Frank Vogel

Pacific Notes: CP3, Holmes, Warriors, Lakers

Suns All-Star point guard Chris Paul appears to be well positioned for his next NBA step, writes Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic. The 36-year-old six-footer has missed just two regular season games during a season in which he appears destined to make an All-NBA team, setting him up for an eventful offseason.

Paul faces a decision on a $44.2MM player option for 2021/22. Much like Gordon Hayward did a year ago, CP3 could opt out in search of a longer-term deal, likely with the Suns, at a slightly lower annual rate. Alternately, he could pick up his option for 2021/22 and reassess the open market ahead of his age-37 season in 2022.

There’s more out of the Pacific Division:

  • After enjoying a breakout season in 2020/21, Kings center Richaun Holmes is looking for a significant pay raise this summer, writes James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area. Holmes is hoping to net an offer in the range of four years and $80MM. “We love Richaun,” team president Monte McNair said this week. “He had a career year. He’s an integral part of the team.” The club does have Early Bird rights for Holmes, meaning Sacramento can extend Holmes to the projected $11MM league average, with 8% increases each season. Holmes has probably outplayed that amount, though Ham is skeptical that he will command a $20MM annual salary on the open market.
  • The Warriors appear well-primed for the coming seasons, writes Ethan Strauss of The Athletic. The team showed significant defensive promise despite a loss to the Lakers in its first play-in contest. The Warriors will fight to qualify for the No. 8 seed in the West tomorrow against the Grizzlies. Strauss wonders if, with the anticipated return of a healthy Klay Thompson and further growth from Jordan Poole, Golden State may prefer prioritizing role-playing offensive additions this summer as the team looks ahead to the 2021/22 season.
  • The Lakers‘ play-in victory over the Warriors has revealed the defensive-oriented lineups that head coach Frank Vogel seems to trust heading into the playoffs, per Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register. Point guard Alex Caruso, wing Wesley Matthews and forward Kyle Kuzma all received significant prioritization from Vogel off the bench in the game’s second half, ahead of point guard Dennis Schröder (12 minutes), guard Talen Horton-Tucker, and forward Montrezl Harrell. Schröder, Caruso, Horton-Tucker and Harrell could all be free agents this summer. Goon notes that L.A.’s successful closing lineup that frustrated the Warriors comprised All-Star forwards LeBron James and Anthony Davis, plus Matthews, Caruso and 3-and-D wing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

Pacific Notes: CP3, Lakers Centers, Vogel, Davis

With the 42-17 Suns now firmly ensconced in the West’s No. 2 seed, All-Star point guard Chris Paul has emerged as a possible 2021 MVP candidate, writes Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic.

The offseason additions of Paul and Jae Crowder, plus the marked improvement of Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson, have all contributed to Phoenix’s (very probable) return to the playoffs for the first time in 11 years. But the 35-year-old All-Star has been a driving engine for the Suns, averaging 16.0 PPG, 8.8 APG, and 4.7 RPG with a shooting line of .487/.377/.927.

“I think at the end of the day, I know who I am and I know what I bring to a team, but I also understand with our team, it’s about us,” Paul said of his season with the Suns so far. “It’s not something I worry about or wake up and think about or anything like that. It’s just about the process, like getting ready for tomorrow’s game. I think everything else will take care of itself.”

There’s more out of the Pacific Division:

  • As Anthony Davis has returned (albeit on a minutes limit), the Lakers have continued to balance their center rotation, writes Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register. Marc Gasol missed three games with a dislocated pinky, but immediately supplanted Montrezl Harrell as L.A.’s backup center when he did return, behind new starter Andre Drummond. Head coach Frank Vogel indicated that Harrell had been briefed about the situation. “He understands the big picture and what we’re trying to get accomplished,” Vogel said.
  • The Lakers plan to engage head coach Frank Vogel in contract extension conversations during the 2021 offseason, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski indicated on an NBA Countdown broadcast Saturday, as relayed by Paul Kasabian of Bleacher Report. Vogel is in the second year of a three-season contract he signed with L.A. in 2019. During his first season, the Lakers won their first title in 10 years.
  • With All-Star big man Anthony Davis now back in the fold, the Lakers are still figuring out their lineups during the home stretch of the 2020/21 NBA season, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN“It’s like you’re starting over with the guys and just trying to find a connection with these guys again,” Davis said. “They’re trying to find a connection with me. So, it’s like we’re starting from zero, which is tough so late in the season.”

California Notes: McLemore, Cousins, Jones, Gasol

The newest Lakers addition, athletic veteran wing Ben McLemore, brings competent perimeter defense to the club, but more than that, his three-point shooting will fulfill a need for Los Angeles, writes Jovan Buha of The Athletic.

Lakers head coach Frank Vogel was effusive in his praise for the new reserve: “Ben instantly elevates our ability to knock down 3s on the backside when double teams come and we can play the drive-and-kick game that the modern NBA is made on. So we’re thrilled about his addition and looking forward to getting him into some minutes and into our program.”

The latest Laker is a career 36.3% three-point shooter on 4.0 attempts per game. This season with the rebuilding Rockets, he converted a somewhat below-average 33.1% of his 5.2 long-range looks per contest. Last season, with Houston in the thick of a playoff hunt, McLemore was connecting on 40% of his 6.4 deep looks a night.

There’s more out of California:

  • Clippers All-Star forward Paul George conveyed his excitement for the club’s newest backup center, former four-time All-Star DeMarcus Cousins, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN“He’s still one of the most skilled bigs in the league,” George raved. Cousins discussed his focus on his fitness in striving to remain in the NBA following a string of major lower body injuries. “I’ve put an incredible amount of work to get to this place,” Cousins said. “I’m in probably the best shape I’ve been in my entire career.”
  • New Kings center Damian Jones, inked to a 10-day deal with the team, has observed similarities between Sacramento’s plays and those of his former team in Golden State, tweets Jason Jones of The Athletic. Kings head coach Luke Walton was an assistant coach on the Warriors bench before departing for his first head coaching opportunity with the Lakers.
  • Recently-demoted Lakers center Marc Gasol made a strong case for continued rotation minutes when he stepped in for new starting center Andre Drummond recently, writes Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times. Gasol appeared to be more positive about his reduced role in Los Angeles alongside Drummond. “No matter if it’s five minutes, 10 minutes, if it’s whatever position — if it’s some nights, I might not play,” Gasol acknowledged. “It’s been a process for me to reassess this situation a little bit, but like I said, I’m fully committed to this team. So, whatever is thrown at me, I’ll be ready.” Previously, Gasol had expressed frustration with the move. With Drummond now back, Gasol did not play at all in tonight’s 110-104 loss to the Heat.

Lakers Notes: Horton-Tucker, Bigs, Roster Spot, Schedule

In a comprehensive new mailbag covering the Lakers, Jovan Buha of The Athletic discussed the impending free agency of second-year shooting guard Talen Horton-Tucker, the team’s unwillingness to meet the Raptors’ asking price for point guard Kyle Lowry, and more.

Buha expects the Lakers to match any contract offer extended to Horton-Tucker this summer, even if a rival team were to offer a backloaded contract using the Arenas provision. The promising 20-year-old guard’s athleticism and ball-handling abilities are intriguing enough to warrant a wager on his future potential.

There’s more out of the Staples Center:

  • Lakers head coach Frank Vogel discussed how he would utilize reserve big men Montrezl Harrell and Marc Gasol, with Andre Drummond set to become the long-term solution as the team’s starting center, Jovan Buha of The Athletic tweets. Vogel anticipates using Gasol, known for his passing and jump-shooting, as a power forward on offense while the rim-rolling Harrell would function as a de facto center. Vogel plans to reverse their assignments on the other end.
  • LA coach Frank Vogel indicated that the Lakers could use their final open roster spot to add any kind of player regardless of position or skill set, Dave McMenamin of ESPN tweets. The recent signing of center Andre Drummond and the club’s abundance of competent veterans at the power forward and center positions would seem to make adding a guard or wing the most pragmatic option.
  • The Lakers have been struggling to stay afloat in a crowded West without injured All-Stars Anthony Davis and LeBron James, writes Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register. The team is 2-5 since James suffered a high-ankle sprain on March 20, though the club boasts a solid 104.8 defensive rating across those seven games. With L.A. embarking on a seven-game road trip, the team is hoping to get improved offensive performances from its role players. “We know what we capable of,” power forward Markieff Morris said. “We know that this was a quick turnaround from winning a championship last year, so nobody got any rest, and we know our two top guys are down right now, but we know they [are] coming back well-rested.”

California Notes: Lakers, Warriors Health, Curry, Wiseman

With All-Star Lakers forward LeBron James unavailable indefinitely as he deals with a high-ankle sprain,  Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports wonders if a rival contender like the Clippers, Jazz, Heat, or Nets will be more motivated to try to make roster improvements at the trade deadline.

Meanwhile, Jovan Buha of The Athletic considers whether James joining his fellow injured L.A. All-Star Anthony Davis on the sidelines could impact the Lakers’ trade deadline plans. Frank Vogel certainly seems to think so.

“I’m sure we’ll get into deeper conversations in the coming days,” the Lakers’ head coach said. “But, obviously, when you have two key guys that are gonna be out, you look at the trade market differently and obviously the buyout market differently, so those are conversations that will be had in the coming days.”

Buha opines that the Lakers could use an additional ball-handler with James and Davis sidelined.

There’s more out of California:

  • Warriors big men James Wiseman and Eric Paschall have been given the green light to return to the floor for Golden State during tonight’s game against the Sixers, per Anthony Slater of The Athletic (Twitter link). Both players have been quarantining per the league’s coronavirus protocols since last week.
  • Warriors head coach Steve Kerr noted that All-Star point guard Stephen Curry will miss at least another week of play as he recovers from an inflamed tailbone, Anthony Slater of The Athletic writes. “This is going to be a little bit longer than we thought and hoped,” Kerr said. The team will reassess Curry’s injury next week.
  • Rookie Warriors center James Wiseman has been named the club’s starter at the position for the rest of the season, Anthony Slater of The Athletic reports. “James has come along really well. He’s picked up a lot of the concepts,” Kerr said. “He needs to be out there.”

California Notes: Kings, Ty Lue, Wiseman, Wiggins

Ahead of the 2020/21 season, John Hollinger of the Athletic wondered if the Kings will be able to move the contracts of shooting guard Buddy Hield and forward Harrison Barnes, and whether or not Sacramento would be able to surround newly-extended point guard De’Aaron Fox with enough help to reach the playoffs.

New Kings GM Monte McNair has expressed a desire to give Fox similarly-aged teammates. Hield is currently in the first season of his four-year, $94MM extension, which declines over each year, while Barnes has three years and $61MM left on his deal. Moving at least one of those players for assets could help in McNair’s quest to find players who align with Fox’s timeline.

There’s more out of California:

  • The Athletic’s Bill Oram and Joe Vardon explore the process last summer that ultimately led to the Lakers hiring Frank Vogel as their head coach in 2019 and the Clippers promoting Tyronn Lue to their head coaching job this year. Vogel had expected to be a top assistant on Lue’s staff with the latter serving as head coach for the Lakers in May of 2019 when negotiations between the Lakers and Lue fell apart. The Lakers would not budge from a three-year, $18MM offer, while Lue was hoping to receive closer to a five-year, $35MM deal. Lue ultimately pivoted to become the lead assistant on the staff of then-Clippers head coach Doc Rivers. Lue assumed the head job this offseason.
  • Though the Warriors may have gotten soundly defeated by the Nets in their season opener, No. 2 draft pick James Wiseman flashed plenty of potential in his NBA debut, according to Marcus Thompson II of the Athletic. The rookie center scored 19 points and pulled down six rebounds in just 24 minutes. “He’s a presence,” star point guard Stephen Curry said, “and I think he showed exactly how he can open up the floor for me in the middle of those pick-and-rolls and put pressure on the rim.”
  • Warriors small forward Andrew Wiggins is hoping to be more aggressive on offense in Golden State’s Christmas bout against the Bucks, per Anthony Slater of the Athletic“Shoot, I hope I find that flow next game,” Wiggins said. “I’m not trying to wait. I’m trying to get after it and get it as soon as possible.”

Frank Vogel: No Asterisk For Lakers’ Title

Lakers coach Frank Vogel doesn’t accept the argument that this year’s championship should come with an asterisk because of the unusual circumstances of the season, writes Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register. Vogel believes his players did the best job of adapting to the four-month layoff and the closed atmosphere in Orlando.

“To endure that type of intense pressure environment, where every detail is scrutinized, where the intensity was high,” he said, “to endure those meetings with no outlet of family, or whatever single guys would be doing, without an outlet, was one of the biggest challenges. It was a credit to all the participants to lean on and to support each other.”

With a title in hand after his first season as Lakers head coach, Vogel is enjoying his return to normal life after spending 95 days away from his family. Being on the road is an accepted part of the NBA, but this year was different. Like most coaches and players, Vogel was locked down from mid-March until early summer, when teams began preparing for their long stay at Disney World.

“It’s a really interesting time, to experience that double or nothing,” Vogel said. “Going from being quarantined at home to away from them 24-7 was really a big extreme for me and my family, but at the same time I’m proud it was something we really took in stride.”

Vogel also expressed admiration for the way the league was able to create an atmosphere that remained free from COVID-19 long enough to crown a champion. While Major League Baseball and the NFL have experienced frequent disruptions, no NBA player had to miss a game in Orlando because of the virus. Vogel kept his thermometer and pulse oximeter as souvenirs to remind him of what the league accomplished.

“For something that had never been done before, it was done on a gold-standard level,” he said. “To me, that was the most incredible thing about the bubble: getting that buy-in from 99% of the staff and players. There are things you come away with when you leave, like you felt there was a security blanket when you were there.”

Lakers Notes: LeBron, Davis, Vogel

More than a year after the first game of the NBA’s 2019 preseason tipped off, the ’19/20 campaign may finally come to an end tonight.

The Lakers hold a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals over the Heat and haven’t dropped more than one game in any of their three playoff series so far. If that trend holds, they’ll be crowned 2020 NBA champions before the end of the day.

As we wait to see if Los Angeles can finish off Miami tonight, here’s some Lakers-related reading:

  • LeBron James wasn’t immediately embraced by die-hard Lakers fans when he signed with the team in 2018, but he said on Thursday that he understands why it took them some time to warm to him. “They don’t care about your résumé at all until you become a Laker,” James said, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. “Then you’ve got to do it as a Laker, and then they respect you. I’ve learned that.”
  • Ahead of his upcoming free agency, Anthony Davis referred to Lakers head of basketball operations Rob Pelinka on Thursday as a “great executive,” as Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register writes. Davis added that Pelinka’s seventh-place finish in Executive of the Year award voting puts him in good company. “That’s kind of been a thing this year with myself with Defensive Player of the Year, LeBron with MVP (he was runner-up), now Rob with Executive of the Year,” Davis said. “But if we’re able to win one more game, then no one cares about those other awards. We’ll all be champions.”
  • Revisiting Davis’ midseason trade request from 2019, Jordan Greer of Sporting News observes that the public nature of the demand earned AD a fine and created a messy situation in New Orleans for months, but ultimately got the star big man everything he wanted.
  • With Frank Vogel on the verge of his first NBA title, Mark Whicker of The Orange County Register takes a look back at Vogel’s long, winding coaching career, which essentially began when he served as a student manager on Rick Pitino‘s Kentucky squad in 1994/95. Vogel’s first NBA job was a video coordinator role for the Celtics under Pitino several years later.

Lakers Notes: Rondo, LeBron, Vogel, Green

It wasn’t long ago that Rajon Rondo seemed destined for journeyman status, playing for six teams in five years, but now he’s a fixture on a Lakers squad that’s two wins away from an NBA title, writes Jackie MacMullan of ESPN. The veteran guard averaged a career-low 20.5 minutes per game during the regular season, but “Playoff Rondo” has been on display since he returned from a fractured thumb in August.

“I honestly believe his return to the bubble saved the Lakers’ season,” said ESPN analyst and former teammate Kendrick Perkins. “They were struggling without him. He takes pressure off LeBron (James) and (Anthony Davis), and he turns the key in the back of role players like (Kentavious) Caldwell-Pope and (Kyle) Kuzma because he’ll put them in the best position to succeed.”

Helping others succeed has been one of Rondo’s defining qualities throughout his 14-year NBA career. He has handed out more than 7,200 assists and has been an on-court strategist whom Alvin Gentry calls the smartest player he has ever coached. Rondo told MacMullan that he hopes to play four more seasons and eventually transition into a coaching or front-office job.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity,” Rondo says of being close to his second career championship. “I want to be the best role player there is. I don’t need acknowledgement from other people on whether they consider me a winner or a great teammate.”

There’s more Lakers news to pass along:

  • Michael Lee of The Athletic reviews the six NBA Finals that James has lost and looks at how each has motivated him to become better. “There’s nothing out on the floor that I cannot do at this point in my career. That’s all because of the competition and the adversity and the losses and everything I’ve been through throughout the course of my career,” said James, who has been to the Finals in 10 of the past 14 seasons. “The best teacher in life is life experience, and I’ve experienced it all.”
  • Long-time coach Rick Pitino believes his former graduate assistant, Frank Vogel, has been an ideal leader for the Lakers, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. “It’s a player’s league, and he’s with two of the top five players,” Pitino said. “Frank is the perfect coach for those two guys and the team. He’s going to do all his work behind the scenes, get them ready, never be on camera, never get any credit. And he wants it that way. His perfect scenario is them winning a championship, never mention his name and get ready for next season.”
  • Danny Green sounds determined to play in Game 3 despite his injured hip, tweets Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. “I’m not worried about my body,” Green said. “I’ll worry when it’s over… We’ll see tonight how it goes.”

Pacific Notes: Vogel, Caruso, Clippers, Warriors

Veteran coach Frank Vogel has advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time in his career and has a unique opportunity to lead the Lakers to their first championship in 10 years, Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press writes.

Vogel, who’s spent over 20 years in the league, has gotten close to reaching the Finals more than once in his career. His memorable stint with the Pacers as head coach (2011-16) included a seven-game loss to the Heat in the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals, followed by a six-game defeat to the Miami the following year.

“This career achievement is so far away from where I’m at mentally right now,” Vogel said after the Lakers’ Game 5 win over Denver. “I’m just trying to play my part. Give our guys a plan, make sure that everybody is playing together.”

Vogel started his coaching career as an assistant with the Celtics in 2001, left in 2004 to join the Sixers as an assistant, then held advanced scouting jobs with the Lakers (2005-06) and Wizards (2006-07). In the years that followed, he joined the Pacers as an assistant, became head coach, left for a two-season stint with the Magic and was hired by the Lakers as head coach in May of 2019. All of that, and at long last, he’s in the NBA Finals.

“He’s been great. He’s been unbelievable,” Lakers star LeBron James said of Vogel. “I mean, it’s been a crazy obstacle course for our franchise this whole year. … He’s been able to manage it the whole time. Bringing in guys, losing guys. He’s just always been the anchor, and our coaching staff has been right behind him. I can’t say anything more than that.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division tonight: