LOS ANGELES – The return of Anthony Davis and Alex Caruso is a good thing for trainer Frank Vogel, who is one step closer to the Lakers.
But, like the entire season, a full line-up means the line-up is making important decisions that Vogel has made this year on a team that is possibly the deepest he has ever trained.
After veterans Markieff Morris and Wesley Matthews went on the bench in late January, the Lakers were both able to play in the void created by injuries that sidelined both Caruso and Davis for two games. After they were both back on Friday night, the Lakers had new decisions to make.
« These are impossible choices, » said Vogel. « These two guys deserve to be in the rotation. »
So far, though, it’s just one of them: The Lakers chose to play Matthews in a 10-man rotation, based in part on his 26 points in the team’s last two overtime wins, including 3 points in each additional one Period. Morris was put back on a bench.
The 31-year-old Morris was open about his reservations about suspending games and said he went back and forth with Vogel about it. And Vogel seems to understand where Morris is coming from, who was a critical piece of successful small ball lineups during the title run last season.
« He’s a real professional, but obviously disappointed as he should be, » he said. “I admire the fuck the guy. There is no one who exemplifies how I want to play as much as Markieff Morris in terms of toughness and physicality and attitudes that go with it. »
Both Davis and Caruso went through pre-game tests on the pitch to make sure they were ready to play. Vogel said both responded well physically to Thursday’s workout and reported that they felt fine on Friday morning.
Marc Gasol recalls a saying he first heard from Hubie Brown: « The hardest thing you can do is your job. »
Gasoline is one of the lowest scoring starters in the NBA, but as for Vogel, the Veterans Center has so far done what the Lakers made him do.
« We have a lot of offensive firepower, » said Vogel. “Sometimes the right complement to people like this is someone who is selfless, has a great IQ, has a feel for the passing of basketball, and is willing to sacrifice their own touches and shots for the rhythm of the offensive and the improvement of the team. ”
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There are areas the Lakers want to see more in: Vogel said he expected Gasol’s 3-point percentage, which is just 31.1 percent on Friday, would move closer to its 35.3 percent stake . Gasoline (1.9 apg) assists are also as low as they have been since his rookie season.
There are other ways Gasol wants to contribute through its defense and setting screens. Until some other factors apply to him, the 36-year-old said he would continue to focus on these aspects.
« You have to stay in the rhythm and you can do that by staying mentally ready and moving aggressively as much as possible and being involved, » he said. “Screening, cutting, crashing the boards, whatever you can do to try and make a piece for yourself or for someone else. I’m a selfless guy by nature, that’s how they taught me to be. When I’m out of the rhythm I try to give someone else a great look. »
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