Frank Vogel Taking Charge of Lakers!

Just two games into the new season, Lakers’ head coach Frank Vogel has already made two stunning moves involving the team’s two superstars

Here are the two biggest takeaways from the Lakers’ opening two games: LeBron James is not going to play point guard even though he can and Anthony Davis is going to play center even if he prefers power forward.

Give Lakers’ new head coach Frank Vogel credit for making the smart move to bench center JaVale McGee and ask power forward Anthony Davis to play center to start the second half of last night’s game against the Jazz. Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus summed the decision perfectly: “Vogel set a precedent in just the second game of the year that he’s going to make the right decision for the team, regardless of his star player’s preference.”

That Vogel didn’t hesitate to make the right moves just two games into the season was surprising. That he made the moves with approval from his two superstars was not surprising. They were signs of a savvy veteran coach. As the Tania Ganguli reported: “If it makes sense, then obviously I don’t mind doing it,” Davis said. “And it made sense tonight. But Coach is very smart in being able to pick and choose he wants to play [me at] the five.

ESPN’s Dave McMenamin queued in on LeBron’s approval of Vogel’s move to play Caruso at point guard: “Allows me to play off the ball a little bit,” James said. “I still handled it a lot, but I don’t have to handle it as much and I’m able to get to my spot and play a little bit more in the low post where I’m very dynamic down there, being able to triple-threat, being able to find my guys, find my shot as well. And make the defense shift a lot.”

Those two moves paid off big for the Lakers who turned a 43–37 halftime lead over the Utah Jazz into an easy 95 to 86 win with double digit leads by as much as 22 points as the Lakers offense cruised and defense dominated. The Lakers second half lineup of Caruso, Bradley, Green, James, and Davis played a total of eight minutes together and posted an offensive rating of 118.8 and a defensive rating of 82.4 for an impressive net rating of 36.4.

Best of all was Frank Vogel’s courage to make critical moves despite all the talk about James at point guard being the next Magic Johnson and Davis playing the five being the recipe to lose him as a free agent next summer. That Frank involved LeBron and Anthony in making the decisions and didn’t hesitate even though it was only his second game as the head coach were exactly the kind of smart moves the Lakers needed him to make.

Vogel’s certainly going to be careful not to play Anthony Davis at center too much but you can already sense that he’s not going to hesitate to make the tough decisions he needs for the team to win games. I suspect LeBron James and Anthony Davis will support those moves provided they result in winning games. At the same time, Vogel knows the NBA season is a grind and we’re going to need a fresh and healthy LeBron and AD for the playoffs.

There will be games where we rely heavily on LeBron James at the four and Anthony Davis at the five but there will be other games where one or the other play minimal minutes and load management will dominate the day. Vogel has indicated that he will likely rotate who starts at center between Anthony Davis, JaVale McGee, and Dwight Howard and who starts at point guard between Rajon Rondo, once healthy, and Avery Bradley.

I don’t see Alex Caruso starting games because he can’t make plays for others like Rondo can or play tight man-to-man defense like Bradley can. While he played solid defense last night, he only scored 2 points with 2 turnovers. Anthony Davis playing the five should also open the door for Kyle Kuzma to get more minutes on the floor along side LeBron and AD. I expect a Rondo, Green, Kuzma, James, and Davis to be our “Death Lineup.”

After struggling mightily in the first half against the Jazz last night, I have to admit I was pretty worried but the moves Frank Vogel made completely changed the dynamic not only for the game but for this young season. We need LeBron at the four and AD at the five to be the best we can be. It was great seeing Frank Vogel take charge of the situation and make bold moves to right the ship. By the end of the game, my confidence was restored.

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