Three Things to Know: Lakers’ Vogel on hot seat, but can a coach fix them?


Three Things is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks going that make the NBA great.

1) Lakers’ Vogel on hot seat, but can a coach fix them?

When a general manager — or owner — is considering firing a coach, the first question they should ask themselves is:

Who are we getting that’s better?

As reports swirled on Tuesday of Fran Vogel being on the hot seat with the Lakers — to the point he is being evaluated “game by game” — that question needs to be asked in Lakers front offices. This is a classic case where the coach is not the problem but he’s not the solution either. With the Lakers’ backed into a salary cap corner unable to make significant roster moves, the coach is the convenient scapegoat and the easiest thing to change.

Just remember the core Lakers’ issues come from decisions thrust on Vogel, not ones of his own doing.

Vogel certainly has not been perfect. His rotation choices — including being slow to come around to leaning on Anthony Davis/LeBron James at center — exacerbated the problems. His voice is not carrying a lot of weight in the locker room, according to reports.

But who are the Lakers getting that’s better? What coach are they bringing in that solves their problems?

The Lakers have former Knicks and Grizzlies coach David Fizdale on the bench next to Vogel and he is a LeBron favorite going back to Miami. However, is the career 71-134 coach who just went 1-5 while Vogel was out with COVID an upgrade? Is there another coach without a job right now who would be an instant upgrade? Bring back Mike D’Antoni? Hire Terry Stotts? Steve Clifford? Bring Kurt Rambis back out of the front office?

Can the Lakers even secure a top-flight coach? Remember, Tyronn Lue was the Lakers’ first offer for this job but he wanted no part of the only three-year contract and forcing Jason Kidd on him as an assistant, conditions Vogel accepted. A name coach will demand money, a level of security, and power within the organization. Would the Lakers offer that?

Right now, Rob Pelinka and Kurt Rambis have the power — to the point Rambis is attending coaching meetings in person, according to the Los Angeles Times. He is reportedly advocating for more big lineups with Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan at the five. Lineups with Jordan at center have a -10.4 net rating this season, with Howard it is +2.5. LeBron at center lineups are +2.3. All of those are with relatively small sample sizes because the Lakers have not had steady lineups all season, in large part due to injuries and COVID.

The Lakers may trade Talen Horton-Tucker and/or Kendrick Nunn at the deadline to improve the roster (the only players with mid-sized contracts they can trade), but they likely bring back a starter-level rotation player. Not a game changer. If the Lakers make a second-half run to the title — like the 2021 Tampa Bay Buccaneers that LeBron has used as a model before — the improvement will have to come from within.

The Lakers may not be convinced Vogel is the guy to coax that out of this roster. But the better question is, do they have anyone better lined up?

2) The Splash Brothers looked like themselves again

After a rough road trip, the Warriors needed a comfortable win and some good news upon returning home?

How about the Splash Brothers looking like their vintage selves again?

Klay Thompson scored a season-high 21 points and looked the best he has this season, Stephen Curry added 18, and the Warriors cruised to a win against the Pistons Tuesday.

Thompson shot 6-of-13 overall and 3-of-8 from 3, and looked more like himself — not just the shots falling, but in terms of moving more fluidly and looking comfortable.

Andrew Wiggins added 19 points. The Pistons young guard Cade Cunningham had a rough night, scoring 8 points on 3-of-10 shooting. Progress is never linear, and there will be rough patches.

3) Kemba Walker returns to Knicks, but Karl Anthony-Towns steals show

After missing 10 games with a sore knee, Kemba Walker was back with the Knicks and the starting lineup Tuesday night — and he looked sharp, with 19 points and draining 4-of-8 from 3. That includes a couple of late shots from beyond the arc that had the Knicks up late.

Then Karl-Anthony Towns drove on Julius Randle and scored over him with what proved to be the game-winner

Minnesota held on to win 112-110. It was another tough loss for the Knicks where their defense was not good enough when it mattered (although give Towns credit, he’s an elite scorer).

Highlight of the Night: Klay Thompson 3 to end first half lights up Chase Center

We can’t get enough Klay.

While this is an impressive three to end the half, the best part is the reaction on the bench and in Chase Center. Everyone is rooting for Klay.

Last night’s scores:

Minnesota 112, New York 110
Golden State 102, Detroit 86

Report: ‘Strong optimism’ Anthony Edwards could return to Timberwolves Sunday

Houston Rockets v Minnesota Timberwolves
Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

What looked so bad when it happened may only cost Anthony Edwards three games.

Edwards rolled his ankle last week but could be back Sunday when the Timberwolves travel to Golden State, reports Chris Haynes at Yahoo Sports.

Edwards is averaging 24.7 points and 5.9 rebounds a game this season, and he has stepped up to become the team’s primary shot-creator with Karl-Anthony Towns out for much of the season. The Timberwolves have been outscored by 3.4 points per 100 possessions when Edwards is off the court this season.

Towns returned to action a couple of games ago, and with Edwards on Sunday it will be the first time since November the Timberwolves will have their entire core on the court — now with Mike Conley at the point. With the Timberwolves tied for the No.7 seed in an incredibly tight West (they are 1.5 games out of sixth but also one game out of missing the postseason entirely) it couldn’t come at a better time. It’s also not much time to develop of fit and chemistry the team will need in the play-in, and maybe the playoffs.

Nets announce Ben Simmons diagnosed with nerve impingement in back, out indefinitely

NBA: FEB 24 Nets at Bulls
Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Ben Simmons — who has been in and out of the Nets’ lineup all season and often struggled when on the court — is out indefinitely due to a nerve impingement in his back, the team announced Friday.

A nerve impingement — sometimes called a pinched nerve — is when a bone or other tissue compresses a nerve. Simmons has a history of back issues going back to his time in Philadelphia, and he had a microdiscectomy about a year ago, after he was traded to Brooklyn.

With two weeks and nine games left in the season, logic would suggest Simmons is done for the season. Coach Jacque Vaughn said Thursday that Simmons has done some individual workouts but nothing with teammates, however, he would not say Simmons is shut down for the season or would not participate in the postseason with Brooklyn.

Simmons had not played since the All-Star break when he got PRP injections to help deal with ongoing knee soreness. When he has played this season offense has been a struggle, he has been hesitant to shoot outside a few feet from the basket and is averaging 6.9 points a game. Vaughn used him mainly as a backup center.

Simmons has two fully guaranteed years and $78 million remaining on his contract after this season. While Nets fans may want Simmons traded, his injury history and that contract will make it very difficult to do so this summer (Brooklyn would have to add so many sweeteners it wouldn’t be worth it).

The Nets have slid to the No.7 seed in the West — part of the play-in — and have a critical game with the Heat on Saturday night.

Frustration rising within Mavericks, ‘We got to fight hard, play harder’


If the postseason started today, the Dallas Mavericks would miss out — not just the playoffs but also the play-in.

The Mavericks fell to the No.11 seed in the West (tied with the Thunder for 10th) after an ugly loss Friday night to a tanking Hornets team playing without LaMelo Ball and on the second night of a back-to-back. Dallas is 3-7 with both Kyrie Irving and Luka Dončić playing, and with this latest loss fans booed the Mavericks. What was Jason Kidd’s reaction? Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

“We probably should have been booed in the first quarter,” Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said…. “The interest level [from players] wasn’t high,” Kidd said. “It was just disappointing.”

That was a little different than Kyrie Irving’s reaction to the boos.

Then there is franchise cornerstone Luka Dončić, who sounded worn down, by the season and the losing in Dallas.

“We got to fight hard, play harder. That’s about it. We got to show we care and it starts with me first. I’ve just got to lead this team, being better, playing harder. It’s on me….

“I think you can see it with me on the court. Sometimes I don’t feel it’s me. I’m just being out there. I used to have really fun, smiling on court, but it’s just been so frustrating for a lot of reasons, not just basketball.”

Dončić would not elaborate on what, outside basketball, has frustrated him.

Look at seeds 5-10 in the West and you see teams that have struggled but have the elite talent and experience to be a postseason threat: The Phoenix Suns (Devin Booker, plus Kevin Durant is expected back next week), the Golden State Warriors (Stephen Curry and the four-time champions), the Los Angeles Lakers (Anthony Davis and maybe before the season ends LeBron James).

Should the Mavericks be in that class? On paper yes, they have clutch playoff performers of the past in Dončić and Irving, but an energy-less loss to Charlotte showed a team lacking the chemistry and fire right now that teams like the Lakers (beating the Thunder) and Warriors (beating the 76ers) showed on the same night.

The Mavericks feel like less of a playoff threat, especially with their defensive concerns. They don’t have long to turn things around — and get into the postseason.

Watch Anthony Davis score 37, spark Lakers to key win against Thunder


LOS ANGELES (AP) — Anthony Davis had 37 points and 14 rebounds, Dennis Schröder added 13 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter and the Los Angeles Lakers got a vital victory for their playoff hopes, 116-111 over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night.

Lonnie Walker scored 20 points in an impressive return to the rotation for the Lakers, who won their third straight to move even with Minnesota in seventh place in the Western Conference standings despite the injury absences of LeBron James and D’Angelo Russell.

“It was a must-win game for us,” said Davis, who made 15 of his 21 shots. “We had to come out and get this game, and we came out offensive and defensively just playing extremely well. … We’ve got to .500, and now it’s time to get on the other side.”

With Davis leading the way on both ends of the court, Los Angeles (37-37) reached .500 for the first time this year. The Lakers started the season 2-10, but they’re 12-6 since the trade deadline with a rapidly cohering roster and the looming return of the NBA’s career scoring leader.

“This team is locked in and connected,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “The vibe and the spirit have been great. Guys are really trying to figure out how we can be better. That’s what you want. … Guys are competing because they know what they’re representing. They know the history of the franchise they’re representing.”

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey scored 27 points apiece for Oklahoma City, which lost for only the fourth time in 12 games down the stretch. The Thunder (36-38) dropped into a tie with Dallas for 10th in the West despite holding the Lakers to only 42 points in the second half after LA put up 41 in the first quarter alone.

“That’s a testament to our ability to scrap and hang in there,” Oklahoma City coach Mark Daigneault said. “That’s how you want teams to score against you. All the things they got down the stretch are things we’re willing to live with. It’s hard to slow that down.”

Russell sat out with a sore right hip, joining James on the sideline at an important game for the Lakers’ playoff hopes. Los Angeles still improved to 8-5 during James’ latest injury absence.

Oklahoma City erased all of Los Angeles’ early 17-point lead when Gilgeous-Alexander’s jumper tied it at 102-102 with 5:25 to play. Davis responded with three points, and Walker hit a tiebreaking shot with 3:50 left.

Schröder replaced Russell in the starting lineup and had another standout game, including six points in the final 3:18 while the Lakers hung on. Walker got his most significant playing time since early March in Russell’s absence, and the former starter responded with four 3-pointers.

“I’ve just been in the gym, being positive and focused on what we’re trying to accomplish,” Walker said. “I love these guys, and I’m fortunate to play with them.”

Ham said Russell’s hip injury was “not too serious, but serious enough where we need to manage it.”

Gilgeous-Alexander played despite the Thunder being on the back end of consecutive games. The Thunder have been resting him in the second game of recent back-to-backs.