LeBron James has been answering the questions of a room full of reporters since he was 16, and he’s very skilled at being able to answer a question without really answering it. For example, on Monday, LeBron was asked for the first time about the criticism of Frank Vogel and the fairness of it.
“LeBron, Frank has taken some criticism for the way you guys have started? Is that fair? And how would you evaluate how he’s done?”
LeBron answered the question but by pulling a piece of what was asked while avoiding the meat of it.
“I think criticism comes with the job. Frank is a strong-minded guy. He has a great coaching staff. We as players have to do a better job of going out and producing on the floor. We’re a team and an organization that don’t mind some adversity, that don’t mind people saying things about us, obviously, because it comes with the territory. We have a lot of guys on this team that’s been bulletin board material for quite a long time. It don’t quite bother us. Everything that we do stays in-house when comes to our preparation and how we prepare for our next opponent and how we prepare to get better. Frank doesn’t care and we don’t either about what people are saying.”
Frank Vogel’s seat is getting warm, league sources have told NBC Sports. Whether Vogel is at the heart of the problem or just the scapegoat for the pedestrian start caused by injuries and a roster that has shifted away from defense-first players is up for debate. You can be sure that LeBron would be consulted before the Lakers made any move with their coach. He has earned that status.
LeBron didn’t answer the spirit of the question or give his evaluation of Vogel. He certainly does not give a full-throated endorsement of his coach, but nor is he dismissive. LeBron just says Vogel doesn’t care about the criticism and the players need to do better. Both of those things are true, but that’s also not answering the question asked.
The Lakers are 12-12 to start the season with a -1.7 net rating, a bottom-10 offense and a middle-of-the pack defense (LeBron missing half the Lakers’ games is a key reason the offense is struggling so far). Los Angeles sits seventh in the West, and if the playoffs started today, they would be in the play-in.
Because we have all seen LeBron-led teams start slow and finish strong, no one wise is writing off the Lakers, but they have looked several steps behind the Warriors, Suns and Jazz in the West. It’s a long road between now and April, maybe by then the Lakers will have found a groove, but there are still some wondering who will be the coach of the Lakers when we get to that point.