TWC SportsNet panel debates which centers the Lakers should pursue

The facts have become pretty clear.

The Lakers need a center after not expecting to retain Roy Hibbert. The Lakers also need someone who can both produce inside and anchor a defense that ranked near the bottom of the league last season.

So who should the Lakers target?

Should they pursue Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside because he checks all those boxes? Or should they hesitate given his relative youth and past immaturity could become a bad influence for the Lakers’ young roster?

Should the Lakers go after Atlanta forward Al Horford because of his veteran experience and offensive versatility? Or should they wonder if Horford will provide enough on defense?

As shown in the videos above and below, this all became a topic of discussion Wednesday night on Time Warner Cable’s Access SportsNet. Host Chris McGee, 710 ESPN analyst Andy Kamenetzky and I analyzed the various centers the Lakers could pursue in free agency.

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NBA free agency: NBA TV analyst Stu Jackson weighs impact Kobe Bryant’s departure will have

Free agent Kevin Durant, seen with now-retired Lakers star Kobe Bryant in January, has reportedly left the Lakers off his list of teams with whom he will meet this offseason. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer)

Free agent Kevin Durant, seen with now-retired Lakers star Kobe Bryant in January, has reportedly left the Lakers off his list of teams with whom he will meet this offseason. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer)

Below is a Q&A on Lakers’ with NBA TV analyst Stu Jackson, who is going to be a large part of the network’s free agency-focused programming. NBATV will have a free agency preview show on June 30 both at 7:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. ET. Then, NBA TV will air a “Free Agent Fever” episode on Friday beginning at 8 a.m. followed by updates throughout the morning and live studio coverage from 2-11:30 p.m. Free agent coverage will continue on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET as well as NBA GameTime Shows on Saturday and Sunday at 11 p.m. ET.

Jackson: “With Kobe, you lose one of the greatest players of all time. Certainly he is in that conversation. But now it’s an opportunity for the franchise to really turn the page and move on from Kobe. At the same time, Kobe will always be a Laker and could be an asset in helping with rebuilding the franchise. I’m sure he’ll be more than happy to help. But right now I look at the Lakers as having a clean canvas. They have a top draft pick. They can open up a lot of cap space to acquire free agents or accept in trade. They have a pretty good foundation of young players in D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson in which to build around. If you’re looking to pitch, that’s the pitch. For the Lakers, for them to build the franchise the way they want, it’ll take getting that one free agent to pull the trigger and want to make the Lakers the great franchise it once was.”
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NBA Draft: Mitch Kupchak says “we have more to sell” in free agency

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak plans to interview Spurs assistant Ettore Messina soon. (Robert Casillas - Staff Photographer)

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak plans to interview Spurs assistant Ettore Messina soon. (Robert Casillas – Staff Photographer)

The Lakers’ 16 NBA championship trophies, the sunny skies and proximity to Hollywood once represented the only visual selling points they needed to land their next star.

But then something happened. The Lakers missed the playoffs for the past three seasons because of rosters that both lacked health and talent. The current labor deal has imposed more stringent spending limitations. It no longer has become necessary to latch onto the Lakers’ global brand in order for a star to maximize theirs.

So, the Lakers struggled to retain their own star free agents, including Dwight Howard (2013) and Pau Gasol (2014). The Lakers also could not attract stars from other teams, including LeBron James (2014), Carmelo Anthony (2014), LaMarcus Aldridge (2015), DeAndre Jordan (2015) and Greg Monroe (2015).

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak conceded things “might not be different” when free agency begins on July 1. After all, the Lakers finished the 2016-17 season with its worst record in franchise history (17-65). Yet, Kupchak argued that the Lakers “have more to sell.”

“Our asset allotment is better,” Kupchak said. “Our circumstances are better.”
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NBA Draft: Lakers select Croatian center Ivica Zubac at No. 32

EL SEGUNDO — The Lakers selected Croatian seven-foot center Ivica Zubac with the No. 32 pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft.

Numerous NBA mock drafts have compared Zubac to Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol, though it remains unclear how soon Zubac will play in the NBA. The Lakers could stash him overseas to give him more time to develop.

Zubac helped the Croatian team win the silver medal in the Under-19 World Championships, averaging 17.9 points and 7.9 rebounds. He also played last season for KK Cibona in Croatia, though he left amid reported issues with decreased playing time over a coaching change.

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mark.medina@langnews.com

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NBA Draft: Luke Walton dismisses concerns about Brandon Ingram’s weight

Luke Walton is formally introduced as the new head coach of the Lakers during a press conference at the Lakers training facility in El Segundo, CA on Tuesday, June 21, 2016. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze)

Luke Walton is formally introduced as the new head coach of the Lakers during a press conference at the Lakers training facility in El Segundo, CA on Tuesday, June 21, 2016. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze)

EL SEGUNDO — Even as he stayed consumed with the Golden State Warriors’ playoff run, Lakers coach Luke Walton watched enough tape of Brandon Ingram that featured plenty of images.

Walton gushed about Ingram’s length. Walton complimented Ingram’s defensive awareness. Walton praised Ingram’s leadership qualities.

But when it came toward assessing Ingram’s a rail-thin 6-9, 190-pound frame? Even if NBA talent evaluators have constantly brought up that issue, Walton insisted he “doesn’t see concerns about his weight” for one simple reason.

“He’s young; he’ll naturally get stronger,” Walton said on Thursday at the Lakers’ practice facility. “Talking to some of the coaches that were here when he came and did his workout, even though he’s skinny, he had strength to him in the individual workout that he did. That’s good to hear.”

Ingram said he has gone from weighing 169 pounds to 195 in the past year because of constant workouts and high-caloric meals. He also has said he wants to weigh 210 pounds by the beginning of the 2016-17 season. Yet those around Ingram have downplayed his weight issues, arguing that he can overcome such a weakness with superior defense and an outside shot.

“I don’t know if he’s the best or not, but he’s the player I wanted,” Walton said. “What he has the potential of doing and what he can already do at his age, with his length and his skill set, is very impressive and unique.”

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NBA Draft: Mitch Kupchak said “nothing piqued our interest” in trading No. 2 pick

The Lakers did not make any moves leading into Thursday's NBA draft. Photo by Steve McCrank/Staff Photographer

The Lakers did not make any moves leading into Thursday’s NBA draft. Photo by Steve McCrank/Staff Photographer

The phone rarely stopped ringing. But just because Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak fielded what he called “a lot of interest in our No. 2 pick” on Thursday, the Lakers chose the conventional route and chose Duke forward Brandon Ingram.

Part of the reasoning sounded simple.

“Obviously there was nothing that piqued our interest,” Kupchak said on Thursday at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo. “This time of year, teams are serious. They’re recognizing that picks are valuable. Hopefully we’re not in this position again and we recognize that the pick is valuable.”

The Lakers fielded the No. 2 pick for the second consecutive year after preceding a season with their worst record in franchise history. It seemed no surprise they used it on Ingram, who won the ACC’s Freshman of the year award during his lone season at Duke partly because of his outside shooting and defense. Ingram shot 41 percent from 3-point range, while often defending the opposing team’s top scorers.

The Lakers also became impressed with Ingram’s versatility during individual workouts and two subsequent dinners. At the second dinner, Kupchak said the Lakers’ young roster in D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr. and Anthony Brown attended.

“We look at him and his age (18) and his body type, his willingness to work and be coached,” Kupchak said. “We think the upside and potential in him, there is no ceiling on him. But to date, he has had a pretty good career in a pretty good conference.”

Kupchak admitted that Ingram “needs to work and get stronger” after having a listed 6’9, 190-pound frame. Yet, Kupchak argued “it’s unfair” of the comparisons Ingram fielded to Kevin Durant, a seven-time NBA All-Star that also entered the league undersized.

“Their similarities are striking in terms of size and body build and body type,” Kupchak said. “Beyond that, Brandon has a long long way to go and has a lot of work in front of him.”

Yet, the Lakers hardly thought twice about selecting Ingram. Kupchak would not go enough to proclaim Ingram as his top choice had the Lakers’ No. 1 pick. After all, the Lakers’ sentiment could have changed had LSU forward Ben Simmons worked out for them. But on a night Kupchak easily could have traded his pick away, he chose otherwise.

“We’re ecstatic to have him,” Kupchak said. “Going into it based on what we felt, we felt we’d be very lucky to get Brandon into this city and into this organization.”


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Lakers assistant Brian Shaw to try to become conduit for players, Luke Walton

Lakers assistant Brian Shaw will likely serve a critical role in relating to players (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Lakers assistant Brian Shaw will likely serve a critical role in relating to players (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

The words sounded pleasant to D’Angelo Russell’s ears as Lakers coach Luke Walton spoke about incorporating an up-tempo offense. Russell’s eyes lit up when Walton explained how creating a fun atmosphere can make the development process both more joyful and productive.

As Russell watched Walton’s introductory press conference with intense interest on Tuesday at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo, the Lakers’ second-year guard showed his affection for the team’s new direction in another way. Russell stood close to Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw. Russell then often made several undisclosed observations to Shaw, while Walton outlined his vision for bolstering the Lakers after finishing with their worst record in franchise history in consecutive seasons under Byron Scott.

Shaw did not detail what those conversations entailed. But it illustrated the potential of Russell and perhaps his other young teammates forming a close bond with Russell.

“What you do is you try to keep the problems or anything going on away from the head coach,” Shaw told Southern California News Group. “Then he can concentrate on coaching. You intercept a lot of things in place and try to keep things in order. When Luke needs to say what he needs to say and does he needs to do, everything goes smoothly.”

Things hardly went smoothly for Shaw through 1 1/2 seasons as the Denver Nuggets’ head coach. The Nuggets fired him following a 58-85 record amid reported criticism on his ability to get players to buy into his concepts. Yet, Shaw established a much stronger reputation as the Indiana Pacers associate coach (2011-2013) and a Lakers assistant coach under Phil Jackson (2005-11).

Shaw struck strong relationships with Indiana’s star player (Paul George) and formerly eccentric forward (Lance Stephenson). During two NBA title runs with the Lakers (2009-10), Shaw also remained close with several players including Kobe Bryant and Luke Walton. That explained the strong frustration within the Lakers locker room when the franchise hired Mike Brown instead of Shaw to replace a retiring Jackson.

Shaw said he and Walton have not ironed out specific job descriptions since he had obligations as Golden State’s assistant coach until the Warriors’ NBA playoff run eventually ended on Sunday with a Game 7 loss to Cleveland in the 2016 NBA Finals. Shortly after the Lakers and Walton agreed to terms in late April, Walton added Shaw as his lead assistant nearly three weeks later.

Since then, Shaw has visited the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo for an initial glimpse of the Lakers’ young roster in voluntary workouts.

“It’s a young group that I think is very talented,” Shaw said. “I don’t know much about their work ethic. I haven’t been around them that much. But in the short time I’ve been around, it’s been impressive. They’ve been in here consistently when they’ve been in town and are putting in work.”

Shaw also reported positive impressions with Duke forward Brandon Ingram, who will likely be the Lakers’ No. 2 pick. Though Shaw described Ingram as a “very slight build” because of his listed 6-7, 190-pound frame, Shaw liked how Ingram conducted himself when he dined with the Lakers’ basketball operations and coaching staff.

“Nice, young kid,” Shaw said of the 18-year-old Ingram. “I was left with a good impression. He was very well mannered and he was respectful.”

As for Ingram’s rail-thin frame, it appears he carried his quest to bulk up at the dinner table.

“He’s trying to fill it up,” Shaw said, chuckling. “But at that age, it’s hard to keep it on.”

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Luke Walton to be “heavily involved” with Lakers’ summer league team

Lakers coach Luke Walton said he will be "heavily involved with the Vegas summer league team. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)

Lakers coach Luke Walton said he will be “heavily involved with the Vegas summer league team. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)

The swirling emotions and quickly evolving job descriptions hardly has allowed Luke Walton to think.

Two days after nursing frustration over the Golden State Warriors losing Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Luke Walton morphed from Warriors assistant to Lakers head coach. So, Walton has not exactly ironed out specifics on if he will be coach the Lakers’ summer league team, or who will represent his coaching staff.

Yet, Walton has determined he will be “heavily involved in practice” when the Lakers begin summer league play on July 8 in Las Vegas. He believed he will fill out his coaching staff “before summer league starts.” Walton also has hired Brian Shaw as his lead assistant, while player development coaches Mark Madsen, Thomas Scott and J.J. Outlaw have worked with players at the Lakers’ practice facility.

“These are all things that normally would’ve been taken care of by now,” Walton said. “But because of the circumstances and the Lakers being so great about not pressing me, I had work to do. We’re still slowly working on it.”

The Lakers hired Walton on April 29, less than a week after Byron Scott was fired amid a combined 38-126 record. But Walton would not assume his new duties until the Warriors were eliminated in the NBA playoffs. Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak joked Walton could have started earlier, Golden State trailed the Oklahoma City Thunder, 3-1, in the Western Conference Finals and led the Cleveland Cavaliers, 3-1, in the NBA Finals.

“A lot of times the best way to get on and let go of something that is really painful is to jump into your next challenge,” Kupchak said.

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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mark.medina@langnews.com

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Lakers’ summer league schedule could feature Ingram-Simmons matchup

Duke forward Brandon Ingram and LSU forward Ben Simmons could square off when the Lakers play the Philadelphia 76ers in Summer League play on July 9. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Duke forward Brandon Ingram and LSU forward Ben Simmons could square off when the Lakers play the Philadelphia 76ers in Summer League play on July 9. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Hardly much debate has emerged on the draft order between LSU forward Ben Simmons and Duke forward Brandon Ingram. The Philadelphia Sixers are strongly expected to select Simmons at No. 1 because of his playmaking, while the Lakers are expected to pick Ingram because of his versatility on defense and outside shooting.

Debate will arise inevitably on which player is better. Those comparisons could begin as early as when the Lakers play their second summer league game on July 19 against the Philadelphia 76ers at 5:30 p.m. at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, the setting where Simmons and Ingram might first square off.

The Lakers will begin their summer league slate on July 8 against the New Orleans Pelicans (7:30 p.m.) and continue on July 11 against the Golden State Warriors (7:30 p.m.). Teams will then be seeded in a tournament that starts on July 13 and ends with the championship game on July 18. But plenty of attention will circle on the Lakers’ second game. Simmons stayed at the top of most mock drafts during his lone season at LSU, yet criticism arose over the Tigers’ missed tournament appearance, his academic eligibility and his outside shooting. Ingram steadily climbed on most mock drafts after thriving with the Blue Devils as both a scorer and defender.

Plenty of intrigue will center on the rest of the Lakers’ summer league lineup. Second-year guard D’Angelo Russell, second-year forward Larry Nance Jr. and second-year forward Anthony Brown are expected to play along with the Lakers’ No. 2 and No. 32 picks. Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson are not expected to play for two seasons. Third-year players do not typically play in summer league. Randle will play on the 2016 USA Basketball Select team later that month with Russell, while Clarkson will likely become a restricted free agent beginning in July.

All of the Lakers’ summer league games will be broadcast on both through their cable partners (Time Warner Cable SportsNet and Time Warner Cable Deports) and national outlets (ESPN, NBA TV). Fan can purchase tickets at NBATickets.com.

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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mark.medina@langnews.com

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D’Angelo Russell makes reference to phone incident in Foot Locker commercial

The incident caused turmoil inside the Lakers’ locker room. It only added more anxieties for D’Angelo Russell amid a rookie season already filled with losing, evolving roles and fluctuating performances. But with the old adage that time can heal all wounds, Russell offered some self-deprecation in a recent Foot Locker commercial with an indirect reference toward secretly recording Nick Young admitting to infidelities.

LSU prospect and close friend Ben Simmons asked Minnesota’s Karl Anthony-Towns, Phoenix’s Devin Booker and Russell on advice about thriving in the NBA. With Simmons expected to be the No. 1 pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft, perhaps those players could shed some perspective on their previous rookie seasons.

Towns offered a cliche that “getting drafted doesn’t mean a thing.” Booker added that “nothing comes easy anymore.” Russell simply asked for Simmons’ phone and threw it.

“Trust me,” Russell said.

After all, Russell faced criticism regarding his maturity level and trustworthiness for inadvertently making details about Young’s private life public. Young and his fiancee, Iggy Azalea, also announced this week on social media that they broke up. Even if the Lakers are not expected to keep Young, Russell has acknowledged afterwards the need to earn back his trust.

Yet, the Lakers have offered public support. Russell has expressed contrition. And as his latest commercial suggests, Russell has maintained his sense of humor.

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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mark.medina@langnews.com

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