Lakers Rumors: Latest Buzz on LA's Early Struggles, Frank Vogel's Game Plan

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IIDecember 10, 2021

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel confers with guard Russell Westbrook (0) during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Sacramento Kings in Los Angeles, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
Ringo H.W. Chiu/Associated Press

The 2021-22 NBA season is nearly two months old, and the Los Angeles Lakers aren't where people expected them to be. Injuries and some struggles have caused the team to get off to a relatively slow start.

On Thursday night, the Lakers lost 108-95 to the Memphis Grizzlies to fall to 13-13. They have dropped seven of their past 12 games, and they haven't been able to get hot and go on a run yet this season. Los Angeles is still in seventh in the Western Conference, though.

As ESPN's Dave McMenamin noted, the Lakers used 12 different starting lineups over their first 25 games, which ranked second-most in the NBA behind only the Philadelphia 76ers. Some of that can be attributed to players being out because of injuries, but Los Angeles is also trying to find the right mix on the court.

And according to McMenamin, the Lakers may not be done making some early-season changes.

"The injuries and inconsistency have led the coaching staff to put everything on the table and ponder whether they have to change their high-paced plan on the fly, sources told ESPN," McMenamin wrote.

McMenamin also noted that Los Angeles has been hoping it can "push the pace" by maximizing the play of LeBron James and Russell Westbrook in the open court. However, it hasn't always worked as expected, with turnovers and defensive miscues being among the reasons for some of the Lakers' struggles.

Westbrook, who is in his first season in Los Angeles, is averaging 20 points, 8.6 assists and 7.7 rebounds in 26 games. Those numbers are a bit down for him from recent years, and there have been times early in the year when he's not performed up to expectations.

After Westbrook scored eight points and shot 1-of-13 in a Nov. 6 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, one NBA agent criticized the Lakers' team approach when speaking to McMenamin, saying: "The Lakers focus too much on the names versus the games of each person."

If Los Angeles can't get things on track soon, could head coach Frank Vogel be on the hot seat? There have been some rumors regarding his situation.

Vogel quickly had success upon becoming Lakers head coach in the 2019-20 season, as he led them to an NBA title in his first year at the helm. However, Los Angeles followed that with a first-round playoff exit, and they have endured an inconsistent start to the 2021-22 campaign.

Expectations are always high for the Lakers, and that will continue to be the case while the roster features James, Westbrook and Anthony Davis. So it will be interesting to see how things develop in Los Angeles and how the team adapts its play to try to maximize results.