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 →
Lakers’ Brandon Ingram watches a free throw during a preseason game against the Kings at Honda Center on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. (Photo by Kyusung Gong, Orange County Register/SCNG)
LAS VEGAS — The hyped rookie will not start right away so he can transition more smoothly in handling a longer NBA schedule. His rail-thin frame does not concern too much, though the Lakers are intrigued how much physical pounding it can absorb. His outside shot has not fully emerged amid adjustments to the NBA 3-point line.
But at a time when NBA coaches can experiment with lineups like mad scientists, Brandon Ingram played at the power forward spot in the second half of the Lakers’ 116-104 preseason loss to the Sacramento Kings on Friday at T-Mobile Arena. He finished with seven points on 3-of-7 shooting and two rebounds in 28 minutes, leaving Lakers coach Luke Walton equally impressed with his play and realistic about his development.
“He’s still adjusting to the NBA game,” Walton said. “He made some nice passes from there. I loved how aggressive he was tonight. He knocked down some shots for us and got to the rim one time. But there’s different rules in the NBA.”
Walton noted how Ingram failed to close out well enough on Sacramento power forward Anthony Tolliver, who made all seven of his 3-point attempts. As Ingram played all 12 minutes in the fourth quarter at the power forward spot, the Lakers allowed a two-point deficit to widen to 12. But could these preseason growing pains amount to Ingram seeing some time at the power forward spot in the regular season?
“It depends who we’re going against,” Walton said. “If other teams are going small, absolutely. I wouldn’t want to put him at 4 against a traditional lineup quite yet. But against small teams, absolutely.”
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 →