Injuries hurt the Lakers & Nets from getting to the Finals last season, but both clubs still had the talent to go far in the playoffs.
Let’s take a look at how Frank Vogel & Steve Nash handled their teams as head coaches in the 2021 postseason.
Los Angeles Lakers
As Frank Vogel enters his third year coaching the Los Angeles Lakers, he’s had two completely different seasons. LA finished 1st in the West and won a championship in 2020, but then finished 7th in 2021, losing in the First Round of the playoffs after an injury-filled year to LeBron & AD.
In a season where Vogel had to make the right adjustments as the Lakers’ head coach more than his first in 2020 due to health and less talent, he made some questionable lineup moves.
During their Game 6 loss vs. the Phoenix Suns, Anthony Davis went down early, Marc Gasol (0 points) started at center, Wesley Matthews (4-12 FG) played the most minutes off the bench, Montrezl Harrell only logged 8 minutes, and Andre Drummond didn’t even check in. Not to mention, Alex Caruso exited the game with a left ankle strain, as he could have helped try to slow down Devin Booker from getting up to 47 points total on the night.
So yes, Frank Vogel had to deal with injuries, but the Lakers still put together a deep roster last season and had other players that could produce if given the chance. Although, the year before that during their championship run, Vogel proved he can make solid coaching moves by giving Rajon Rondo meaningful minutes as a playmaker and using Alex Caruso close to 25 minutes per game to bring defense and energy.
As the 2021-2022 season approaches, LA has one of the deepest teams in the NBA headlined by adding Russell Westbrook and many other proven veterans, just not enough minutes for everyone. However, Frank Vogel did a nice job of distributing minutes when he had a loaded championship team back in 2020. The next season followed with injury problems and uncertain playoff lineup rotations, as health and coaching decisions will play major roles in if the Lakers can win a title in 2022.
After starting his first regular season as an NBA head coach with a 5-6 record, Steve Nash made encouraging adjustments to his lineup rotations and coaching style. The moves started by giving Jeff Green, Bruce Brown, Landry Shamet, and DeAndre Jordan more minutes to bring energy on both ends. The James Harden trade was then made in mid January, which followed with winning basketball from there. Young big man Nic Claxton returned from injury in late February, and the club signed Blake Griffin and Mike James shortly after that, as Nash looked confident in his deep rotation.
Unfortunately, when the end of the regular season and playoffs came around, injuries were in the way of Brooklyn’s pursuit for a title, just like LA. The Nets were still able to take the eventual champion Milwaukee Bucks to seven games without Kyrie Irving and with James Harden not at 100 percent, but Nash definitely made some questionable coaching moves in the months that mattered most.
The questionable calls as head coach began by completely taking DeAndre Jordan out of the rotation on May 11th. After not playing the experienced center since May 8th, Nash then slowly began to stop giving other usual rotation players less minutes in the East Semifinals vs. Milwaukee. Nic Claxton and Mike James combined to play close to 11 minutes total in Games 5 and 6, followed by 0 minutes in an important Game 7. Jeff Green and Landry Shamet were the only Nets to check in during that Game 7, combining for 20 minutes and not even getting a chance to attempt just one field goal. Blake Griffin and Bruce Brown gave a great effort on both ends in heavy minutes, but throwing a fresh big body at Giannis Antetokounmpo definitely could have been an option.
Joe Harris also went just 3-10 from the field with guys who can put up points/make plays like Green, Shamet, James, Claxton, and Jordan mostly on the bench for Game 7. Brooklyn ended up losing the contest in a 4 point overtime thriller, scoring 0 bench points and playing all their starters 40 minutes or more.
With the Nets’ first preseason game now less than a month away, the team has made a number of moves to their roster by adding Patty Mills, Paul Millsap, James Johnson, Sekou Doumbouya, Jevon Carter, and DeAndre’ Bembry. Brooklyn gets back LaMarcus Aldridge from heart issues as well, and drafted Cam Thomas and Day’Ron Sharpe in late July. Health looks to be better for the Nets’ Big 3 this upcoming season, but the coaching decisions that Steve Nash makes during the postseason will play a huge part in if they win a championship in 2022.