The Lakers need synergy between their front office and coaching staff

Having an identity is a quality of longtime elite franchises in the NBA and professional leagues as a whole. For example, you can look at a certain player or prospect and say “Oh, he’s a Spurs player” or “Man, this guy is made for the Heat.” Jim Butler? It was clear for a long time that he was a #HeatCulture guy. Boris Diaw excelling in San Antonio made perfect sense.

The Lakers had the opportunity to become one of those franchises. They won an NBA title in 2020 with a distinct style of play. They swallowed teams defensively, using a “bigger, faster, stronger” mindset to overwhelm the rest of the league in the bubble.

By then they had a championship-winning core led by a superstar duo who had fully embraced the style of play laid down by coach Frank Vogel. At that point, the Lakers could have — perhaps should have — gone all-in on the style of play that won them the title.

Instead, over the next two years, so many of their roster moves have been at odds with that identity, especially the latest offseason. The team traded wings and long guards like Kyle Kuzma, Alex Caruso and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope — all solid defenders — for attack gunners like Malik Monk, Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony.

The front office gave Frank Vogel, one of the league’s best defensive coaches, a roster full of shooters and aging veterans, almost none of whom were solid defenders. He got bigger, faster, stronger and smaller, slower, older, and no matter how much they relied on “The Coach Vogel Effect” to solve this problem, it was too much of a task for a secondary tactician.

As we all know, the team eventually determined that Vogel was the problem here and fired him. He wasn’t faultless, but he also served as head coach two years ago. And if I didn’t know better, the front office maneuvers would make me think they were sabotaging it. They obviously didn’t do it intentionally, but if the result looks like self-sabotage, maybe the process needs to be reassessed.

For the Lakers to be successful moving forward, there has to be a synergy between the front office and the coaching staff that hasn’t been there for much of the last three years, or any real stretch of seasons. from Phil Jackson and the triangle on the left. Both parties must work as a single unit, not at odds with each other.

The only recent season where this current front office brain trust has provided a coach with players that accentuate his strength? The Lakers won the title. Vogel had several defenders and above-average functional size in the frontcourt in 2019-20, and turned that into a ringside. Granted, that won’t happen every time a front office puts together a roster built around the coach’s strengths, but it should have been a moment of clarity for the Lakers, and ultimately wasn’t, as evidenced by their running so fast. as they might go the other way for the next two years.

When this synergy exists between the front office and the management staff, you only improve your chances of success. Not all coaches can be malleable like Gregg Popovich and Erik Spoelstra, because these are among the real elites of the league. But good front offices serve up the ingredients needed to allow a coach to cook up their specialty rather than asking them to turn TV dinners into Michelin-starred meals.

In one of GM Rob Pelinka’s rare moments of self-awareness on Monday, he stated the need for the coach and GM to work in unison to build a roster around his superstars.

“I think our list didn’t work out,” Pelinka said. “We haven’t had the season that our fans are expecting, and we need to work through those issues, and I think one of the things we’ve done and will do as we look to hire a new manager is to include that coach in the process. how to make a roster work together. And as far as future decisions that we have to make regarding our roster, some of them will come before we choose our coach, which will be completely before free agency in July, but there needs to be a strong alignment between coach and general manager in terms of roster decisions.

“Having said that, I don’t think every time you make a decision on the roster, you’re going to make it perfect or make no mistakes. It’s part of the choices to be made. But there will be a strong sense of collaboration on our future decisions on the list, like there were with Frank during his tenure here.

Even in her moment of self-awareness, Pelinka had to insert that last bit that just wasn’t true. The collaboration with Vogel would have allowed the franchise to continue to rely on the defensive principles of its head coach, without signing free agent after free agent last summer, which went against what he knows how to use it well. There may have been some sense of collaboration between the front office and the coach – Pelinka and Vogel were both fans of Malik Monk before he was a Laker, for example – but a “strong” sense of this one? It’s hard to believe.

The Lakers front office has long lacked direction, a guiding identity when signing players. For too long it felt like they just signed a player because he was good and/or available, not because he fit any kind of system they have. There is no Heat Culture, no Spurs style. Just a group of gamers who regularly come together in the hope of succeeding.

If the Lakers are to avoid more years of uncertainty in the future, and if Pelinka is to avoid an embarrassing exit from the franchise, finding a head coach and a common identity should be the No. 1 priority this offseason.

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