TWC SportsNet records top ratings for Lakers’ summer league games

Lakers' Julius Randle drives by Minnesota Timberwolvesí Adreian Payne during the first half of their NBA summer league basketball game Friday, July 10, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Lakers’ Julius Randle drives by Minnesota Timberwolvesí Adreian Payne during the first half of their NBA summer league basketball game Friday, July 10, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

The interest seemed so high that a standing-room only crowd soon emerged just before tipoff. They cheered loudly over every highlight reel. They even booed during poor play.

The Lakers’ summer league team has garnered plenty of interest among the partisan fans that made the quick trip to Las Vegas. The interest has also translated on the team’s telecast. Time Warner Cable SportsNet reported sparking its highest-rated summer league game in the team’s opener against Minnesota on Friday at Thomas & MAck Center with a 1.45 Nielsen rating. The Lakers boasted similarly inspiring numbers for their game against Philadelphia on Saturday (1.23) and against New York on Monday (1.29). It seems likely the Lakers will attract similar interest when they play the Dallas Mavericks at 5:30 p.m. PDT on Wednesday at the Thomas & Mack Center as an 11th seed.

This represents a dose of good news for the network after experiencing relatively low ratings amid the Lakers finishing with their worst record in L.A. franchise history in consecutive seasons. TWC SportsNet averaged a 1.55 Nielsen rating this season, marking a decline from the average household ratings for televised games in 2013-14 (2.11) and 2012-13 (4.63). Although those numbers still better fare than the Lakers’ Summer League telecasts, it is not considered an apples-to-apples comparisons since summer league games typically draw less interest than the NBA regular season.

But the Lakers presumably experienced a boost because of the implications surrounding their summer league team. After all, the Lakers’ average household ratings for their summer league coverage were substantially lower in 2013 (.28) and 2014 (.27).
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Robert Upshaw to meet with Mitch Kupchak on Thursday

Los Angeles Lakersí Robert Upshaw, right, blocks a shot by Minnesota Timberwolvesí Karl-Anthony Towns during the second half of their NBA summer league basketball game Friday, July 10, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Los Angeles Lakersí Robert Upshaw, right, blocks a shot by Minnesota Timberwolvesí Karl-Anthony Towns during the second half of their NBA summer league basketball game Friday, July 10, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Though the Lakers and Robert Upshaw have envisioned a future together through the next two years, Upshaw and Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak will meet on Thursday in Las Vegas in what could provide more clarity on their partnership, according to a league source familiar with the situation.

The Lakers and Upshaw agreed to a general framework of a deal last weekend, a two-year deal at the veteran’s minimum that includes a partial guarantee next season and a non-guaranteed terms in the 2016-17 campaign. But the deal has not been finalized. It’s unclear what exactly will be discussed in Thursday’s meeting, but it’s believed to be part of the Lakers performing their due diligence.

Upshaw was also projected as a lottery pick for averaging 10.9 points, 8.2 rebounds and 4.5 blocks in 19 games with the University of Washington last season. But Upshaw went undrafted after Fresno State and University of Washington both kicked him off their teams for undisclosed violations of team rules. Through three summer league games with the Lakers, Upshaw has averaged 2.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 13.7 minutes off the bench.

Assuming the Lakers’ contract with Upshaw becomes finalized, he would stay on the team’s training camp roster and give the Lakers more time to evaluate where he fits into their plans. The Lakers currently have two centers, including All-Star Roy Hibbert and backup Robert Sacre. Tarik Black has also played at center, but coach Byron Scott views him as more of a power forward.

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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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Jabari Brown to play in Monday’s summer league game vs Knicks

LAS VEGAS — After missing the first two summer league games because of a laceration in his left eye, Lakers guard Jabari Brown received medical clearance to play in Monday’s game against the New York Knicks at Thomas & Mack Center.

Brown hasn’t fulled healed his left eye yet. He will wear goggles to protect his eye from further damage. The Lakers also plan to evaluate him once Summer League play ends, which could be as late as July 20.

Brown was poked in his left eye last Monday during practice and has not played since then.

The Lakers signed Brown to a non-guaranteed contract for the 2015-16 season after impressing the team as a late-season pickup because of endless injuries. Brown, who went undrafted after playing at Missouri alongside Jordan Clarkson, averaged 11.9 points on 41.2 percent shooting in 29.9 minutes through 19 games.


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Future of Lakers looks good, bad in summer league opener against Minnesota

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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NBA free agency: Jordan Hill plans to sign deal with Indiana Pacers

"Los Angeles Lakers' Jordan Hill smiles before the Lakers' NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Karen Pulfer Focht)"

“Los Angeles Lakers’ Jordan Hill smiles before the Lakers’ NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Karen Pulfer Focht)”

It almost became a swap for two big men. Power forward Jordan Hill will agree to a deal soon with the Indiana Pacers, according to a league source. Meanwhile, the Lakers recently acquired center Roy Hibbert in a trade from Indiana for a second-round pick.

Both sides are still working out the terms of Hill’s deal. But his expected arrival could help Indiana offset the loss of power forward David West, who took an $11 million paycut to join the San Antonio Spurs in hopes of winning an NBA championship.

The Lakers had expressed some interest in re-signing Hill as a free agent after declining his team option worth $9 million, according to a league source. But the chances of that happening seemed slim because of the team’s flood of power forwards, including Julius Randle, Ryan Kelly, Tarik Black and Larry Nance Jr. The Lakers could not attract any high-profile frontcourt players, including LaMarcus Aldridge, Greg Monroe and DeAndre Jordan. The Lakers also did not retain Ed Davis to keep cap space available for those aforementioned marquee free agents. Butt the Lakers also acquired 10-year veteran power forward Brandon Bass as well as Hibbert.

Despite Hill posting career highs in points (12), rebounds (7.9), starts (57) and minutes (26.8), the Lakers became frustrated with his inconsistency. The Lakers and Hill both attributed those struggles to adapting to heavy playing time and struggles with his diet. The Lakers acquired Hill from the Houston Rockets in 2012 as part of a mid-season trade involving Derek Fisher.

The Lakers have not retained any of their free agents last summer, including Hill, Davis (Portland), Jeremy Lin (Charlotte), Wayne Ellington (Brooklyn), Ronnie Price (Phoenix) and Wesley Johnson (Clippers). Power forward Carlos Boozer remain unsigned.

The Sporting News first reported Hill’s plan to sign with the Pacers.

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Lakers’ Byron Scott evaluates options between Young, Williams, Randle, Bass

Future of Lakers looks good, bad in summer league opener against Minnesota

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, Robert Upshaw agree to two-year deal

Former Washington center Robert Upshaw, left, is playing for the Lakers' summer league team that starts play in Las Vegas on Friday. He says he has matured since committing violations of team rules that led to his dismissal from Fresno State and Washington. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Former Washington center Robert Upshaw, left, is playing for the Lakers’ summer league team that starts play in Las Vegas on Friday. He says he has matured since committing violations of team rules that led to his dismissal from Fresno State and Washington. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

After going undrafted amid concerns about Robert Upshaw’s behavior that led to two colleges dismissing him from their teams, the 7-foot-2 shot blocking specialist experienced a dose of good news.

The Lakers and Upshaw agreed to a two-year deal that is expected to be signed soon, according to a league source familiar with the situation. The Lakers have not confirmed the deal since it is still pending. But a source familiar with the terms said the league-minimum deal has a partial guarantee the first season and is non-guaranteed for the second season. The contract has no player or team options, the source added.

Northeast Ohio Media Group first reported Upshaw’s pending deal with the Lakers.
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Lakers sign contracts for D’Angelo Russell, Larry Nance Jr.

Former Ohio State point guard D'Angelo Russell talks with media after he worked out with Lakers on Monday, June, 8. (Photo by Stephen Carr/Daily Breeze)

Former Ohio State point guard D’Angelo Russell talks with media after he worked out with Lakers on Monday, June, 8. (Photo by Stephen Carr/Daily Breeze)

Lakers rookie point guard D’Angelo Russell and rookie power forward Larry Nance Jr. signed their contacts on Friday just in time to appear in the team’s summer league opener against Minnesota on Friday in Las Vegas.

The NBA moratorium ended late Wednesday night, and the Lakers made most of their free-agent and draft signings on Thursday. But the delay stemming Russell and Nance Jr. simply involved the Lakers timing their moves with salary cap implications.

Russell and Nance Jr. took of $5.2 million of cap space with just cap holds. Considering Russell signed for $5.1 million and Nance Jr. signed for $1.2 million, the Lakers had an additional $1.2 million in cap space by delaying their contracts becoming official.

But the Lakers made those official so both players could play. The Lakers would not allow any player to compete on their summer league team without a signed contract to prevent any liability issues.

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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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How much will Tarik Black expand his game in Summer League?

 File photo: L.A. Lakers forward Tarik Black (28) is waiting to get back into the rotation. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

File photo: L.A. Lakers forward Tarik Black (28) is waiting to get back into the rotation. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Only a year ago, Tarik Black felt the sting over going undrafted. Only eight months ago, Black felt the rejection over the Houston Rockets waiving him. Only five months ago, Black felt uncertainty over his future with the Lakers.

But this week, Black stood on the Lakers’ practice court in El Segundo feeling more at ease than when he took the circuitous path last year that often required a GPS navigation system.

“Definitely feel like a bigger piece to this team,” Black said. “I’m definitely a part of this family and a part of this team. I feel comfortable with my role.”

As Black feels more comfortable, his role may take some more unpredictable turns. Black knows he will compete on the Lakers’ summer league team that begins playing on Friday in Las Vegas through July 20. Black knows he will stay on the Lakers’ roster for the 2015-16 season on a non-guaranteed contract worth $850,000. He knows the Lakers became impressed with how he represented one of the team’s few bright spots last season, averaging 7.2 points on 58.9 percent shooting and 5.8 rebounds in 21.1 minutes through 38 games.

Yet, Black sounded unsure to what degree his game will evolve in summer league play. Though the Lakers love Black’s hustle, coach Byron Scott also wants the 6-foot-11, 257-pound forward to establish a mid-range game.

“That’s going to keep me at this level, my rebounding, hustle plays and playing defense,” Black said. “I’m always going to work on that and utilize it. But as far as getting better, we have so much talent. It’s tough to say how much I’ll use it.”

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Mitch Kupchak sympathetic to all sides surrounding DeAndre Jordan’s free agency saga

DeAndre Jordan gave the Dallas Mavericks his word. Then he gave the Los Angeles Clippers his signature. Could his change of heart spark other changes in the NBA? (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

DeAndre Jordan gave the Dallas Mavericks his word. Then he gave the Los Angeles Clippers his signature. Could his change of heart spark other changes in the NBA? (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

Something captured Los Angeles’ attention, and for once the drama did not surround anything related to the Lakers.

It all centered on DeAndre Jordan, who determined not everything is bigger in Texas. After providing a verbal commitment last Friday to leave the Clippers for the Dallas Mavericks, Jordan reached out to Clippers coach Doc Rivers a few days later. But instead of offering his goodbyes, Jordan extended an olive branch, suggesting to Rivers he harbored doubts about his decision.

Then, the Clippers furiously flew out on Wednesday to Jordan’s residence in Houston in one last pitch to salvage their star center. Soon enough, a stream of emojis emerged on Twitter. Mavericks guard Chandler Parsons tweeted one of a plane. Clippers forward Blake Griffin tweeted several of a plane, helicopter and car. Clippers guard Chris Paul tweeted an emoji of a banana boat, the same mode of transportation he used in a recent vacation in the Bahamas. Even Lakers guard Kobe Bryant participated in on the fun, tweeting out all five trophies to represent the NBA championships he won.

Soon enough, breathless reports emerged about the Clippers staying at Jordan’s house, while the Mavericks made several unsuccessful attempts to reach him. Shortly after the NBA moratorium ended at 9:00 PDT on Wednesday, Jordan signed a four-year deal worth $87.6 million to stay with the Clippers.

As Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak mused, “the social media affect turned it into somewhat of a soap opera from the moment you woke up [on Wednesday] until the moment you went to bed.”

Kupchak had other things to worry about that day, ranging from Summer League practices and finalizing free agent deals. Yet, Kupchak acknowledged “it became a bit unsettling” on the possibility Dallas could swoop in at the last minute and pursue Roy Hibbert after losing a center. The Lakers acquired Hibbert last week in a trade from Indiana for a second-round pick. But since players could not sign contracts until the NBA moratorium ended on July 9, any player technically remained available.

Yet, Kupchak offered sympathy for Jordan, who had turned down both the Lakers and the Knicks shortly after meeting with them.

“I want nothing but the best for DeAndre Jordan,” Kupchak said. “If he felt that he didn’t make the right decision, the rules that are presently set up allow for him or provide for him to change his mind.”
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Metta World Peace impressed with Julius Randle’s strength

Lakers coach Byron Scott initially plans to feature Julius Randle as both a post player and playmaker. (Thomas R. Cordova-Daily Breeze/Press-Telegram)"

Lakers coach Byron Scott initially plans to feature Julius Randle as both a post player and playmaker. (Thomas R. Cordova-Daily Breeze/Press-Telegram)”

His strength remained so forceful that Metta World Peace once gave James Harden a concussion on one swing with his elbow. His toughness seemed so fierce it took only 13 seconds before World Peace tumbled to the floor with Paul Pierce for a loose ball. His anger became so out of control that the former Ron Artest once punched a fan in the stands after he a threw a drink at him.

But after working out this summer on his own at the Lakers’ practice facility, World Peace apparently found an opponent that could match and withstand his own power.

His name is Julius Randle. He has not played in an NBA game since logging only 14 minutes in the Lakers’ season opener last year before fracturing his right tibia. And Randle has impressed the Lakers with a slimmed down figure, an emerging jump shot and a beefed up frame.

“This kid is super strong,” Lakers coach Byron Scott recalled World Peace observing to others around him.”If Metta says that, he’s pretty strong. Metta is pretty strong.”
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Mitch Kupchak critiqued Lakers’ first meeting with LaMarcus Aldridge

The Los Angeles Lakers had the number 2 pick in the NBA draft and selected D'Angelo Russell from Ohio State Thursday, June 25, 2015, El Segundo, CA. Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak discusses the selection of Russell with the media from the Toyota Sports Center practice facility. Photo by Steve McCrank/Staff Photographer

The Los Angeles Lakers had the number 2 pick in the NBA draft and selected D’Angelo Russell from Ohio State Thursday, June 25, 2015, El Segundo, CA. Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak discusses the selection of Russell with the media from the Toyota Sports Center practice facility. Photo by Steve McCrank/Staff Photographer

It turns out another prominent person besides LaMarcus Aldridge walked away unimpressed with the Lakers’ first meeting with him to open free agency.

That person was Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak, who echoed Aldridge’s concerns that the Lakers’ first presentation at 9:01 p.m. on June 30 in Los Angeles focused too much on branding and not enough on X’s and O’s.

“We accomplished the part about how much we wanted this player in Los Angeles,” Kupchak said in a conference call on Thursday, which coincided with the NBA lifting its moratorium. “But I don’t feel the basketball component of it was covered in depth.”

Kupchak also added, “I don’t think the meeting was as bad as people heard it was, nor do I think it was as good as we hoped it would be. I would say live and learn.”

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