Lakers’ Nick Young expected to play vs. Hawks

Los Angeles Lakers guard Nick Young #0 celebrates after making the game winning 3-pointer. The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 111-109 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA 11/22/2016. Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News (SCNG)

Los Angeles Lakers guard Nick Young #0 celebrates after making the game winning 3-pointer. The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 111-109 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA 11/22/2016. Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News (SCNG)

EL SEGUNDO — As the Lakers anxiously wait for two key pieces of their young core to heal, they still cleared up some space in their trainer’s room.

Lakers coach Luke Walton believes forward Nick Young will return for when the Lakers (8-9) play host to the Atlanta Hawks (10-6) on Sunday at Staples Center. After missing Friday’s loss to Golden State because of a sprain in the second toe of his left foot, Young participated in all of Saturday’s practice without any reported setbacks.

Meanwhile, Walton expressed uncertainty if forward Julius Randle will play after missing the previous two games with a hip pointer. He tried to complete Saturday’s practice, but was held out for the second half. Randle stayed on the court after practice ended to participate in non-contact two-on-two and shooting drills with some of the Lakers’ assistants.

“I hope he plays tomorrow, but we’re not going to rush him,” Walton said. “It’s not worth it. If he can’t go out and play the way he plays in being a dynamic playmaker and pushing the ball in transition and doing all those things for us, then it’s more important to get him more rest.”

Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell remains sidelined for at least the next two weeks after having a non-invasive procedure earlier this week on his sore left knee. He took some stationary shots in street clothes at the end of practice. Before, Russell watched practice while receiving treatment.

It appears the Lakers’ starting lineup appears unclear besides Young (shooting guard), Jose Calderon (point guard) and Timofey Mozgov (point guard). Walton admitted the Lakers coaching staff considered starting backup guard Marcelo Huertas in recent games along with Calderon to avoid disrupting the second unit. Instead, Walton decided to start Jordan Clarkson at shooting guard, rookie Brandon Ingram at small forward and sliding Luol Deng at power forward.

“This could all by my fault,” Walton said. “I wont give us the game in Oracle [where the Lakers lost by 43 points]. But we could be up 2-1 on the Warriors if I possibly listened.”

RELATED:

Warriors’ Andre Iguodala offered Lakers’ rookie Brandon Ingram perspective on bench role

Lakers’ Julius Randle, Nick Young to sit out tonight’s game against Golden State

Lakers podcast: Nick Young’s resurgence has been key to success

Follow L.A Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mmedina@scng.com

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Lakers’ Brandon Ingram unexpectedly lands first NBA start vs. Warriors

Lakers rookie Brandon Ingram drives to the basket as the Warriors' Andre Iguodala defends during the first half of Wednesday's game in Oakland. AP Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez

Lakers rookie Brandon Ingram drives to the basket as the Warriors’ Andre Iguodala defends during the first half of Wednesday’s game in Oakland. AP Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez

OAKLAND — The stoic reaction reflected Brandon Ingram’s personality as the Lakers’ 19-year-old rookie has relied on his actions to speak louder than his words. It also revealed his mindset on both assuming a larger role and handling the pressure that comes with it.

Ingram maintained he hardly flinched when he learned shortly before the Lakers’ 149-106 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday at Oracle Arena that he would start at small forward while Luol Deng would slide at power forward in place of an injured Julius Randle (hip pointer). Even though the Lakers hardly had any answer to stop the Warriors’ firepower, Ingram hardly showed many nerves as he posted a career-high 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting and three rebounds in 34 minutes. Lakers coach Luke Walton called the performance “good,” before also noting Ingram’s three turnovers.

“It’s the same thing if I’m coming off the bench. It’s the same game,” Ingram said. “The only thing that was different is that I was starting. But it was the same thing for me.”

Before, Ingram had viewed things differently. He never publicly complained about his role to open his rookie season. The Lakers also have liked how Ingram has embraced the learning process as he has assumed ball-handling duties, a post-up role and closeout duties. Yet, Ingram admitted the move made him more motivated to prove he was worthy of the start.

So while Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell has his development on hold for at least the next two weeks while recovering from a sore left knee, Ingram’s progress advanced to another stage.

“It’s never easy to start your first NBA game, but I think he did a pretty good job,” said Lakers veteran guard Jose Calderon, who started in place of Russell in three of the past four games. “He hit outside shots. Like everybody else, I think we could’ve started a little bit better.”
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Lakers’ Jose Calderon handles starting point guard role nicely in win over Thunder

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton look on as Los Angeles Lakers guard Jose Calderon #5 welcomes Los Angeles Lakers guard Louis Williams #23 to the bench in the first half. The Los Angeles Lakers played the Oklahoma City Thunder at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA 11/22/2016. Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News (SCNG)

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton look on as Los Angeles Lakers guard Jose Calderon #5 welcomes Los Angeles Lakers guard Louis Williams #23 to the bench in the first half. The Los Angeles Lakers played the Oklahoma City Thunder at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA 11/22/2016. Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News (SCNG)

The job description calls for Jose Calderon to work hard in practice without any guaranteed playing time. The Lakers want him to mentor the team’s younger players without any assurances he will receive anything in return. And the Lakers expect Calderon to stay ready to step on the court on short notice.

Despite that challenging framework, the early returns suggests Calderon can fulfill that challenge. While Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell missed his second game in a week because of persisting knee soreness, the Lakers secured a 111-109 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday at Staples Center for reasons beyond Nick Young making a game-winning 3-pointer.

Calderon chipped in with 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting, six rebounds and four assists in 22 minutes. He ensured a balanced offense that featured double-digit performances from Jordan Clarkson (18 points), Young (17), Timofey Mozgov (16), Lou Williams (13) and Brandon Ingram (11). And for all the mixed head-scratching and amusement over Young stealing an intended pass for him, Williams pinpointed a different factor that ensured the Lakers (8-7) snapped their 8-game losing streak to the Thunder (8-7).

“I thought Jose played really well,” Williams said. “I thought Jose did a phenomenal job of filling in and giving us that veteran leadership on the floor. He was able to make some big, timely shots. And he held it down.”
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Lakers taking ownership of defensive issues

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton shakes hands with Los Angeles Lakers center Tarik Black #28 in the 4th quarter. The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Brooklyn Nets 125-118 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA 11/15/2016. Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News (SCNG)

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton shakes hands with Los Angeles Lakers center Tarik Black #28 in the 4th quarter. The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Brooklyn Nets 125-118 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA 11/15/2016. Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News (SCNG)

The self-criticisms came out of the Lakers’ mouths much faster than most of their defensive rotations.

After the Lakers’ 118-110 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Sunday at Staples Center, it seems safe to say forward Julius Randle would give himself an “F” for his work on Taj Gibson, who had 15 points on 7-of-12 shooting and seven rebounds. It also only took 19 seconds for Gibson to pen the game with a turnaround hook shot.

“I did a terrible job in defending Taj,” Randle said. “I just didn’t play well.”

Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr. sounded just as critical. The Bulls outrebounded the Lakers, 56-37. Chicago forward Jimmy Butler lived out his pre-game prediction by scoring 40 points on 14-of-23 shooting. And the Bulls had 60 points in the paint.

So even if Nance collected a career-high 18 points and six rebounds, he still outlined something both he and reserve forward Tarik Black could do better.

“Our interior defense is obviously something that has to get better,” Nance said. “Whether I take more of a shot-blocking role or Tarik can, or we can just keep guys out of the middle more.”

Can the Lakers (7-7) fix those issues when they host the Oklahoma City (8-6) on Tuesday at Staples Center? Good luck. The Lakers rank 27th out of 30 NBA teams in points allowed (109.6). They have the unfortunate task of defending Thunder guard and former UCLA standout Russell Westbrook, who posted a triple double last month against the Lakers. And they face an Oklahoma City team that ranks third in total rebounding (46.6).

Nonetheless, Lakers coach Luke Walton liked hearing about his players’ self-evaluations.

“That’s what we want,” Walton said. “We don’t want them to be too hard on themselves. We want them to be critical of themselves. We want them to take more ownership. If we have defensive coverages and they’re out there and something is not working, we want them to be given the freedom as a group make that change and guard it differently.”

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Lakers’ Larry Nance Jr. posts career-high performance in loss to Bulls

Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr. dunks against Chicago Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic on Sunday at Staples Center. AP Photo/Alex Gallardo

Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr. dunks against Chicago Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic on Sunday at Staples Center. AP Photo/Alex Gallardo

As he continuously fulfills the highlight reels and furthers his case for the 2017 NBA Dunk contest, Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr. outlines a pretty simple explanation for endlessly defying gravity.

“I just jump as high as I can,” Nance said, “and try to get a hand on the ball.”

But as he demonstrated in the Lakers’ 118-110 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Sunday at Staples Center, Nance posted a career-high 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting and six rebounds by not just relying on his athletic abilities. He also showed a knack for fulfilling the old adage in being in the right place at the right time.

He threw a tip pass to Lakers forward Tarik Black for an easy basket. Nance slid toward the hoop between defenders for a few putback dunks. He made himself available for open looks.

“He’s going to get those putbacks. He’s going to do the little things on defense,” Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell said. “He’s going to talk. On offense, he finishes around the rim. He rolls, sets great screens and does all the little things.”
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Former Laker Kareem Abdul-Jabbar expresses concerns about racial inequalities

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar speaks at the South Los Angeles Get Out The Vote Rally for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in June. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar speaks at the South Los Angeles Get Out The Vote Rally for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in June. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Below is a Q&A with former Lakers and UCLA center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar about his political and social activism, racial inequalities, athletes that take social and political stands, among other issues.

You have listed Jackie Robinson, Dr. Martin Luther King, Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X as some of your mentors. What did you learn from them/which messages resonate with you?

Abdul-Jabbar:
“From all four, I learned the meaning of courage. For each of them, it wasn’t enough to talk about what was right, they took action, putting their own safety in peril in order to do the right thing. Their example of enduring so much public hatred yet still forging head to further the cause of equality made me realize I would be ashamed if I didn’t do my part.”

What racial issues did you experience as a child, college student and even a professional athlete?

Abdul-Jabbar: “Every person of color or of a religious minority or exploring gender identity in this country has stories of being discriminated against. My experiences were no worse than theirs. Yes, I was called all the popular racial slurs from the time I was in middle school until today. Every time I write an article I unleash the hounds of racism who bark and snarl in the anonymity of the internet.

There are two aspects of racism, and all discrimination. First, is the physical threat. When I was in high school, I was coming come by subway from playing basketball with some friends and got off in Harlem in the middle of a protest demonstration that turned violent. People were running everywhere to escape the violence. Even though I had nothing to do with the protest, I was suddenly running for my life, cursing the fact that I was so tall and therefore more of a target. This awoke me to how much being black was a constant physical threat to my life.

The second aspect is the intense feeling of betrayal by the society I was born into, raised in, and love. Yet, people feel entitled and justified in trying to make me feel less of an American and less of a human being than they are. Today, that betrayal comes in the form of institutional racism that results in unarmed black people being killed by police, by rampant poverty, and by politicians who do nothing because they don’t get donations from the poor.”
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Lakers encouraged with how Julius Randle handled scuffle with Tyson Chandler

The jawing continued as Julius Randle and Tyson Chandler ran down the court and established themselves in the post. Once the officials separated the two and reviewed the scuffle, Randle threw his hands up as a sign to encourage the crowd to express themselves. And after the officials looked at the sequence on the television monitors, they issued double technical fouls for each player.

The claps, cheers and jeers began to crescendo. Then the sound peaked after what happened next. Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell inbounded the ball near the top of the key to Randle, setting up a potential play to further antagonize Chandler by going one-on-one.

That left Lakers coach Luke Walton standing near halfcourt, debating to himself on whether he should call a timeout.

Although Walton has preached to Randle to get in “attack mode,” the Lakers’ coach feared that approach would backfire on that specific play. Yet, former Lakers coach Phil Jackson also has become what Walton called “a big influence in the way I try to coach,” including how Jackson had abstained from calling timeouts at critical times in hopes his players would figure it out for themselves.

“Let’s see what happens,” Walton thought to himself. “If it doesn’t work out, it’s a great teaching moment.”

It turns out the decision worked out.

Randle stared at Chandler as if he would charge down the lane at any second. But just as he saw Phoenix guard Devin Booker turn his head toward him, Randle whipped a pass to Jordan Clarkson for an open 3-pointer. Clarkson drained the shot, something that Walton called a “winning play” as part of the Lakers’ 119-108 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Sunday at Staples Center.

“It’s everything we want,” Walton said. “It’s him using his brain, him being competitive and him fighting for the team and making an unselfish play to a teammate who knocks a big-time 3.”

That play did more than just give the Lakers a 107-97 cushion with 1:27 left. It also revealed Randle’s thought process.

“I didn’t get caught up in the emotions of me and him going at it. I just read how they were playing it,” said Randle, who added 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting, five rebounds and four assists. “I’m past being caught up in the emotions I want to win.”
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Lakers’ Larry Nance Jr. admired his dunk against Golden State

The adrenaline flowed seemingly as high as when Larry Nance Jr. leaps and dunks.

The Lakers just secured a 117-97 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Friday at Staples Center. The Lakers emulated Golden State’s normal mastery of teamwork and sharp shooting far better than the Warriors did at least for one night. And well, Nance defied gravity once again by throwing down a one-handed dunk while palming the back of David West’s head for support.

All of which left Nance soaking in the win by scrolling through Twitter and Instagram posts. That included admiring his own poster.

“That was one of my favorite ones I’ve had,” Nance said, smiling.

There’s plenty that Nance had. He soared past former Golden State center Festus Ezeli. Nance threw down over Detroit center Andre Drummond. Nance boxed out Memphis forward and former NBA dunk contest champion Vince Carter and converted off of a tip-in dunk. In only Nance’s second NBA season, the Lakers’ forward has dunked enough to warrant a Youtube video providing a top-10 rankings of his slams.

Where would Nance rate his latest jam?

“Oh jeez. I don’t know,” Nance said. “I haven’t even thought about it. Hopefully there’s a whole other top 10 after this year. In terms of Golden State, that’s probably No. 2 for me.”

RELATED:

Lakers’ Julius Randle becoming ‘a monster’ no matter the opponent

Lakers give Luke Walton bragging rights with 117-97 victory over Warriors

Lakers Notes: Luke Walton amused by Steve Kerr’s outburst toward officials

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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Luke Walton enjoys trash talking with Warriors

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

The laid-back Luke Walton went into cliche mode when the Lakers maintained with a straight face that matching off against his former employer does not mean anything more significant than competing against a non-descript opponent.

“I’ll take any win no matter who we’re playing,” Walton said. “I’ll take the win.”

Fair enough. Walton stressed he remains more worried about the Lakers (2-3) ensuring they maintain good habits when they host the Golden State Warriors (3-1) on Friday at Staples Center.

Still, Walton is also honest and competitive. And so when it comes toward coaching against the Warriors after serving as an assistant for the past two seasons…

“For non important reasons, yes it would be nice to win for when I talk to them on the phone or see them in the offseason,” Walton said. “There’s some trash talking to be done. But as far as what we’re trying to do as a group and a team, whether we win or lose this one is no different than any other game.”

Well, not quite.

“I hope they have success when we’re not playing them,” Walton said of the Warriors. “But tonight, I hope they all have terrible games and that we win.”
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Ivica Zubac’s foul trouble does not sour mood in starting vs. Dwight Howard

ATLANTA — The man standing at centercourt beforehand symbolized the Lakers’ intriguing future.

Rookie center Ivica Zubac embraced for his first NBA regular season start on Wednesday against the Atlanta Hawks after center Timofey Mozgov became sidelined with a left eye injury. That gave the Lakers hope their 32nd draft pick out of Croatia would grow with a major opportunity.

The man hanging on the rim beforehand symbolized the Lakers’ frustrating past.

Dwight Howard’s lone season four years ago with the Lakers provided headaches with back surgery limitations, personality clashes with Kobe Bryant, philosophical disagreements with Mike D’Antoni and a reluctance to play pick-and-roll with Steve Nash. Yet with Howard leaving the Lakers via free agency, his defection also marked the first of many star players no longer impressed with the purple and gold glitter.

That set up a delicious storyline between one of the Lakers’ most hated foes and one of their emerging fan favorites. All with the possible hope this could fuel long-term growth.

“Obviously it will be a tough matchup for him,” Lakers coach Luke Walton predicted. “But we have confidence that he can hold his own.”

Walton turned out to be clairvoyant.

In the Lakers’ 123-116 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday at Philips Arena, Howard showed why Walton still considers him “one of the best bigs in our game” by posting 31 points on 12-of-16 shooting and 11 rebounds in 31 minutes. Zubac collected three of his four fouls in the first five minutes and 28 seconds of play. Still, Walton reported feeling “pleased with his effort” after Zubac also posted six points on a 3-of-3 clip and three rebounds in 18 minutes, 32 seconds.

“Dwight can do that to pretty much any big in the league, let alone a rookie that hasn’t seen anything like that before,” Walton said. “But he didn’t look nervous. He looked excited to be out there and he made some good plays.”
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