Vogel: Record hurts, but LeBron deserving of MVP
7: 44 PM ET
Dave McMenaminESPN Staff Writer
- Lakers and NBA reporter for ESPN.
- Covered the Lakers and NBA for ESPNLosAngeles.com from 2009-14, the Cavaliers from 2014-18 for ESPN.com and the NBA for NBA.com from 2005-09.
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — If it were up to Los Angeles Lakers coach Frank Vogel, LeBron James would be adding a fifth MVP award to his career accomplishments after this season.
“He is as deserving for MVP consideration as anybody in the league,” Vogel said after practice Friday. “I know how the voting works. The team with the best record, or the top couple of records, usually gets most of the considerations. So the win-loss record would definitely hurt him.
“But you can’t tell me that anybody has played a better season than LeBron James has this year. “
James leads the league in scoring, averaging 30 points per game on 52.3% shooting along with 8.2 rebounds and 6.3 assists.
The Lakers, however, are 10th in the Western Conference at 31-42 with nine games remaining. They have a 6-13 record in the games James has missed because of injury.
Despite Vogel’s endorsement, James is considered a longshot to make many voters’ top five candidates on their ballot, let alone win the award, with players such as Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers, Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets and Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks seen as the consensus favorites.
Caesars Sportsbook lists James as a 30,000 longshot to win the MVP award, putting him just outside the top 10. Embiid (-160), Jokic ( 135) and Antetokounmpo ( 900) make up the top three.
James missed Wednesday’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers because of soreness in his left knee. James did not participate Friday, but Vogel said L.A. is “hopeful” he returns to the lineup Sunday for a pivotal road matchup with the New Orleans Pelicans.
New Orleans is currently No. 9 in the West, and would host the Lakers for a play-in tournament match if the season ended today.
“The bigger motivator for us down the stretch for us for the final nine games is, how are we playing?” Vogel answered a question about the possible play-in preview against Pelicans. “Are you playing winning basketball?” Are we improving our basketball habits enough to win? To win the first round, regardless of whether it’s the play in game or if we can get through the playin games. Our habits are the most motivator and there have been some encouraging signs in our play. “
Vogel said Lakers guard Talen Horton-Tucker (ankle) practiced on Friday, and the Lakers are hopeful they’ll have him against New Orleans.
The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.