Although it had seemed the Los Angeles Lakers were inevitably on their way to an early offseason after their loss this past Friday against the Pelicans, they weren’t mathematically eliminated from play-in contention until last night when they lost 121-110 to the Phoenix Suns. With that, they’re officially done with three games still remaining between now and the end of their season. After the game, the Lakers’ head coach Frank Vogel and their star players (sans LeBron James who missed his fourth game in the last five with an ankle sprain) gave their thoughts on the season that fell so, so short of the championship aspirations held before it started.
In the immediate postgame availability, Vogel expressed “disappointment” for the Lakers fans as well as the Buss family. That was the summary of his comments at that time, but we now know a little… scratch that… A LOT more about what Vogel’s full thoughts on this season are as he conducted a 30-minute phone interview with Bill Oram and The Athletic ($$$). Vogel has a few opinions expressed in the piece that you normally wouldn’t get from him, including the following transcriptions from Oram about what the coach felt early on in the season about the team’s outlook early on in the campaign.
“We were getting killed in the preseason,” Vogel said in an expansive 30-minute phone interview. “And it was like, ‘Well, it’s preseason.’ But it’s still the early look at those guys.”
“Every game, you’re fighting against the current of healthier teams or teams that have more continuity,” Vogel said. “Or teams that are just better. Meaning your margin for error is very slim.”
He points out a “current of healthier teams”, with the Lakers’ injuries this year being a very valid excuse for their issues (just as it was in the 2020-21 season). Anthony Davis has only played 40 with LeBron James only playing 56 of the team’s 79 games this season. That doesn’t even take into account the injuries to Talen Horton-Tucker, Trevor Ariza, and Kendrick Nunn (who will end up playing no regular season games for the team) that kicked off the season, or the wave of COVID-19 absences that plagued them in December.
But Vogel doesn’t even want to definitively say that without those injuries, they would have reached those championship heights they planned to reach, as Oram reported the following from their conversation:
Asked if he ever thought the Lakers had found the recipe for long-term success within all those various team identities, Vogel pointed at the injuries.
He said being full strength, “which never happened for more than three, four games at a time,” would have been the key.
“But even with that,” he said, “I felt like we were still a little bit imperfect.”
Those quotes from Vogel are a stark contrast to what Davis has said in postgame media availability following the past two games. On Tuesday night, AD said the following about what he felt could have happened if they were healthy this season (h/t Harrison Faigen and Silver Screen & Roll).
More from AD:
"I think we would love to see, and the world would love to see, if we could have been healthy for all 82… I truly believe we could have done something special."
— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) April 6, 2022
Davis also said the following after Sunday’s loss against the Nuggets… showing the unbelievable nerve to mention Kendrick Nunn in what could have been… a player that would come nowhere close to addressing the height, length, and defensive issues that plagued this team even when healthy.
Anthony Davis: "What could we have been if I was healthy all year, LeBron, Kendrick Nunn? You think about those things. When we put this team together, we looked really good on paper, but we haven't had a chance to reach that potential with guys being in and out of the lineup." pic.twitter.com/4yuS4I7AJW
— Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto) April 3, 2022
So…yeah. Here we are. Although Anthony Davis is publicly expressing hope on what could have been if the team was healthy, head coach Frank Vogel isn’t singing the same tune as he has seemingly felt doubt on this team’s chances even dating back to the preseason (when Kendrick Nunn actually suited up a little in the purple-and-gold).
Vogel’s uncharacteristic comments seem to come from a man that knows his days are numbered, especially after a report just yesterday that it was still expected he and the team would be parting ways upon the conclusion of this season.
Now that he’s publicly put the front office’s roster construction on blast… will we see that parting of ways happen before the season’s actual ending on Sunday, April 10th? We’ll see…