Summer League Games 1 & 2

Kurt —  July 10, 2005

Two games. Two sellouts.

I’ve plenty of notes on players but that above stat is the thing that most jumped out at me after two days — the combination of Phil and Andrew Bynum has created a buzz around this team that was missing the second half of last season. There’s not going to be a Laker championship in the next couple of years, but there’s unbelievable interest in Dr. Buss’ team again and that itself is a good sign. I’ve been to plenty of Summer League games and it was never a problem to get tickets before. People have had to be turned away at the gates the last two days.

The Laker brain trust has been to the Pyramid already to watch their players — Phil, Mitch, Dr. Buss, Jim Buss, Tex Winter, Rambis (coaching), Shaw (assistant coach). (By the way, funniest thing of the two days was Saturday, when the Summer Pro League inducted James Worthy into their mythical Hall of Fame. Mitch K. was out at mid court to give him the plaque and when Mitch was introduced there was an even mix of boos and cheers, but Mitch was a pro and had no reaction. On the other hand, Dr. Buss was cracking up.)

I’ve tried to bullet point this by players, but there are some general thoughts that need to be brought up as well.

• First, it needs to be noted that this team is struggling in the triangle. The flow is lacking and it is breaking down all the time (with some players doing more playing outside the system than others — yes, I’m looking at you Von Wafer). This is especially hurting the big men, who are not always getting the ball in a good scoring position.

• The first night, fans were there to cheer Andrew Bynum, he got applause for a dunk during pre-game lay-up drills. But, by the end of the second game, it was Ronny Turiaf who has become the big crowd favorite. His energy and obvious love of the game is infectious.

• Bynum is raw. Intellectually we all knew that, but in person it is much more in-your-face — he shows flashes but, at least to me, it’s tough to see how much potential is under there. But there is potential there — he has 26 points and 11 rebounds through the two games. There are flashes of power and good decision making. The first game he seemed to struggle with the tempo of the NBA game (even at the Summer League level), that was slightly better in the second game. He seems to be thinking more than just playing (“Where do I need to be?” “Am I supposed to rotate out to cover that guy?”). Also, his conditioning needs work, he tired in both games considerably. He also needs to bulk up — he could not hold position on the offensive low block or push players out of the block on defense, in fact smaller players pushed him around. Against Dallas (second game) he ended up guarding former Kansas standout Eric Chenowith (who has been in the NDBL recently) and the experience factor showed — Chenowith easily handled Bynum, scoring inside and out. Bynum did have two blocks in the first game. I should say Bynum looks slimmer than clips I’ve seen of him in the past, my guess is he’s been working on conditioning and now he has to work on putting on muscle. Combine his lack of strength and bad passing from the guards and he had the problem of getting the ball well outside his comfort range — when he did get it in close he got off some good shots. He is long, very long, but at times still seems awkward in his body. He is already strong and when he grows into it he could be a beast. But it’s too early to know much.

• Turiaf hustles as advertised and that with his personality have made him a crowd favorite. He’s showing the reason’s I’m glad the Lakers picked him — but his game has big holes. He shows that four years of college polish that Bynum does not, Turiaf sets good picks and does a good job in getting in rebounding position, plus boxing out. He has one style with the ball — power moves to the basket from the low block. That leads to a lot of fouls (he shot 18 free throws in the two games), at least in the summer league, let’s see about the bigger NBA bodies. He has no outside shot and needs desperately to develop a jumper out to 15 feet to compliment his inside game. His defense is average and he has just one block in more than 50 minutes of play — this needs to improve. While he is big, he still needs to add 10 to 15 pounds to his frame to deal with the stronger NBA players. I think the upside for Turiaf could be a Rambis-like role.

• Everything I knew about Von Wafer I got from the Internet, and it didn’t do him justice — he is much more athletic, smooth and tenacious in person than I had expected. He is very quick and his shot is fluid, the problem is it doesn’t go in enough. He was just 4 of 12 in the first game and through two games is shooting 44.4% (eFG%), which says NDBL not NBA for the Lakers right now. I will give him this, he may have had the two best dunks for the Lakers so far, going right at guys five to seven inches taller. He plays fearlessly. He also seems to still be adjusting to the speed of the players and the game at this level, for every two smart moves he makes there is mistake. In both games he started drives that had no hole and left him stuck behind the basket or some other spot (this improved some in the second game).

• Sasha Vujacic may be a better back up two than point, and they may be grooming him for that role. The times he looked best was when he was used in a Ray Allen style — he would pop out off a screen, get the ball, turn and shoot. When he did that he was 3 of 4 by my count on Saturday, but when he tried to create he was 1 of 4. Much of the time he was in the game Saturday other people played the one and he played the two. The good news is his passing skills are still there, he made some sharp passes. The bad news is his defense is still questionable — he picked up a lot of fouls rather than stops and he was late on several rotations.

• Marcus Douthit, the Lakers second round pick last year, still is not ready. He looks bigger than last year, but he still got pushed around some inside. It’s only been two games, but he is averaging just 8 rebounds per 40 minutes, not great numbers for the SPL (if you’re looking to make an NBA roster as a rebounder). Defensively he had trouble stopping much of anyone in the lane either night.

• Will Conrony, a free agent out of Washington, knows how to run a team and plays pretty good man-to-man defense. The downside is he is limited offensively — not great at creating his own shot on the drive at this level and his outside shot is inconsistent (1 of 6 in the two games, 0 of 2 from three point range). He does have good passing skills.

• Smush Parker might be an NDBL guy, if not for the Lakers than someone. He has skills and can shoot the ball (he is 12 of 17, 2 of 5 from three point range). He also seems uncomfortable playing within the triangle, although he did make some good passes. He might be a great insurance policy to be called up in case of emergency.

• Devon Green gets his points quietly — he has 23 points and 14 rebounds in the two games, but never did anything that stood out athletically. He just seems to keep being in the right place and converting. I’ll be watching him more closely in upcoming games to get a better idea of what he is doing right.

• Tony Bobbitt went 0 for 8 in the first game and was generally unimpressive — in the second game he only played the last 3:36. It looks like he is on his way out the door.

• I have some notes on players from other teams (Charlie Villenueva among them) but I’ll save them for another post.

Kurt

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