LAS VEGAS — The tricks went on full display, and it did not just involve the magic shows that permeate the strip. A new exhibit opened up on Friday night at T-Mobile Arena, where Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell performed a series of highlight reels that left the audience gasping.
He sank 3-pointers with ease. He set up teammates at the blink of an eye. He attacked the basket with relentless speed.
The show itself may not have been pretty. The Lakers lost to the Sacramento Kings, 116-104, in an exhibition that featured yet another slow and a subpar defensive performance. Nearly anytime Russell had the ball, though, Lakers fans had reason to watch.
Russell posted a team-leading 31 points and 11 assists, while shooting 10-of-14 from the field and 5-of-6 from 3-point range. It marked a huge improvement from his performance against Portland on Tuesday when he logged only 12 points and one assist while shooting 6-of-21 mark from the field and missing all nine of his 3-point attempts.
“He did the best job so far of deciding when it’s a good shot for him and when a defender is on him,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “Offensively, he had a very complete game tonight.” Continue reading →
The Lakers made their first round of roster cuts, targeting players that received little playing time through exhibition play.
Those players included forward Zach August, forward Travis Wear and guard Julian Jacobs. The Lakers (2-2) enter Thursday’s exhibition against the Sacramento Kings (1-2) in Las Vegas at T-Mobile Arena with 17 players on their roster.
Auguste did not play in any preseason games after averaging 5.3 points and 4.0 rebounds in 15:41 minutes per game in Summer League play. Jacobs, a former USC standout, posted three points and two assists in 11 minutes through two preseason appearances. Wear, a former Santa Ana Mater Dei and UCLA product, had three points and two rebounds in 11 minutes through two exhibitions.
The Lakers can hold a maximum of 15 players when the 2016-17 regular season starts on Oct. 26 against the Houston Rockets at Staples Center.
The shots felt good as the ball left D’Angelo Russell’s fingertips. He had open looks. He squared up perfectly. And as shown when he points to the ice in his veins, Russell has never lacked confidence about his shots dropping into the basket.
That ice suddenly evaporated in the Lakers’ 109-106 overtime loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday at Staples Center. Russell missed a potential game-winning 3-pointer just as time expired in the fourth quarter. He missed two more mid-range jumpers that could have extended the lead in extra regulation. He missed another 3-pointer in overtime that could have tied the game with just over a minute remaining.
Once the night ended, Russell finished with 12 points, while shooting 6-of-21 from the field and 0-of-9 from 3-point range. That marked a far cry from the 21 points he had last Friday against Denver or the 33 points he scored against the same opponent two nights later. To make matters worse, Russell also played a role in allowing Portland guard Damian Lillard to drop 30 points on a 10-of-17 clip.
All of which left Russell self critical about his own play.
“We had good looks as a team. Personally, it just wouldn’t fall,” Russell said. It hurt me honestly. Defensively and offensively, we have to figure out a way to get guys involved more than when the shot is not falling. It’s a learning experience.” Continue reading →
The joyful man sat by his locker. Nick Young scrolled through his phone. He teased one particular reporter as he often does. He then listened to some music.
That pre-game routine then came to an abrupt halt. Lakers coach Luke Walton approached him and indicated he would like to speak with Young privately. Walton hardly berated Young, though. With Walton planning to start Young in place of an injured Luol Deng, the Lakers’ coach simply challenged Young to take advantage of that opportunity by playing defense.
Nearly two hours later, the Lakers secured a 124-115 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Sunday at Citizens Business Bank Arena as Young provided 14 points on a 5-of-8 clip, four rebounds and two steals. The play impressed Walton so much that he described Young’s defense as “spectacular.”
“Obviously he’s going to make shots here or there,” Walton said. “But defensively, he’s fighting over screens, making one-on-one [stops] and getting in and mixing it up.” Continue reading →
Former Lakers coach Phil Jackson argued the triangle offense helped keep tension between Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant at bay. (Will Lester/Staff Photographer) Kobe and Shaq
The tension between Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal disturbed Phil Jackson so much that he once likened it to “sandbox stuff.”
Yet, there marked one significant thing that Jackson believed prevented Bryant and O’Neal from always throwing sand at each other. Of course, talent came into play when the two won three NBA championships together. But Jackson also pointed his triangle offense that established structure for both players.
“By having an offense that was focused on really putting the ball in the middle of the center and having that triangle system in place, that gave the whole emphasis to the team to put the ball inside and we can dominate at this particular position,” Jackson said on “The Big Podcast with Shaq” for an episode released on Monday. “As the game goes on, whether it’s situations presenting itself or Shaq is out of the game, Kobe had an opportunity to do things that are important to his game and find a way to contribute.” Continue reading →
ONTARIO — The plays looked so easy as D’Angelo Russell navigated all over the court and seemingly did everything.
He made outside shots. He attacked the basket and converted on a floater and bank shot. He threw nifty passes. He forced turnovers.
Time and time again these moments happened. All of which created a montage of entertaining plays in the Lakers’ 124-115 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Sunday at Citizens Business Bank Arena that capture both Russell’s talent and potential.
He posted a team-leading 33 points, three assists and three steals, while shooting 13-of-19 from the field and 4-of-7 from 3-point range. This marked the second consecutive exhibition game he posted at least 20 points. And after blemishing his preseason play with a handful of turnovers, Russell trimmed that number to two.
The source of Russell’s production goes beyond the skills that made the Lakers draft him No. 2 overall last year. It also stems from a rookie season that featured fluctuating roles, tension with Lakers coach Byron Scott and only flashes of the kind of play Russell has shown thus far in training camp.
“I wasn’t upset with last year. But I knew what I was capable of, and I didn’t get to showcase it,” Russell said. “So going into this year, I wanted to start summer league. I knew I was going to play in summer league. Preseason, I wanted to show what I’m capable of and that I’ve been working on it. That’s what I’m going to prove this year.” Continue reading →
Lakers head coach Luke Walton, right, gives instructions to Brandon Ingram during a preseason game against the Kings at Honda Center on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. (Photo by Kyusung Gong, Orange County Register/SCNG)
ONTARIO — His past job gave Luke Walton a first-hand look at a daily clinic that featured the Golden State Warriors mastering the 3-point shot.
Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson buried them seemingly anytime and anywhere they touched the ball. The Warriors created more open looks with crisp ball movement and balanced floor spacing. And with those ingredients staying consistent, Walton spent the past two years as a Warriors assistant seeing that team lead the league in both 3-point shots made and 3-point field-goal percentage.
Walton said he has not set any expectations for the Lakers in both 3-point attempts and shots made. After all, the Lakers’ young and developing roster can hardly draw comparisons to the Warriors.
Instead, Walton has outlined specific offensive principles he believes he elevate the Lakers’ outside shooting.
“The floor should be spaced with free-flowing ball movement going side-to-side. If you’re a shooter and you’re open, I want you to shoot it,” Walton said. “Whether they go in or not, a lot of times that’s out of our control as coaches. As long as you put the time and work in and it’s a shot within the rhythm of the offense and it’s not a forced 3-point shot, we’ll keep encouraging them to keep taking them.” Continue reading →
Lakers’ Jordan Clarkson, left, tries to steal the ball from the Kings’ George Papagiannis during a preseason game at Honda Center on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. (Photo by Kyusung Gong, Orange County Register/SCNG)
The uproar all focused on the shot.
Lakers rookie forward Brandon Ingram pumped his fist after he unexpectedly banked in a 3-pointer. His teammates from the bench smiled and clapped as they saw the rookie bask in the moment following some early shooting struggles. And the Lakers’ fans at Staples Center cheered loudly after seeing Ingram’s potential as an outside shooter.
How that play unfolded in the Lakers’ 101-97 preseason loss to Denver on Friday at Staples Center did not garner nearly as much attention. Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson had just scored on a basket. He stole an inbounds pass. He then set up Ingram at the top of the key for the wide-open 3-pointer.
All of which perfectly captured how Clarkson has become the Lakers’ most efficient player thus far despite an unassuming role. He rarely calls much attention to himself. For at least the first two preseason games, Lakers coach Luke Walton also has featured Clarkson in a reserve role while starting veteran guard Lou Williams. That has not stopped Clarkson though from leading the Lakers with an average of 13.5 points through two exhibition games.
“It’s cool as long as I’m on the court. I want to impact the game and be aggressive on offense,” Clarkson said. “I’m going to score and get after it defensively. It’s the same thing for me.” Continue reading →
It has become ingrained in Brandon Ingram’s mind not to expect to spend his rookie season in the starting lineup immediately. But sometimes external circumstances will thrust him in that position and test his readiness.
The Lakers’ second preseason game might mark one of those moments. The Lakers (1-0) have listed veteran forward Luol Deng as doubtful for Friday’s exhibition against the Denver Nuggets (1-0) at Staples Center because of a bruised left knee. He collided with Lakers forward Anthony Brown during Thursday’s practice. Although the Lakers had not yet diagnosed him then, Leng admitted feeling pain in his left knee after practice before downplaying the severity of it.
Ingram showed a mix of good and bad in his preseason debut in the Lakers’ win against Sacramento on Tuesday at Honda Center. He only scored two points and missed all five of his shots in 27 minutes off the bench. But Ingram also added two rebounds, two blocks and one steal. Deng had eight points on a 3-of-7 clip in 16 minutes as a starter.
Subsequently, Deng’s possible absence could open up more playing time for Brown and Nick Young, who had a healthy scratch in the preseason opener.
The Lakers have not just spent their offseason making changes to their roster. They also made changes to their training staff and analytics department.
The Lakers officially announced the hirings of Jennifer Swanson (Head Physical Therapist), Stacey Robinson (Massage Therapist and Sean Light (Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach). The Lakers also hired Lorena Martin (Director of Sports Performance Analytics) and Jae Kim (Basketball Data Analyst). While Martin will report to assistant general manager Glenn Carraro, Kim will report to Director of Basketball Analytics Yuju Lee.
The Lakers also added Joshua Wright, who will serve as the Assistant to Lakers coach Luke Walton. Continue reading →