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NBA Notebook

Lakers fire title-winning coach Frank Vogel after three seasons

The Lakers fired Frank Vogel just 18 months after leading the team to a title.David Zalubowski/Associated Press

The Lakers fired Frank Vogel on Monday, choosing their title-winning coach to take the first fall for one of the most disappointing seasons in NBA history.

Los Angeles finished 33-49 and missed the 10-team Western Conference playoffs this season. It was a humiliating underachievement for LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, and a veteran-laden supporting cast widely expected to contend for another championship.

Vogel was under contract through next season, but almost nothing has gone right over the past two seasons for the rosters assembled by general manager Rob Pelinka and coached by Vogel, who went 127-98 in his three seasons running the club.

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Frank Vogel went 127-98 in his three seasons with the Lakers.Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

Pelinka declined to elaborate Monday on why he and owner Jeanie Buss felt Vogel needed to be fired.

“Today is not going to be a day of finger-pointing and unwinding all the specific reasons,” Pelinka said. “We just felt organizationally, at the highest level, it was time for a new voice. ... That’s not to say anything against the incredible accomplishments that Frank Vogel has had. He was a great coach here, and he’s going to go on to be a great coach somewhere else.”

The Lakers stumbled along near .500 until Jan. 7, when they entered a 10-30 nosedive exacerbated by the latest lengthy injury absence for Davis, who has missed more games than he has played in the past two seasons.

“This was a disappointing Lakers season at every level,” Pelinka said. “In the face of disappointment, our fans expect more, and that’s in every facet. It starts in the front office led by me, and our ability to construct the right roster. It starts with the coaches holding players accountable and making sure there’s on-court execution.”

Nets, Cavaliers to open play-in Tuesday

Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving have played in the NBA Finals and Olympics, so they’ve been in just about every kind of big game there is.

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The play-in tournament is something new for them, and the Brooklyn Nets certainly didn’t expect to experience it this year.

The Cleveland Cavaliers weren’t sure they would, either, after losing 50 games last season. Now one of the teams will extend its season into the playoffs by winning the opener of the tournament Tuesday night in Brooklyn.

“Let’s get it on,” Irving said.

Both finished 44-38, with the Nets taking seventh place by going 3-1 against the Cavaliers. They wrapped up the tiebreaker Friday by beating Cleveland 118-107, though that did nothing to make the Cavs think they can’t go to Brooklyn and win five nights later.

“We believe we can beat anybody in this league,” coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “We just have to play our best basketball. We know what we’re facing.”

They’re facing a team that was expected to be at the top of the Eastern Conference, not one still trying to play its way into the postseason. But Irving couldn’t play home games until late last month because he isn’t vaccinated against the coronavirus. Durant missed 21 games with a sprained left knee. James Harden was traded for Ben Simmons, who hasn’t played because of back problems.

Kyrie Irving is set to lead the Nets into the postseason.Sarah Stier/Getty

“For us, we know that we could come up with every excuse in the world of what happened this season,” Irving said. “So many different things transpired, ups and downs, and now we’re finally here and we’re able to perform with one another for the first time in a high-intense environment such as the playoffs.”

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The winner earns the No. 7 seed and faces No. 2 Boston in a first-round series beginning Sunday.

76ers’ Thybulle not fully vaccinated, can’t play in Toronto

Matisse Thybulle revealed that he is not fully vaccinated against COVID-19, a choice that will cost him playing time in the postseason, and could cost the Sixers their first-round Eastern Conference playoff series against Toronto.

Thybulle is barred from Canada because unvaccinated foreign nationals are currently prohibited from entering the country and limited exemptions to the rule no longer apply to professional athletes.

Thybulle’s situation first became known last week when he was suddenly listed as “ineligible to play” on the NBA injury report on Philadelphia’s most recent trip to Toronto.

Thybulle broke his silence Sunday once the Sixers clinched the No. 4 seed and were matched up against the fifth-seeded Raptors. The Sixers will play at least Games 3 and 4 of the series in Toronto.

“I was raised in a holistic household, where anti-vax is not like a term that was ever used, it’s a weird term that has been kind of been thrown around to just label people,” Thybulle said. “We grew up with Chinese medicine and naturopathic doctors. Just with that upbringing, coming into the situation, I felt like I had a solid foundation of medical resources that could serve me beyond what this vaccine could do for me. As things escalated, and as this situation has played out, I’ve obviously had to reconsider and look at it differently.”

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Thybulle said he did feel the need to get one shot at an unspecified point of last year’s postseason — played in May and June because of COVID-19 — but did not receive a second shot.

“I felt like if I’m going to be a part of society, in the position that I’m in, I need to do what’s right for the greater good,” Thybulle said. “That argument with the greater good held a lot of weight on me. As things progressed, as this virus has changed in many different ways, it showed ... that even while being vaccinated you could spread the disease.”

Kings fire interim coach Gentry, miss playoffs for 16th year

The Sacramento Kings fired interim coach Alvin Gentry, a day after the franchise missed the playoffs for a 16th straight season.

The 67-year-old Gentry was promoted from associate head coach to interim coach when the Kings fired Luke Walton in November following a 6-11 start. Sacramento won 116-109 at NBA-leading Phoenix on Sunday to finish at 30-52.

Alvin Gentry lasted less than a full season as head coach of the Kings.John Raoux/Associated Press

Gentry had most recently served as head coach for the New Orleans Pelicans (2015-20). He has also made head coaching stops with Miami, Detroit, the Clippers, and Phoenix. He has a career record of 534-636.

“The entire Kings organization is grateful for the leadership of Alvin Gentry, who stepped up when he got the call mid-season,” general manager Monte McNair said in a statement. “We appreciate his leadership on and off the court.”