As he hopes to enter the NBA and establish greatness, Ohio State guard D’Angelo Russell has set his eyes on something that may help him see better when he runs a pick-and-roll or when he takes an open jump shot.
Russell has studied Golden State Warriors guard, Stephen Curry, the reasons digging deeper than his regular-season MVP resume or earning platitudes as the NBA’s best shooter ever. Only six years ago, Golden State selected Curry with the seventh overall pick, the former Davidson sharpshooter still facing skepticism about his size and whether he could offer something besides a dependable jumper.
“He didn’t come into the league the way he is playing now,” Russell said on Tuesday after working out with the Lakers at their practice facility in El Segundo. “He took some time and the player he developed to be, I see a great resemblance. His ball handling is off the charts. His shot selection is similar to mine. But his work ethic to get him to where he’s at is similar to mine.”
It might seem weird for Russell to feel like an underdog.
Most NBA mock drafts consider Russell and Emmanuel Mudiay as the league’s top point guards and should land within the top four. Russell averaged 19.3 points and five assists as the Big 10 Freshman of the Year. Mudiay also plans to work out at somepoint this week with the New York Knicks.
Yet, Russell still maintains he feels like an underdog since he did not attend an elite basketball school and was not listed as a top-10 recruit.
“I honestly love it,” Russell said. “People don’t really pay much attention to me. I thrive with it. That gives me an edge. I know where I came from and the hard work I put in and the confidence that my work ethic that I put in. It gives me an edge on the court.”
Well before the Lakers plan to watch Ohio State point guard D’Angelo Russell in an individual workout on Monday afternoon, the organization expressed interest in another way.
The Lakers took Russell out to dinner. The team’s Twitter account posted a photo of the 6-foot-5, 180-pound freshman along with Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak and assistant general manager Glen Carraro. The rest of the Lakers’ basketball operations staff were there, including Jesse Buss (director of scouting), Ryan West (assistant director of scouting), Jordan Wilkes (basketball operations assistant), Rondre Jackson (director of player development) and Kevin Grevey (college scout).
The Lakers also provided the same treatment to Emmanuel Mudiay, who dined with the team’s basketball operations staff on Friday night before completing an individual workout on Saturday morning.
NBA mock drafts pin Mudiay and Russell as the best point guards in this year’s class and are competing for the top spots against big men Kentucky’s Karl Anthony-Towns and Duke’s Jahlil Okafor. While Russell averaged 19.3 points on 44.9 percent shooting and five assists with the Buckeyes, Mudiay posted 17.7 points on 54.5-percent shooting, 6.0 rebounds and 5.1 assists with the Guangdong Southern Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association.
Most NBA talent evaluators consider Russell a more polished shooter, while Mudiay is considered superior with his quickness and athleticism.
The Lakers will also host workouts on Monday morning for six prospects slated for their 27th and 34th draft picks.
Moments after he released the ball off his hands, Emmanuel Mudiay would hear one or two things.
The Lakers coaching staff sang Mudiay’s praises as he sank countless jumpers. When those shots clanked off the rim, the Lakers’ assistants ranging from Mark Madsen, Paul Pressey, Larry Lewis and Thomas Scott provided positive reinforcement.
Amid all the buzz surrounding Mudiay’s first NBA pre-draft workout on Saturday at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo, the possible No. 2 prospect tried addressing the main concern talent evaluators see in his outside shooting. But even if he shot only 37.4 percent from 3-point range and 57.4 percent from the foul line last year with the Guangdong Southern Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA), Mudiay believed that experience alone will accelerate his NBA development.
“The physicality over there was ridiculous,” said Mudiay, who noted he played against former NBA players, such as Michael Beasley and Stephon Marbury. “My maturity level improved in learning how to come into the game as a professional. It was a professional league so I had a good idea of what the system is.”
Mudiay also touted how he played under NBA rules, such as a 24-foot-second shot clock. But his decision to play overseas instead of keeping his commitment at Southern Methodist University went beyond X’s and O’s. He experienced an adversarial upbringing that entailed losing his father at a young age and his mother, Therese, taking her three sons to the United States in 2001 after seeking asylum following political tension in his native Democratic Republic of Congo.
“It was for my mother. She was struggling at the time. So I wanted to help her immediately financially,” Mudiay said. “After that, it played a big factor that I was going to be playing against older men and more physical men. I was going to go to college for seven or eight months. So why not play professionally with grown men and they can teach me a lot and be more comfortable with the professional stuff.” Continue reading →
Emmanuel Mudiay (#0) goes up for a shot between (L-R) Myles Turner (#35), Tyus Jones (#21) and Cliff Alexander (#11) during 2014 McDonald’s All American Game. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
The Lakers took a significant turn with their pre-draft workouts.
After spending the past two weeks evaluating 44 prospects slated to land either late in the first round or second round, the Lakers will temporarily shift their focus elsewhere. Emmanuel Mudiay will work out with the Lakers on Saturday at their practice facility in El Segundo, one of a few prospects the Lakers would consider with their No. 2 pick.
Mudiay skipped his freshman season at Southern Methodist and played professionally in China, averaging 17.7 points on 54.5 percent shooting, six rebounds and 5.1 assists with the Guangdong Southern Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA). Plenty of NBA talent evaluators have gushed about his maturity, quickness, ball handling and playmaking. But he is also considered an unknown because of the lack of game film and opportunities to see him play in person. Mudiay also shot only 37.4 percent from 3-point range and 57.4 percent from the foul line, while playing in only 10 games before nursing a right ankle injury. Continue reading →
Even if his torn rotato cuff causes Kobe Bryant to miss the rest of the 2014-15 season, don’t think this is how the Lakers superstar will go out. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer)
Below is part 2 of a Q&A with former Showtime Laker and KSPN-710 AM color analyst, Mychal Thompson, who provided his two cents on the Lakers getting the No. 2 pick, Kobe Bryant’s recovery and the team’s playoff chances next season.
What are your expectations for Kobe this season?
Thompson: “28 minutes a game. Play 75 games. Average 21 points. He’ll be the Tim Duncan of the team where he doesn’t have to carry the team because he’ll have a bunch of good guys around him with the new lottery pick coming in, Julius Randle coming back, the development of Jordan Clarkson and signing some players. He’ll carry the team on some nights, but not every night. He’ll stay healthy and just miss back-to-back games. They’ll have him on the Tim Duncan plan and he’ll survive just fine.”
What will be the key for that to happen?
Thompson: “The supporting cast around him. Role players have to step up like the San Antonio Spurs players have done and take their game to the next level. Then Byron won’t feel like he has to be dependent on Kobe to carry the team every night. Continue reading →
Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry smiles during practice ahead of Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Below is part 1 of a Q&A with former Showtime Lakers and KSPN-710 AM color analyst, Mychal Thompson, who provided his two cents on the 2015 NBA Finals, his son, Klay, Stephen Curry and LeBron James.
What do you make of Golden State’s run?
Thompson: “I expected them to be this good. I made the prediction in October that I think this team is good enough to win the title. If the team that this good and this loaded fails to do that, I’ll look at it how I used to look at it in my Lakers days. It’s a failure when you’re as good as the Warriors. When you’re a good team and get to the playoffs, you can be happy with that. But when you’re built the way the Warriors are and the talent they have, it’s championship or bust. That’s the way we approached every year with Magic and Kareem and those guys with Pat Riley and Jerry West. Those teams were built to win championships. If you fail to do that, it’s a wasted year. Kobe feels the same way when the Lakers were on top.”
Did you expect Stephen Curry to have the year he had?
Thompson: “Oh yeah. Curry is the best shooter we’ve ever seen. For him to be MVP? No. I thought LeBron obviously would be the MVP going back to Cleveland like everybody else did. But for him to have that kind of season doesn’t surprise me. He should be doing this at his peak for the next seven of eight years. So he should be doing this ever year.”
How is he the best shooter you’ve ever seen?
Thompson: “By far, he’s the best. By far. Nobody is even close. Klay is in the conversation. Dale Ellis, his dad and there’s a bunch of guys in the conversation. But Steph is the best.”
Who’s second behind Steph?
Thompson: “Klay (laughs). I have to put him second. There’s a lot of guys who will argue for Dale Ellis, Dell Curry or Ray Allen or Reggie Miller.”
What about Larry Bird?
Thompson: “He’s in the conversation. Bird was as good a clutch, big-time shooter as we’ve ever seen. But Steph is the best. He’s uncanny with the way he can shoot.”
Besides his shooting, what made Steph the MVP this season?
Thompson: “His game is complete. His defense has improved and he has taken on the challenge to guard his position that he didn’t get to do under Mark Jackson. But he’s doing it under Steve Kerr. He’s doing it very well and is a complete player.”
The mere mention of Kobe Bryant’s name represents a few things in the past two weeks during draft workouts.
It has become an ordinary question and has produced ordinary answers about his work ethic and his five NBA championships. It has prompted various prospects to reveal Bryant served as one of their childhood idols. Many of them relished about possibly playing with Bryant because of his talent level and demanding expectations.
But UNLV freshman guard Rashad Vaughn topped it all with his praise for Bryant after working out for the Lakers on Wednesday at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo.
“He was definitely my favorite player growing up,” said Vaughn, whose 17.8 points per game average has propelled him as a late first-round pick in most mock drafts. “I’d probably sleep at his house every night. I’m serious. That would be great to come here and learn under him.”
Vaughn admitted he never met Bryant, though that would happen should the Lakers select Vaughn with the 27th or 34th pick. But Vaughn suggested he take a trip down to Bryant’s Newport Beach residence sometime Wednesday night and invite himself over.
“I’m moving in,” said Vaughn, who liked the idea of crashing his place for a sleepover.
Shortly after they enter the Lakers’ practice facility and admire the NBA championship banners, the various draft prospects have experience another rite-of-passage about the storied franchise.
They are asked eventually about what they would think about playing with Kobe Bryant. Then, the players gush about him. They admire Bryant’s five NBA championships. Some call him their childhood idol. Most tout about the honor it would become to play alongside the NBA’s third-leading scorer of all-time.
But UC Santa Barbara senior forward Alan Williams looked up to someone else, none other than Bryant’s former adversary in Shaqille O’Neal.
“I was never going to be Kobe Bryant or LeBron James, so I had to emulate my game and try to dominate the way Shaq did,” Williams said on Tuesday after working out with the Lakers at their practice facility in El Segundo. “Although I’m not as tall, I think I have that same kind of desire to hit somebody and be the most physical guy out there.”
Williams learned those lessons at an early age, recalling how at age nine his father pointed out how O’Neal punished defenders by catching the ball in the post and then backing them up. It remains to be seen whether the 6-foot-7 1/4, 261-pound Williams will get drafted. But he received an early test on whether he can chase his childhood idol by matching up against an opponent that once gave him fits in practice.
Lakers assistant coach Mark Madsen, who earned the nickname ‘Mad Dog’ shortly after the Lakers selected him 29th overall in 2000 and became a fan favorite because of his enthusiastic hustle and dances at championship parades.
“He gave me some great pointers,” Williams said of Madsen. “I know he’s played against greats all his career. It was definitely an honor to play with somebody with his tenure.”
Williams called the workout “extremely competitive” as he played Madsen both in three-on-three and one-on-one drills.
“If you ask him, I think he said I did a pretty good job,” Williams said. “That’s an NBA big man. He’s got that grown man strength I haven’t been accustomed to yet. I think he did a phenomenal job and I held my own.”
Williams also sounded confident he can hold his own in the NBA.
Beyond O’Neal, Williams said he has modeled his game after Cleveland forward Tristan Thompson for his hustle on the glass and Golden State forward Draymond Green for his defensive expertise. After Williams 10 rebounds through four seasons with the Gauchos, he also said something bold he believes he can back up with actions.
“I believe I’m the best rebounder in this draft class,” Williams said. “I have a knack for it and it’s something I love to do. It’s something I feel can really translate to the NBA game and a lot of teams need somebody that can go out there and get those rebounds.”
The Lakers would like that since they finished 21st out of 30 NBA teams in rebounding. But how does Williams see himself as the best man for the job?
“I know how to rebound. I know how to box out. I know how to track the flight of the ball,” said Williams, who also worked out with Utah, Sacramento and Dallas. “I study my shooters on my team and also the other team, I really take pride in going out there and being the most physical guy down there and coming up with those rebounds.”
All of which left Williams determined to show that against Madsen after he spent all those years doing the same thing to O’Neal.
Lakers forward Nick Young “owns” the ‘Swag Champs,’ a Los Angeles-based team that is competing in LA Ball Up’s Million Dollar Challenge. Photo courtesy of Ball Up.
On the basketball court stood Lakers forward Nick Young, his infectious smile and his playful personality emerging again after a dreadful 2014-15 season.
But Young did not step foot on the hardwood to show off his high volume shooting. He did not prove he has followed through on Byron Scott’s constant feedback to diversify his game. Young said he has spent the past month showing those things in private workouts and pickup scrimmages. Yet, this moment marked a different occasion.
Young appeared in Ball Up’s “Million Dollar Summer Challenge” on Sunday at East Valley High School as the owner of the “Swag Champs,” a Los-Angeles based team full of overseas players and high school friends competing in a summer-long tournament in hopes to win $500,000.
An additional $500,000 will be awarded to the local market championship team ($50,000), coach of the national tournament championship team ($15,000), winner of a three-point shooting and dunk contest ($7,500 each), market champion coach ($5,000), MVP of the national tournament ($5,000), regular season scoring champion in the local market ($2,500), regular season defensive player of the year in the local market ($2,500), regular season MVP of the local market ($2,500) and playoffs MVP of the local market ($2,500).
“I’m like Mitch Kupchak right now,” Young joked, referring to the Lakers’ general manager. “I’m evaluating players and making trades. This is my team. I got a couple of guys that understand their roles. We maxed a player out. We knew we would need a max player. We’re going to be all right.” Continue reading →
The buzz has followed Xavier center Matt Stainbrook nearly everywhere he goes. But unlike the other draft prospects that have filled NBA gyms around the country determined to prove their worth, Stainbrook’s celebrity has little to do with what he can do with a basketball.
Instead, Stainbrook’s stardom took off when he spent part of his senior season with the Musketeers as an Uber driver.
“It was kind of an overnight thing for me, where you kind of go from sort of being a nobody to having a lot of people cheer for you,” Stainbrook said Tuesday after working out with the Lakers at their practice facility in El Segundo. “It’s a cool experience, kind of got a bit of a cult following out of it.” Continue reading →