The Los Angeles Lakers are 5-5. They are coming off another blown lead against the bottom feeding Oklahoma City Thunder and getting thrashed by the Portland Trail Blazers. The sky is falling in Los Angeles and that’s what all of our questions this week are about.
Let’s get started with a serious one.
How many games should the coach give his players until he makes changes?
— Jords (@jordsantiago) November 8, 2021
Frank Vogel has never been one to make hasty decisions with his lineups (which I am assuming this question is mostly asking about). I support that philosophy – even if it leads to some painful observations – because the regular season is, in part, a time for him to gather data and information that he can use in the postseason.
The Lakers have played just ten games and already used four different starting lineups purely because of injuries. It’s just really difficult to make any valid conclusions based on that limited sample. On paper, I agree that Vogel’s actual starting lineup isn’t great. The numbers show it too; the starting lineup has a -14.2 net rating in 47 minutes. I don’t think Vogel is going to change his gut feeling based on that incredibly small sample.
That said, that doesn’t mean incremental changes aren’t happening. Avery Bradley has become an important part of the rotation, taking Malik Monk’s spot as LeBron James’ replacement in the starting lineup. Austin Reaves is earning more trust and getting more minutes. Vogel has talked about changing defensive coverages to simplify things for a team that is really struggling on that end of the floor. The Russell Westbrook and Rajon Rondo duo has effectively been banished to the shadow realm unless Vogel is forced to use it due to injuries.
So to answer the question, it depends on what sort of change you’re hoping to see. Vogel sticks with lineups for a while to get data about how they play and makes decisions then. I don’t foresee a starting lineup change for a while. But that doesn’t mean he won’t tinker around the margins in the meantime. Rightly or wrongly, there’s a little bit of smoke rising about a potential hot seat for Vogel and I’m sure he knows that too. He’s not just going to rest on his laurels and as we saw in the 2020 title run, Vogel is capable of adapting and adjusting. But just like the players need time to learn how to play together, Vogel needs time to learn how to best optimize them and that will lead to some ugly moments like we had this past week.
When are we going to start kicking ass?
— Ileana Martinez (@5075Ileana) November 8, 2021
This question sort of plays into something I have been thinking about for a while: the 2020 run really spoiled us.
That team was so special to come out of the gates as hot as they did, completely form chemistry early and just destroy competition en route to the title. That is not a normal thing to happen in the NBA.
This team has 12 new players and a bunch of injuries. It’s already not a roster that is really suited to what Vogel likes to do and that’s just compounded by players being unavailable. What makes it even sillier is that if they had not completely checked out of two games against the Thunder in which they were well on their way to blowing the other team out, we would be looking at a team that was 7-3 without even playing well. The margins are that slim.
I do have my concerns with this Lakers team and they are concerns I had before the season ever tipped off. But none of it has made me completely write them off. Depending on injuries to LeBron and Anthony Davis, I think we’ll see the Lakers go on a bit of a run to compete for the western conference top seed before too long. Health is really the biggest factor here.
Why does this team make me so sad when I watch them?
— AustinReavesStanAccount (@AR15LakerGOAT) November 7, 2021
It’s clearly because we haven’t seen Austin Reaves play 48 minutes a game yet. Frank Vogel must really be waiting to be on the hot seat before he unleashes his secret weapon.
That’ll do it for this week’s very sad mailbag. Make sure to keep getting in your questions every week via Twitter or E-mail!