Sport Lakers coach Frank Vogel confident about getting players to buy in
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — The Lakers players huddled around at center court. Instead of concluding practice with any references toward winning an NBA championship, Lakers coach Frank Vogel summed up what it will take to hoist that trophy.
“Listen up, while everybody catches their breath,” Vogel said. “To be an elite defense, you have to be in great shape.”
Vogel made those remarks after the Lakers completed their first practice of training camp Saturday. Not only did it capture that Vogel expended about 60% of his practice catered toward defensive drills, it also highlighted Vogel’s approach to win coaching a Lakers franchise filled with expectations and star talent. Instead of talking about adding another trophy that Lakers governor Jeanie Buss can place in her office that oversees the practice court, Vogel stressed the need to build a foundation so that the Lakers are capable of hoisting such hardware.
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“Stay in the moment,” Vogel said. “We talked about it. We have the ability to achieve the ultimate prize, but our focus will not be on that. Our focus will be on the moment.”
Lakers coach Frank Vogel talks to players about needing to have conditioning sharp so that they are an elite defense— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina)
How Vogel stays in the moment might largely determine the success of his coaching tenure. The Lakers had hired Vogel after the front office had mixed reviews for how well Luke Walton coached a team last season featuring a superstar (LeBron James) and a handful of veterans and young players. The expectations heightened after the Lakers acquired six-time All-Star Anthony Davis from New Orleans for Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and the No. 4 pick shortly before the NBA Draft. With the Lakers failing to hire a former coach James respected and won an NBA title with in Cleveland (Tyronn Lue), perhaps Vogel will face challenges in fully winning James over. With the Lakers’ front office admittedly encouraging Vogel to hire Jason Kidd and Lionel Hollins as lead assistants, perhaps the Lakers already hired Vogel’s potential replacement.
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“He’s the coach and we have a coaching staff and they’re going to put us in position how they feel that best suits our ballclub,” James said. “It’s for him to give us the game plan and then for us to go out and execute it.”
Nonetheless, Vogel has not appeared to feel threatened with those circumstances. Instead, he has appeared to embrace them.
That includes how Vogel will handle his interactions with the front office. Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka described Vogel as having “a very collaborative personality.” Pelinka added that “Frank loved that vision” to hire Kidd and Hollins after also having veteran assistant coaches during his six-year tenure with the Indiana Pacers (2011-16), including Brian Shaw (2011-2013) and Nate McMillan (2013-16). After all, the Lakers have more experienced veterans, including James, Davis, Rajon Rondo, Danny Green and Avery Bradley.
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The man who once seemed blithely detached now sounds deeply engaged. "I'm very motivated, but I'm right now not in the talking-about-it mode, " James said with a steely stare. "I've been very quiet this summer for a reason. My mother always told me, don't talk about it, be about, it, so that's where I'm at." The man who once scoffed at a question about proving himself to Lakers fans answered a similar query with a pledge."I think as a team and myself, we need to get the Lakers back to where they're accustomed to over the years, so I'm excited about that, " he said.
“When you have guys on your team like LeBron and Rondo and players of that ilk,” Pelinka said, “having guys that can relate to that level of talent is really key and important for us and a big ingredient that we're grateful for on our staff.”
That also includes how Vogel will handle his interactions with his players. James may have preferred Lue initially. But James remains aware of Vogel’s Pacers teams that challenged him in Miami in the Eastern Conference finals (seven games in 2013, six in 2014). Vogel asked Davis in their first meeting, “What do you know about me?” Davis admitted not much, other than relaying that Kentucky assistant coach Kenny Payne told Davis to tell Vogel that he said hello. Davis quickly learned that Vogel helped the Pacers finish in the top 10 in defense every season, including in 2011-12 (ninth), 2012-13 (second), 2013-14 (second), 2014-15 (fourth) and 2015-16 (seventh).
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“He wants to be a defensive-minded team and I think a lot of the guys on the team want to be a defensive player,” Davis said. “So it kind of works hand in hand. He’s been stressing defense a lot throughout our schemes and what we want our identity to be as a team on the defensive end.”
Therefore, it seems expected how Vogel handled what he called “a great first practice.”
Vogel estimated that he spent the first hour of practice strictly on defensive drills that focused on communication. During the end of the practice that was open to the media, Vogel stopped a scrimmage after becoming upset with the team’s transition defense.
“We have to get back. We’ll talk it out when we’re back,” Vogel said. “Let’s not jog it out while trying to figure out what the hell happened. Let’s get back.”
Beyond hustling back on defense, Vogel also has stressed for the need for his players to play physical. Why shouldn’t they? That marks a needed quality to excel on defense. The Lakers also have plenty of length with a frontcourt that includes Davis, James, Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee. But during the scrimmage portion, James and Lakers guard Alex Caruso bumped into each other. Howard also tangled with Davis when fighting for a rebound. Afterwards, Vogel mused that Howard “probably overdid it a little bit.”
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AD and Dwight get tangled up for a rebound. Then LeBron runs some point— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina)
Nonetheless, Vogel mostly appreciated his players showing desire on the first day of practice. What will it take to keep that same mindset through an 82-game season and beyond?
“We’ve got the talent on the defensive end of the floor. We got to commit to it,” Vogel said. “The care factor’s got to be higher than anyone in the league, and we got to play harder and more physical than anybody in the league throughout 82 games. That’s got to be the standard and build the habits of who we want to be going into the playoffs.”
Still, Vogel does not want to become a drill sergeant.
As much as he preached about the need not to skip steps, Vogel prioritized teaching basic concepts to open practice before allowing his players to scrimmage against each other. With Kyle Kuzma sidelined through at least the next two weeks with an injured left foot, Vogel has kept his starting lineup undetermined beyond featuring James and Davis together. On Saturday, Vogel featured Rondo, Green and McGee with the starters. But he said he plans to shuffle that group at least in the short term to maximize roster combinations. Vogel also seems to back James’ hope to feature Davis the most in his system.
It seems to early to conclude how those elements will play out. But Vogel has a hunch. “My sense from guys is there’s a going to be a willingness to sacrifice for the betterment of the team,” Vogel said.
“We got guys who kind of already know the game,” Davis said. “We don’t have many young guys so it’s easy for guys to buy in if we know what we want to do.”
Watch: Pascal Siakam loses it when Fred VanVleet was asked about his height
The Toronto Raptors are currently overseas in Japan playing a preseason series against the Houston Rockets. Apparently the same etiquette smallish Raptors guard Fred VanVleet has been afforded here in North America has not made its way to the eastern metropolis. One of the game’s most-underrated rated players was asked Tuesday how he has success in the NBA while being one of the shortest players on the court. Teammate Pascal Siakam could not stop laughing.Check this moment out. It might be the best thing you’ll see all day.
What do the Lakers want to do? Win an NBA title, of course. Before they have a chance to do that in June, though, Vogel appears intent on ensuring his players pay attention to the necessary details in September. That includes concluding the first practice talking about the need to keep the conditioning sharp.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY:
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