NBA Notebook: Is this Frank Vogel's last stand?
The NBA was particularly drama-filled this past week, with dueling MVP-level performances by the games biggest stars and a new coach on the hot seat. We'll get you caught up in this week’s edition of our NBA Notebook!
IS FRANK VOGEL GOING DOWN SWINGING?
Speculation has intensified about Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel’s future with the team. With the Lakers suffering another desultory loss to the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday, things may be coming to a head. Not only did the Lakers lose in convincing fashion to a Pacers team missing most of their starting unit, but Vogel elected to bench Russell Westbrook down the stretch.
When inquiring minds asked about Vogel’s decision to leave Russ glued to the bench, he said simply that he was playing the guys he thought were going to win the game. Westbrook, who finished 5-17 from the field, left the arena without speaking to reporters.
This is the play that made Vogel bench Westbrook, per @mcten— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) January 20, 2022
“The final straw, pushing the staff to honor their instinct to bench him, was when Caris LeVert blew by Westbrook on defense for a layup with 7 minutes, 13 seconds”
Reports have indicated that Vogel is being evaluated on a game-to-game basis, which in essence means he’s already fired, so he’s right to do whatever he thinks will help his team win games on a nightly basis.
It’s not a particularly noble end for a coach who brought the Lakers their most recent championship, but nor is it entirely surprising. Vogel was not Jeanie Buss’ first choice, and despite his success was only given a token one-year extension. Even though reporting has emerged that Vogel had management's assurance that benching Westbrook was not a fireable offense, it’s clear that unless the Lakers begin a miracle turnaround immediately, Vogel’s days are numbered.
JOKIC, EMBIID, PUT NBA ON NOTICE
Depending on what game you watched on Wednesday night, you might justifiably have walked away thinking that one of Joel Embiid or Nikola Jokic is the best basketball player in the world.
Embiid kicked things off with a 50-point, 12-rebound performance against the Orlando Magic while shooting 74% from the field. And he did it in a grand total of 27 minutes.
But then Nikola Jokic played one of the most complete games of his career, totaling 49 points, 14 rebounds, 10 assists, and three steals on 64% from the floor. Oh, and he scored 37 points after halftime, and sealed the OT victory with a pass that literally only he would attempt, let alone make.
The pass came as Jokic was doubled, and he threw it cross-court with time running out hitting Aaron Gordon perfectly in the shooting pocket, giving him just enough time to hit the game-winning 3.
If you think either of these players are the best in the world right now, I won’t argue with you. I’ll just kindly let you know that Jokic is +600 and Embiid is +800 right now to win MVP.
MVP Winner 2021/2022
Sat, June 18 2022, 11:59 PM
BROOKLYN COACH GETS AWAY WITH ONE
This is a weird one. In a tightly-contested game between the Washington Wizards and the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday, Brooklyn assistant coach David Vanterpool directly interfered in live game action and got away with it.
Spencer Dinwiddie was passing the ball to the corner opposite the Nets bench to Kyle Kuzma and Vanterpool reached out and deflected it away, causing the ball to find its way to Kessler Edwards. It was obvious to every person on the court except the officiating crew, who deemed it a play on as Dinwiddie and Kuzma were hopping up and down and pointing at Vanterpool whose face told the whole tale. The Nets ended up winning the game 119-118, so it's easy to argue that this one egregious play shifted the entire outcome.
Vanterpool was fined $10,000 and the Nets organization was fined $25,000, which seems a small price to pay for such a consequential act.
LONZO BALL TO MISS 6-8 WEEKS
In troubling news for the Chicago Bulls, Lonzo Ball, who had missed the past three games with what had been called a serious bone bruise, will undergo surgery to repair a torn meniscus and will miss between six and eight weeks. Ball had meniscus surgery on the same knee in July of 2018 while a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Lonzo has formed a key part of the Bulls' defensive identity this season, and his pass-first mentality has made him a perfect fit alongside score-first players like Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic. While the eight-week timeline does mean Ball would return for the playoffs, the Bulls will more or less have to fight for seeding entirely without him - and just hope that he comes back healthy and ready to play. Without Ball, the Bulls' ceiling is substantially lower.
A THREE-WAY TRADE
The Boston Celtics, San Antonio Spurs, and Denver Nuggets engaged in a three-way trade this week. The trade sends Juancho Hernangomez to the Spurs, Bryn Forbes to Denver, and Bol Bol and PJ Dozier to the Celtics. The Nuggets also sent their 2028 second-round pick to the Spurs as part of the deal.
Bol Bol was recently involved in a trade to the Detroit Pistons, but after failing his physical, was more or less treated as dead salary in this deal that nabs the Nuggets some much-needed help in their decimated backcourt.