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According to a press release, the Lakers have waived three players from their training camp roster. Foward/Center Zach Auguste, Guard Julian Jacobs, and Foward Travis Wear were all released on Wednesday. The Lakers roster now stands at 17.

These three were always long-shots to make the roster, though Auguste had the best chance considering his solid, if unspectacular play, for the team at the Las Vegas Summer League. The emergence of Thomas Robinson, however, has rendered that play moot.

Auguste and Jacobs could become “affiliate” players for the D-Fenders team should they clear waivers and accept designation down to the D-League. Both could get some valuable seasoning in the minor league, playing for Coby Karl, and trying to earn a call-up throughout the season. I would imagine the Lakers would very much like it of both accepted that designation and were able to get more acclimated to the system the team wants to run.

As for the remaining roster spots, the Lakers will need to make two more cuts before the start of the season to get their count down to 15. Reading the tea leaves, the last three players on the roster are Robinson, Metta World Peace, and Yi Jian Lian.

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After playing a couple of teams who are not likely to be in the playoff mix this upcoming season, the Lakers’ face off against the Blazers in their 4th exhibition game. Portland, of course, was one of the surprise teams last year, turning the loss of LaMarcus Aldridge into a positive where a group of young players, all on the same timeline, found chemistry (and a run to the playoffs) through competition and hard work.

This year they hope to go even farther than their 2nd round run, continuing on the path they started down last year. They bring back almost the same exact team as they did last year, save for FA acquisitions Evan Turner and Festus Ezeli. The latter is out with an injured knee, but the former hopes to be an on ball creator and mid-range scorer who can complement Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum on the perimeter. Turner filled this role well for the Celtics last year, but it remains to be seen if he can do the same with two high usage players.

I say all this about the Blazers to make the point that the Lakers have their toughest match up of the preseason so far. Nothing against the Kings and Nuggets, but they (like the Lakers) are trying to get to where Portland has already been. And while the “it’s only preseason” caveats still apply, this game offers enough intrigue and several things I will be watching for:

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The Lakers are 2-1 this preseason and, had it not been for a makeshift lineup of fighting-to-make-the-roster players losing a 4th quarter lead, they would probably be 3-0. The record has caveats attached — it’s only preseason!, teams are not playing their starters heavy minutes, rotations are wonky — but after three years of heavy losing, you’ll have to forgive some fans for feeling good about the W’s.

Even with the team playing well to start the exhibition season, their approach hasn’t come without some raised eyebrows. Namely, fans are wondering about the team’s starting lineup and why Luke Walton has had Lou Williams in with the first five instead of Jordan Clarkson while also turning to Metta World Peace and Nick Young instead of Brandon Ingram while Luol Deng has sat out with a sore knee.

Walton’s turn towards veterans shouldn’t be that surprising and that’s before even hearing his reasoning. As much as we would like to view Luke as the anti-Byron Scott, things are never so simple. Yes, Walton comes off as more thoughtful when explaining things to the media. He also offers his players much more praise than his predecessor did. And, of course, his offensive philosophy is more modern and indicative of a forward thinking approach.

But, when it comes to certain coaching values, I would imagine Luke and Byron have some overlap. We have already heard some soundbites which suggest as much. So, Walton following up those quotes with ones about wanting “more experience/a veteran” presence in the starting lineup when discussing Lou over Clarkson or his turning to Metta/Young in favor of Ingram shouldn’t really be shocking.

Beyond the rhetoric, however, there’s also the nuts and bolts of building a rotation and constructing a lineup. And while, on the surface, starting Lou over Clarkson seems hard to posit when putting it into the context of how pieces fit, there are arguments to be made in support of the move.

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In my preview for Sunday’s Lakers vs. Nuggets preseason game, I wrote the following about what I was watching for with D’Angelo Russell:

Can Russell come close to duplicating Friday’s effectiveness? When Russell is on offensively, he is a terror. His feel for scoring is fantastic and his ability to get buckets at all three levels of the floor stands out compared to some of his PG peers. On Friday he had his entire game working and I would love for the same thing to be the case today.

Russell didn’t just come close to duplicating his previous game’s effort, he surpassed it.

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The Lakers’ preseason rolls on today with another match up against the Nuggets. The Lakers may have lost the last game against this team on Friday, but showed new tweaks on offense which allowed them to be in control for most of the contest. Defensively they also continued to look solid, though there were still breakdowns to work on.

Of course these types of growing pains are to be expected. The Lakers are relying on several young players while also integrating new veterans who will play meaningful roles. With a new coaching staff in place as well, all sides need to get familiar with each other and find ways to get on the same page. After this happens, the level of play will go up even if wins don’t always follow.

That said, I don’t want to undersell some of the real progress we have seen. As noted, the offense is taking a more modern approach and we are seeing the fruits of this improved focus. The team has also been drilling fundamentals on defense and, if watch closely, those things are showing up on tape and helping the team win possessions. Watch how D’Angelo Russell dips is inside shoulder when navigating on ball screens. Look at Jordan Clarkson’s hand placement when defending back door cuts. Look at how Larry Nance is passing off cutters and rotating early to stop dribble penetration.

These are small things, but small things help you win; small things are what good teams execute every possession because they have become second nature. The Lakers are not there yet, but seeing them starting to do them more often gives me hope that they will become habits which can be built upon.

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The Lakers may have lost to the Nuggets in their second game of the exhibition season on Friday, but in many ways they actually played better than they did in Tuesday’s win over the Kings. Odds are the Lakers actually win this game if they hadn’t played a lineup which featured a total of zero players who should see any sustained minutes in the regular season, if they make the team at all.

So there are many positive takeaways from Friday’s game despite taking the L. D’Angelo Russell bounced back. Julius Randle, while still a bit erratic in the halfcourt, showed the open court skills which make him such a tantalizing prospect. Jordan Clarkson was again a positive defensively while bringing his typical attack style on offense. Nance, Zubac, Black, Calderon, and Ingram also all had flashes. All in all, there were just a lot of good things to build on even though there is a lot of work to do to improve.

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The Lakers had what was almost the exact kind of win you want in their preseason opener against the Kings. They got the W on a strong second half performance which saw them pull away, but also had enough of a struggle in various parts of the game to provide multiple teaching moments and offer lots to improve on.

So, when the team takes the court on Friday night against the Nuggets, there will be plenty to look forward to in seeing what adjustments are made and whether some of the general sloppiness can be cleaned up — especially by the starting group.

Speaking of the starters, it remains to be seen who will actually be in that first five. Loul Deng is listed as doubtful with a bruised knee after running into Anthony Brown at practice. There is also the question of whether Lou Williams will be swapped out for Jordan Clarkson after the latter was moved the bench vs. the Kings.

If I were making the call, I’d probably start Ingram and Clarkson, getting the “young” group that Walton highlighted as wanting to see as reserve unit into the game right away. Then my first subs would be Nance and Black for Randle and Mozgov. Of course, we’ll see if that’s how Walton plays it, but with Deng out, why not see if the young guys can find an early flow like they did in Summer League.

Beyond the lineup and the general flow of the game, here are a handful of things I will be watching for:

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On Wednesday the Lakers announced several hires to their training and analytics staffs for the 2016-17 season. From their press release:

The Los Angeles Lakers announced today the hirings of Jennifer Swanson as Head Physical Therapist, Stacey Robinson as Massage Therapist, and Sean Light as Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach. The trio will report to Head Athletic Trainer Marco Nuñez, joining Assistant Athletic Trainer Nina Hsieh, Strength and Conditioning Coach Tim DiFrancesco, and Equipment Manager Carlos Maples on the training staff.

The team has also hired Lorena Martin as Director of Sports Performance Analytics, reporting to Assistant General Manager Glenn Carraro and Jae Kim as Basketball Data Analyst, who will report to Director of Basketball Analytics Yuju Lee.

Not all of these names are “new” as we have already discussed the hiring of Swanson (and her replacing the departing Judy Seto) at length. And while at least one of the other hires (Stacey Robinson) is also filling a position which existed last year, it would seem — at least based on last season’s media guide — the other positions are either brand new or were not made public previously.

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