Lakers coach Frank Vogel will take on quite the challenge as head coach of a team with LeBron James, Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins. He'll also have to deal with a front office that is notorious in basketbal circles at the moment. How will he deal with it all? Sports Illustrated senior writer Chris Mannix talked to Vogel about his plans for James and Davis and more on The Crossover podcast.
(Listen to the latest Crossover podcast here. The following transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Chris Mannix: So, the first week in July, you effectively have three players on your roster at that point.
Frank Vogel: Interesting times.
Chris: Wild. But ... do you have to sit back and wait to see how the roster fills out, whether it's Kawhi or, you know, 10 other guys instead before you can really dig into what you're going to try to do this season?
Vogel: Absolutely. Your plan is always based on your personnel. I mean, obviously you're always going to adhere to your principles of what you know wins basketball games, sharing the basketball, playing with pace, working on a defensive end, making sure we're doing the prep work and our team is prepared. But the details of it change dramatically based on who you have on your squad. So, while I did have AD and LeBron and Kuz for a stretch, that's all I had. So there was a big waiting game, like let's just see how the rest of the roster shapes up and at that point we'll formulate a plan.
But the exciting thing about it is with those three guys, they're obviously key, core guys that the rest of the roster was constructed around them, and we were able to sort of build it almost with a blank canvas, which is not usually the case in terms of building a team. It's usually what you have in place, add four or five guys into the mix. So, it was really interesting to go through that process with Rob Pelinka. He was very, very collaborative and asking my opinions on guys and we all worked together to come up with something that I think is going to be pretty extraordinary when it all comes together.
Mannix: Having Anthony Davis is every coach's dream. I mean, a top-five player in this league. You've seen how previous coaches have played him, how he's developed. How do you think he fits in to what you're going to try and do next season?
Vogel: He's a major focal point. He's one of the best players in the league. He'll be involved in every way that I can possibly use him. Offensively, he's got the ability to play the four or the five, stretch the floor from the three-point line, post up, be a lob threat rolling through the basket. He literally does it all. He'll be able to rebound and push on the break.
Obviously, you're going to be a major factor there. And then defensively, he can do it all as well. He's got that athleticism, can guard on the perimeter, an elite rim protector, a rebounder. Just one of the best two-way players in the game. Usually when you talk about two-way players, you're talking about wings, you know, the Paul George's and Kawhi Leonard's of the world. Avery Bradley for instance, another guy we have on our squad. But you don't usually talk about guys like that at the power forward or center position, and that's what we have in AD.
Mannix: You have played kind of supersized in Indiana with Roy Hibbert and David West, at times played a little bit smaller in Orlando with the personnel. And then with the Lakers, you've got some big bodies there. They bring in DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis is there. Do you see kind of a throwback to Indiana with how you try to play with your bigs or is it something a little bit different?
Vogel: It's different. That approach was to try to be a power-post offense and pound it inside, you know, slow down the game a little bit in the halfcourt and play through the post. We'll do that more here than I've done the last few years and more than the rest of the league does because of guys like DeMarcus, AD and LeBron. Those guys will get a lot of touches in there.
But I do think the game has changed even with post-offense where we want to create a model of movement out of the post and the shot being sort of the third and fourth option once the ball goes inside it that we want to generate movement and get guys cuts to the basket. I love what Golden State has done. As much as everyone talks about their pace and their break and their three-point shooting, their cutting is what I think a lot of people would say was their best attribute. And a lot of that action happened when the ball was in the post. So, we will take advantage of that with the guys that I mentioned. But it will be very different than the offensive approach at least that we had in Indiana.
Mannix: There was a report that you planned to re-imagine LeBron James as a point guard. How do you plan to use LeBron James?
Vogel: Yeah, I'm not sure where that report came from. LeBron's not going to be asked to do anything he hasn't done his whole career. He'll be a primary ball handler. I've not made any decisions on starting lineups or exact roles or anything like that as was reported. That stuff will all play itself out. I just know that LeBron has been at his best with the ball in his hands and we're going to make sure that that environment that he's had the most success in his career is present here with this version of the Lakers.