Former NBA player Richard Jefferson has sounded off at the Lakers, accusing them of “cowardice” after an awkward press conference involving ex-coach Frank Vogel.
The Lakers sacked head coach Frank Vogel on Tuesday, saying a change of leadership was needed after the club’s shock failure to reach the playoffs.
Vogel broke when asked about his reported dismissal immediately after the Lakers’ 146-141 overtime win over the Denver Nuggets.
“I haven’t been told s*** and I’m going to enjoy tonight’s game,” Vogel told reporters.
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Of course, it was later confirmed in a statement on Tuesday that Vogel had indeed been sacked, with Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka describing it as a “necessary” decision.
Speaking on ESPN’s ‘NBA Today’, Jefferson took aim at Pelinka and the Lakers for not giving Vogel a heads up ahead of that press conference and that was not all.
Jefferson also took exception with Pelinka’s claim that “today’s not going to be a day of finger-pointing” when asked about the Lakers’ poor season.
“We sit up here and we criticize players all the time. A lot of the time, people in the front office can stay kind of hidden,” Jefferson said.
“If you just look at the words that [Rob Pelinka] said — ‘Hey, look, today is not going to be a day for fingerpointing’ — what are you talking about? Everyone deserves a piece of this blame pie, if you will.
“But let’s talk about how cowardice it is. Woj [Adrian Wojnarowski] tweeted one minute after the game that Frank Vogel was fired, and then you want to sit here and talk about trust and this and that. The Lakers didn’t even have the decency to inform the coach that won them a championship 18 months ago that they were going to let him go.”
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While the Lakers came under scrutiny all season for their performances on the court, Jefferson added it does not get any better off it.
“When I look at this franchise right now and the state that they’re in — forget on the court and the disarray — the Laker organization is in utter disarray before we even start talking about on the court,” he said.
“On the court is a whole other issue, but off the court, this is just utter disarray and it’s disrespectful what they did to Frank Vogel.”
Lakers superstar LeBron James said before the dismissal was confirmed he had “nothing but respect” for Vogel.
“I respect Frank as a coach, as a man,” James said.
“The partnership that we’ve had over the past few years has been nothing but just candid, great conversations.
“He’s a guy who gives everything to the game. Prepared us every single night with his coaching staff.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’ve got nothing but respect for him.”
The Lakers finished the 2021-2022 campaign in 11th place in the Western Conference, missing out on the postseason with a dismal record of 33 wins and 49 losses.
It is only the fourth time in James’ career that he has failed to reach the playoffs, and the second time it has happened since he joined the Lakers in 2018.
The team had been tipped as championship contenders before the season after acquiring nine-time NBA All-Star Russell Westbrook in a blockbuster trade.
But injuries meant that the Lakers were only able to field their big three of James, Westbrook and Anthony Davis in 21 games during the 82-game season.
James said that the team’s inability to find consistent results had been the most challenging aspect of the season.
“It felt like every time we would take a step forward, we would take three of four steps back,” James said.
“We’d have a huge win at home against a playoff-contending team like Utah — and then go on the road and lose to Houston. That was the mental side, playing with your psyche like ‘What the heck is going on?’ “How can we be so great one night and the next night be so mediocre? That was the most challenging part of the season for sure.”
James meanwhile batted away questions about his future with the Lakers, saying he had not discussed the two-year contract extension he will be eligible to sign in August because of collective bargaining agreement rules.
However he insisted he still wanted to challenge for more NBA titles with the Lakers.
“I came here to win a championship. And I want to win more. So I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish, but I’m still hungry for more,” James said.
“I’m confident that this organization wants the same.”