Horford to free agency over the summer, and signed Kemba Walker in Irving’s stead. Team chemistry appears to have improved significantly, and coach Brad Stevens has helped Walker return to the All-Star game and Jayson Tatum make his first appearance in the big show, while leading Boston to a 38-16 record (including a recent eight-game win streak).

Though the Lakers missed out on signing priority head coach options Tyronn Lue and Monty Williams over the summer, their supposed “consolation” option Frank Vogel has impressed in his first season with the team. The Lakers have a 41-12 record, tops in the West thus far, and have been able to incorporate several mercurial veterans into an upbeat, defensive-oriented locker room atmosphere.

There are several contenders elsewhere in the NBA. Billy Donovan has helped take the Thunder to a surprisingly robust 33-22 record. Rick Carlisle has brought the Mavericks back to the thick of the playoff hunt with an identical record to the Thunder’s and helped Luka Doncic become a first-time All-Star starter. 35-year-old coach Taylor Jenkins has brought the young Grizzlies back to relevance after the team offloaded former franchise cornerstones Marc Gasol and Mike Conley in 2019.

Who do you think will walk away with Coach of the Year hardware in 2020? Let us know!

L.A. Notes: Bryant, Kupchak, George, West

The Lakers returned to practice today for the first time since Kobe Bryant‘s death on Sunday, writes Greg Beacham of The Associated Press. The mood was reserved as players tried to move beyond the tragedy and focus on basketball. Some of them, including Anthony Davis, spent time looking at Bryant’s two retired numbers hanging in the rafters before practice began.

“We want to represent what Kobe was about, more than anything,” said coach Frank Vogel, who was the only person to address the media after the workout. “We’ve always wanted to make him proud, and that’s not going to be any different now.”

The Lakers’ game against the Clippers last night was postponed to give the organization more time to deal with the tragedy. Instead, the team held an afternoon gathering where players and coaches shared stories and memories of Bryant. The meeting was “therapeutic and beneficial,” according to Vogel.

“It’s been something that has touched my family, being the father of daughters, and it’s been very emotional,” he said. “It’s something that brings us together. I’m around the people who were closest to Kobe throughout his time here, and it’s been just a deeply saddening time for all of us.”

There’s more from Los Angeles:

  • The franchise-altering trade that brought Bryant to the Lakers in 1996 nearly didn’t happen, Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak tells Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Kupchak, who served as assistant GM for the Lakers at the time, said Charlotte had second thoughts about going through with the deal. “I think we always felt that we’d get the deal done,” Kupchak said. “Certainly, history would have been a lot different, at least from a Lakers point-of-view. Kobe would have been great no matter where he was.”
  • Clippers stars Paul George and Kawhi Leonard both spent time working out with Bryant at his Mamba Sports Academy and both credit him with helping to mold their careers, relays Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. “He was my Michael Jordan growing up as a SoCal kid,” George said after today’s practice. “He was what every kid wanted to be here. I started playing basketball because of Kobe.” 
  • Current Clippers consultant Jerry West said when Bryant was thinking of leaving the Lakers as a free agent in 2004, he warned him not to go across town and play for former owner Donald Sterling (video link from TNT).

Pacific Notes: Russell, Evans, Kings, Vogel

As we’ve detailed before, the Timberwolves put on the full-court press in their efforts to recruit D’Angelo Russell during the 2019 free agent period, but the Warriors‘ maximum-salary offer and the opportunity to play alongside Stephen Curry ultimately swayed Russell to Golden State. Discussing that decision with Leo Sepkowitz of Bleacher Report, Russell made it sound as if it didn’t take him long to choose the Dubs once his agent called him to inform him of the max offer.

“I’m like, ‘Why the f–k is you on the phone with me?!'” Russell said. “‘Tell them yes!'”

Of course, his first year in the Bay Area hasn’t played out like he’d hoped, with Curry joining Klay Thompson on the long-term injury list and the Warriors plummeting to the bottom of the Western Conference.

Russell has been linked to the Wolves again as of late, with Minnesota reportedly intensifying its efforts to trade for him. While a deal seems unlikely to happen before the deadline, D-Lo acknowledged that this has been something of a lost season for the Warriors, who are essentially evaluating their roster for 2020/21.

“This whole year is kind of a test of seeing what’s gonna fit, what’s gonna make sense for next year,” Russell told Sepkowitz. “It’s them kind of sitting back, seeing who I am as a teammate and a player, what I bring to the table.”

Here’s more out of the Pacific:

  • Warriors guard Jacob Evans has been diagnosed with a concussion and a broken nose after taking an elbow to the face on Tuesday, the club announced (Twitter link). It’s not clear how much time Evans will miss, but he’s currently in the NBA’s concussion protocol and will wear a protective mask when he returns, according to the Warriors.
  • The Kings passed on Luka Doncic in the 2018 draft due to concerns about his fit alongside De’Aaron Fox, a decision that some fans in Sacramento have had a hard time moving past, writes Sam Amick of The Athletic. According to Amick, former Kings coach Dave Joerger passive-aggressively joked to GM Vlade Divac midway through last season that he’d negotiated a trade with the Mavericks to land Doncic, to which Divac shot back: “Do I get their coach, too?”
  • In an interesting piece for ESPN.com, Kevin Arnovitz explores how the perception of Lakers head coach Frank Vogel has changed over the last several months. When Vogel was hired in the spring, he was viewed as a Plan C whose hiring was proof of the franchise’s dysfunction. However, he has helped right the ship in L.A., leading the team to a 33-8 first-half record.

Clippers Notes: Leonard, Rivers, George, Vogel

Kawhi Leonard said he wasn’t aware of any illegal demands allegedly made by his uncle, Dennis Robertson, during free agency, writes Mark Medina of USA Today. A report surfaced yesterday that Robertson was making outrageous requests as Leonard considered whether to remain with the Raptors or head to Los Angeles to join the Clippers or Lakers. Robertson reportedly sought an ownership stake, a private plane, a house and a guaranteed amount of off-court endorsement money.

“I didn’t read it. I don’t know how reliable it is,” Leonard said of the story by Sam Amick of The Athletic. “I have no knowledge of it. People make up stories every day.”

Coach Doc Rivers also dismissed the report, calling it a “pretty empty story” because the Clippers were cleared of any wrongdoing in a formal investigation by the league. The organization insists that the only demand Leonard made was to find a way to trade for Paul George.

“They investigate every year. I don’t know why that is news,” Rivers said. “Every year, someone signs, there is going to be an investigation. That’s fine. The key is once you’re clear. From what I know, I don’t think we were the only ones.”

There’s more Clippers news to pass along:

  • After being traded to L.A. in July, George engaged in some playful banter with newly hired Lakers coach Frank Vogel about who was going to take over the city, Medina adds in a separate story. Vogel coached George with the Pacers in six of his first seven NBA seasons and they have remained close friends. “He definitely helped with my development by throwing me out there, throwing me into the fire, giving me that experience, letting me learn on the fly and make mistakes,” George said.
  • George was heartened by the friendly reception he got from Thunder fans Sunday night in his first game back in Oklahoma City since requesting a trade, relays Royce Young of ESPN. The Thunder acknowledged his work in the community as well as his success on the court. “Everything was a chapter, from the second I got here,” George said. “From my foundation, to big games we won, rivalries, brotherhood, partnerships and relationships, with [Thunder general manager] Sam [Presti] ... they looked out for me, they looked out for my family and I’m forever grateful for this opportunity.”
  • Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register compares recent moves by the Clippers and Lakers as they both try to put together a title contender.

Frank Vogel Off To Strong Start With Lakers

The first month of the season has worked out far better for Lakers coach Frank Vogel than anyone could have predicted during his dysfunctional hiring process, writes Sam Amick of The Athletic.

Vogel agreed to a three-year contract in May, but he clearly wasn’t the organization’s first choice. The Lakers chased Tyronn Lue, LeBron James‘ former coach in Cleveland, who rejected an offer after it seemed a deal was close. They also pursued Monty Williams, Anthony Davis‘ ex-coach in New Orleans, well before the trade that brought Davis to L.A.

They finally settled on Vogel, but not without some conditions. He had to hire former Nets and Bucks head coach Jason Kidd as an assistant, fueling rumors that Kidd was waiting for his turn to take over once things started to go poorly.

Somehow, Vogel has made the best of the situation and has the Lakers off to a league-best 14-2 start. They have bought into the defense-first reputation that Vogel developed in Indiana, ranking fourth in the league in defensive rating at 102.5 points allowed per 100 possessions and first in blocks with 7.6 per game. Vogel’s approach has helped him gain the respect of his two stars.

“(Those Pacers teams) were always one of our toughest opponents when I was in Miami, when he was at the helm,” James said. “They were always prepared, as well as we were as well in Miami, so I knew that for sure once (general manager) Rob (Pelinka) and everyone upstairs decided to choose him to be our head coach, I knew we would be very prepared.”

James has been an important part of the defensive turnaround, Amick adds. He has played with something to prove this season and his effort on defense has been notably different.

The coaching staff has also developed a rapport that has quashed any talk of a mutiny, at least for now. Amick offers a reminder that former team president Magic Johnson called out coach Luke Walton after seven games last season, and Vogel could have been in the same situation if the team hadn’t been successful right away.

“Some people might be saying (Kidd) is gunning for his job, (but) I see a family approach,” veteran swingman Jared Dudley observed. “I see them laughing. I see Vogel laughing with Kidd and Lionel Hollins. You see how they all have their own role. …Obviously Vogel’s a big defensive guy, (so) you have (him) breaking down the opponents. Phil Handy, going over certain personnel. (You have) Jason Kidd, because of familiarity with certain players. … When he speaks offense you’re more keen. You’d think that would be a little rocky trying to figure people out man, but he’s a player’s coach. He asks for opinions. He said ‘This is what I like to do, what are your guys’ views on it, and eventually he makes a decision.’

“… So for me, I couldn’t even imagine it even getting better. I was just shocked how smooth of a transition it was, not only for the coaching staff but for the coaching staff relating to the players. I think it’s been phenomenal.”