05/20 17:39 CDT Vogel introduction caught up in ongoing Lakers drama
Vogel introduction caught up in ongoing Lakers drama
By JOE REEDY
AP Sports Writer
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) --- Frank Vogel's determination to build
"organizational togetherness" within the Los Angeles Lakers met the reality of
the team's current dysfunction Monday.
Vogel's introduction as the Lakers' coach was almost overshadowed by comments
made earlier by Magic Johnson. The former Lakers great appeared on ESPN's
"First Take" and said general manager Rob Pelinka "betrayed" him, which was one
of the reasons he resigned as president of basketball operations. That put the
GM in the position of using most of Vogel's 26-minute news conference to
Pelinka said he has talked to Johnson several times since his resignation on
April 9 and said Johnson's comments surprised him.
"It's saddening and disheartening to think he believes things are a
misperception," Pelinka said. "I think all of us in life probably have been
through things where maybe there's third party whispers or 'he said, she said'
things that aren't true."
LeBron James watched the news conference from the back of the gym at the team's
facility, but did not shake hands with Vogel and declined interview requests.
He shot baskets on another court while Vogel did one-on-one interviews with
Vogel, who replaced Luke Walton, said the news conference took on a different
tone than he imagined at the start of the day.
"It was definitely different than I expected and different than I've ever been
a part of," Vogel said. "But I understand the line of questioning in light of
the events of this morning. So you just roll with the punches.
"The perception about our team is not always the same as reality and you block
out the noise."
Johnson stunned everyone by giving up his role during an impromptu news
conference roughly 90 minutes before the regular-season finale. He said he
wanted to fire Walton but that others blocked that. Walton did end up being
dismissed before being hired by Sacramento.
"I started hearing, 'Magic, you're not working hard enough' and 'Magic's not in
the office.' People around the Lakers office were telling me Rob was saying
things, and I didn't like those things being said behind my back," Johnson
said. "So I started getting calls from my friends outside of basketball saying
those things now were said to them outside of basketball now, just not in the
Lakers office anymore."
Pelinka said owner Jeanie Buss has eliminated Johnson's position and the Lakers
chain of command is now clearer.
"When it comes to a basketball decision I collaborate with the staff, many of
whom are at this press conference today. Then I make a recommendation to Jeanie
and she blesses that or not," he said.
The 45-year-old Vogel takes over a team that has also struggled on the court.
The Lakers have missed the playoffs for six straight seasons, a drought that
was expected to end in James' first season. But injuries to James, Lonzo Ball
and Brandon Ingram, as well as the internal discord, resulted in a 37-45
record. Vogel will be the Lakers' sixth coach since Phil Jackson stepped down
after the 2010-11 season.
Vogel worked for the organization before as an advance scout during the 2005-06
season. He did not coach last season following two years with the Orlando
Magic. Vogel went to Orlando following five-plus seasons leading the Indiana
Pacers, including trips to the Eastern Conference finals in 2013 and '14. He
has a career record of 304-291.
Pelinka said it was his decision to hire Vogel and that he made that
recommendation to Buss. The road to hiring a new coach was not smooth, though.
The Lakers appeared to be closing in on a deal with Tyronn Lue, who played for
the Lakers and coached James to the 2016 NBA title in Cleveland. But that deal
never got to the finish line, and they quickly moved toward Vogel.
Vogel and Lue share the same agent. He said there were some discussions about
joining the Lakers as an assistant if Lue was hired.
Vogel's reputation has been built on being strong defensively but he said his
approach with the Lakers will be analytics-based. He stressed creating space to
attack the basket on offense and building a strong defense from the inside.
Vogel and James did not have any public interactions Monday but Vogel said the
two have talked since he agreed to take the job May 11.
"I have a good feel for the way I want to use him and hopefully the respect on
his end that we were a formidable threat to his teams in Miami each year,"
Vogel said. "Hopefully, our past experience together will serve as a foundation
for the relationship that we're going to have here and that we can do great
things together here."
Vogel confirmed Jason Kidd will join his staff as an assistant and said it was
something Pelinka brought up during the job interview.
Vogel said he likes having former players on his staff with coaching
experience. He said he discussed Kidd's history with domestic violence.
The Lakers expect to have more than $40 million in salary cap space this summer
and have the fourth pick in the NBA draft. When free agency starts on July 1,
they will likely try to land Kawhi Leonard and other big names.
"We have a great coach again, a high draft pick and a great young core,"
Pelinka said. "I think that people can look at this as an opportunity to come
and win a championship, possibly next year. I think being concerned about the
outside noise or the opinions of what people may or may not think is really not
where our focus is right now."
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