Vogel: Not feeling 'under siege' amid job chatterTheSportsWig Admin
LOS ANGELES — Just 15 months removed from guiding the Los Angeles Lakers to the NBA championship, coach Frank Vogel once again found himself answering questions about his job security on Wednesday night.
Of course the loss to the Pacers, 16-29 overall and losers of 10 of their previous 11 games, caused the questions to persist. Only after the game, it was Vogel’s players fielding the queries, too.
“Coaching staff has been great,” said LeBron James, who led the Lakers with 30 points but shot 3-for-8 in the fourth when L.A. was outscored 35-24. “They put us in position to succeed, and it’s up to us to handle the business, so there’s always things that we all can do better, but there’s no blame.”
James then took issue with a question regarding any strain that Vogel might be feeling as the Lakers dropped another game.
“I’m not in that business, of pointing fingers or pointing blame,” James said. “It’s not my lane. I’m not a negative person. So if you got something to ask me besides trying to s— on somebody, I’ll answer those. … It seems like y’all are in s— mode right now.”
Carmelo Anthony said the Lakers’ players will control where L.A. goes from here, eighth place in the Western Conference with 37 games left in the regular season.
“I mean, we got to do it,” Anthony said. “It’s up to us. It ain’t up to … Frank’s not out there. It’s up to us to go out there and execute and play basketball and win some games.”
L.A.’s latest lull reached its nadir with a 37-point loss to the Denver Nuggets over the weekend — which was L.A.’s third straight loss at the time, with the Lakers’ defense allowing 125 points or more in all three defeats — that put Vogel’s job in jeopardy, according to various reports.
Had L.A. suffered a similar result in Monday’s game against the Utah Jazz, the Lakers’ front office could have felt compelled to remove Vogel from his post, sources told ESPN.
Instead, the Lakers beat the Jazz 101-95 in the team’s most complete performance of the season. The Lakers held the league’s No. 1 offense to just 37.3% shooting and downed the No. 4 team in the Western Conference despite missing All-Star big man Anthony Davis (knee) and their leading bench scorer in Anthony (back).
“It’s really not up to me whether it’s fair or not,” Vogel said before the Pacers game. “It comes with the territory, comes with being the Lakers’ coach. We have high expectations. This fan base really cares. It’s a big market, and I wouldn’t want it any other way, to be honest with you. I want people to care, I want people to want the best and to command excellence out of our group. That’s what we command of ourselves; that’s just the way it is.”
Vogel was able to press on — for now — but there was no avoiding how much of a gut punch the Indiana loss was. The Pacers erased a 15-point first-half deficit and ran away with the win thanks to Caris LeVert scoring 22 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter, going 9-for-10 in the final frame.
“This is definitely a disappointing loss,” Vogel said. “Indy is a team that’s sub-.500, that on our home court, we feel like we should win. And you got to win the games you feel like you should win. So, a disappointing loss.”
Wednesday was the second time this season Vogel addressed questions about his job performance — a line of questioning that was almost invited by the Lakers after granting Vogel only a one-year contract extension in the offseason. The tepid financial commitment came despite the fact that Vogel’s playoff winning percentage, 18-9 (.667), puts him third in franchise history — behind only Pat Riley (.685) and Paul Westhead (.684) — and ahead of Phil Jackson (.652), who is fourth.
Vogel said his interactions with the Lakers’ front office — namely vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka as well as senior basketball adviser Kurt Rambis — have been business as usual, even with L.A.’s recent struggles.
“I meet with our front office,” Vogel said. “We talk about the previous night’s game. Every game. All year. It’s been that way for three years. And it’s not been different this week or of late.”
Vogel characterized his relationship with the front office as “healthy” and said he has been given no specific feedback about his job performance as L.A. has started the season at an underwhelming 22-23 (.489).
“Everyone is working together to leave no stone unturned in terms of getting this thing going in the right direction,” he said. “And we all have a great working relationship where we’re trying to figure out things together. We won a championship this way, and I feel good about our process.”
Vogel said the scrutiny is part and parcel to manning the sidelines for a team stocked with future Hall of Famers and expecting another title run.
“In this business, and with this team, if you’re not winning at a super high level, you’re going to get this type of noise,” he said. “I’m good at blocking that out. I feel good about the job that we’re doing.”
Vogel said the Lakers’ defensive execution against the Jazz should be a lesson to his team on what it can accomplish when it brings the requisite focus to a game. He said that he and his coaching staff will continue to tweak schematic concepts and lineups on a game-to-game basis until Davis returns.
“I believe in what we can do this year,” Vogel said, “so steadfastly remaining focused on the task at hand.”
L.A. will begin its longest road trip of the season — six games over 10 days — on Friday in Orlando, Florida.
“Hopefully the old adage that nothing is more motivation than a loss,” Vogel said. “Hopefully that sends us off motivated to start the trip strong.”