Lakers sign David Nwaba to a two-year deal

Lakers guard David Nwaba (10), left, tries to drive past the Cavaliers forward Richard Jefferson (24) during a game at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday, March 19, 2017. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Orange County Register/SCNG)

With the Lakers eager to collect as much data for evaluation purposes, they considered it more valuable to retain undrafted guard David Nwaba than to sign another player to a 10-day contract.

The Lakers signed Nwaba on Tuesday to a two-year deal, including a team option for the 2017-18 season, according to a league source familiar with the terms. While Nwaba is guaranteed to be with the Lakers for their remaining 12 games of the 2016-17 season, the second year of his deal is non-guaranteed.

“We have been impressed by David’s focus and determination, especially on defense,” Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka said in a statement released by the Lakers. “He has a mentality about him that is infectious, and he works hard every day to improve himself. He has brought energy to both our Lakers and D-Fenders games, and has certainly earned his spot on the roster.”

Nwaba, who starred at University High of Los Angeles and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, averaged 3.6 points and 2 rebounds while shooting 48.1 percent in 14.4 minutes through 10 games (eight as a reserve and two as a starter) during two 10-day contracts. He previously played with the Lakers’ Development League affiliate, the D-Fenders, where he averaged 14.1 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.0 blocks in 29.0 minutes per game.


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Lakers’ Luke Walton might start Larry Nance Jr. before season ends

The Lakers’ Larry Nance Jr. (7) dunks the ball during their game against the Bucks at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Friday, March 17, 2017. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

EL SEGUNDO — For the first time in a week, Lakers coach Luke Walton will not make changes to the starting lineup.

When the Lakers (20-50) host the Clippers (41-29) in a designated home game on Tuesday at Staples Center, Jordan Clarkson and D’Angelo Russell will start in the backcourt for the second consecutive game. Small forward Brandon Ingram, power forward Julius Randle and center Ivica Zubac will also start.

At some point before the 2016-17 season ends on April 12 in Golden State, Lakers coach Luke Walton held out the possibility he would start Larry Nance Jr. in at least one of the 12 remaining games. Walton said the pairing could be with either Zubac or Randle, something Walton said he has “been happy with both of those combinations.” But for now, Walton has put higher priority on evaluating Zubac and Randle together.

“It doesn’t really matter,” Nance said after morning shootaround on Tuesday. “As long as I play, I’m happy. It doesn’t matter if I come off the bench. I’ve gotten used to it. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I’m not worried about it.”
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Lakers’ Luke Walton intrigued on if D’Angelo Russell can establish consistency

EL SEGUNDO — Hours had already passed since D’Angelo Russell scored seemingly anytime he took a shot.

But just because the Lakers’ loss to Cleveland on Sunday at Staples Center had ended, it did not mean Russell’s shooting would end. After becoming the youngest Lakers player in franchise history to post a career-high 40 points in a regular-season game, Russell carried that sharp shooting late on Sunday night at the Lakers’ practice facility.

Both instances left Lakers coach Luke Walton both encouraged with Russell’s development and curious with the big-picture implications.

In his first start at shooting guard after coming off the bench for the previous three games, Russell dazzled the Lakers with efficiency (14-of-22 from field), passing (six assists) and steadniness (one turnover). With Walton featuring Russell at the starting shooting guard spot again for when the Lakers (20-50) host the Clippers (41-29) in a designated home game at Staples Center, Walton expressed hope Russell’s effectiveness will not solely hinge on how often his shot drops into the net.

“It’s when he’s engaged and doing other things, it allows him to make those type of shots because you’re in rhythm and when you get those open looks. In my experience, they tend to go in a lot more when you’re doing all the other parts of the game the right way,” Walton said. “A lot of times if his shot is not going in, it’s natural for most young players, they rely too much on whether they’re scoring or not to affect how they’re playing the rest of the game. He seems to be disengaged when the ball is not going in for him.”
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Lakers’ D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson to start together vs. Cleveland

Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell will start at shooting guard against Cleveland. ( Photo by Stephen Carr / Daily News / SCNG )

EL SEGUNDO — To gain further clarity if two of his young guards can improve their with different roles, Lakers coach Luke Walton will start D’Angelo Russell at shooting guard and Jordan Clarkson at point guard for when the Lakers (20-49) host the Cleveland Cavaliers (45-23) at Staples Center.

After serving as the Lakers’ starting guard all season, Russell came off the bench for the past three games for two reasons. One, Walton said he wanted to evaluate Clarkson at point guard in a traditional lineup considering the Lakers are in a rebuilding season. Two, Walton seemed interested in seeing how Russell would handle a demoted role.

But Walton also had said he planned to feature Russell and Clarkson together. Walton has not liked the results in which Russell and Clarkson have played in their traditional roles. While both are defensively tested, both often need to operate with the ball in their hands while having a scoring mentality. Russell and Clarkson have publicly supported starting together in a different role.

The lineup switch coincided with veteran guard Nick Young sitting out with a stomach bug.

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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mmedina@scng.com. Subscribe to the “We Want Tacos” podcast on iTunes.

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NBA fines Nick Young, D’Angelo Russell & Greg Monroe for role in Lakers-Bucks scuffle

Los Angeles Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell shoves Milwaukee Bucks center Greg Monroe as players from both teams take part in a shoving match after Lakers’ Nick Young, second from right, took a hard foul during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeleson Friday, March 17, 2017. Three players were ejected. The Bucks won 107-103. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

LOS ANGELES — The NBA levied fines to Bucks center Greg Monroe as well as Lakers guards D’Angelo Russell and Nick Young for their role in a scuffle during Friday’s game at Staples Center.

The amount highlighted the severity the NBA found each player responsible for contributing to the altercation that started after Bucks guard Malcolm Brogdon fouled him on a fast break in the third quarter. The NBA levied a $35,000 fine to Monroe for shoving Young what the league considered “above the shoulders”, $25,00 to Young “for initiating the altercation by shoving” Brogdon and $15,000 to Russell for “entering the altercation and pushing Monroe.”

Afterwards, Lakers coach Luke Walton strongly criticized the officials for punishing Monroe and Russell equally with a double technical and subsequent ejection despite Monroe playing a larger role in the fight. Walton also questioned a Bucks security official for grabbing the jersey of Lakers rookie forward Brandon Ingram and shoving him. The NBA decided not to fine Walton for criticizing officials publicly,

Though the NBA did not punish the security guard, the Bucks are handling the manner internally in consultation with the league. The NBA does not have a specific policy on what security guards can and cannot do. But generally speaking, the league understands those guards have the authority to protect players on the court.

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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mmedina@scng.com. Subscribe to the “We Want Tacos” podcast on iTunes.

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Lakers’ Luke Walton defends D’Angelo Russell over Draymond Green’s criticism in his role in scuffle

EL SEGUNDO –The incident caused officials to eject Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell for what they called “escalating a fight.” Lakers coach Luke Walton praised Russell, Brandon Ingram, Larry Nance Jr. and Ivica Zubac for standing up for Nick Young after suffering both a hard foul from Bucks guard Malcom Brogdon and a push from Bucks center Greg Monroe. While Walton questioned the validity of Russell’s ejection in the Lakers’ 107-103 loss to Milwaukee on Friday at Staples Center, the Lakers’ coach liked that Russell pushed Monroe away.

Apparently that gesture was not enough for Warriors forward Draymond Green, who told Bay Area reporters on Saturday that there “was one particular player that pissed me off, bad” for how they handled the situation. Bay area reporters indicated Green had criticized Russell.

“To me, it looked like he didn’t want no parts of it” Green said, “and it completely pissed me off.”

While Walton did not sound interested in debating a player he had coached as a former Warriors assistant and interim head coach, Walton disagreed with the premise.

“I’m not going to comment on it,” Walton said after Saturday’s practice. “If I hear from Draymond, then I’ll comment on it. I don’t see any of that stuff. I was proud of D’Angelo for getting in there and sticking up for his teammate.”
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Lakers’ D’Angelo Russell to come off bench for 3rd consecutive game

Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell will come off the bench for the third consecutive game. ( Photo by Stephen Carr / Daily News / SCNG )

LOS ANGELES — It did not appear anything bothered Lakers’ second-year guard D’Angelo Russell as he sat in the team locker room. Then, Russell sat down in front of a television screen to watch film in preparation for when the Lakers (20-48) host the Milwaukee Bucks (33-34) on Friday at Staples Center. During that time, Russell sang out lyrics from rap songs playing out of his iPhone.

Lakers coach Luke Walton will soon find out if Russell remains engaged for when he comes off the bench for the third consecutive game.

“I think he’ll ultimately respond well to it,” Walton said. “I think it’s important for all of our guys to learn how to respond well with adversity and being put in difficult situations. The only way at getting better at stuff like that is it to go through it. I would expect him to find his way through it.”
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Lakers’ front office & coaches tell D’Angelo Russell to be aggressive regardless of role

Los Angeles Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell (1) takes a shot over Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker (15), during the 1st quarter, at the Staples Center. Los Angeles Calif., Tuesday, February ,28, 2017. ( Photo by Stephen Carr / Daily News / SCNG )

EL SEGUNDO — Well after practice ended on Thursday, Lakers second-year guard D’Angelo Russell sat for a talk with Lakers associate coach Brian Shaw. Russell later stood up to listen to Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka.

Throughout those long discussions, one common message emerged on what they want to see from Russell for final 14 games of the 2016-17 season, including when the Lakers (20-48) host the Milwaukee Bucks (33-34) on Friday at Staples Center.

“Be aggressive no matter what my role is,” Russell said after Friday’s morning shootaround. “Just be aggressive.”

Russell’s role has usually entailed being the Lakers’ starting point guard, a position where he has shown mixed progress. He has averaged 15.2 points on 40.2 percent shooting, 4.8 assists and 2.7 turnovers in 27.5 minutes. But in the first eight games after All-Star break, Russell posted 20.5 points on a 44.8 percent clip and 5.4 assists in eight games.

Russell’s role has since changed, though. He has come off the bench in the past two games out of Walton’s preference to evaluated third-year guard Jordan Clarkson at point guard with a traditional lineup. Walton said he also remains undecided if that will continue for Friday’s game against Milwaukee. Other candidates include veteran guard Nick Young and guard David Nwaba, who’s in the middle of his second 10-day contract.

“Do we want David’s defense out there?” Walton asked rhetorically. “Do we want Nick as a traditional shooting guard out there? Do we want D’Angelo so we can see him in a starting group with him and JC? Those are the three major [variables]?”

Walton has thus far resisted the last option. So far, the results haven’t been good. Russell has averaged 7.5 points on a 25 percent clip, 2.5 assists and 4.5 turnovers in his two games as a reserve thus far.

“I want him to respond better. I want him to be aggressive,” Walton said. “I want him to be really aggressive, even more so right now while he’s coming off the bench. That doesn’t mean he’s coming to shoot every time. But aggressive as far as pushing the ball, getting in the lane and every time he’s coming off of picks and playmaking as a way to get himself into the game quicker. It’s completely different when you start and naturally fall into the rhythm of the game. I want him to come out and be ultra aggressive in that role while he’s in it.”

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Lakers’ Ivica Zubac learning how to adjust to foul calls

Los Angeles Lakers center Ivica Zubac (40) blocks the shot of Philadelphia 76ers guard Timothe Luwawu Cabarrot (20), during the 1st quarter, at the Staples Center, in Los Angeles Calif., Sunday, March 12, 2017. ( Photo by Stephen Carr / LA Daily News/ SCNG )

EL SEGUNDO — The Lakers have seen rookie center Ivica Zubac soar to new heights, giving him a high ceiling for where his 7-foot-1, 240-pound frame will take him.

He became the first teenager in Lakers’ franchise history to have a double-double with at least 25 points in Monday’s loss to Denver. He has posted four double doubles this season. And on a team that has experienced various lineup switches in recent days, he remains the definitive starter for when the Lakers (20-48) host the Milwaukee Bucks (33-34) on Friday at Staples Center.

A significant thing slowed him down, though, during Wednesday’s loss in Houston. He made less of an impact with his production (two points on 1-of-2 shooting, two rebounds) than drawing whistles (four fouls) in only 11 minutes.

“It was a challenge to stay out of foul trouble,” Zubac said. “Some of the calls, I don’t know if they were called. I didn’t have a chance to showcase my skill and help the team win.”

That marked one of the learning curves the Croatian center has faced during his rookie season. He has shown marked improvement when accounting for the number of fouls he has averaged with the D-Fenders (3.4 in 30.1 minutes through 14 games) and the Lakers (1.5 in 14.7 minutes through 31 appearances).

It’s hard sometimes when you’re a rookie,” Zubac said. “You get some calls. You have to play as hard as you can and try to help the team on defense. You cannot change what they’re going to call or not. You have to give 100 percent.”

For Zubac to give 100 percent, Lakers coach Luke Walton wants him to find a better balance.

“He has a great feel for the game. We want to give him a little freedom on his shot blocking,” Walton said. “But a lot of that stuff he has to go up vertical, [put] two hands in the air, and even if he doesn’t get that block, he’s a big body. Make the guards finish over him. But he loves to reach down and try to get those blocks. That’s where referees call fouls on him.”


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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mmedina@scng.com. Subscribe to the “We Want Tacos” Lakers podcast on iTunes.

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Lakers’ Magic Johnson, Rob Pelinka talk with most of young core following Thursday’s practice

Magic Johnson, President of Basketball Operations walks into the press conference with The Los Angeles Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka. El Segundo, CA 3/10/2017. Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News (SCNG)

EL SEGUNDO — A recognizable person emerged back to the Lakers’ perch that oversees their practice facility. Magic Johnson watched the team’s practice on Thursday, likely with many thoughts and opinions surrounding the Lakers following their 39-point loss in Houston on Wednesday.

So once practice ended, Johnson went down to the court with general manager Rob Pelinka. Soon enough, both Johnson and Pelinka provided individual feedback sessions with plenty of the players.

First, Johnson chatted with Lakers forwards Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram. Then Johnson and Pelinka caught up with Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson. Once Lakers coach Luke Walton finished talking with reporters, he entered the conversation before asking undrafted guard David Nwaba to join too.

The routine continued with Lakers third-year forward, Tarik Black, veteran center Timofey Mozgov and rookie center Ivica Zubac. After having a prolonged conversation with Lakers associate coach Brian Shaw, Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell then spoke with Johnson and Pelinka.

Johnson and Pelinka had plenty to say with the Lakers (20-48) entering Friday’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks (33-34) at Staples Center after losing 10 of their last 11 games.

“It’s really cool,” Clarkson said. “It’s good for us being able to talk to them and pick their brains as well and having that open door presence.”
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