Frank Vogel was fired from the Lakers in part due to an inability to maximize Russell Westbrook, according to the report


Among the culprits of the Los Angeles Lakers’ disappointing season, Frank Vogel ranks at the bottom of most lists. While his performance was far from flawless, the general consensus is that he shouldn’t be blamed for the disastrous list his front office has made around him. After all, trading for Russell Westbrook wasn’t his idea. He has not decided to build a team of 10 players with minimum salary. He now blames himself for that. He was released shortly after the end of the season and, according to The Athletic, his handling of the Westbrook situation played a big part in his downfall.

According to The Athletic, “There was a strong feeling that it was up to Vogel to make the Westbrook experiment work and the fact that it did not lead to questions about whether Westbrook had been placed in a position to succeed.” This logic does not stand up to certain scrutiny. The Lakers knew early in the season that Westbrook was a poor shot and a lazy cutter, and as a result he would have problems playing the ball alongside LeBron James. They knew he was also a poor defender and asking him to slip into Vogel’s defensive culture was always going to be difficult. The Lakers, to put it simply, blame Vogel for doing things no other coach could get him to do.

The cynical explanation here is that the front office decision makers who fired Vogel were fighting to save their own jobs and needed a scapegoat. But if you follow the breadcrumbs here, you might be wondering why the Lakers would bother spreading pro-Westbrook sentiment. There are a few possibilities, and some are more encouraging than others.

The best view for the Lakers is that they’re trying to build some level of leverage. Stories like this can’t hurt their negotiating position when looking for potential Westbrook trades. The Lakers want other teams to believe they can keep Westbrook in hopes that such belief will allow them to escape a Westbrook trade without sacrificing significant draft capital.

The alternative here is that the Lakers have already made the decision that they are not prepared to commit significant draft capital to Westbrook’s move, and they are using the media to prepare fans for the possibility that he actually does next season will be back. Supporting that notion, Sam Amick says, is that former Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who has had a voice on team affairs in recent years and is involved in the current coaching search, is a Westbrook fan.

The Lakers cannot credibly bring Westbrook back next season and expect to win a championship. If their goal is to win immediately, Westbrook must be dealt. If he’s back, it’s a signal that the LeBron James-era Lakers are just running out the clock waiting to rebuild with their leftover draft capital and the cap space their expiring contracts will bring. Frank Vogel was fired from the Lakers in part due to an inability to maximize Russell Westbrook, according to the report

Justin Scacco

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