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A week ago, it was D’Angelo Russell putting on a show against the Cavs and scoring a career high to carry the Lakers (though, it came in a losing effort). Friday against the Timberwolves it was his backcourt partner’s turn. Jordan Clarkson poured in a career high in points (35) and made three pointers (8), in a fantastic shooting performance which propelled his team to a win. Watching him knock down shot after shot really was a sight:

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It’s Shaq day, and for that I’m nostalgic and grateful. I remember the good times, the winning, the high stakes of April transitioning to May and then June. Shaq’s feats of strength were as if festivus were celebrated year round and for that alone he’ll hold a fond place in my heart. Wilt used to say no one rooted for Goliath, but I know I did for 8 years and did so with fervor.

It being Shaq day also reminds me of where the Lakers are today, a team at the bottom looking for the right pieces to take the long climb back to where they once were. The Lakers don’t have the “next” Shaq on their team right now, but that’s because there won’t be a “next” Shaq. This is something that might make some sad, but not me. It’s a reminder to cherish the special times. Not only because they’re not guaranteed, but because they come along so rarely and are so fleeting. It also reminds me that, in many ways, it’s luck to get a generational talent on the team you root for and that they’re called generational talents for a reason. If any top pick could be that guy, every team in the league would have championship banners in their rafters.

Anyways, I’m rambling now…

Back to tonight, the Lakers face a ‘Wolves team which is finding it’s way and is now, seemingly, on the path the Lakers want to get on sooner than later. Number one overall picks Wiggins and Towns are the right foundation to turn a team around and, with help from Rubio, Thibs, and others, are doing that now. It’s not enough to get to the postseason this year, but they are taking the right steps; doing the right things more consistently which lays the foundation for longterm success.

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I still remember watching the press conference and not really believing what I was seeing. There was Jerry West standing next to a 24 year old and in his prime Shaquille O’Neal, posing for pictures after announcing he had signed with the Lakers. The entire thing seemed surreal.

Before Kobe was Kobe, Shaq was the savior. The Lakers had recovered from the Magic Johnson HIV announcement 4 years prior to build a winning team. They saw their win totals rise from 33 to 43 to 53 the three previous seasons to his arrival and then West, in all his mastery, carved out cap space and opened up the starting C spot (by trading Vlade to the Hornets for the rights to Kobe) to make his run at Shaq. After finally getting the game’s best young big man to sign on the dotted line, West almost looked more relieved than happy. He knew the Lakers were really back.

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After a really fun game that saw the Lakers suffer a close loss while D’Angelo Russell scored a career high 40 points this past Sunday, the Lakers find themselves back at Staples Center tonight to face the Clippers. Luke Walton has already said Russell will remain in the starting lineup next to Clarkson, Ingram, Randle, and Zubac, so any intrigue around that decision is gone. Russell will likely be tasked with chasing JJ Redick around screens defensively while Clarkson tries to handle CP3, but that’s already getting into details which only slightly matter to me.

That’s because with only 12 games left, I’m worried less about the specifics of the Lakers’ opponents and more about the players’ and team’s performance in a vacuum and compared to their own ability. To say this another way, the process of what the players do individually and how they perform as a collective when on the floor.

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In our latest episode of the Laker Film Room Podcast, Pete and I discuss D’Angelo Russell’s wild week which started with him playing poorly, then moved to the bench, then culminated with his return to the first five and a career high 40 point night.

We also touched on Luke Walton’s schemes, Brandon Ingram’s good month of March, and more. Click through to listen to the entire discussion.

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D’Angelo Russell returned to the starting lineup in Sunday’s matchup vs. the Cavs and he brought an offensive explosion with him. Russell shot the lights out, scoring a career high 40 points while dueling with Kyrie Irving the entire night. It was quite the sight to watch Russell score almost at will and from all three levels of the floor:

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So, Friday’s loss against the Bucks was probably the exact game the coaches want from this team even if the final result wasn’t a W. The team played well enough to win, competed throughout, and when the game got physical the team didn’t fold and instead (literally) pushed back and stood up for each other. That skirmish may have led to Nick Young and D’Angelo Russell getting tossed, but afterwards coach Luke Walton spoke highly of his guys for sticking up for themselves and one another.

The hope is that type of effort and togetherness can be carried over through the rest of the season. Let’s face it, this team isn’t going to win many more games this year, but they need to start to find a way to play well together and build a chemistry which can carry into the off-season and then be the foundation for next year’s team. When Walton spoke after Saturday’s practice, he noted that one of key things his team needs to do more of is trust each other and play a style where they know they can depend on each other to do the right things. Walton said that’s how a team can get through adversity together and that it will be the foundation for positive growth from his team.

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Sometimes it’s just fun to revel in the potential of one of the young players. Russell’s ice in my veins shooting, Randle beasting and showing an ability to put together counters to pet plays, and, well, Brandon Ingram fully extending with a go-go-gadget dunk over Malcom Brogdon after driving by Giannis Antetokounmpo:

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