Lakers’ Brandon Ingram, Ivica Zubac take singing duties in stride

SANTA BARBARA — The positive reinforcement has gushed out of Luke Walton’s mouth with frequency. Perhaps as much as when he saw Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson sink 3-pointers as a former Golden State assistant.

The Lakers’ new head coach has praised his players’ efforts in training camp. He has expressed optimism about the young core’s development including D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Brandon Ingram, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. Walton has embraced the concept in empowering those players to become leaders.

Walton hardly did not offer any positive feedback, however, regarding his rookies’ singing performance in a talent show open to UCSB students on Thursday night. Then, Brandon Ingram (Rihanna’s “Diamonds”), Ivica Zubac (Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies”), Zach Auguste (Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles”) and Julian Jacobs (Katy Perry’s “Roar”) all grabbed the microphone and performed something that would not prompt an invitation on “American Idol.”

“I respected the effort,” Walton said after Friday’s practice at Robertson Gymnasium. “I was not impressed with the talent.”
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Lakers shower Jose Calderon with a “Happy Birthday” greeting

SANTA BARBARA — The Lakers may have greeted Jose Calderon with open arms. But the Lakers have not exactly welcomed him with a pleasant voice.

Calderon’s second training camp practice on Wednesday with the Lakers coincided with his 35th birthday. Or, as he clarified, his 28th. And well before the Lakers further ingratiated themselves into the Luke Walton era, several of his young players attempted to sing “Happy Birthday” to the 11-year NBA veteran.

“It wasn’t great at all,” Calderon said, laughing. “It’s getting better.”

After all, a birthday dinner might await. Perhaps Walton will also allow him to play his own music during practice, something the new Lakers coach has implemented to create more joy in an otherwise workmanlike atmosphere.

“I have to talk to them,” Calderon said, laughing. “I need my playlist.”

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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’ Brandon Ingram already preparing to adapt for 82-game season

 Brandon Ingram at LA Lakers Media Day at their El Segundo training facility. Photos by Brad Graverson/SCNG/The Daily Breeze/09-26-16

Brandon Ingram at LA Lakers Media Day at their El Segundo training facility. Photos by Brad Graverson/SCNG/The Daily Breeze/09-26-16

SANTA BARBARA — The teasing already started as Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr. jokingly questioned to reporters why the rookie forward Brandon Ingram became the team’s No. 2 pick. The rookie duties will soon pick up with Ingram planning to sing during a team event here on Thursday night. And physical tests await once the listed 6-foot-9, 190-pound Ingram matches up against some of the NBA’s more bruising forwards.

As Ingram begins navigating potential hurdles through his rookie season, however, another factor more important than fitting in with teammates and stronger opponents could determine his long-term success.

“He’s got to continue to work on stamina and getting stronger in this league,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said. “He has to work on every day taking care of his body, his diet, rest and make it through an 82 game season. Because I think he’s going to play a lot.”

Lakers coach Luke Walton has already said he likely will bring Ingram off the bench, while starting 12-year- NBA veteran Luol Deng. Some of the reasoning stems from rewarding Deng for his continued productivity and motivating Ingram to continue working. Yet, Walton has also anticipated the 19-year-old Ingram feeling overwhelmed adapting from a 35-game schedule last year at Duke toward the NBA’s 82-game schedule.

“I expect at some point this year he hits a wall,” Walton said. “He’s been phenomenal with everything he’s done. He’ll be as good as anyone can be. But I don’t think he can do anything preemptively to be ready for the NBA season at his age.”

Ingram will at least try, though.

He has embraced the grass-fed diets that Lakers strength and conditioning coach Tim DiFrancesco promotes. Ingram has quickly wrapped himself in ice following practices. While the Lakers have praised Ingram for continuing to work out immediately following Summer League, he also has mostly rested afterwards.

“I’m not hurting right now,” Ingram said. “But I’m trying to get in the cold tub and do everything I can before I start getting injuries.”
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Lakers’ Nick Young believes he can thrive better under Luke Walton than Byron Scott

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For nearly his entire life, Nick Young’s smile both revealed his happiness 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 after two adversity-filled 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.”

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Lakers’ Mitch Kupchak “not in a position to debate” Buss family timeline

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)

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.”
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Lakers’ Brandon Ingram taking bench role, rookie duties in stride

Brandon Ingram at LA Lakers Media Day at their El Segundo training facility. Photos by Brad Graverson/SCNG/The Daily Breeze/09-26-16

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.”
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Derek Fisher to join Spectrum SportsNet as studio analyst

Spectrum SportsNet recently hired Derek Fisher as a studio analyst (Stephen Dunn/Getty Images).

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.

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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 keeping open mind on how to protest amid social unrest

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

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.”
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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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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 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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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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