As of Saturday, Nov. 27 — after 21 games, including, most recently, a 141-137 triple-overtime loss to the Sacramento Kings at Staples Center — the Los Angeles Lakers (10-11) are under .500 and rank 20th in defensive rating.
In 2019-20, Frank Vogel's first year on the job that ended in an NBA championship, the Lakers ranked third in defensive rating. In 2020-21, coming off a condensed offseason and despite a steady stream of injuries, the Lakers finished first in defensive rating for the regular season.
On multiple occasions, Vogel has lamented his team's inability to get stops, particularly on the perimeter.
Where TF is Lakers DEFENSE 🤦🏽♀ pic.twitter.com/9y4zOUdM5s
— DUDS 💧 (@kobebluez) November 22, 2021
“Our coaching staff is trying to be really creative with the personnel that we have and trying to put them in positions to succeed. There are some details to our man-to-man defense that are taking time for our guys to pick up, and we’re having too many breakdowns,” he said after the Lakers' loss to the New York Knicks on Nov. 23.
The 2021-22 Lakers rank 29th in opposing points per game (114.5).
Unsurprisingly, the drop-off in defense has, fair or not, heated up the seat under Frank Vogel — even though the front office's offseason overhaul knowingly prioritized shot creation and play-making over stopping the other team.
Lakers playing preseason defense again tonight pic.twitter.com/spmDVqCW87
— Lachard Binkley (@BinkleyHoops) November 22, 2021
We can get into the weeds on precisely what has gone wrong (Kent Bazemore has been unexpectedly awful, for instance), and injuries — especially to projected starter Trevor Ariza, who has yet to debut — have undoubtedly played a factor. LeBron James was dialed in defensively early on, but has barely moved on that end since returning from his abdominal strain.
One anonymous rival assistant coach may have the best, simplest take on the struggles of the oldest opening-day roster in NBA history:
“They’re old and they can’t stay in front of anyone,” the coach told Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times.
Frankly, (and Frank) can't argue with that.