LeBron James paid tribute to Los Angeles Lakers coach Frank Vogel on Monday but said he had not been informed of his reported sacking.
ESPN reported late Sunday that the Lakers are set to fire Vogel after the NBA giants’ disastrous failure to reach the playoffs.
But as Lakers players spoke to reporters on Monday in end-of-season interviews, the team had still not confirmed Vogel’s dismissal.
James insisted he was unaware of whether or not the team had fired Vogel, who led the Lakers to an NBA championship in 2020.
“I have not been told,” James said. “I’ve seen the reports just like everybody else, so we’ll see what happens.”
Asked for his view of Vogel during his tenure, James said he had “nothing but respect” for the 48-year-old.
“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.
“At the end of the day, I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’ve got nothing but respect for him.”
Vogel bristled when asked about his reported dismissal immediately after the Lakers’ final regular season game on Sunday, a 146-141 overtime win over the Denver Nuggets.
“I haven’t been told shit and I’m going to enjoy tonight’s game, celebrate what these young guys did in terms of scratching and clawing and getting back in this game and getting a W, and we’ll deal tomorrow, tomorrow,” Vogel told reporters.
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 Monday 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, who is eligible to negotiate a contract extension later this year, hedged on questions about his future.
Asked if he expected to finish his career with the Lakers, James replied: “Well the conversation hasn’t been talked about because under the collective bargaining agreement, it can’t be discussed yet.”