For nearly his entire life, Nick Young’s smile both revealed his zest for life during the good times and it camouflaged his inner frustration during the bad times.
As the Lakers’ forward walked on the team’s practice court during media day earlier this week, his smile represented two things. It conveyed the joy and surprise Young felt that he still remains on the Lakers’ roster amid two seasons. It also masked the frustration he felt that made his future so unstable, including sub-par shooting performances, clashes with his previous head coach and a young teammate accidentally exposing details of his personal life on his camera phone.
But Young expressed gratitude for what he called “a new opportunity.” After former Lakers coach Byron Scott frequently chastised Young privately and publicly about his inconsistency, his work habits and playful personality for the past two seasons, Young predicted he will play more effectively under Lakers coach Luke Walton.
While Scott became known for his stern coaching style, Young described Walton as a “beach guy” and “laid back” that “still knows what he’s doing.”
“The style of play fits my style,” Young said of Walton, who served as an assistant for the Golden State Warriors the past two years. “I can still be me here a little bit and nobody here is harping on my personality no more. That’ll be all right.”
Young also reiterated that things will be all right between him and second-year guard D’Angelo Russell. After once becoming close teammates, Young became upset with Russell for secretly recording him on his phone admitting he cheated on rapper and former fiancee Iggy Azalea. After the video accidentally became public late last season, Young initially refused to accept Russell’s apology.
“I’m here for the team. We both are,” Young said of Russell. “So we put all that stuff behind us and go out there and try to do our job.”
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak: “Wins and losses, I couldn’t pick a number. I could guess. But I would not guess in front of you. That’s not something I would do. That’s something I would stare at for the rest of the year.” (Robert Casillas – Staff Photographer)
SANTA BARBARA — The optimism seemed as sunny as the climate out here. It always appears that way whenever a new NBA training camp begins.
But for the 2016-17 campaign, there marked a few things that left Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak in high spirits. He relished the potential team bonding the Lakers could form as they begin the first week of training camp at UC Santa Barbara. Kupchak also sounded intrigued how the team’s young core could develop under Luke Walton’s guidance and without Kobe Bryant looming in the shadow. Kupchak centered his evaluation for the upcoming season more on development instead of wins and losses.
An ominous cloud looms over the Lakers, however. Lakers executive vice president Jim Buss said in 2014 he would step down if the Lakers do not become a Western Conference contender in three years. Lakers president Jeanie Buss has often said she would hold the front office accountable with unspecified changes if that does not happen.
All of which perpetuates uncertainty on if Kupchak’s focus on development could conflict with Jeanie Buss’ focus on results.
“I’m not in a position to debate the stuff you talked about,” Kupchak said on Tuesday at UC Santa Barbara. “I’m not sure what was said with certainty. From my point of view, we’ve created a team that has a lot of young talent that can grow into really good NBA players that can leave an imprint on this league. I think we’ve surrounded them with older veterans to help us win games. I’m excited about our coaching staff.” Continue reading →
Brandon Ingram at LA Lakers Media Day at their El Segundo training facility. Photos by Brad Graverson/SCNG/The Daily Breeze/09-26-16
EL SEGUNDO — His presence represented the main consolation prize the Lakers received for finishing last season with their worst record in franchise history. His work ethic, versatility and wingspan could all play a large part in bolstering the Lakers’ otherwise non-existent defense in recent years. With the Lakers no longer featuring a star that both dominated the scoring column and the limelight, his arrival could represent the Lakers’ new face in their franchise.
Yet as Lakers forward Brandon Ingram begins his rookie season, there are many clear signs the team has not exactly greeted its No. 2 draft pick as a savoir.
Lakers veteran forward Lou Williams quickly informed Ingram would perform rookie duties for him. Lakers veteran forward Nick Young instructed Ingram to address him as “Uncle P.” And in an issue that offers far more substance, Lakers coach Luke Walton made it clear he does not envision starting Ingram right away.
All of which sounds as pleasant to Ingram as the music Walton will allow his team to play during practice.
“If it was given, it wouldn’t drive me as much to be the best player I can be,” Ingram said at Lakers’ media day on Monday at the team’s practice facility. “So I’m just coming off the bench and showing I can be one of the best players or one of the best players on the floor. It gives me motivation to work hard each and every day.” Continue reading →
Spectrum SportsNet recently hired Derek Fisher as a studio analyst (Stephen Dunn/Getty Images).
Well before he sparked scrutiny about his coaching and personal life, Derek Fisher cemented a strong reputation with the Lakers for making clutch shots and delivering key speeches.
So it only seems natural that Fisher will now give speeches as a Spectrum SportsNet studio analyst as he watches a young Lakers team try to perform under pressure. He plans to make 20 studio appearances for the 2016-17 season on Spectrum SportsNet’s #LakeShow and Access SportsNet’s pre-game and post-game shows. The stations’s news release also stated Fisher plans work as a an analyst for TNT’s NBA coverage.
The Knicks fired Fisher as head coach following a combined 40-96 record. He also fielded criticism for dating a former teammates’ estranged wife. Sacramento forward and former Lakers player Matt Barnes had a physical confrontation with Fisher last year after visiting reality television star Gloria Govan.
As for Fisher’s time with the Lakers, the 18-year NBA veteran will be most remembered for winning five NBA championships as a key role player. Fisher played for the Lakers in two stints (1996-2004, 2007-2012) before the Lakers traded him and a first-round pick to Houston for Jordan Hill.
Head Coach Luke Walton at LA Lakers Media Day at their El Segundo training facility. Photos by Brad Graverson/SCNG/The Daily Breeze/09-26-16
As the players all huddled together, Lakers coach Luke Walton and general manager Mitch Kupchak addressed the team with a specific message. It went beyond any expected platitudes surrounding the 2016-17 season. It also surrounded the wave of various national anthem protests spearheaded by various NFL teams, which Walton called “a very serious and important issue.”
“It’s a very big subject because it’s touchy for both sides. But to me, it’s about what kind of change can we make,” Walton said. “That comes with getting together with organization in action and in the community and giving time and money to whatever else we can to help this problem get fixed.”
So, the Lakers talked for about 30 minutes before media day began on Monday at the Lakers’ practice facility to brainstorm various ideas.
Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr. said some talked about several possibly locking arms during the anthem. Other players sounded open toward both continued dialogue and civic engagement surrounding police brutality against unarmed black men as well as improving relationships with law enforcement. Nance also said Walton and Kupchak stressed one message: “Whatever you decide, we’re behind you.” Continue reading →
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.” Continue reading →