Frank Vogel was fired in part by Lakers for inability to maximize Russell Westbrook, per report

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Among the culprits of this disappointing Los Angeles Lakers season, Frank Vogel is near the bottom of most lists. While his performance was far from flawless, the general consensus is that he shouldn’t be blamed for the disastrous roster his front office has lined up around him. After all, it wasn’t his idea to trade for Russell Westbrook. He decided not to build a team with 10 players on minimum wage. However, he is now being blamed for it. He was sacked shortly after the end of the season and, according to The Athletic, his handling of the Westbrook situation played a big part in his ouster.

According to The Athletic, “there was a strong sense that it was up to Vogel to make the Westbrook experiment work, and the fact that it didn’t raise questions about whether Westbrook was in a position to succeed.” This logic does not hold up under any degree of control. The Lakers knew at the start of the season that Westbrook was a poor marksman and lazy cutter and that he would struggle to play off the ball alongside LeBron James. They also knew he was a bad defender, and it would always be hard to ask him to slip into Vogel’s defense-first culture. The Lakers, to put it simply, blame Vogel for things no other coach could have let him do.

The cynical explanation here is that the front office decision makers who fired Vogel were fighting to save their own jobs and needed a scapegoat. But if you’re following the breadcrumbs here, you might be wondering why the Lakers would bother leaking pro-Westbrook sentiment. There are a few possibilities, and some are more encouraging than others.

The best opinion for the Lakers is that they are trying to get a degree of leverage. Stories like this can’t hurt their bargaining power when looking for possible Westbrook trades. The Lakers want other teams to believe they’re comfortable with holding Westbrook in the hopes that such a belief will allow them to escape a Westbrook trade without sacrificing meaningful design capital.

The alternative is that the Lakers have already made the decision that they are not willing to spend a lot of design capital to move Westbrook, and they are using the media to prepare fans for the possibility that he may indeed be back next season. Further supporting that notion, according to Sam Amick, is that former Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who has had a voice in team affairs for the past few years and has been involved in the current coaching quest, is a fan of Westbrook.

The Lakers cannot credibly bring Westbrook back next season and expect to win a championship. If their goal is to win right away, Westbrook should be dealt. If he’s back, that’s a signal that the Lakers are running out of around the clock LeBron James era and waiting to rebuild with their leftover seed capital and the cap space their expiring contracts will provide.

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