Frank Vogel has always been in the middle of the small-ball revolution, even if he wasn’t coaching that style.
His Indiana teams kept it rough in an evolving league and, for a time, were considered the top contenders with the Miami Heat during the “Heatles” era that featured LeBron James playing a stretch-four and Chris Bosh playing primarily center after spending most of his career at power forward.
Vogel had a bully on the block in David West, an immovable object in center Roy Hibbert, and a collection of physical wing players led by All-Star Paul George.
Times have changed, and so has Vogel.
Vogel is in his first season coaching the Orlando Magic, which features a younger roster than the Pacers.
His coaching strategy has also changed, as the Magic have shifted to more of a spread attack on offense and a different style of defense.
“The defensive rules have changed dramatically on how you cover things,” Vogel said. “The schemes I used in Indiana you can’t use. It’s just a different ball game.”
The Magic have struggled this season, and before the trading deadline, Orlando began making moves.
Orlando’s big offeason acquisition, Serge Ibaka, was traded to Toronto in a deal for Terrence Ross, a sixth man in Toronto who starts for the Magic.
Third-year forward Aaron Gordon has gone from being a big small forward to power forward as part of the new attack.
“It’s not like we shifted him to now he’s only going to be a post player,” Vogel said. “We’re playing more of a spread lineup attack with four ball handlers, and he utilizes the same skills that he had as a three man; we’re just using him as a four man. Changes his defensive responsibilities a little bit because he’s having to guard bigger guys.”
Those four ball handlers play around center Nikola Vucevic, a promising big man who is showing he can step out and make 3-pointers.
It’s almost becoming a must for big men to be versatile to make an offense work. The game’s dominant big men are showing they can do more than sit on the block and wait for the ball.
“I think if your bigs are unique bigs, then you can impose that style of play on small-ball lineups,” Vogel said. “If not, you’re going to get your butt kicked.”
Vogel would rather be doing the kicking rather than being kicked. So he knows he has to evolve with the game.
The way the game is being played, there won’t be a team like his old Pacers anytime soon.
The ‘This Can’t Be Life’ Award
Nothing has given a voice to those you might not know or care to hear from more than Twitter. In the latest installment of this, Tony Durant, the brother of Golden State superstar Kevin Durant, shared his opinion via Twitter of that “main man chasing the hell out these triple doubles.”
That happened while Russell Westbrook was recording his league-leading 34th triple-double in a win over Toronto.
Being that Tony is Kevin’s brother, many are going to assume his opinion is endorsed by Kevin, and inspires the Twitter world to go crazy.
Then again, Kevin could have nothing to do with his brother’s Twitter fingers. This could be about Tony wanting more attention for Tony.
Westrbrook’s wife, Nina, tweeted:
“@LifeOfTonyD35 and it seems like you are chasing the hell out of some attention. You got it.”
The ‘Keeping it Way Too Real’ Award
Westbrook was told during a media scrum that Warriors star Stephen Curry thought Houston’s James Harden would “edge” him for league MVP based on Houston’s better record.
You have to love that Westbrook couldn’t care less what another player thinks. He’s all about his team.
Secondly, can you really trust the players to vote?
Let’s not forget several players left LeBron James off their All-Star ballots while making sure to give votes to rookies who barely played, like the Kings’ George Papagiannis. Players did this knowing an All-Star appearance has the ability to determine how much a player earns.
At least Westbrook keeps it real.