Monday report

Its amazing that you can walk into a 7-11 in Las Vegas and find people playing video poker in the middle of the day.

Thats one side of life here and the Lakers are going to experience the other side tonight with a host of activities that include a team dinner, gambling and a private party at a nightclub. Its a slightly different definition of team-building than most people have.

Practice went long today at the Thomas & Mack Center and the Lakers had to get off the court to make way for UNLV. Lamar Odom didnt take part in the scrimmage at the end, treating his bruised shin instead, but said he would play Tuesday.

I went in a little different direction for Tuesdays notes. The D-Fenders are interesting to me because the NBA clearly is moving toward adopting a minor-league system along the lines of baseball and hockey and the Lakers are the team everybody is watching to see how it will work.

“Were looking for that diamond in the rough or that hidden NBA talent, coach Dan Panaggio said.

If you have any questions about the D-Fenders and how things work, feel free to e-mail. Its not the easiest thing understanding that there will be players assigned by the Lakers to the team as well as players on the roster that can be claimed by any NBA team.

For those who are interested in Dan Panaggios triangle experience, he told me that he twice tried to get his CBA teams to run the triangle. He stuck with it for entire seasons but found it was too difficult to do long-term.

It takes a long time to learn the offense and the players leave too quickly at the minor-league level. Thats just one of the challenges facing the D-Fenders. But Panaggio attended a bunch of Tex Winter-run clinics when he was in the CBA.

The Lakers will have control over the D-Fenders, which wasnt the case last season when their affiliate was in Fort Worth, Texas. General manager Mitch Kupchak said he wasnt happy with what Von Wafer got out of his two trips there.

Panaggio said he thought players would be eager to come to the D-Fenders, even though they will play in a system different from most NBA teams. For starters, they will get scouted more extensively and they will have the benefit of being around a pro practice facility.

Although the Lakers are the first, other NBA teams are expected to own minor-league affiliates within the next season or two.

“The more time we can spend developing players, Kupchak said, “the more that bodes well for our franchise.

By Ross Siler
Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS–Dan Panaggio can remember the first time he saw the triangle offense, back when he was coaching Quad City in the Continental Basketball Association and watching the Chicago Bulls teams of the 1990s on television.

Now Panaggio has a seat next to Tex Winter for every exhibition game and the job of teaching the triangle to a new generation of players as head coach of the D-Fenders, the Lakers new minor league affiliate.

The Lakers are the first team to own and operate their own affiliate in the NBA Development League. The D-Fenders will play home games at Staples Center on the same days as the Lakers and will practice at the teams El Segundo facility.

They also will run the offense that Phil Jackson helped make famous and Panaggio went on to run with two of his Quad City teams.

“I think its especially important for the Lakers, Panaggio said, “because they have a complex system they play thats different from the norm. Hopefully, we can provide a pool of guys that are familiar with that system so that, if they do need a player, they have one thats semi-trained.

The Lakers will have the ability to assign up to two players from their roster – - either in their first or second NBA season – - to play for the D-Fenders.

It was an option the Lakers would have considered last season with teenage center Andrew Bynum had their minor-league affiliate not been in Fort Worth, Texas, and had they known Bynum would get experience in the triangle.

“Were going to run it exactly at that level like we do at this level, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said, “because if we end up moving guys back and forth, then therell be no learning curve.

Panaggio coached in the CBA for nine seasons and won two championships. He went on to serve as an assistant with the Portland Trail Blazers for four seasons and saw how a minor-league system could benefit young NBA players.

The Blazers drafted Zach Randolph, who played one season at Michigan State, as well as high schoolers Sebastian Telfair and Travis Outlaw during Panaggios time.

“They drafted so many very, very young players and they would get 82 pre-game workouts once the season started, Panaggio said. “You knew it wasnt enough. It was good that they were getting those workouts, but those young guys needed to play to fully develop.

The D-Fenders will draft players Nov. 2, after the conclusion of NBA training camps. They will open the season Nov. 24 at Anaheim and will play home games at 3:30 p.m. before Lakers games.

Even though the team is owned by the Lakers, the D-Fenders players will be treated no differently than their counterparts in the league. That means any NBA team – - be it the Clippers or the Kings – - could sign their players to a 10-day contract.

As a result, how the Lakers avoid losing out on their investment of developing players remains to be seen.

“Were going to know him probably earlier and better than anybody else, Panaggio said.

Kupchak also said he wasnt sure how much the Lakers would make use of the D-Fenders this season. The Lakers have six players on the training camp roster who are eligible to be assigned, including Bynum and rookie guard Jordan Farmar.

“It all depends on how our roster ends up, Kupchak said.

Option talk: Guard Sasha Vujacic was asked about facing an Oct. 31 deadline for the Lakers to exercise the fourth-year option in his contract. If the Lakers dont exercise the option, Vujacic would be an unrestricted free agent after this season.

“Obviously, I chose not to go with the (Slovenian) national team, Vujacic said. “I chose to stay all summer long in L.A., working on my body, working on the triangle offense, working on my offense, defense, everything.

“What I was working for is simply to come into this season confident and what will happen, will happen. I want to stay here and we will see what will happen.

After missing two games with a foot injury, Vujacic is expected to play tonight against Sacramento.

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