Luke Walton to be “heavily involved” with Lakers’ summer league team

Lakers coach Luke Walton said he will be "heavily involved with the Vegas summer league team. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)

Lakers coach Luke Walton said he will be “heavily involved with the Vegas summer league team. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)

The swirling emotions and quickly evolving job descriptions hardly has allowed Luke Walton to think.

Two days after nursing frustration over the Golden State Warriors losing Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Luke Walton morphed from Warriors assistant to Lakers head coach. So, Walton has not exactly ironed out specifics on if he will be coach the Lakers’ summer league team, or who will represent his coaching staff.

Yet, Walton has determined he will be “heavily involved in practice” when the Lakers begin summer league play on July 8 in Las Vegas. He believed he will fill out his coaching staff “before summer league starts.” Walton also has hired Brian Shaw as his lead assistant, while player development coaches Mark Madsen, Thomas Scott and J.J. Outlaw have worked with players at the Lakers’ practice facility.

“These are all things that normally would’ve been taken care of by now,” Walton said. “But because of the circumstances and the Lakers being so great about not pressing me, I had work to do. We’re still slowly working on it.”

The Lakers hired Walton on April 29, less than a week after Byron Scott was fired amid a combined 38-126 record. But Walton would not assume his new duties until the Warriors were eliminated in the NBA playoffs. Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak joked Walton could have started earlier, Golden State trailed the Oklahoma City Thunder, 3-1, in the Western Conference Finals and led the Cleveland Cavaliers, 3-1, in the NBA Finals.

“A lot of times the best way to get on and let go of something that is really painful is to jump into your next challenge,” Kupchak said.

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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’ summer league schedule could feature Ingram-Simmons matchup

Duke forward Brandon Ingram and LSU forward Ben Simmons could square off when the Lakers play the Philadelphia 76ers in Summer League play on July 9. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Duke forward Brandon Ingram and LSU forward Ben Simmons could square off when the Lakers play the Philadelphia 76ers in Summer League play on July 9. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Hardly much debate has emerged on the draft order between LSU forward Ben Simmons and Duke forward Brandon Ingram. The Philadelphia Sixers are strongly expected to select Simmons at No. 1 because of his playmaking, while the Lakers are expected to pick Ingram because of his versatility on defense and outside shooting.

Debate will arise inevitably on which player is better. Those comparisons could begin as early as when the Lakers play their second summer league game on July 19 against the Philadelphia 76ers at 5:30 p.m. at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, the setting where Simmons and Ingram might first square off.

The Lakers will begin their summer league slate on July 8 against the New Orleans Pelicans (7:30 p.m.) and continue on July 11 against the Golden State Warriors (7:30 p.m.). Teams will then be seeded in a tournament that starts on July 13 and ends with the championship game on July 18. But plenty of attention will circle on the Lakers’ second game. Simmons stayed at the top of most mock drafts during his lone season at LSU, yet criticism arose over the Tigers’ missed tournament appearance, his academic eligibility and his outside shooting. Ingram steadily climbed on most mock drafts after thriving with the Blue Devils as both a scorer and defender.

Plenty of intrigue will center on the rest of the Lakers’ summer league lineup. Second-year guard D’Angelo Russell, second-year forward Larry Nance Jr. and second-year forward Anthony Brown are expected to play along with the Lakers’ No. 2 and No. 32 picks. Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson are not expected to play for two seasons. Third-year players do not typically play in summer league. Randle will play on the 2016 USA Basketball Select team later that month with Russell, while Clarkson will likely become a restricted free agent beginning in July.

All of the Lakers’ summer league games will be broadcast on both through their cable partners (Time Warner Cable SportsNet and Time Warner Cable Deports) and national outlets (ESPN, NBA TV). Fan can purchase tickets at NBATickets.com.

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Buddy Hield confident he can become Lakers’ No. 2 pick

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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D’Angelo Russell makes reference to phone incident in Foot Locker commercial

The incident caused turmoil inside the Lakers’ locker room. It only added more anxieties for D’Angelo Russell amid a rookie season already filled with losing, evolving roles and fluctuating performances. But with the old adage that time can heal all wounds, Russell offered some self-deprecation in a recent Foot Locker commercial with an indirect reference toward secretly recording Nick Young admitting to infidelities.

LSU prospect and close friend Ben Simmons asked Minnesota’s Karl Anthony-Towns, Phoenix’s Devin Booker and Russell on advice about thriving in the NBA. With Simmons expected to be the No. 1 pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft, perhaps those players could shed some perspective on their previous rookie seasons.

Towns offered a cliche that “getting drafted doesn’t mean a thing.” Booker added that “nothing comes easy anymore.” Russell simply asked for Simmons’ phone and threw it.

“Trust me,” Russell said.

After all, Russell faced criticism regarding his maturity level and trustworthiness for inadvertently making details about Young’s private life public. Young and his fiancee, Iggy Azalea, also announced this week on social media that they broke up. Even if the Lakers are not expected to keep Young, Russell has acknowledged afterwards the need to earn back his trust.

Yet, the Lakers have offered public support. Russell has expressed contrition. And as his latest commercial suggests, Russell has maintained his sense of humor.

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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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Buddy Hield confident he can become Lakers’ No. 2 pick

The stories spilled out as quickly as his shot. Buddy Hield shared how former Lakers star Kobe Bryant peppered him with advice on footwork during a private workout. Bryant outlined the importance of film study when Hield starred for four seasons at the University of Oklahoma. And Bryant encouraged Hield’s bravado that prompted him to say there is “no doubt” he represents the best shooter in the 2016 NBA Draft.

So as the Lakers encounter the 2016-16 season without Bryant’s scoring for the first time in 20 years, Hield pointed at himself as the immediate solution.

“This is what the franchise needs,” Hield said. “The Lakers are losing Kobe and they need a scorer. So why not call on me to fill in their spot?”

Plenty of rebuttals await, which will often include the mention of Duke forward Brandon Ingram.

Most NBA mock drafts predict the Lakers will select Ingram at No. 2 because of his outside shooting, defense and work ethic at the wing spot. Hield could have just completed his second workout with the Lakers on Saturday for the unexpected scenario that the Lakers trade their No. 2 pick for a slot later in the draft. But after leading the Pac-12 averaging 25 points per game his senior season, Hield scoffed at most mock drafts projecting him late in the top 10.

“Everybody has their opinions on where they can go, but most of those guys never have touched a basketball,” Hield said. “GM’s know what they’re looking for and which players suit their franchise the best.”
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Brandon Ingram’s key toward bulking up: “Just eat everything I can”

Duke's Brandon Ingram drives to the basket against Yale's Sam Downey on Nov. 25, 2015. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Duke’s Brandon Ingram drives to the basket against Yale’s Sam Downey on Nov. 25, 2015. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Nearly everyone else around Southern California latches onto a diet that could make them look more presentable at the beach. But Duke forward Brandon Ingram dined with the Lakers coaching staff on Wednesday night doing something most only wished they could do.

“Just eat everything I can,” Ingram said. “I think at my weight, I can eat anything. I don’t have a certain diet.

Ingram worked out with the Lakers in a private session on Thursday and is considered the presumptive favorite to land in the team’s No. 2 slot for reasons involving his versatility, defense and selfless play. Ingram’s biggest question mark, however, involves his skinny frame and whether it can withstand the physical rigors of the NBA.

Yet, Ingram said he has bulked from 169 pounds to 195 pounds within the last year by eating anything he wants off his plate. The Lakers handed out a biographical sheet of Ingram that listed him at 6’9” and 190 pounds.

“I know it’s going to be a long process, of course,” Ingram said. “But at the end of the day, it’s basketball. That’s what I’ve been doing my whole life, trying to score the ball and trying to defend. I know everybody in the NBA develops their body each summer. I try to do the same thing.”
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Shaquille O’Neal: Andrew Bogut “would have been Australian BBQ chicken” had they matched up

The passionate debate over a matchup that could have never happened crossed into another era.

The argument no longer just involves how the ‘Showtime’ Lakers would fare against the current Golden State Warriors. It also involves how the Lakers teams featuring Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant in their prime would fare. O’Neal delivered some honest commentary as powerful as his ferocious dunks.

“We’d kill them,” O’Neal said on Wednesday on “The Dan Patrick Show.” “Just like you can’t hand-check Steph Curry, you can’t hand-check Kobe either.”

O’Neal then offered a challenge to the Warriors’ starting center.

[Andrew] Bogut would have been Australian BBQ chicken,” O’Neal boasted.
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Magic Johnson argued Warriors would have ‘bad matchups’ against Showtime Lakers

Something upset Magic Johnson. For once, it did relate to the Lakers’ current struggles or executive Jim Buss.

Instead, it involved any notion that the Golden State Warriors could ever beat the Showtime Lakers.

“My Lakers, our will to win, our knowledge of the game and how smart we were at the game. We would take something away,” Johnson said Tuesday on ESPN’s “First Take.” “We’re not going to give Golden State everything they do now. We were too smart. Pat Riley was a master at putting together a game plan to go up against everybody we went against in the Finals or the playoffs. One thing we were great at was executing that game plan.”

Johnson still complimented the Warriors. He argued they “revolutionized the game with how they play, how much they have and how they execute.” He admitted we’ve never seen two guys that can shoot like Steph [Curry] and Klay [Thompson]. With the Warriors setting an NBA regular-season record for wins and holding a 2-0 NBA Finals series lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers, Johnson predicted, “they’re going to be great for the NBA for a long time.”

Yet, Johnson dismissively conceded any notion that the Warriors’ lethal 3-point shooting or their depth could ever send the Showtime Lakers home. Instead, Johnson outlined why the “Warriors would have bad matchups against us.”

“There’s no way they’re going to deal with Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar],” Johnson said. There’s no way they’re going to deal with James Worthy. The thing that we could do, that would affect them and cause some problems, is that we could set up and we could run on them on the fast break … Whoever is going to guard me, I’m going to be wearing them down. I’m going to be wearing them out. James Worthy will be wearing them out, wearing them down. Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] is going to be wearing them out, wearing them down.”

Johnson made those comments after Thompson said perhaps in jest that the Warriors could beat the Showtime Lakers. But this hardly marks the first time both sides weighed in on the debate. Former Lakers coach Byron Scott argued during the 2015-16 season that the Showtime Lakers would beat the Warriors in a seven-game playoff series because of defensive concerns with Johnson, Abdul-Jabbar and Worthy.

“Bring any of those guys on,” Johnson said. “We got problems with them. but they have bigger problems with us.”


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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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Kobe Bryant still struggles to process his 60-point game in career finale

Former Lakers guard Kobe Bryant struggled explaining his 60-point performance in his career finale during an appearance for NBA2K on Wednesday. Photo by Mark Medina, Southern California News Group.

Former Lakers guard Kobe Bryant struggled explaining his 60-point performance in his career finale during an appearance for NBA2K on Wednesday. Photo by Mark Medina, Southern California News Group.

The shots kept dropping into the basket, capturing the same prolific play that Kobe Bryant produced through five NBA championship runs and countless game winners.

So it only seemed fitting that Bryant would end his 20-year NBA career with a 60-point point performance that entailed him taking shots from seemingly everywhere. He became the NBA’s third-time leading scorer by making countless difficult shots through double teams or far away from the basket. He became one of the game’s ultimate closers for showing the same determination to allow the final outcome to rest on his shoulders both for better and for worse. And he became one of the most enduring players through his quest in both innovating his game and playing through endless injuries.

All of those elements went into play when Bryant dropped 60 points in his career-finale, both to lift the Lakers to a 101-96 victory over the Utah Jazz at Staples Center and tie for his fifth largest scoring performance. As those moments unfolded, it seemed like a dream. Bryant apparently feels the same way nearly two months later.

“I still can’t believe that happened,” Bryant said on Wednesday at an event in downtown Los Angeles to promote NBA2K17. “I don’t know where the hell it came from.”
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Magic Johnson reiterates Kobe Bryant is the “greatest Laker of all time”

The platitudes for Kobe Bryant became non-stop both moments before and after he would cap his 20-year NBA career with a 60-point performance. With all the compliments he heard that night, nothing stood out more than what Magic Johnson said.

As he stood at center court, Johnson called Bryant “the greatest to the wear the purple and gold” before gushing about a few accomplishments. Johnson pointed out Bryant’s five NBA championships. Johnson touted Bryant’s third-place standing on the league’s all-time scoring list. Johnson highlighted Bryant’s endless ability to play through injuries.

It turns out Johnson did not just say those things in the heat of the moment. Johnson reported having the same sentiment during a recent appearance on ABC’s ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live.’ Johnson maintained that stance even when Kimmel brought up Johnson’s own five NBA rings with the Lakers.

“He did it his way with dominating the scoring and really putting the team on his back,” Johnson said. “I did it my way with my leadership and try to make sure that I put our team in a position to win. At the end of the day, who cares, where it’s him or I? He has represented this city and the Lakers organization as well as anybody could.”

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Lakers’ D’Angelo Russell voted on NBA’s All-Rookie second team

Lakers guard D'Angelo Russell was named on Thursday to the NBA's All-Rookie Second Team  (Photo by Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News)

Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell was named on Thursday to the NBA’s All-Rookie Second Team
(Photo by Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News)

D’Angelo Russell’s initial arrival sparked Byron Scott to compare him to Magic Johnson. Russell’s potential as the Lakers’ No. 2 draft pick led many to paint him as the candidate Kobe Bryant would pass the torch to in his final NBA season.

Russell soon learned plenty of time awaits before that might happen for reasons involving both circumstances both within and beyond his control. The NBA named Russell as part of its All-Rookie second team along with Miami’s Justise Winslow, Denver’s Emmanuel Mudiay, Indiana’s Myles Turner and Sacramento’s Willie Cauley-Stein as determined by select NBA writers and broadcasters.

Russell still ranked fourth among rookies in assists (3.3) and steals (1.16), while also finishing fifth in points (13.2) and three-point field goal percentage (35.1%). Russell also garnered 25 first-team votes, including from this reporter. But that does not match the initial expectations Russell received. He finished with a lower honor than teammate Jordan Clarkson, who was named last year to the NBA’s All-Rookie First team after

Russell experienced unique challenges that made it difficult to truly evaluate his growth. He shared ball-handling duties with Kobe Bryant, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle. Russell appeared uncomfortable at times under Scott’s Princeton-oriented offense. He also lost his starting spot 20 games into the season and did not play in the final moments both in late-game situations and lopsided defeats. That role did not change until shortly after the NBA All-Star break in mid February.

Yet, Scott’s handling of Russell partly reflected team-wide concerns on his attitude, maturity level, work habits and overall consistency. Some of those issues became more pronounced when Russell recorded a video that accidentally became public of teammate Nick Young admitting to infidelities.

Nonetheless, the 20-year-old Russell showed promising signs that could become more pronounced in the 2016-17 season.

He became the youngest player in NBA history to make at least 120 3-pointers in a single season. He posted at least 20 points in 13 games, including two of them that including a 30-point plus performance. The Lakers have also become intrigued with his court vision and passing. All of those skills could improve under newly hired Lakers coach in Luke Walton, a presumably larger role and a year of NBA experience.

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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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