Metta World Peace pretends to work at Modell’s Sporting Goods

Most of the expressions seem startled.

The customers saw a tall and strong NBA player that looked like Metta World Peace and talked like World Peace. But the man insisted he is neither World Peace nor Ron Artest.

Instead, he said his name is Panda and he has been named “Employee of the Month” at Modell’s Sporting Goods store in Times Square. It did not appear many believed him considering World Peace’s playful personality, his recognizable figure and the fact he often talked about the NBA with them. But World Peace still attempted to pretend he was someone else as part of Modell’s Undercover Associate series.

World Peace has since agreed to another deal with the Lakers at least to be on their training camp roster. There, he will not be able to confuse anyone about his identity. Nor will he able to sell Steph Curry jerseys, U.S. Olympic hats or basketball shoes. But he likely still make others around him laugh.

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Lakers sign Thomas Robinson to training camp roster

The Lakers made the final touches on their training camp roster for next week. They signed free-agent forward Thomas Robinson to what is believed to be a one-year deal.

The Lakers currently have 19 players signed on their roster. But they will soon reach the NBA-maximum 20 players for training camp with the expected signing of veteran forward Metta World Peace.

After the Sacramento Kings drafted him fifth overall in the 2012 NBA Draft, Robinson has played four NBA seasons with the Kings (2012-13), Houston Rockets (2012-13), Portland Trail Blazers (2013-15), Philadelphia 76ers (2015) and Brooklyn Nets (2015-16). The 25-year-old Robinson has averaged 4.9 points and 4.8 rebounds in 13.8 minutes per game.

Robinson will face stiff competition amid a Lakers frontline that also includes Julius Randle, Larry Nance Jr, Luol Deng, Tarik Black and World Peace.

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Metta World Peace to return to Lakers for training camp

Metta World Peace re-signed with the Lakers. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Metta World Peace re-signed with the Lakers. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Even with Kobe Bryant ending a storied 20-year NBA career, the Lakers have kept another player connected to their successful past.

Veteran forward Metta World Peace will join the Lakers for training camp. The Lakers would not confirm the agreement, but a league source familiar with the situation said World Peace will return on a one-year, non-guaranteed deal.

After serving as mostly a mentor toward the Lakers’ young roster and playing occasional minutes, the 36-year-old World Peace will be expected to fill the same role.

Last year, World Peace attempted striking a balance between supporting former Lakers coach Byron Scott and providing positive reinforcement for the team’s young players, most notably power forward Julius Randle. World Peace also never lamented his declining role, which entailed averaged 5.0 points on 31.1 percent shooting and 2.5 rebounds in 16.9 minutes through 35 games.

Whether World Peace stays on the roster through the entire 2016-17 season remains another question. The Lakers must trim their current 19-player roster to 15 before the regular season starts in late October. The Lakers could put more value this year on investing in a younger roster than retaining a veteran player that’s not expected to provide significant minutes. Still, World Peace could become an extra conduit for Lakers coach Luke Walton, who were former teammates from 2009 through 2012 and won an NBA title together in 2010.

Although World Peace has expressed an interest in coaching, he believes he can play 20 NBA seasons. He has played 17 years in the NBA and played professionally overseas in Italy and China during the 2014-15 season. World Peace has averaged 13.5 points on 41.5 percent shooting and 4.6 rebounds through his NBA career. Despite his averaging single digits in his previous two seasons in New York and the Lakers, World Peace has drawn praise for his conditioning.

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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’ Julius Randle has stitches removed from right hand

Lakers forward Julius Randle had stitches removed from his right hand this week .   (Photo by Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News)

Lakers forward Julius Randle had stitches removed from his right hand this week .
(Photo by Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News)

Lakers forward Julius Randle made one significant step to get ready for next week’s training camp. The Lakers reported that the third-year forward had all seven stitches removed from his right hand on Tuesday.

He received that treatment after suffering a cut on the webbing between his middle and ring fingers in the last week of August during an off-season workout. The Lakers cleared Randle for shooting drills shortly after since the injury happened to his non-dominant hand.

Randle’s ring and middle fingers will be what the Lakers called “buddy taped” for about a month while he’s playing. But Randle does not face any restrictions on his right hand entering training camp on Sept. 27.

Randle, whom the Lakers selected No. 7 overall in the 2014 NBA draft, played only one game his rookie year before suffering a season-ending right leg injury. Last season, Randle led his sophomore class with 34 double doubles (11.3 points, 10.2 rebounds). Lakers coach Luke Walton recently provided positive reviews on Randle’s summer-long efforts to improve his jump shot.

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Luke Walton challenging Jordan Clarkson to become a better defender

Lakers coach Luke Walton wants to see more on defense from Jordan Clarkson in the 2016-17 season. (Photo by Robert Casillas/Daily Breeze)

Lakers coach Luke Walton wants to see more on defense from Jordan Clarkson in the 2016-17 season. (Photo by Robert Casillas/Daily Breeze)

The lucrative four-year, $50 million deal represents the Lakers’ long-term optimism on Jordan Clarkson’s trajectory. He quickly established himself as a steal when the Lakers selected him with the 46th pick in the 2014 NBA draft. He attacked the basket with ease. He won most conditioning drills in practice. He showed up to put in a full day of work without much fanfare.

But even as Clarkson has shown steady growth entering his third NBA season, Lakers coach Luke Walton outlined something specific that will make Clarkson’s ascension even more noticeable once training camp begins on Sept. 27.

“I think he can take his biggest strides by embracing the challenge of being a solid defender in this league,” Walton said in a recent interview with Southern California News Group. “The big thing for him in becoming a better basketball player and us as a team is the way he gets after it on defense.”

Walton echoed something former Lakers coach Byron Scott expressed following the 2015-16 season. Despite Clarkson increasing his scoring average from 11.9 points per game his rookie season to 15.5 points in his second year, Scott warned Clarkson would play fewer minutes if he did not improve on defense. With the Lakers ranking 26th out of 30 NBA teams in total points allowed (106.9), Clarkson represented one of many Lakers’ perimeter players that suffered from both lacking support and risky gambling on one-on-one defense.

The Lakers may have changed coaching staffs. But they haven’t changed their message on Clarkson, who spent most of his exit interview with Scott and Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak dissecting his defense.

“A couple of times I’ve seen it this summer where he gets after the ball. Because of his quickness, he disrupts the players,” Walton said. “That’s going to be more of a mindset thing with him. He can be a very solid defender because of the way he can move out there on the court.”
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Luke Walton pleased with how Julius Randle, Larry Nance have worked on their mid-range game

Lakers forward Julius Randle has worked with an unnamed shooting coach to develop his jumpshot this offseason. (Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles News Group)

Lakers forward Julius Randle has worked with an unnamed shooting coach to develop his jumpshot this offseason. (Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles News Group)

Defenders rarely offered a solution whenever Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr. leaped toward the basket. It usually became inevitable Nance would throw down a thunderous dunk.

Defenders occasionally found ways to limit Julius Randle’s imposing power. Force him to his right hand. Double team him. Yet, Randle often overcame both tactics because of his brute strength and playmaking skills.

Despite those highlights currently capturing the value Nance and Randle bring, both players channeled their energy on something else this offseason. They spent plenty of time at the Lakers’ practice facility working on their mid-range jumper in hopes to add another coveted skill once training camp begins on Sept. 27.
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Luke Walton hopes to find balance between guiding D’Angelo Russell, giving him freedom

Lakers coach Luke Walton on D'Angelo Russell: "He’s ready to take the steps forward in this league toward becoming a leader and becoming a top point guard." (photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles News Group)

Lakers coach Luke Walton on D’Angelo Russell: “He’s ready to take the steps forward in this league toward becoming a leader and becoming a top point guard.” (photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles News Group)

With the ball in his hands, Lakers point guard D’Angelo Russell could arguably face a number of decisions with every possession. Should he take advantage of his offseason focus in the post and work in that area? Should he use his court vision to find an open teammate that an opponent has not noticed? Or should he rely on his emerging outside shot?

All of those decisions could determine how much Russell emerges from a rookie season that both featured promise in his potential and hiccups with his role and leadership. Those decisions could influence how much the Lakers run their offense based on ball movement over one-on-one play. And those decisions could affect to what degree Russell becomes a complete player, scorer or passer.

All of which has given Lakers coach Luke Walton an intriguing puzzle to sort out once training camp begins on Sept. 27.

“As a coaching staff, we’ll push him in the right direction as far as what we see he should be doing at that time,” Walton said in a recent interview with Southern California News Group. “But ultimately, you want him to be able to recognize that stuff on his own.”

Walton quickly ticked off a list of future Hall-of-Famers that usually perfected that dynamic well, including Clippers guard Chris Paul, former Phoenix Suns and Lakers guard Steve Nash and former Lakers star Kobe Bryant.

“Kobe knew if we were playing like [crap] that he would score and carry us until we started playing better,” said Walton, reflecting on his 10-year NBA career that was mostly with the Lakers. “That’s why we always had a chance. It’s a skill that can be developed and is something our coaching staff will be in constant conversation about. That’s something we’ll see [D’Angelo] get better at as the years go on.”

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Why Luke Walton does not plan to start Brandon Ingram right away

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)

The player left Lakers coach Luke Walton giddy about his long-term potential. Walton marveled at his defense, outside shooting, versatility and work ethic. And when asked, Walton informed Lakers vice president of player personnel Jim Buss about his hope the Lakers draft that player.

Walton received that wish. The Lakers selected Duke forward Brandon Ingram at No. 2 pick. The selection seemed inevitable because the Sixers drafted Ben Simmons at No. 1 and Ingram filled plenty of needs the Lakers lacked.

Despite Walton predicting that Ingram will be “a phenomenal player in this league as his career unfolds,” the Lakers’ coach envisioned something different for how the first chapter of Ingram’s NBA journey unfolds.

The Lakers had finished all of their preparation. They spent the previous weeks overseeing countless pre-draft workouts. They interviewed all of those prospects. And throughout the year, the Lakers had watched those players both in person and on tape.

But before the clock would tick for the Lakers to make their selection, vice president of player personnel Jim Buss asked Lakers coach Luke Walton a specific question about the team’s No. 2 pick.

“We’re not going to throw him into the starting lineup right away,” Walton said in a recent interview with Southern California News Group. “We’re not going to play him 40 minutes a night. It’s going to be a gradual process.”
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Lakers’ Yi Jianlian confident he can succeed in NBA

Chinese star Yi Jianlian joined the Lakers this offseason on a one year deal. Photo credit: Mark Medina/SCNG

Chinese star Yi Jianlian joined the Lakers this offseason on a one year deal. Photo credit: Mark Medina/SCNG

A swarm of cameramen fought for positioning around the Lakers’ player. For the first time in 20 years, the hubbub did not involve Kobe Bryant.

Instead, plenty of Chinese media members wanted to catch every glimpse of Lakers forward/center Yi Jianlian, who has starred for both the Chinese national team and professional team (Guangdong) for the past four years.

Yi’s stature hardly comes close toward Bryant, who won five NBA titles with the Lakers and became the NBA’s third all-time leading scorer. Yi also brushed off any comparisons to former Houston Rockets center and Chinese star Yao Ming, who recently earned an induction to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

But after spending five NBA seasons with four different teams from 2007 to 2012, Yi reported feeling prepared for his second NBA stint.

“I feel pressure,” Yi said after an informal workout on Friday at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo. “But I feel excited about that.”

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Lakers finalize training camp details in Santa Barbara

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)

Many make the nearly 2 1/2 hour drive from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara to enjoy the area’s wineries, beaches and scenery. The Lakers, meanwhile, will make the trek up there to play basketball and perhaps cement team bonding during training camp.

The Lakers host “Media Day” on Sept. 26 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at their practice facility in El Segundo, an annual event that entails interviews with numerous media outlets and team broadcast partners as well as promotional plugs for in-game entertainment and sponsorship needs. The Lakers will then train at the Robertson Gymnasium at UC Santa Barbara from Sept. 27 through Oct. 2 before beginning their exhibition schedule on Oct. 4 against the Sacramento Kings at the Honda Center in Anaheim.

The Lakers currently plan to have single practice sessions to open and close training camp in Santa Barbara, while holding four two-a-day sessions in between. Lakers coach Luke Walton could change that itinerary depending on various factors, including how much to weigh the needs for further instruction and conditioning while keeping the roster healthy.

The Lakers will then resume training at their practice facility in El Segundo in between preseason games at Staples Center (Denver; Oct. 7, Portland, Oct. 11), in Ontario (Denver; Oct. 9) in Las Vegas (Sacramento; Oct. 13, Golden State; Oct. 15), San Diego (Golden State; Oct. 19), and Anaheim (Sacramento; Oct. 4, Phoenix; Oct. 21).

The Lakers last trained in Santa Barbara in 1999. Last year, the Lakers spent the first part of training camp in Hawaii for the first time in 2007. As originally reported by Southern California News Group, the Lakers originally planned to have this year’s training camp in El Segundo before changing plans.

The Lakers have accommodated informal workouts on most weekdays only six days finishing the 2015-16 season with their worst record in franchise history (17-65). The Lakers’ young core of players have become frequent visitors, including D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr. and Anthony Brown. Following Las Vegas Summer League play, Lakers rookies Brandon Ingram and Ivica Zubac have often trained at the Lakers’ practice facility as well.

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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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