The Lakers are plagued with a losing season that is showing no sign of ending anytime soon. Rob Pelinka was brought in to fix things and he has done so by trading away their star player, LeBron James, for assets that have yet to pan out. Despite this fact, it’s still unclear if the blame falls on Vogel or his GM partner who continues to be promoted as president despite poor results from Laker land.

Rob Pelinka is the General Manager of the Los Angeles Lakers. He has been responsible for acquiring many of the players on this years team. However, he is also a big reason that they are struggling so much. Read more in detail here: rob pelinka.

Frank Vogel Might Take the Fall for the Los Angeles Lakers Woes, But It's GM Rob Pelinka Who Is Most at Fault

When the Los Angeles Lakers went 0-2 and 5-5 to open the season, widespread panic erupted among Southern Californians and Lakers fans throughout the globe. And when the Lakers, headed by LeBron James, couldn’t escape the shadow of mediocrity — they’ve gone 8-8, 9-9, 10-10, 12-12, 16-16, 19-19, and 22-22 at different times — there were demands for heads to roll.

The issue is that Lakers Nation and management are completely incorrect in attempting to blame head coach Frank Vogel for the team’s poor performance. Instead, blame should be directed at club president and general manager Rob Pelinka, who had his hands all over putting together this disjointed, old-folks-home group last summer.

Pelinka had to have been the only talent evaluator in the NBA who believed it was a smart idea to add a declining and disruptive Russell Westbrook to a group that already failed to shoot. Even Jack Nicholson, with his signature dark sunglasses, might have seen the tragic outcome. The Lakers have lived up to their hype by appearing old, uninspired, and defensively weak for lengthy periods after Pelinka grouped Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Avery Bradley, and a notoriously fragile Anthony Davis surrounding James. Consider where they’d be if James, 37, wasn’t doing all of the hard work and playing some of his finest basketball (30.3 points a game over his last seven).   

In 2019-20, GM Rob Pelinka aided the Los Angeles Lakers, but he missed on Russell Westbrook.

Russell-Westbrook-Frank-Vogel-Rob-Pelinka-1024x683

Russell-Westbrook-Frank-Vogel-Rob-Pelinka-1024x683 On August 10, 2021, when Russell Westbrook’s trade with the Los Angeles Lakers became official, general manager Rob Pelinka, Russell Westbrook, and head coach Frank Vogel pose for a photo. | Getty Images/Katelyn Mulcahy

GM Rob Pelinka was responsible for overhauling the underperforming Los Angeles Lakers squad last season. Rather than ponder why Oklahoma City, Houston, and Washington were so eager to trade Westbrook, Pelinka traded Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell, and Kyle Kuzma for the 33-year-old. 

Maybe, just maybe, Pelinka was convinced by James’s overwhelming involvement, who has operated as a de facto general manager on most of his teams over the last decade. Even if James used coercion, did Pelinka consider why superstars like Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Bradley Beal refused to play with Westbrook in the long run?

Bringing Westbrook back to his hometown of Los Angeles did provide some sentimental, feel-good tales for the Lakers throughout the summer. But, when it comes to basic talent appraisal and Roster Construction 101, Pelinka had to predict this outcome, right? If not, the Lakers could consider fitting him with the horn-rimmed spectacles that current CEO Kurt Rambis wore during the “Showtime” days. 

Is it possible that Pelinks made the move without thinking about how James and Westbrook would get along with just one basketball on the floor? Why would he do that if he hadn’t seen how a whiny Westbrook has reacted in the past when he wasn’t the focal center of offenses? Also, did he do it with the expectation that Westbrook would be a reliable, clutch 3-point shooter to whom James could pass the ball when defenses crumbled around him?

In 2019-20, Pelinka surrounded James with outstanding talent (Davis) and dependable shooting (Danny Green, Alex Caruso, Jared Dudley, Caldwell-Pope, and Kuzma). In the Disney World “bubble,” those characteristics, along with considerably improved defense, contributed to the Lakers amassing the best record in the West and winning a championship.

This year’s season? The Lakers are 16th in 3-point accuracy (35 percent) and 15th in 3-point makes per game in the NBA (12.1). Their defense has been even worse, ranking 27th in points allowed (112.8) and 20th in made 3-pointers allowed (12.8). Westbrook has a 43.3 percent field goal percentage and a 30.4 percent 3-point percentage. He’s shot 32 percent from the field and 25 percent from 3-point range in eight January games, and that’s after shooting a season-high four threes in Wednesday’s home loss to injury-plagued Indiana. On the defensive end, he still freelances way too much and has had lengthy streaks of apathy. 

Russell Westbrook is being benched and his minutes are being reduced by Frank Vogel.

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After the Los Angeles Lakers’ humiliating 37-point defeat in Denver on Saturday, whispers began to circulate that Frank Vogel may be coaching for his job. The fact that the Lakers were so terrible and undisciplined on defense in Denver prompted NBA TV commentator and former Laker Channing Frye to remark, “It’s hard to be that horrible.”

The Lakers resembled a team that had already accepted its destiny for the season when they weren’t trying to pick fights — Westbrook went nose-to-nose with Aaron Gordon after his bully-ball attempts to get to the rim were twice rebuffed — when they weren’t trying to pick fights.

According to The Athletic, Vogel avoided being fired as LeBron James followed up his apologetic tweet with some outstanding play, and the Lakers showed even more fire two nights later in a win over Utah.

Vogel took a proactive measure on Wednesday to address the problem of having a struggling Westbrook on the court late in games. With 3:52 remaining and the Lakers behind 101-94, he benched the former MVP and never looked back. 

Vogel has played Westbrook for 27, 28, and 26 minutes in the last three games, three of his four lowest minutes totals. In response to a question regarding why Westbrook was benched late in the game, Vogel said in his postgame press conference, “Playing the players I believed were going to win the game.”

The Lakers have a long road ahead of them, beginning with a difficult six-game, 11-day trip.

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Vogel has dealt with a similar terrible roster scenario in the past, and the outcomes were just as bad. When Vogel was the head coach of the Orlando Magic in 2016-17, former GM Rob Hennigan made the mistake of trading for Serge Ibaka and signing Bismarck Biyombo to a bloated free-agent contract. Attempts to pair them with Nikola Vucevic at center and Aaron Gordon at power forward were expected. That Magic club finished 29-53 the year before and 25-57 the next year. Vogel had lost his job, as had the GM who had given him a bad roster.

Of course, Anthony Davis’ impending return might help the Lakers overcome some of their recent defensive and chemistry concerns.

Over the next several weeks, keep an eye on the Vogel/Pelinka/Westbrook relationship. The Lakers’ home-heavy schedule is about to take a bite out of them, as they embark on a six-game, 11-day trip to Orlando on Friday. Over the coming week, notable games will be played in Miami, Brooklyn, and Philadelphia.

According to Positive Residual, the Lakers have the NBA’s most challenging schedule between now and the break for the NBA All-Star Game. If that stretch goes poorly, Lakers brass and Lakers fans undoubtedly will be calling for heads to roll.

Vogel, on the other hand, should not be held responsible. Instead, Pelinka is to blame for the dismal outcomes that most in the basketball world have predicted since last summer.           

Let the pointing begin, and make sure it’s directed at Pelinka rather than Vogel.

ESPN.com provided all of the statistics used in this report.

RELATED: Anthony Davis’ Health Could Send the Lakers Down a Difficult Road Once More

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