The State of the LakeShow
Last night, the Lakers fell to the Sacramento Kings in a triple overtime game — their first one in ten years — 141–137. The big three performed well — LeBron had 30 points, Anthony Davis had 23, and Russell Westbrook had 29 — at the cost of playing nearly 50 minutes each because…Frank Vogel. Malik Monk had 20 points in 40 minutes, and Carmelo Anthony had 16 points in 43 minutes.
What stood out to me and every other Laker fan in last night’s game was Vogel’s insistence on playing his starters through the first two overtimes, even when they have a game against the Pistons tomorrow night. He also refused to play rookie Austin Reaves, who just came back from a hamstring injury and was available that game. It’s decisions like these that have had many scratching their heads at the 11-year head coach and questioning his future with the team.
Before I discuss the fans’ grievances with Vogel, I should point out how the team has been doing.
A squad with multiple All-Stars and future Hall-of-Famers lost twice to the Oklahoma City Thunder, got blown out by the Minnesota Timberwolves, and were in cage matches with the Houston Rockets and the Detroit Pistons — with the latter game nearly becoming a literal one. Aside from these inexcusable losses, there has also been a lack of effort and consistency throughout the year, regardless of win or loss. The Lakers’ formula is to play with a burst of energy in the first half, build up a big lead, squander said lead in the third quarter, and claw their way back in the final frame. This mindset, accompanied by a recent surge of “Me over We” basketball, has led to either narrow wins or embarrassing losses, and it is about time that that style of Laker basketball is erased for good.
Instead, the team simply needs to get back to that “We Over Me” mentality. The increasing isolations and “hero ball” have been frustrating for fans of a team who preached “sacrifice” in the offseason like it was the Word of God. They also need to recognize that effort and energy must be exerted for all 48 minutes of a game from all 17 players. I cover my high school’s varsity basketball team, and our bench is more lively than the entire Lakers’ roster, which is saying a lot. Overall, the Lakers really need to buy into team basketball again and show that mindset on the court in order to get back on track and get Vogel off the hot seat.
Speaking of Vogel, ooooooh boy. His rotations and decision-making have probably made every Laker fan lose a few brain cells and some hair follicles as well. He insists on starting the big three next to two non-shooters, most recently Avery Bradley and DeAndre Jordan, which has left everyone perplexed and up in arms. Fans who were initially pleased with Jordan’s arrival have since turned their backs on him, pleading behind their screens to get him out of the game and play one of Dwight, AD, or even LeBron at center instead. Avery Bradley, despite his status as a remarkable on-ball defender, has been very inconsistent on offense recently, going for 15 points against the Knicks last week and dropping a whopping two points last night against Sacramento.
It is Vogel’s repeated action of putting together the worst possible lineups at the worst possible moments that has left fans frustrated. Unfortunately, there are not many good replacements for him. David Fizdale would most likely get promoted if Vogel is axed. Perhaps Phil Handy could take on that role as well. However, looking outside the Lakers’ coaching staff, the list of candidates continues to shrink. The Kings just fired their coach earlier this week, some guy by the name of — Laker fans, avert your eyes — Luke Walton. Yup, we all know how that transpired last time, and there is no way that Laker diehards want him back. So, it appears the purple and gold will be stuck with Vogel for the time being, like it or not.
There you have it: my current assessment of the Lakers beyond a few tweets. Of course, this is a team of experienced veterans who have seen it all, so there is no reason to believe they cannot figure it out. It’s all a matter of how quickly they can turn it around. As for Vogel, he needs to make adjustments as quickly as his players do. Otherwise, he might be getting sacked, and Laker fans will be one step closer to living the 2012–13 season all over again.