Frank Vogel

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.”

Pacific Notes: Ballmer, Ariza, Caruso, Howard

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer invested $100MM in the city of Inglewood, California this week, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com.

The investment was created as part of the city’s new arena development agreement, with the Clippers labeling it as the largest funding commitment for community programs related to a sports or entertainment venue in California.

“We’re close to a residential neighborhood and we are being very mindful,” Ballmer told ESPN in July about building a potential arena in Inglewood. “Investing well into the community, being a good citizen of the community. No homes need to get moved but we need to be a good neighbor.”

Ballmer’s proposal for a new Clippers arena, according to Youngmisuk, would include a corporate headquarters, team training facility, sports medicine clinic and much more.

“I want it to be beautiful,” Ballmer said. “But I want it to be about basketball. I want it to be comfortable. But I want it to be about basketball.”

There’s more today out of the Pacific Division:

  • James Ham of NBC Sports Sacramento examines how Trevor Ariza could fit in a crowded Kings rotation this season. Ariza, a veteran 3-and-D forward, signed a two-year, $25MM deal to join the Kings in free agency this past summer.
  • Mike Trudell of Lakers.com discusses several Lakers-related items in his mailbag, including the possibility of Alex Caruso starting at point guard this season. Caruso was better than Rajon Rondo while playing alongside LeBron James last season, though head coach Frank Vogel also has the option of testing Quinn Cook at starting point guard in training camp.
  • Kevin Pelton of ESPN.com examines whether former All-Star Dwight Howard could help solve the Lakers‘ depth issues at the center position. Howard is expected to fill in the role that injured center DeMarcus Cousins was supposed to fill before tearing his ACL, likely playing back-up center behind JaVale McGee to start the season and controlling the team’s interior presence on defense.

Frank Vogel Ready To Coach LeBron, AD

Frank Vogel talks about the excitement of coaching LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the opportunity that Dwight Howard has to revive his career and the wide open Western Conference playoff race in a lengthy interview with Steve Aschburner of NBA.com.

Few coaches going into a new situation have ever faced as much pressure to win right away as Vogel will. The trade that brought Davis from New Orleans has pushed the Lakers into a favorite’s role, and the sense of urgency for James has grown after missing the playoffs last year.

Vogel is also entering a situation where he clearly wasn’t the first choice for the job. He was only hired after negotiations with Tyronn Lue collapsed, and he was asked to bring along former NBA coaches Jason Kidd and Lionel Hollins as assistants. Still, he’s eager for the chance to mentor what could be a historically great duo in James and Davis.

“Talent-wise, they’re the two best players I’ll ever have had the opportunity to coach,” Vogel said. “That brings a lot of fun, a lot of excitement to what we’re able to do on the court. It brings a lot of challenges too. You have to make sure you’re managing them the right way and putting them in the right positions to feel good about their roles and what’s happening around them. There are challenges involved with that. So I’m looking forward to how that all is going to play out.”

Vogel touches on several other subjects, including:

Howard’s return to L.A.:

“I think he’s excited about this opportunity with the Lakers. It’s very different from the first time he came through. Then, he was a mega-star coming in with two other mega-stars [Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash]. This time around, he’s had a few teams where they haven’t had great success. And he’s at a different point, age-wise, in his career. So he’s excited just to be part of something, in any way he can help. He knows it’s going to be more of a role player type of role.”

Whether Davis will see more time at power forward or center:

“To me, he’s effective in both positions. But I don’t think it’s wise when your mindset is to be at your best going into the playoffs, to have him banging with centers for 82 games full-time. Does that mean he’s never going to do it in the regular season? No, of course he’s going to play some center in the regular season. But we want to make sure we keep the end goal in sight and getting him to April, for that playoff run, the right way.”

The rivalry with the Clippers:

“They have a terrific team and a terrific coach, and their front office is doing really well. But we can’t focus on their location. We still have to focus on ourselves and the task at hand. Not just worry about what’s happening crosstown. There are a lot of teams capable of winning the West, so we’ll be focused on our process.”

Western Notes: Miller, Howard, Warriors, Wiggins

The Pelicans will have a tough time replacing Darius Miller‘s skill set from the current list of replacements on the roster, as William Guillory of The Athletic details. Miller suffered a ruptured right Achilles tendon and is expected to miss the season.

Miller provides defensive length and the ability to guard either forward spot while spacing the floor offensively, Guillory notes. The Pelicans might give Josh Hart and E’Twaun Moore more minutes at the wing spot but their options at backup power forward are newcomer Nicolo Melli and Kenrich Williams, who is limited as a shooter and defender against quicker forwards.

The contract that Miller signed this offseason — two years and $14.25MM with the second year non-guaranteed — becomes a less attractive trade piece for the Pelicans, Guillory adds.

We have more from around the Western Conference:

  • Dwight Howard will be a role player with the Lakers for the first time in his career if everything goes as planned. New coach Frank Vogel spoke of his plans for the veteran player, who signed with Los Angeles after passing through waivers, to Spectrum SportNet (hat tip to the Sporting News). “He’s going to serve a different role,” Vogel said. “It’s going to be more of a role-player type of role, as opposed to being the lead. He understands that. He’s excited about playing that type of role on this team and what we can accomplish as a group.”
  • Ryan Atkinson has been named GM of the Warriors’ G League affiliate in Santa Cruz, according to a team press release. Atkinson, 34, had been the G League team’s assistant GM for the last three seasons. Previous GM Kent Lacob has been named the Warriors’ director of team development.
  • The Timberwolves haven’t come close to trading Andrew Wiggins, mainly because they never received an offer that was worth serious consideration, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic reports. The Timberwolves are hoping he can come closer to realizing his potential, which would also boost his trade value. Getting Wiggins to make a bigger impact at both ends of the floor is also the best way for the team to become more of a factor in the Western Conference.

Frank Vogel On Dwight Howard’s Lakers Role

An ACL injury to DeMarcus Cousins created an opening for a big man on the Lakers‘ roster which has been — at least temporarily — filled by Dwight Howard.

The veteran center, who has bounced around the league, returned to the Lakers on a one-year, non-guaranteed deal after he was waived by the Grizzlies. At 33 years old, coming off an injury-riddled season that saw him appear in just nine games, it’s clear that Howard is no longer the player who once made eight straight All-Star teams.

However, after meeting with the Lakers and striking an emotional chord, the mercurial center could aid L.A.’s quest for a championship, something he wasn’t able to do in his first stint with the purple and gold.

“I’m definitely confident he can the play we’ve laid out for him. He’s coming to the Lakers at a very different time in his career,” new Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said on Access SportsNet (Twitter link). “[The] first time he was here, he was on top of the NBA mountain and was a bonafide superstar. Things have changed, he’s later in his career now, he’s a different person [and] has a different mindset.”

Over the last four seasons, the two-time Defensive Player of the Year has suited up for four different teams (Rockets, Hawks, Hornets and Wizards). That does not include him being waived by both the Nets and Grizzlies following trades.

As Vogel mentioned, Howard is no longer the player who averaged 22.1 PPG and 14.1 RPG while anchoring the Magic’s defense. However, Vogel is confident that Howard can adjust to being a role player who helps the organization reach its ultimate goal.

“We feel really good about where he’s at as a person,” Vogel said. “He’s gonna serve a different role. It’s gonna be more of a role player type of role as opposed to being the lead and he understands that.”