LeBron James said he and his teammates have to play better when asked about the scrutiny facing Los Angeles Lakers coach Frank Vogel.
“I think criticism comes with the job, you know?” James said after practice on Monday. “Frank is a strong-minded guy. He has a great coaching staff. And we as his 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.”
L.A. is 12-12, which would put it as the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference and in the play-in tournament if the season ended today.
For a roster chock full of future Hall of Famers, playing for an organization that has made no secret about its championship aspirations for this season from the front office down to the locker room, .500 ball simply will not cut it — even though the team has navigated myriad early-season injuries.
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James said the stature that players like himself, Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard and Rajon Rondo have achieved in the game has made them impervious to the backlash that inevitably arises when expectations — fair or not — are not met.
“We have a lot of guys on this team that have been bulletin-board material for quite a long time, so it don’t quite bother us,” James said. “Everything that we do stays in house when it 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.”
It was just 14 months ago that Vogel guided the Lakers to the championship to cap his first season coaching the franchise.
He has a 106-61 record (.635) since coming to L.A., the sixth-best winning percentage of any coach in Lakers history with at least 100 games on the sidelines. His playoff coaching record winning percentage, 18-9 (.667), puts him third behind only Pat Riley (.685) and Paul Westhead (.684), and ahead of Phil Jackson (.652), who is fourth.
“There’s going to be criticism with this job,” said Vogel, who is in his third opportunity as head coach, following six seasons with the Indiana Pacers and two with the Orlando Magic. “It’s something we’re all accustomed to. And I’ve been a coach for 10 years, I’ve seen it all.”
Vogel said the Lakers’ stage only amplifies the noise.
“Is it more national? Yes, it’s more national,” Vogel said. “Is there a bigger fanbase in this market in L.A.? Yes, there is. But it’s been there for every head coach, and it’s something I’m not unfamiliar with. So it just comes with the job.”
Vogel is the eighth head coach in James’ 19-year career, following Paul Silas, Brendan Malone and Mike Brown in Cleveland; Erik Spoelstra in Miami; David Blatt and Tyronn Lue during his second stint with the Cavaliers; and Luke Walton in L.A.
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