Frank Vogel

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:

Lakers Notes: LeBron, Davis, Kobe, Vogel

After a disappointing first season in Los Angeles, LeBron James is taking the Lakers to the NBA Finals. James was brilliant in Saturday’s close-out win against the Nuggets, posting 38 points, 16 rebounds, and 10 assists for his 27th postseason triple double. He ended any hopes of another Denver miracle with 16 points in the final quarter, including nine straight in the closing minutes to put the game out of reach.

As teammates and opponents marveled at how James is able to keep his game at such a high level at age 35, he talked to reporters, including Bill Oram of The Athletic, about the criticism he took last year and how it inspired him.

“I heard all the conversations and everything that was said about why did I decide to come to L.A. — the reason I came to L.A., it was not about basketball,” he said. “All those conversations, just naysayers and things of that nature. I understood that, with the season I had last year and my injury, it just gave them more sticks and more wood to throw in the fire to continue to say the things that they would say about me. But it never stopped my journey and never stopped my mindset and never stopped by goal.”

There’s more Lakers news this morning:

  • The offseason trade that brought Anthony Davis from New Orleans enabled L.A. to quickly transform from missing the playoffs to being the best team in the West. Davis, who also stood out Saturday with a 27-5-3 line, turned out to be the perfect complement to LeBron. “This is the reason why I wanted to be a teammate of his and why I brought him here,” James said (Twitter link from Michael Scotto of HoopsHype). “I wanted him to see things that he hadn’t seen before in this league. To be able to come through for him meant a lot for me personally.”
  • A season like no other for the Lakers included the tragic death of franchise legend Kobe Bryant in a January helicopter crash. James took time Saturday to remember Bryant, writes Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. “He sent me a text right away and said, ‘Welcome, brother. Welcome to the family.’ That was a special moment because at the time, Laker faithful wasn’t (fully in on me). A lot of people were saying, ‘Well, we might not want LeBron at this point in his career,’ and, ‘Is he right? Is he going to get us back (to the Finals)?’ So to hear from him and get his stamp of approval, it meant a lot. I don’t ever question myself, but when it’s coming from Kobe, it definitely meant a lot.”
  • Frank Vogel only became the Lakers’ coach after they missed on their first two targets, but he turned out to be an ideal leader for the team, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN. Vogel said the mystique surrounding the franchise made him want the job. “For me it was just, they were the cool team out West,” he said. “I didn’t really leave the East Coast, I didn’t travel much as a kid or anything like that. So, it was like a foreign country thinking about California. And they just had palm trees and sunshine, just had a flair to them that was celebrity like, you know? And the way their team played represented that. It was a show on the basketball court, it wasn’t just a sporting event.”

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.”