Lakers announce hirings to training staff, analytics department

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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.
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Lakers’ Tarik Black shows off his potential in preseason win over Kings

Lakers' Tarik Black, right, goes for a basket past the Kings' George Papagiannis during a preseason game at Honda Center on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. (Photo by Kyusung Gong, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Lakers’ Tarik Black, right, goes for a basket past the Kings’ George Papagiannis during a preseason game at Honda Center on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. (Photo by Kyusung Gong, Orange County Register/SCNG)

ANAHEIM — The big man threw down a dunk with thunderous force.

On the surface, the play could have just revealed Tarik Black’s bruising strength with his listed 6-foot-9, 250-pound frame. But symbolically it could have represented Black finally unleashing his power that often went unused in a previously frustrating season.

But instead of sitting on the bench, Black played a large part in securing the Lakers’ 103-84 victory over the Sacramento Kings in their preseason opener on Tuesday at Honda Center. Black represented a second unit that chipped away at a 13-point deficit in the second half. He posted 15 points on 5-of-5 shooting and five rebounds. And even if it’s necessary to consider the Kings mostly rested their starters, Black validated something he felt all along as he mostly sat on the bench last season.

“I’ve always had faith in myself and knew I could play, even when I did get opportunities last season, I did positive things,” Black said. “I just didn’t have the opportunities.”
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Lakers, Kings lock arms during national anthem in preseason opener

The Lakers and Kings locked arms during the national anthem before their preseason opener on Tuesday at Anaheim's Honda Center. Photo: Mark Medina/Southern California News Group

The Lakers and Kings locked arms during the national anthem before their preseason opener on Tuesday at Anaheim’s Honda Center. Photo: Mark Medina/Southern California News Group

ANAHEIM — The Lakers’ first sign of unity did not happen on a play. Instead, it happened when the players locked arms together during the national anthem before Tuesday’s exhibition.

With San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial justice issues, the Lakers wanted to express their own protest while remaining sympathetic to those that view the anthem as paying respect toward the military. The Kings made a similar gesture.

“We fully support our players in exercising their right of expression over an issue that is so important,” the Lakers announced in a statement. “We also applaud the NBA and the NBA Players Association for their collaborative work in expanding the dialogue and for their spirit of cooperation. Finally, we also look forward to furthering our participation on this issue through our Building Bridges with Basketball campaign and our Community Conversation events.”
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Lakers impressed with Yi Jianlian’s development

#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

#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

It has become nearly impossible for Yi Jianlian not to stand out. His 7-foot-0, 250-pound frame makes Yi noticeable in a crowd already filled with tall basketball players.

Yi has cast even more attention, though, for what he has done with the basketball. During closed portions of training camp practice and the tail-end sessions that the media has seen, Yi has made a large chunk of shots from 3-point range.

So much that Walton called Yi “probably our best 3-point shooter out of the bigs,” including starting center Timofey Mozgov and rookie center Ivica Zubac.

“He’s been shooting the heck out of the ball, which is obviously something we can use,” Walton said. “He’s a big man that can step behind the 3-point line and help space the ball. I’m a big believer in playing an open space style of game.”

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Lakers’ Luke Walton said he’s still determining starting lineup for preseason

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

Even if the result likely will not be documented in the history of the world, the game will mark the first step featuring a young roster that the Lakers hope will carry them back into NBA prosperity.

Who will represent that start when the Lakers host their first preseason game against the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday at Anaheim’s Honda Center? Lakers coach Luke Walton left that question unanswered.

“It’s open,” Walton said. “I have an idea of who the frontrunners are. But we haven’t sat down to make a final decision yet.”
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Luke Walton believes Lakers “will be a good defensive team”

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

SANTA BARBARA — The young coach has returned to a familiar place full of fresh ideas on how to exert his influence and establish a culture. For Luke Walton, those concepts go beyond mixing in work and fun to create a positive environment. It does not just involve incorporating offensive concepts, such as fluid ball movement, balanced spacing and an up-tempo pace.

For as much as Walton learned in his two years as a Golden State assistant, the biggest lesson will perhaps emerge as soon as the 2016-17 season begins. Then an expected reality will emerge that shows a stark contrast in the talent level between the Lakers’ young core and the Warriors’ championship roster.

So as much as Walton will emphasize the same offensive concepts that made the Warriors such an unstoppable force, he will mostly rely on something else that drove Golden State’s success. Walton spent most of the first week of training camp emphasizing defense. But while Golden State finished eighth in team defensively efficiency, the Lakers ranked nearly last in every defensive statistical category.

Walton sounded confident when he said, “I think we will be a good defensive team.” He listed the acquisition of 7-foot-1 rim protector Timofey Mozgov. Walton touted the team’s “defensive versatility,” ranging from 12-year veteran Luol Deng, third-year forward Julius Randle, second-year forward Larry Nance Jr., third-year forward Tarick Black and rookie swingman Brandon Ingram.

“That’s where we can make a lot of progress,” Walton said. “If we can get after it on defense, that will allow us to get out and run. That’s what we want to do.”

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Lakers’ Luke Walton has not leaned on coaching mentors during training camp yet

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

SANTA BARBARA — The simple phrase stayed in the back of Luke Walton’s mind anytime he experienced uncertainty on the sideline. It also became a running joke on what should become Walton’s coaching philosophy as he became the Golden State Warriors’ interim head coach while Steve Kerr recovered from back surgery.

“We used to joke, ‘What would Steve do?'” Walton recalled. “It’s his team and vision that we’re following. A lot of what we did in practice and what we were showing in film to the guys was based on that.”

Walton had enough of a grasp on what Kerr wanted by guiding the Warriors to a 39-4 record to open the 2015-16 season. It also helped that the Warriors boasted elite 3-point shooters (Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson), consistent defenders (Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green) and a dependable center (Andrew Bogut). A year later, Walton has inherited a Lakers team hopeful that its youthful promise can quickly separate themselves from finishing with the worst record in franchise history for two consecutive seasons.

So, Walton has spent the first week of training camp here at Robertson Gymnasium with “way more teaching than I would normally like.” Yet, Walton has not needed to ask Kerr what he would have done. Nor has he consulted other coaching mentors, including former Arizona coach Lute Olson and former Lakers coach Phil Jackson.

“So far in training camp, I haven’t needed advice on anything,” Walton said on Sunday after practice. “I’m sure there will be things that will happen throughout the season. I’ll definitely reach out to some of those people.”
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How much will Julius Randle rely on his jump shot this season?

Julius Randle at LA Lakers Media Day at their El Segundo training facility. Photos by Brad Graverson/SCNG/The Daily Breeze/09-26-16

Julius Randle at LA Lakers Media Day at their El Segundo training facility. Photos by Brad Graverson/SCNG/The Daily Breeze/09-26-16

SANTA BARBARA — The physically grueling practice made Julius Randle pause for a few seconds to gather his thoughts. It did not just involve the usual issues of an exhausting training camp.

He absorbed a hit to his mouth for two consecutive days without being rewarded with a foul call. On Friday, blood poured out of his mouth though he did not need stitches. On Saturday, at least no blood was drawn. Randle also no longer plays with tape on his ring and middle finger in his right hand after having stitches removed 11 days ago. But Randle has since jammed his right thumb.

That seems fine, though. None of that stopped Randle from imposing his power with his listed 6-foot-9, 250-pound frame. But something more uncertain has emerged: how much will Randle actually rely on his developed jumper in games?

“It’s good, but he hasn’t gotten a ton of reps on it” in practice, Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “Right now, we don’t want our bigs rolling on everything just to get them doing it. But it looks good before and after practice.”
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Brandon Ingram admits gradual weight gain done partly to minimize injuries

Brandon Ingram at LA Lakers Media Day at their El Segundo training facility. Photos by Brad Graverson/SCNG/The Daily Breeze/09-26-16

Brandon Ingram at LA Lakers Media Day at their El Segundo training facility. Photos by Brad Graverson/SCNG/The Daily Breeze/09-26-16

SANTA BARBARA – The injury sent a painful jolt to Philadelphia rookie forward Ben Simmons as he nursed a broken right foot. The Sixers also absorbed a psychological blow as they lost their No. 1 pick for an indefinite amount of time.

As much as Lakers rookie forward and No. 2 draft pick Brandon Ingram expressed condolences and support, the incident also partly explained why he and the Lakers have ensured he gains weight gradually. With Simmons reportedly adding 33 pounds since leaving LSU, personal trainer Tim Grover explained why such abrupt increases contributed to Simmons injury. As Grover tweeted, “Athletes can’t add that much weight that quickly w/out impacting movement.”

“I know it’s going to be a process,” Ingram said. “I’m not trying to add weight too fast. I know it’s going to come over the years as my body matures.”
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Marcelo Huertas impressing Lakers with steady presence

SANTA BARBARA — The personalities seem different between Luke Walton’s laid-back demeanor and Byron Scott’s stern approach. The blaring music symbolized Walton’s want to create a fun training camp atmosphere, while the trash cans placed around the court represented Scott’s belief in accountability for a poorly conditioned player.

Despite those stylistic differences, the current and the former Lakers coach can at least agree on one thing. Both Walton and Scott like backup point guard Marcelo Huertas. Scott often considered Huertas “the Catalyst” last season in the Lakers’ comeback efforts at least to avoid another loss in double-digit margins. Walton pinpointed Huertas as one of the standout players during an evening scrimmage this week.

And the praise all stems from the same thing.

“With Marcelo, it’s like we’re having another coach out there,” Walton said. “He’s constantly helping the other guys where he should be. He understands how to play basketball. He was getting guys wide open shots the entire practice. He was competing on defense. Mainly the way he was running the team’s offense in the scrimmage was very impressive.”

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