The Los Angeles Lakers are barely a break-even team, and they could make head coach Frank Vogel the scapegoat by firing him before the season ends. That’s the latest rumor swirling around in Hollywood; that Vogel might not survive the week if the Lakers don’t turn things around quickly, and that owner Jeanie Buss will hand the team over to assistant coach David Fizdale.
The Lakers have been in deep trouble ever since Anthony Davis went down with a knee injury in mid-December. He suffered an MCL sprain and missed the last 14 games. It’s still unknown as to when he’ll return.
Russell Westbrook’s recent shooting woes have also been impossible to ignore. He’s shooting 28.9% from 3-point range and only 43.6% from the floor. Opposing teams dare Westbrook to shoot from beyond the arc by leaving him wide open.
In the meantime, the lackluster Lakers (22-22) sit in the #7 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. They’re headed to a potential play-in tournament instead of fighting for a #1 seed with the big dogs in the conference like the Phoenix Suns, Golden State Warriors, and red-hot Memphis Grizzlies.
The Lakers are projected to finish the season with around 43 wins. They recently saw their NBA championship odds slip to a season-low of +1400. They’ve been gradually sliding down the futures board and it’s crazy to think that at one point, the Lakers were +400 odds in the preseason to win the title after they acquired Westbrook in a trade.
Lakers insist they won’t fire Vogel
When is a head coach most vulnerable? Whenever the organization says they “have full confidence” in them. It’s almost like a kiss of death. An LA Times article confirmed that Vogel’s job is safe, which is contrary to a report from The Athletic, which indicated that Vogel’s future is doomed.
“Criticism comes with the job,” said LeBron. “Frank is a strong-minded guy. He has a great coaching staff. And we as his players have to do a better job of going out and producing on the floor. Frank doesn’t care about rumors, and we don’t care either about what people are saying.”
Vogel won a championship with the Lakers two seasons ago when they ran the table in the NBA Bubble during LeBron’s second season in Hollywood.
Last season, the Lakers were eliminated by the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the playoffs because they lost Anthony Davis to a groin injury. However, Davis’ injury just covered up a bigger flaw; the Lakers lacked a third major scorer to alleviate the burden from LeBron and Davis.
The next week or so is crucial for Vogel. It looked like the team gave up on him during a 37-point blowout against the Denver Nuggets over the weekend. Magic Johnson ripped the team via social media, which forced LeBron to publicly apologize for a piss-poor effort.
The Lakers bounced back with a resounding victory against the Utah Jazz on Monday night to end a three-game losing streak. Then again, if Donovan Mitchell didn’t accidentally catch an elbow and suffer a concussion in the first half, the Lakers could have extended their skid to four in a row.
Whacking the wrong guy
If the Buss family wants to get rid of the real culprit for the Lakers’ dismal season, Jeanie Buss needs to fire general manager Rob Pelinka.
In the offseason, the Lakers made a terrible trade for Westbrook that is now biting them in the arse. Pelinka added Westbrook to the mix, but had to give up a cast of supporting players that the Lakers desperately need right now. Pelinka was the only one who didn’t know that Westbrook’s game wouldn’t mesh with LeBron’s. Westbrook is an All-Star who thrives on a bad team that will let him stuff the stat sheet and pad his triple-double record.
Pelinka and the Lakers offloaded several role players — including Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell — to acquire Westbrook. Harrell is a former Sixth Man of the Year, and Kuzma averages 15.7 points and 8.9 assists with the Wizards as their second-best scorer behind Bradley Beal. The Wizards could actually qualify for the postseason this year, and it’s because of their haul courtesy of the Lakers.
Westbrook has a ridiculous contract, which makes him impossible to move without the Lakers getting fleeced in return. How bad are your options when the Lakers seriously took a look at a Ben Simmons for Westbrook trade?
The Lakers would love to bolster their frontline with Myles Turner or Jerami Grant to play alongside Davis. However, both players are nothing more than the subjects of trade rumors because the Lakers don’t have much to offer in return for them.
Instead of Pelinka getting the boot, the Lakers might fire Vogel as the scapegoat.
Will David Fizdale become the Lakers’ next coach?
If the Lakers ax Vogel during the season, assistant coach Fizdale could take over. Fizdale had a disastrous stint with the New York Knicks (21-83), and was fired from the Memphis Grizzlies after 101 games as their head coach.
Fizdale recently met with Buss, Pelinka, and Kurt Rambis, who is an executive with the Lakers. The big wigs sat down with Fizdale to discuss what’s wrong with the Lakers and how to fix it. Vogel wasn’t a part of that not-so-secret meeting, which is where the rumors about his dismal are rooted.
If the Lakers fire Vogel to shake up the locker room, it’s a poor course of action because Vogel is a much better coach than Fizdale. If they do anything, the Lakers should probably just assign blame to the head coach before punting on this season and focusing on next year.