LeBron James: I respect Frank Vogel as a coach and as a man

The Los Angeles Lakers have confirmed the sacking of head coach Frank Vogel following the team’s failure to make the NBA playoffs.

Vogel, appointed by the Lakers in 2019, led the franchise to an NBA championship in his first season in charge and despite a first-round playoff exit last year, saw his contract extended to 2023.

However, injuries to stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis and a poorly-built roster contributed to the Lakers’ struggling to an eventual 33-49 record, only good enough for 11th in the Western Conference.

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Frank both on and off the court,” Lakers general manger Rob Pelinka said.

“Frank is a great coach and a good man. We will forever be grateful to him for his work in guiding us to the 2019-20 NBA championship.

“This is an incredibly difficult decision to make, but one we feel is necessary at this point. All of us here wish Frank and his wonderful family all the best for the future.”

Overall, Vogel is 431-389 in 11 seasons as head coach of the Indiana Pacers (2010-16), Orlando Magic (2016-18) and Lakers, who will hold a news conference later on Monday.

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The Athletic reported that Toronto head coach Nick Nurse is among the Lakers’ top targets to replace Vogel.

Shortly before the sacking was confirmed, James said he had “nothing but respect” Vogel and the work he had done in Los Angeles.

“I respect Frank as a coach and as a man. He’s a man who gives everything to the game,” LeBron James said.

“At the end of the day I don’t know what’s going to happen with Frank and him being here, but I have nothing but respect for him.”

James added that he anticipates changes in the offseason after the Lakers missed the playoffs for the fifth time in the past seven seasons.

James said it’s natural to begin the offseason thinking about what adjustments might be necessary to get the Lakers back to the NBA Finals.

He said he’s mulling any “roster that can bring in more wins” in 2022-23.

James averaged 30.3 points per game, becoming the first player to improve his career scoring average (27.1 points) in his 19th season. And he scored 30-plus points 34 times, easily setting another NBA record for a player in his 19th season.

He’s eligible for a contract extension with the Lakers this summer but said on Monday that he hasn’t had a conversation with the team about that deal.

Westbrook: We never really connected

Russell Westbrook meanwhile admitted he did not have an explanation for the disconnect between himself and Vogel amid his disappointing first season with the team.

“I’m not sure what his issue was with me or I’m not sure why, but I can’t really give you an answer why we never really connected,” he said.

“That’s something that he has to answer…but I never…from the get go was feeling like I was having to try to prove myself to him and my capabilities and what I’ve been able to do in this game. It’s unfortunate, but it’s out of my hands.”

Westbrook, who arrived last August via a trade with the Washington Wizards, averaged 18.5 points on 44.4 per cent shooting, 7.4 rebounds and 7.1 assists across 78 games, noting a lack of clear plan or direction when it came to using himself alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

“Unfortunately, the things you mentioned I wish would have happened,” he added. “But those conversations never were had on any sort. To kind of figure out how we will play and kind of what was best when we were on the floor. So that’s that.”