Thomas Robinson at LA Lakers Media Day at their El Segundo training facility. Photos by Brad Graverson/SCNG/The Daily Breeze/09-26-16
Of all the things that initially consumed himself with his first head-coaching job, Luke Walton did not think for one second about Thomas Robinson.
Walton had other things to worry about, in no particular order. How can he adjust as an assistant coach to a head coach? How will he implement Golden State’s culture with the Lakers given the talent and experience disparity between the two franchises? How much can Walton elevate D’Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr? How much can Walton revamp the Lakers’ poorly-ranked defense?
Once informal workouts started this past summer, though, Walton soon began thinking about Robinson. Every day at the Lakers’ practice facility, Robinson would arrive and perform two feats. He always exerted maximum effort. His teams usually won the scrimmages. So, Walton talked to the Lakers’ front office and both agreed about inviting Robinson for training camp.
But with the former No. 5 overall draft pick hardly lasting long in Sacramento (2012-13), Houston (2012-13), Portland (2013-15), Philadelphia (2014-15) and Brooklyn (2015-16), Walton stayed alert for any warning signs. He never saw them. All of which left Walton “shocked” Robinson has not lasted long with any of his previous five NBA teams in the past four years.
“You assume once you get to a more structured setting, you’d see some reasons why he hasn’t stuck,” Walton said. “Bur he was great.”
Metta World Peace at LA Lakers Media Day at their El Segundo training facility. Photos by Brad Graverson/SCNG/The Daily Breeze/09-26-16
The talent seemed too good to pass up. Ron Artest locked down scorers, bulldozed defenders and made opponents fear his mere presence. But then concerns emerged about his anger, his partying and his focus.
The talent seemed too diminished. Metta World Peace struggled to score, defend and run as efficiently as he once did. But then encouraging signs emerged with his unyielding work ethic, strong conditioning and valuable wisdom to teammates.
World Peace became a changed man well before he legally changed his name nearly five years ago. He had already played a large part in winning his lone NBA title with the Lakers in 2010. He had already seen a sports psychologist to handle his anger that infamously contributed to his role in the Palace Brawl in 2004 that drew an 86-game suspension. He had already used his large platform to help various mental health charities.
But the end of World Peace’s career has represented an interesting contrast to the beginning of Artest’s career. Teams absorbed concerns about Artest’s behavior because of his superior talent. For the second consecutive year as World Peace nears closer toward retirement, the Lakers retained him on a non-guaranteed contract by willingly absorbing his diminished play because of his superior conditioning and leadership, two qualities that could significantly shape the team’s young roster.
“At the end of my career, I feel at the beginning,” World Peace said after practice on Monday at the Lakers’ facility in El Segundo. “I have a personal goal of trying to reach 20 years. In order to reach those goals, I have to take care of my body.” Continue reading →
The Lakers formally waived second-year forward Anthony Brown. (Photo by Kyusung Gong, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Even as they attempt to rebuild their organization with a young core, the Lakers have trimmed their roster by parting ways with one of those young players.
The Lakers have waived second-year forward and former Ocean View High School product Anthony Brown. That move, coincided with Yi Jianlian’s requested release, paves the way for both 16-year NBA veteran Metta World Peace and four-year NBA pro Thomas Robinson to make the team on non-guaranteed deals.
The Lakers have a 15-man roster and do not plan on making any more cuts entering their season opener against the Houston Rockets on Wednesday at Staples Center.
Despite averaging only 3.16 points on a 46.6 percent clip in only 8.3 minutes per contest through six preseason appearances, Brown’s departure was somewhat surprising. The Lakers were expected to narrow their choices between keeping an established veteran (World Peace) or a young forward (Robinson). But some on the Lakers had become concerned on whether Brown would ever become a dependable outside shooter after selecting him 34th overall in the 2015 NBA Draft.
Brown averaged only four points on 31 percent shooting in 20.7 minutes his rookie season, and was not expected to play significant minutes behind Luol Deng, Brandon Ingram and Nick Young. That marked a far cry from when Brown shot 41.1 percent from 3-point range his last two seasons at Stanford. Brown was in the last year of a guaranteed contract worth $2 million. Continue reading →
#11 Yi Jianlian at LA Lakers Media Day at their El Segundo training facility. Photos by Brad Graverson/SCNG/The Daily Breeze/09-26-16
The Lakers plan to waive Chinese center Yi Jianlian on Monday, according to a league source familiar with the situation.
The Lakers had signed Yi to a non-guaranteed contract at the veteran’s minimum, including incentives that could have made the deal worth as much as $8 million. But after hoping Yi could provide some outside shooting at the backup center spot, Yi averaged only 3.6 points on a 36.8 percent clip in 12.2 minutes through five exhibition games. Yi also shot only 16.7 percent from 3-point range.
Yi had met with the Lakers on Sunday and asked for his release, according to a league source. The Lakers still have to trim their 16-man roster down to 15 by 2 p.m. PT on Monday. Yi’s departure likely narrows the remaining candidates between forwards Metta World Peace and Thomas Robinson.
The Lakers had pursued Yi for the past two years while he played with the Guangdong Southern Tigers in his native China. It is not immediately clear if Yi hopes to land with another NBA team or return to China.
Yi previously played in the NBA in Milwaukee (2007-08), New Jersey (2008-10), Washington (2010-11) and Dallas (2011-12). After the Bucks selected him sixth overall in 2007, Yi averaged 7.9 points on a 40.4 percent clip.
ESPN first reported the news about the Lakers’ plans to waive Yi.
D’Angelo Russell at LA Lakers Media Day at their El Segundo training facility. Photos by Brad Graverson/SCNG/The Daily Breeze/09-26-16
The barriers no longer stand in D’Angelo Russell’s place. He has a coach that will develop him more with positive reinforcement than frequent criticism. He has become a charge of leading a Lakers team instead of deferring to a Hall-of-Fame teammate. He also has an extra year worth of experience that taught him various lessons in work habits, maturity and basketball expertise.
All of which likely explains why he landed in fourth place in an NBA.com survey that assessed players most likely to have a breakout season. The results stemmed from polling the league’s general managers.
But even if Russell feels empowered in his second season, he does not feel suddenly encouraged that plenty of basketball executives are expecting big things.
“It don’t matter to me, honestly,” Russell said. “It’s still up to me to perform. GM’s aren’t playing. I have to play.”
Russell maintained he would feel more impressed if general managers predicted he would win an NBA championship, win a regular-season or Finals MVP award or become the league’s most improved player. He enters the Lakers’ preseason finale against the Phoenix Suns on Friday at Anaheim’s Honda Center averaging a team-leading 17.9 points on a 46.7 percent clip and 5.3 assists in 29.5 minutes per game.
Yet, Russell stressed he has not become consumed with those numbers, either.
“I just want a winning season,” Russell said. “I’m not really about myself right now. It’s about winning.” Continue reading →
SAN DIEGO – The movement looked so natural as Brandon Ingram navigated his way around the court.
He sank shots with balance as he set his feet and squared up in triple threat position. He scanned the court and found open teammates both in half-court and transition. He slid his deceptively thin frame into the lane to pluck rebounds off the rim as if they were apples on a tree.
The Lakers fell in love with Ingram when he perfected all those qualities during his lone season at Duke. After seeing him experience some hiccups in summer league and training camp, the Lakers saw Ingram flash signs of promising growth in their 123-112 preseason loss to the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday at Valley View Casino Center.
Ingram led the Lakers in points (21), in shooting efficiency (7 of 10) and rebounds (seven). He occasionally took care of ball handling duties both to tap into his versatility and take advantage of Golden State’s matchups that calls for positions to become interchangeable. And he put together a performance that made Lakers coach Luke Walton feel fuzzy about the team’s No. 2 draft pick.
“Brandon is further along as a basketball player than I would expect any kid coming out of college after one year to be,” Walton said. “As far as since we’ve started, he’s picking up the NBA game rather quickly.”
But perhaps mindful that he has averaged six points on a 32.5 percent clip, Ingram respectfully disagreed.
After all, Ingram has admitted he felt he rushed shots in past games. He has admitted he wants to prove worthy of a starting position. And he has admitted he wants to win the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award.
“As a player, you’re never satisfied,” Ingram said. “So I don’t think I’ve exceeded my expectations. I have a high expectation of myself.”
SAN DIEGO — The fall ended with a loud thud. That preceded Timofey Mozgov lying for a few seconds motionless on the floor. Soon after, Mozgov went to the locker room midway through the third quarter of the Lakers’ 123-112 exhibition loss to the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday at Valley View Casino Center, never to return.
Despite nursing a bruised tailbone, Mozgov stood by his locker afterwards expressing confidence he will return for the Lakers’ preseason finale against the Phoenix Suns on Friday at Anaheim’s Honda Center.
“You see I’m walking?” Mozgov told Southern California News Group. “I’m still alive. It’s stiff a little bit right now, but it’s okay.”
Mozgov still struggled bending over as he tied his shoes. He also walked slowly in the locker room. And the Lakers will still reevaluate him during Thursday’s practice. But Mozgov predicted that “I’ll be all right.”
He hardly felt that way when he fell on the ground after chasing for a rebound and jumping into Lakers forward Julius Randle.
“At the first minute, it was really bad,” Mozgov said. “But I can walk right now.”
Lakers coach Luke Walton hardly sounded concerned that Mozgov left the game with 4:43 left in the third quarter.
“He’s good; just a tailbone,” Walton said. “But with preseason, we weren’t going to put him back in.”
Below is a recent conversation I had with Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green, who talked extensively about Lakers forward Julius Randle and his potential.
What’s your impressions of Julius Randle?
Green: From the first time I saw him play, I just loved the intensity that he played with, the fire, the dog, the passion and fire that he played the game with. You see a young guy like that, coming into the league at 19 years old, No. 1 you respect it. But you want to do what you can to help him be successful. At the end of the day, we are competitors. We’ll play against each other four times a year and possibly in the playoffs. But it’s not about that.
One thing I was always taught by [former Warriors assistant] Pete Myers is he used to always tell me is, ‘You get paid for the next young guy to get paid. That’s your job. You give it back to the next young guy.’ No. 2, you want to continue to help the game grow. The more the game grows, the better a position everyone is in. Obviously if there is something you can help a younger guy with, you want to do that. You see him grow, and that will grow the game to get better. Everyone benefits from it. Obviously a guy like that where you see the way he competes and the skill level that he has, I see something special. You just want to see it come to fruition.” Continue reading →
Jordan Clarkson at LA Lakers Media Day at their El Segundo training facility. Photos by Brad Graverson/SCNG/The Daily Breeze/09-26-16
LAS VEGAS –The stoic expression on Jordan Clarkson’s face told the whole story. So did his soft tone.
The Lakers’ third-year guard has been quiet in recent days while grieving over the unexpected death of Cameron Moore, who was a high school rival and close friend in San Antonio.
Clarkson flew from Las Vegas to San Antonio to attend Moore’s funeral in San Antonio on Friday only to return back to Las Vegas later that night.
“It’s been a tough 48 hours for me,” Clarkson said following the Lakers’ 112-107 exhibition loss to the Golden State Warriors on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena. “But I’m trying to bring what I do on the court and use it to get away.”
So much that Clarkson plans to dedicate the 2016-17 season in Moore’s honor.
“That’s one of my best friends,” Clarkson said. “That’s who I grew up with. He always looked out for me when I was young.” Continue reading →
LAS VEGAS — The trash talk brewed nearly 24 hours before either team took the court. The exchange did not convey any tension. Instead, the episode captured the good-natured teasing and close relationship Warriors coach Steve Kerr and Lakers coach Luke Walton built when he served as a Golden State assistant for the previous two years.
When the Lakers (2-3) host the Golden State Warriors (2-1) on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena, the Warriors will sit Andre Iguodala and David West for one specific reason.
“I want to give Luke (Walton) every opportunity to prepare for tomorrow’s clash” Kerr jokingly told reporters.
Walton quickly countered with his own jab.
“You tell Steve that Lou Williams isn’t playing either,” Walton said, smiling. “So he can have his full opportunity.” Continue reading →