Report: Some within Lakers wondered if Rob Pelinka intentionally sabotaged Frank Vogel

Peter Dewey
4 Min Read

Some people within the Los Angeles Lakers organization wonder if general manager Rob Pelinka intentionally sabotaged Frank Vogel in the 2021-22 season.

The Lakers failed to make the playoffs that season, finishing with a 33-49 record in the regular season. That led to Vogel’s firing and the team bringing in Darvin Ham as his successor.

“Things got so toxic at the end of Vogel’s tenure that some inside the Lakers organization wondered if Pelinka intentionally sabotaged the head coach, citing how that final roster that did not mesh in any way with Vogel’s coaching ideologies,” Lakers Daily’s Anthony Irwin wrote. “Vogel preferred and won with bigger, physical, defensive-minded teams. That ’22 roster had an insane 11 guys 6’4″ and under, three others listed at 6’5″ and never employed even a reasonable backup center. All year, fans were told not to judge the team until a then 36-year-old Trevor Ariza made his return.”

During the 2021-22 season, the Lakers featured a lot of aging players alongside stars LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook.

Carmelo Anthony, Avery Bradley and Ariza (when healthy) all played significant minutes for the team during the season (each averaging over 19 minutes per game), and the team had a plethora of players at the guard spot including Austin Reaves, Talen Horton-Tucker and Malik Monk.

The lack of size on the roster in the 2021-22 season led to James playing 50 percent of his minutes at the center position and 44 percent of his minutes at the power forward spot. For comparison, he’s played 85 percent of his minutes at the power forward spot this season, according to Basketball Reference.

Unlike the 2022-23 season when Pelinka made multiple trades at the deadline to help the team eventually make the playoffs, Vogel’s team was not given the same boost with an acquisition.

Los Angeles struggled with a roster that was much different than the one that won a title in the 2019-20 season under Vogel’s guidance.

Through his three seasons as the Lakers’ head coach, Vogel compiled a 127-98 record and won 18 playoff games. The team made the playoffs in two of the three seasons that he was the head coach, but the Lakers were knocked out of the postseason in the first round in the 2020-21 season.

Ironically, Vogel now coaches the team (the Phoenix Suns) that bounced the Lakers from the playoffs that season.

While there may not have been a deal on the table for Pelinka to save the roster from the 2021-22 season, the team appeared to be flawed from the beginning of the season with how it was built.

The Lakers decision to trade for Westbrook cost the team a ton of depth, including Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and the team didn’t replace them well enough in the 2021-22 campaign.

After Vogel was let go for missing the playoffs that season, it’ll be interesting to see how the Lakers handle Ham if the team fails to reach the playoffs this season. The Lakers are currently the No. 10 seed in the Western Conference and would participate in the league’s play-in tournament if they can’t move up to the No. 6 seed by the end of the regular season.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.