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A few years ago there was a Nike Basketball campaign called “Basketball Never Stops”. It was during the NBA lockout, but was a clever way to tie in the extra work guys put in during the off-season.

This campaign always stuck with me because it really is true. From Summer Pro-Am’s like the Drew League to guys touring other countries to players running clinics and camps, the game just keeps going. No where is it really more evident than with the training guys put in. In order to become the best they can be, these guys really do work on their game year round, especially using the summer to hone their craft and add new dimensions to their repertoires.

One Lakers’ player who has been putting in that work is Jordan Clarkson. Described by many in the organization as possessing incredible work ethic and living in the gym, Clarkson has been working on his game this summer and, per this short clip, it looks like it’s paying off:

Of course, this isn’t the first we’ve seen of Clarkson looking like he’s ready to take another big step forward. During the summer league, Clarkson looked like he’d outgrown summer league, easily getting to his spots on the floor and flashing the level of finishing that earned him 1st-team all rookie honors:

Here’s to Clarkson carrying forward his play and extra work from the summer into the regular season. The sky really is the limit for him and he looks ready to show he can reach his potential.

Once you get past the draft, free agency, and summer league, the NBA summer becomes, well…barren. We get caught up discussing what the addition of a player in the 15th or 16th roster spot might mean, wondering what might happen with an undrafted free agent big man, or discussing how interesting the season might end up being. There’s value in these conversations, for sure, but on the larger scale of what happens in-season, these musings are just not as important.

This leads me to ESPN’s Summer Forecast. This is the exercise where ESPN crowd sources many (and I do mean many) of their various basketball experts and analysts on what record each NBA team will finish the season with. (Full disclosure: I am one of the people who was asked to participate. I did not this year, but have in the past.)

The exercise, while seemingly random, works under the theory of “The Wisdom of Crowds” where, in this case, the opinions of the many — especially when informed — can be aggregated to produce very accurate predictions on any given topic. And I do mean accurate. In seasons past, ESPN’s panels have out performed Las Vegas’ sportsbooks on win totals for each team. In other words, they have consistently beaten the people who rake in cash from the betting public.

So, here we are. ESPN’s basketball experts have predicted a record for the Lakers for this upcoming season. The results? A 26 win season, good for 14th out of 15 in the conference. Further, when taking this against the entire league, the Lakers would have the 4th worst record. Not good. Not good at all.

Does this doom the Lakers? Of course not. It’s the middle of August and the regular season will not start for another nine weeks (welp). Claiming anything about the upcoming season as concrete — especially something as fluid as wins and losses — this early would not be wise. There are always, always variables which could change the fortune of any team and, by domino effect, change the direction of other teams as well.

But, the forecast results do speak to a general sense of how the team is viewed. With a slew of young players, an aged (and oft-injured) Kobe, and a coach who is not held in the highest of regards, it’s not a surprise the projection is as low as it is. Whether the team can defy the projections and “shock the world” remains to be seen, but it will surely be something fans and, more than likely, the players themselves will speak on.

It’s not like there’s a bunch else to talk about. It is August, after all.

The Lakers have been active on the undrafted free agent market in recent days, signing Jonathan Holmes to a 2-year contract on Thursday and agreeing to a 2-year contract with Michael Frazier on Sunday. With this activity, a persisting question is when the Lakers would follow through on signing Robert Upshaw to the contract they reportedly agreed to after the team’s first summer league game.

Well, it looks like we have an answer and it’s not exactly the one I’m guessing a lot of fans were hoping for:

As Pincus notes, Upshaw remains a possibility and I wouldn’t be surprised if he still gets an invite to camp on a “make good” contract. Whether that contract would have any guarantees — even small ones like those which appeared in Holmes’ and Frazier’s contracts — is unknown.

Especially since, I’d imagine, the team is greatly balancing his history of off-court issues with the promise he exhibits on the floor. Unlike other UDFA’s the team might deal with this summer, Upshaw has both a higher probability of becoming a sunk cost just as he has a higher ceiling and potential to become a long term piece.

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We recently touched on where the Lakers’ roster stands with a little over a month left until training camp opens, but it seems like we could have waited an additional day since the Lakers have made another addition:

Reports are that Frazier has not yet signed his deal, but per the above report, the deal has been agreed to. My guess is that Frazier will sign a similar deal to the one Jonathan Holmes just inked — a two year deal with a small guarantee — with the intention of seeing if he can make the team by flashing some skill in training camp. (UpdateEric Pincus is reporting Frazier’s deal is a two-year contract with $50K guaranteed.)

As for Frazier’s measurables and game, he’s a 6’4″ shooting guard who went undrafted after leaving the University of Florida after his Junior season. He averaged 12.4 and 12.1 points per game his last two years in college with some very good shooting splits. Kevin O’Connor of SB Nation has a very good scouting report on Frazier that is worth your time, but here is a key passage:

At 6’4, Frazier has the passing skills of a combo guard, but shooting will always be his career ticket. He shot more than 43 percent from downtown in his three-year tenure with the Gators. Mechanically, Frazier features a compact release and can either hop or step into his shot attempts depending on the situation. In addition to having strong mechanics, Frazier possesses excellent instincts. He was one of the best in the class of 2015 at moving without the ball to find soft spots in the defense.

In summer league, Frazier did not have his best showing, shooting only 26.3% from the field while missing all of his three point field goal attempts (0-11). His lack of elite size for a shooting guard and his struggles from the field in Vegas likely contributed to a team not yet inking him to a contract, but considering the small sample and his body of work at UF, the Lakers are likely betting that his potential as a shooter and ability to develop his playmaking skills further warrants a better look.

Considering the Lakers’ lack of shooting and the need to always mine and hoard that skillset in the pros, this is a gamble worth taking if you’re the Lakers. If he doesn’t pan out, all the team is out is a small sum of guaranteed cash. If he can challenge Jabari Brown, though, and show enough as a floor spacing shooter who looks like he’s able to be another combo-type of guard who can handle the ball some while also playing off other playmakers who create good looks for him, this small investment could pay off.

Time will tell if Frazier ends up being camp fodder or something bigger. But the Lakers continue to add to their roster, looking for more pieces they can potentially develop.

With about another month to go before the Lakers open training camp, now is as good a time as any to take a quick review of where the team’s roster currently stands. With the recent signing of Jonathan Holmes, the Lakers have 15 players under contract:

Guards and Wings

  • D’Angelo Russell
  • Jordan Clarkson
  • Kobe Bryant
  • Lou Williams
  • Nick Young
  • Jabari Brown
  • Anthony Brown

Power Forwards

  • Julius Randle
  • Brandon Bass
  • Ryan Kelly
  • Larry Nance Jr.
  • Jonathan Holmes

Centers

  • Roy Hibbert
  • Tarik Black
  • Robert Sacre

Of the 15 players above, Tarik Black and Jabari Brown have non-guaranteed contracts for next year while Jonathan Holmes’ deal is only partially guaranteed. Per Eric Pincus, that partial amount is $100K on his two year minimum contract*.

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The best American born players gathered in the desert as Team USA held it’s annual summer mini-camp this week in Las Vegas. From LeBron James to Kevin Durant to Steph Curry, the game’s elite showed out to practice and throw their names in the hat as potential participants in next summer’s Olympics being held in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

One player who was not present, but still getting ink, was Kobe Bryant. Though Kobe has previously gone on record saying the 2012 games in London would be his last, Team USA chairman Jerry Colangelo left the door open for Kobe to compete in 2016. This led to a flurry of reports openly wondering if Kobe could, in fact, find his way onto the team.

Well, those reports will only intensify now that Colangelo has gone even further with comments detailing conversations with the Lakers’ star. From ESPN’s Dave McMenamin:

“I was quoted on Kobe,” Colangelo said after USA Basketball’s intrasquad scrimmage at the Thomas & Mack Center. “In response to a question about him, I said it would be a great story if he did [play in Rio].

“And so, he also mentioned to me in a private conversation that if he had his druthers, he would love to ride off into the sunset playing one more time and winning the gold medal. And that would be the end. But he was very quick to say, ‘But, I don’t want a spot. I need to earn the spot. I need to be capable of playing at that level to be considered.’ And I said, ‘You got that. That’s always there for you, Kobe.'”

If Kobe cannot go out on a winning Lakers’ team, the next best thing would be for him to represent his country one last time, playing alongside the game’s elite players, and earning a gold medal in the Olympics. Kobe already has two golds (from 2008 in Beijing and 2012 in London), but joining his teammates on that medal stand one more time as the national anthem played would still be an amazing accomplishment.

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What was reported last week has now become official: the Lakers have signed undrafted free agent Jonathan Holmes to a multi year deal. From the Lakers press release:

The Los Angeles Lakers have signed forward Jonathan Holmes to a multi-year contract, it was announced today by General Manager Mitch Kupchak. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not released.

In five games for the Celtics’ entry in the 2015 NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, Holmes averaged 12.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists, and 1.0 steals in 21.8 minutes per game, while shooting 55.6% from the field. The 6’9’’ Holmes also appeared in three games for Boston in the 2015 Utah Jazz Summer League, and in his eight games (seven starts) between the two competitions, shot a perfect 15-15 from the free throw line, and 13-28 (46.4%) from beyond-the-arc.

As we covered in our initial write up, Holmes is more of a tweener forward who would likely do his best work as a “stretch four” in the NBA. He has good size (6’9″) and decent length (6’11” wingspan) with a solid build. While at the University of Texas, he spent most of his junior year banging down low as a more traditional big man and then, as a senior, moved the perimeter by playing a lot of small forward.

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The NBA schedule was released on Wednesday and now every team knows the route they will travel on their marathon campaign. 82 games of ups and downs, wins and losses, and countless storylines will captivate us fans and players alike. We’ve already started this discussion with some of the games we are most/least looking forward to as well as some other general observations.

But, frankly, there is even more on our minds. With that, here are 10 more thoughts on the Lakers’ 2015-16 schedule…

1. I love that the Lakers open with the Timberwolves. It is by no means a glamorous match up pitting traditional rivals against each other, but there are a lot of match ups and intriguing stories worth discussing. On one end of the spectrum you have the #1 and #2 overall picks in Karl Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell facing off in their first regular season games. And, on the other end, you have Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant facing off on the opening night of their 21st and 20th seasons respectively. The rooks are the most recent high profile one-and-done prospects to grace the league while the veterans are the two players who ushered in the prep-to-pros era which graced us with some of the best players of a generation. Add in last year’s rookie of the year in Andrew Wiggins and the return of Julius Randle and there is no shortage of reasons why I’ll be excited about this game.

2. I love that the Lakers’ annual Grammy Road Trip is only going to be four games, but with it being so short they have to make up some of those road games somewhere. Enter a brutal December where only four of the team’s 17 games will be at Staples Center. Welp.

3. A few dates to circle on the calendar: February 19th, February 21st, March 10th, and April 3rd. In order, those may be the last times Kobe suits up in a game against Tim Duncan, Pau Gasol, LeBron James, and the Boston Celtics. There are other match ups worth mentioning, but I’d say those four opponents will carry extra weight.

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