Eight months ago, the Lakers organization was a total laughingstock. Magic Johnson quit in an impromptu media scrum, LeBron James had missed the playoffs for the first time in a generation, the Anthony Davis trade prospects seemed to be on the rocks, Luke Walton was out with no big names associated with the job. Now the Lakers are 24-3, the toast of the West.
One thing I keep coming back to is the drama around hiring a head coach, and how LA ended up with Frank Vogel of all people, and how everything has been pretty great under him so far.
Vogel is known best for his work challenging James’ Heat with the Pacers, but he also got another job after Indiana cut him loose and that job, with the Orlando Magic, chewed him up and spit him out in two years flat. This is a big reminder how much context matters in the NBA, not just for players but for coaches. How can Vogel be a genius in Indiana, garbage in Orlando, and excellent in Los Angeles? The truth is that you’re never quite as powerful as you look in the highs and never close to as bad as you look in the depths of despair. Kudos to the Lakers for recognizing Vogel had the skills to make this work ... after Ty Lue declined due to the presence of Jason Kidd as a top deputy, of course.
This is smoothest coach transition of James’ career. Perhaps James has matured some from his least flattering days with Erik Spoelstra and David Blatt. Maybe the good vibes from a brilliant team start are erasing any qualms, and a rough patch will bring them out. Few thought this was a perfect match, especially with the Machiavellian Kidd looming. But Vogel has been an asset, the Lakers are 24-3, and it’s just another lesson in the NBA.
Magic 130, Pelicans 119
Hornets 85, Pacers 107
Lakers 101, Hawks 96
Sixers 89, Nets 109
Knicks 105, Nuggets 111
Kings 100, Warriors 79
All times ET. Games on League Pass unless otherwise noted.
Wizards at Pistons, 7 p.m.
Cavaliers at Raptors, 7:30 p.m.
Spurs at Rockets, 8 p.m.
Heat at Grizzlies, 8 p.m.
Mavericks at Bucks, 8 p.m., NBA TV
Bulls at Thunder, 8 p.m.
Blazers at Suns, 9 p.m.
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Michael Pina on how the Nuggets built the league’s tightest defense.
Dion Waiters reportedly got suspended this latest time for calling in sick and then appearing on Instagram on a boat.
Speaking of NBA suspensions, Malika Andrews talked to Wilson Chandler about what it’s like to be an NBA player on a long suspension.
Shaq and Chuck are taking credit for lighting a fire under Joel Embiid.
Zach Lowe’s weekly 10 things, including Miami’s motion blur.
Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis unintentionally recreated the famous Wade-LeBron dunk-pose photo, and the internet had JOKES.
Boban Marjanovic went to the Texas State Fair and blew up the rim-inside-the-rim scam.
Paul Flannery on Bill Walton, the Grateful Dead, and a psychedelic sports adventure.
Be excellent to each other.