Lakers Coach Frank Vogel Said Lakers Still Have A Ways To Go Before They're A Finished Product

Melissa Rohlin

Lakers coach Frank Vogel had one big takeaway after the team's third and final scrimmage on Monday.

He's glad they have another eight games ahead of them before the playoffs begin. 

Vogel acknowledged that the Lakers, who are atop the Western Conference with a record of 49-14, still have some kinks they need to work out. 

"We’re working on our habits," Vogel said after the Lakers' 123-116 win over the Washington Wizards on Monday. "A lot of the things have come back pretty quickly. But there’s still a lot to clean up and a lot to tighten the screws on. We’re going to need these eight seeding games to really try to be a finished product going into the playoffs. And we’re probably still not going to be a finished product going into the playoffs."

Then again, after a four-month hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Vogel knows the Lakers are not in a unique position. 

"Every team is going through the same thing that we’re going through," Vogel said, adding that the Lakers are on par with where he hoped they'd be at this point. 

In Monday's game, the Lakers rested LeBron James and Anthony Davis, who was recovering from being poked in the eye in Saturday's scrimmage. Dwight Howard was out because of knee soreness and Kyle Kuzma was sidelined because of a slight ankle sprain. 

Vogel said he was looking forward to seeing how the young guys performed. 

But it was the older guys who stole the show. 

JR Smith, who the Lakers signed in July after Avery Bradley opted out of the resumed season, had 20 points on six-for-nine shooting, including making six of his seven three-point attempts. And Dion Waiters, who the Lakers signed in March after waiving Troy Daniels, had 18 points on eight-for-17 shooting and six assists.

Vogel said they've both made strong cases for themselves to be a part of the playoff rotation. 

"We know they’re talented," Vogel said. "For me, it’s been an opportunity to shape their play the way we want them to fall into their roles. Their roles are different. JR, this morning we asked him to be more aggressive in his catch-and-shoot offense and he was just that, knocked down 6-for-7. For Dion, being very aggressive, touching the paint, trying to get to the charge circle, making good reads. He did that as well. 

"When the guys are coachable and they’re trying to do what you’re asking them to do and they’re doing it a high level they’re definitely making a case for being in the playoff rotation. So hopefully those guys — we believe those guys are gonna give us a big lift come playoff time." 

Vogel added that Alex Caruso, who had 17 points, including making three of his four three-point attempts, five rebounds and six assists, is also going to be an important piece for the Lakers, especially with Rajon Rondo sidelined because of a fractured right thumb. 

Vogel called him a "jack of all trades," adding that he's someone who he trusts with the ball in his hands. 

Caruso, who didn't play in Thursday's scrimmage because of back contusion and fouled out of Saturday's scrimmage, acknowledged that his conditioning still needs some work. 

"I got maybe a little winded tonight just playing eight, almost nine-minute stretches," Caruso said. "That’s the longest I’ve played all year and coming off the break. Nothing that I can’t handle. But it’s obviously, I played 12 minutes the other night, didn’t play the first game, so this was my real first scrimmage."

Caruso said it was nice to score some points, but he added that what he brings to the team often doesn't show up in stat lines, such as playing smart defense, boxing out and making an extra pass. 

He said he'll be ready to fill in for Rondo when the season resumes Thursday against the Clippers, who are in second-place in the Western Conference with a record of 44-20, 5 1/2 games behind the Lakers.  

"I'm comfortable playing point guard, you know," he said. "I’ve played point guard since my sophomore year of high school. This team is one of the first times where I’ve played a little more off the ball."

Vogel said even though the Lakers need some tightening up in their transition defense and other areas, overall he's grateful for where they're at. 

The Lakers, who are widely favored to win a championship, have two of the top players in the league and a supporting cast who keeps impressing him. 

He knows some of the other teams that are part of the 22-team restart are in a very different position. 

"You look around at some of the other teams that have had guys out and still are just joining the bubble, half squads and all of those types of things," Vogel said. "I feel good that we have all our guys here except for Rondo. Everybody is in shape to be ready for Thursday night."

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