Luke Walton, Magic Johnson meeting not yet finalized

Lakers legend Magic Johnson plans to meet with Lakers coach Luke Walton soon. (AP Photo/Rich Schultz)

The circumstances have not allowed a certain development to happen as fast as Magic Johnson ran the fast break.

Though the Lakers named Magic Johnson last week as an advisor for both the team’s business and basketball operations, Lakers coach Luke Walton has yet to meet with him about his role for a few practical reasons. The Lakers had completed a five-game trip last week. The Lakers (19-37) have games this week against Sacramento (23-32) on Tuesday and on Wednesday in Phoenix before the team takes off during NBA All-Star weekend in New Orleans.

“When I get some free time, I would love and looking forward toward sitting down with Magic,” Walton said. “It’s going to happen. There’s just no time right now.”
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Magic Johnson estimates it will take “three to five years” for Lakers to rebuild

The Lakers’ legend self-admittedly lacked patience as he saw his beloved franchise shuffle through coaching changes and unproven rosters amid debilitating losses.

With Magic Johnson holding an advisory role for the Lakers in the past week, however, he predicted that more growing pains await.

“It’s going to take three to five years to get them back rolling again,” Johnson said in an interview on CBS This Morning that aired on Monday morning. “If we’re patient and we develop our own players, in today’s NBA it’s different than when I played. you have to develop your own players because free agent movement is not like it used to be. You have to make sure you hit a home run with the players you do draft and keep the players you have on your roster.”
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Lakers’ Luol Deng critiques President Trump’s executive order on refugees

Lakers forward Luol Deng critiqued President Trump's refugee ban from seven predominately Muslim countries. Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News (SCNG)

Lakers forward Luol Deng critiqued President Trump’s refugee ban from seven predominately Muslim countries. Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News (SCNG)

Though he has remained open for most of his NBA career surrounding his journey as a South Sudanese refugee, Lakers forward Luol Deng initially stayed silent on U.S. President Donald Trump issuing a temporary ban. That order began last weekend on non-American citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries, with Trump citing security concerns related to terrorism. But after further studying the issue, Deng critiqued the new policy in a Twitter post released on Monday afternoon.

“It’s important that we remember to humanize the experience of others,” Deng wrote on Twitter. “Refugees overcome the immeasurable odds, relocate across the globe, and work hard to make the best of their newfound home. Refugees are productive members of society that want for their family just as you want for yours. I stand by all refugees and migrants, of all religions, just as I stand by the policies that have historically welcomed them.”

Though the temporary ban includes those from Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, Deng is not expected to be affected for a few reasons. Deng was born in Wau, Sudan, which became part of an independent South Sudan in 2011. In addition to having dual citizenship with South Sudan and Great Britain, Deng also has a green card issued in the United States. The Lakers made their lone visit out of the country this season early December in Toronto.
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Lakers’ Luke Walton plans to start Ivica Zubac, but when?

vica Zubac of the Lakers, right, is guarded by JaVale McGee of the Golden State Warriors during their preseason game at T-Mobile Arena on Oct. 15, 2016. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

vica Zubac of the Lakers, right, is guarded by JaVale McGee of the Golden State Warriors during their preseason game at T-Mobile Arena on Oct. 15, 2016. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

EL SEGUNDO — The future flashed before the Lakers’ eyes as their young roster performed simple pick-and-roll drills.

Point guard D’Angelo Russell handled the ball, while giving the Lakers more confidence both with his health and ability to fit back seamlessly into the lineup. Center Ivica Zubac set screens, rolled and finished so gracefully that Russell remarked that his presence “makes it easy.”

“When he gets his opportunity,” Russell said, “it’s going to be special.”

How soon will those images during Sunday’s practice translate into actual games? Although Russell technically is listed as questionable after missing the past three games with a right knee and calf injury, he is expected to return when the Lakers (16-34) host the Denver Nuggets (21-25) on Tuesday at Staples Center. Although Zubac has made his way into the rotation in the past month, veteran center Timofey Mozgov will start once again.

“That’s definitely a possibility that at some point he starts,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said of Zubac. “Same with a lot of our young guys. The further we get of actually having a chance to make the playoffs, the more you have to start put some thought and focus on developing the young guys even more. Right now it’s obviously a huge part of what this season is about. As it goes, there’s a chance you’ll see the minutes from those young guys go up even more.”
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Lakers’ D’Angelo Russell nearing likely return vs. Denver

Lakers guard D'Angelo Russell expects to return on Tuesday against the Denver Nuggets. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell expects to return on Tuesday against the Denver Nuggets. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

EL SEGUNDO — Even with the time away from basketball, D’Angelo Russell spent Sunday in his first practice in over a week showing his lack of limitations.

Despite missing the past three games with a mild MCL sprain in his right knee and a strained right calf, the Lakers’ second-year point guard completed all of Sunday’s practice without any restrictions. He reported that he felt “good” and did not feel any rustiness. Most of the shots during the end of the practice went into the basket. Even if the Lakers (16-34) technically have listed Russell as questionable for Tuesday’s game against the Denver Nuggets (21-25) at Staples Center, both Russell and Lakers coach Luke Walton sounded optimistic he will play.

All of which prompted Walton to offer a playful dig to Russell.

“You’re moving so well I’m surprised that you couldn’t play 3-on-3 yesterday,” Walton told Russell.

The Lakers technically had the day off on Saturday, though plenty of players reported to the team’s practice facility for informal work. Since Russell felt his knee hurt too much to play in 3-on-3 drills, he spent Saturday working out in the weight room and completing sprinting drills.

Still, Russell does not expect to experience rustiness as he did when he had missed 13 games earlier this season after having a non-invasive procedure on his previously sore left knee.

“This one wasn’t that serious,” Russell said. “Last injury, I would say it was a little more serious. So I had to take a little more time off.”
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Bill Walton passionate about partnerships with K2 Insurance Services, Challenged Athletes Foundation

Bill Walton was on hand to watch the Lakers season opener at Staples Center Wednesday, October 26, 2016. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Bill Walton was on hand to watch the Lakers season opener at Staples Center Wednesday, October 26, 2016. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

There marked a time when Bill Walton’s infectious enthusiasm waned.

The Hall-of-Fame center could not continue his broadcasting career. He could not fulfill his favorite past time by riding on his bike. He could not walk, let alone move.

His spine collapsed on him, and so did his zest for life. So much that Walton had contemplated suicide. But after experiencing a dark moment nearly nine years ago as he remained on the floor of his San Diego home, Walton eventually received a surgery that added another meaning toward his endless fandom of “The Grateful Dead.”

With the 64-year-old Walton estimating his spent nearly half of his life in a hospital through 37 different orthopedic operations, he finally could start moving again. He has since uttered words he hardly envisioned he would say nearly nine years later.

“I’m feeling fantastic,” Walton said in a recent interview with Southern California News Group. “I’m just getting started in life.”
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Luke Walton undecided about starting Brandon Ingram vs. Portland

It's unclear if Brandon Ingram will start at point guard on Wednesday in Portland. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

It’s unclear if Brandon Ingram will start at point guard on Wednesday in Portland. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Through the good and the bad, Luke Walton has become inclined to allow rookie forward Brandon Ingram to play through his mistakes.

Generally speaking, Walton believes that approach will allow Ingram to accelerate his development. Walton also has wanted to reward Ingram with playing time for his steady progression and consistent effort.

But after Ingram appeared overwhelmed as the Lakers’ starting point guard in the team’s loss to Dallas on Sunday in what became the most lopsided defeat in franchise history, Walton sounded uncertain if Ingram would receive that nod when the Lakers (16-32) visit the Portland Trail Blazers (19-27) on Wednesday at Moda Center. Ingram had six points on 2-of-12 shooting in 36 minutes against Dallas, a sharp contrast to the 15-point performances he posted last week in consecutive games against Detroit and Indiana.

“It still felt a little off,” Walton said. “So we might make some changes to the lineup again.”

Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell will travel with the team for its back-to-back in Portland (Wednesday) and Utah (Thursday) to continue his rehab on mild MCL sprain in his right knee and strained right calf. That leaves Walton possibly leaning on 35-year-old veteran reserve Jose Calderon, who has averaged 3.8 points on 45.1 percent shooting and 2.2 assists in 12.3 minutes through 21 appearances.

“Jose is a natural point guard,” Walton said. “He gets you into offenses and he’s been doing it for 20 years now. He’s obviously a space shooter and guys have to respect him. That creates some more opportunities for other players. So it’s more of a traditional point guard.”

That would put Ingram back at the small forward spot. But it doe not appear likely he would start there. Though Lakers veteran forward Luol Deng left practice early on Tuesday after colliding with Tarik Black, the Lakers expect Deng to play. Deng, who has nursed a sprained right wrist in recent days, has not missed a start unrelated to injuries despite averaging 8.2 points on 39.6 percent shooting.

RELATED:

Lakers podcast: Is D’Angelo Russell making enough progress?

Lakers’ issues in 122-73 loss to Dallas go beyond D’Angelo Russell’s absence

Lakers lacking definitive leader on young roster

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mmedina@scng.com. Subscribe to the “We Want Tacos” Lakers podcast on iTunes.

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Lakers’ Luke Walton leaning against shortening minutes for bench

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton on the sidelines in the first half. The Clippers defeated the Lakers 113-97 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA 1/14/2017. Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News (SCNG)

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton on the sidelines in the first half. The Clippers defeated the Lakers 113-97 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA 1/14/2017. Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News (SCNG)

EL SEGUNDO — As he has managed his resources all year, Lakers coach Luke Walton has tried to stick to a simple criteria.

His minute allocation will depend on who’s playing well. So he will ride out the hot hand until the flame burns out. He will sit the cold one in hopes it will warm up soon.

Sure, he might grant more playing time to his young players both to develop them and allow them to play through their mistakes. Yet, he has clung to his belief not to reward any player with minutes if they are not giving the effort needed.

Based off of that criteria, the Lakers (15-31) enter Friday’s game against the Indiana Pacers (22-19) at Staples Center with Walton unlikely to alter his bench rotation just so his starters can have more playing time.

“It’s probably not going to change because our bench has been so good for us all year,” Walton said. “We’re not going to shorten the bench’s minutes to get the starters get back in sooner. The bench most nights is posting big numbers for us.”

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Lakers’ Larry Nance Jr. ruled out for Friday’s game vs. Indiana

Despite completing the last two practices, Larry Nance Jr. won't play in Friday's game against the Indiana Pacers. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Despite completing the last two practices, Larry Nance Jr. won’t play in Friday’s game against the Indiana Pacers. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

EL SEGUNDO — Any movement Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr. made on the practice floor represented significant progress. After all, Nance has sat out for the past four weeks nursing a bone bruise in his left knee, meaning he could no longer leap for dunks and rebounds as he normally has done.

But despite completing practices on Wednesday and Thursday without any reported setbacks, Nance will not play when the Lakers (15-31) host the Indiana Pacers (22-19) on Friday at Staples Center. The Lakers plan to reevaluate Nance’s knee on Friday evening and provide an update on Saturday for his availability for Sunday’s game in Dallas.

“That’s definitely a medical call. It’s their job to clear me,” Nance said. “Apparently, I have a few more tests to pass and everything. But I’m just looking forward toward getting back, whenever that is. I hope they let me play four weeks ago. If it was up to me, I wouldn’t have missed anytime. I’m just happy to be nearing getting back out on the court.”

In the past week, Nance has progressed steadily from 1-on-1 and 2-on-2 court exercises. Nance completed most of Wednesday’s practice before the Lakers’ training staff kept him out of more physical drills at the end of the session. Nance went through all of Thursday’s practice without any restrictions.

That prompted Lakers coach Luke Walton to say Nance “looked good” before proclaiming him as questionable for Friday’s game. Shortly afterwards, the Lakers’ training staff Nance him out.

“The way I saw he played today, it looked like he could play,” Walton said. “But that’s not a medical opinion. That’s just me watching him play basketball.”

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Lakers’ Ivica Zubac showing preparation paying off

LOS ANGELES — The M-V-P chants usually became reserved for a certain Lakers closer that remained reliable for nearly 20 years to make shots when it mattered most.

With Kobe Bryant no longer under the limelight, Lakers fans channeled those cheers recently toward starting center Timofey Mozgov. Despite his four-year, $64 million price tag, Mozgov has become more valued for his solid offensive and defensive contributions than any hope he would become the face of the Lakers’ franchise. Hence, those fans seemingly anointed Mozgov as the Lakers’ MVP more out of jest.

But during the waning moments of the Lakers’ 127-121 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday at Staples Center, another more likely candidate to carry the Lakers in the future emerged. Lakers rookie center Ivica Zubac heard those M-V-P chants as he stepped to the foul line in the waning minutes of Tuesday’s loss to Denver at Staples Center. This time, the fans sounded serious.

“People just having fun,” Zubac said with a smirk. “Way too soon.”

Yet, it is not way too soon to say that Zubac has provided more signs that validate why the Lakers selected the Croatian center with their 32nd draft pick last summer.

Against the Nuggets, Zubac posted career-highs across the board in points (11), field goals made and attempted (5-of-11), rebounds (13), blocks (3) and minutes played (26). At 19 years and 305 days old, Zubac also became the third-youngest Laker behind Andrew Bynum and D’Angelo Russell to record a double-double.

“He was really good, but I’m not going to say he turned a corner,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “I’m just going to say he was really good.”

Still, that did not stop plenty of others from basking in the excitement.
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