LOS ANGELES – Here’s a solution, Lakers:
Fire Frank Vogel.
Fire him. can him. Send him packing. Put him on a bus back to Orlando, Indiana or wherever he calls home these days. His rotations stink. His substitution patterns are reckless. His inability to connect with Russell Westbrook is costing this team games.
Wait … the Lakers already fired Frank Vogel?
For months we were led to believe Vogel was part of the problem in Los Angeles last season. Well Vogel is gone, the Lakers are winless and it’s abundantly clear LA’s issues run far deeper.
Westbrook has regressed after playing 34 minutes per game over 78 starts under Vogel. He’s averaging 10 points in three games this season. He’s handing out four assists. His shooting percentages—28.9% from the floor and a dismal 8.3% from three—are career lows. He has made three of his 17 jump shots this season, per ESPN. He’s looked uncomfortable taking every one.
His decision making has been brutal. With the Lakers clinging to a one-point lead late in Sunday’s loss to Portland, Westbrook pulled up for a mid-range jumper with 18 seconds on the shot clock … and missed. According to ESPN’s Kirk Goldsberry, it was the first time a player attempted a jump shot with under 30 seconds to go and more than 15 seconds left on the shot clock with their team up by one possession in the last four seasons.
Westbrook argued he was looking for a two-for-one opportunity.
Lakers coach Darwin Ham disagreed.
“If you’re going to go two-for-one, I think it has to be either going downhill to attack the rim or going downhill for a draw-and-kick,” Ham said. “I felt like we settled on that.”
Westbrook has to go. It didn’t work last season. It won’t work in this one. Everyone knows it. The Lakers know it. Holding onto Westbrook isn’t about some naïve notion that he will suddenly fit. It’s about waiting to see if there is a blockbuster deal worth attaching two first-round picks to move him.
There isn’t. The Wizards aren’t trading Bradley Beal in the first year of a five-year contract, Kyrie Irving isn’t going anywhere this season and, if you hadn’t noticed, the Blazers and Damian Lillard look pretty good. There is no deal out there that will instantly transform the Lakers into contenders.
There are deals, however, that will make them better. One, specifically. The Lakers engaged Indiana in trade talks this offseason. The Pacers reportedly were willing to send Buddy Hield and Myles Turner to LA if the Lakers attached two first-round picks—in 2027 and ’29—to Westbrook’s contract. Los Angeles, specifically GM Rob Pelinka, declined.
Pelinka needs to call Indiana back. Now. Not next week. Not around Thanksgiving, which the Lakers leaked was the penciled-in date to re-survey the landscape. now. The Pacers, who dropped to 1–3 on Monday and would desperately like to get into the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes, will likely be interested. LA, which can’t afford to waste any LeBron James seasons, needs to get interested, too.
Is it a blockbuster? no. Hield and Turner are flawed players. But Hield is a career 43% three-point shooter. Turner shoots 35% from 3 and is the kind of shot-blocking center that should slide in nicely alongside Anthony Davis. The Lakers, the NBA’s worst three-point shooting team, would immediately become a better one.
Is it a steep price? of course. Who knows what the state of the Lakers will be in ’27, when James is gone. Or in ’29, when the second pick would convey. Plus the trade—specifically the $19.2 million Hield is owed next season—would wipe out a chunk of LA’s cap flexibility next summer. But the Lakers made a decision when they extended James. They went all in on the present at the expense of the future, which Pelinka acknowledged last month. “[LeBron] committed to us with a long-term contract, a three-year contract,” Pelinka said. “So of course, we will do everything we can, picks included, to make deals that give us a chance to help LeBron get to the end.”
It’s time. Three games in and it’s not hyperbole to suggest the Lakers’ season is in danger of unraveling. Westbrook and Patrick Beverley, predictably, are not working. Westbrook isn’t interested in coming off the bench, a role he could theoretically thrive in. The Lakers don’t have enough shooting, which James acknowledged last week, saying “it’s not like we’re sitting here with a lot of lasers on our team.”
A trade needs to happen. this trade It won’t fix everything—we can discuss Davis’s still suspect jump shot later—but it will give the Lakers a fresh start. It will surround James with the shooting he thrived in with Miami and Cleveland. It will allow Davis to slide back to power forward, a position he (very) publicly prefers. It gives the Lakers a chance of containing. This season and potentially beyond.
Frank Vogel was never the problem. The roster was. If the Lakers hope to succeed, the roster needs to change. quickly
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