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Robert Upshaw recently signed a partially guaranteed two-year contract to join the Lakers for summer league. The odds of him fulfilling this contract by making the final roster are up to interpretation, but he has a steep climb ahead of him to beat out players the Lakers have invested more into than the undrafted free agent with the checkered past.

Upshaw, though, is seemingly looking forward to making the Lakers’ decision as difficult as possible. One way to accomplish that is by getting into the best shape possible after not looking to be in great condition for the team’s summer league team in Las Vegas. And it looks like he’s done just that.

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The start of Lakers’ raining camp is less than two weeks away. During the seven days or so the Lakers will spend in Hawaii, the players will start to get used to Byron Scott, each other, and begin the process of becoming the team which will begin the regular season one month later.

During the 29 days between camp starting and opening night against the T’Wolves, there will be training camp battles, philosophies to refine and install, and hard questions to begin to address. The most difficult of those questions, though, may just be who ends up being the final group of players on opening night. As we’ve discussed very often, the Lakers have some tough decisions to make regarding who makes the team and who gets cut. Training camp and preseason will influence those determinations, but so will other variables (contract status, off-court risks, etc).

But rather than wait for all this play out, why not try to determine who makes the final cut? With that, then, here are three (wat too early) roster projections for the opening night Lakers. (Note, I am only including players who have been signed to a contract as of September 16th. Sorry Metta.)

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Last month, Kobe Bryant started shooting for the first time since surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff prematurely ended his season. Last week, Mitch Kupchak updated us that Kobe was on track to be ready for the start of training camp.

Well, today, Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding is telling us Kobe is, in fact, all the way the back:

Bryant’s recovery from his latest devastating late-career injury, a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder, is complete—and he currently has no physical limitations as he gears up for what he expects will be his final NBA season.

Bryant has been medically cleared for all basketball activities, according to league sources.

Though, via the previous updates mentioned, this was totally expected it does not make the news any less important. Kobe’s health has been the major storyline over the past three seasons and to finally have him back healthy is a plus for a team looking to make more noise than anyone really thinks they can.

Any success this team has will be, in a major way, still influenced by how well #24 can play and lead a team that has been constructed, at least partially, around him and what he can still provide. Add to the equation this potentially being his final season and the combination of hope with nostalgia brew a potent cocktail Lakers’ fans are ready to throw down.

The questions about what Kobe will be able to provide and whether he can remain healthy will always be present this season, but, at least for now, he’s back and ready to go. Camp can’t get here soon enough.

Welcome to a new series at FB&G where we will take one player on the Lakers’ roster and discuss one specific skill they possess. Sometimes it will be something very subtle, others it will be more straight forward. We’ll try to shed some light on how this skill can help the team in the coming season. Our previous entries can be found here. Today we look at Kobe Bryant and his ability to draw fouls. 

Kobe Bryant is one of the most skilled players to ever play in the NBA. Whether we’re talking about his passing, his footwork, his midrange shooting, or his positional rebounding it is difficult to isolate one single aspect of his game to focus on which helps him or the team be successful.

As he has aged and injuries have affected his physical ability, however, his general skill level has become ever more important. No longer able to simply blow by his man off the dribble, his footwork out of the triple-threat or the post is even more important. Without an ability to just out-jump his defender, his array of feints and fakes to get his man off-balance and create separation for his jumper is more valuable.

These tricks of the trade make up a larger proportion of his success on the floor, allowing him to still impact a game without being able to physically overwhelm the opposition. One place these tricks show up most often now, though, isn’t to shake himself free for a move, but to draw his man in closer in order to create contact and draw fouls.

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Bring up the name Steve Nash to Lakers’ fans and prepare to get some blowback about draft picks, injuries, and, essentially, a bunch of regret. But, while Nash’s time on the court couldn’t have been more difficult, his time off it did lend itself to some Lakers’ success, especially when he started to work out with Jordan Clarkson.

Well, it seems Nash is taking these skills north to the new darling of the Pacific Division:

I’ve no clue whether such a role was ever discussed between the Lakers and Nash. Considering Nash is based in Los Angeles and, as noted above, had a history of providing tutoring to Clarkson, I would hope it would have. When you consider the Lakers also just drafted D’Angelo Russell who, after summer league ended, said he would like to work out with Nash…well, let’s just say this announcement that Nash will likely work with the Warriors is disappointing.

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Welcome to a new series at FB&G where we will take one player on the Lakers’ roster and discuss one specific skill they possess. Sometimes it will be something very subtle, others it will be more straight forward. We’ll try to shed some light on how this skill can help the team in the coming season. Our previous entries can be found here. Today, we take a look at Robert Sacre’s defensive positioning. Yes, you read that right. 

There are a lot of things Robert Sacre isn’t. He is not particularly athletic. While possessing good height, bulk, and strength, he does not possess great length. His offensive skill level is okay, but he is not a plus shooter, passer, nor dribbler. His athletic limitations mean he’s not the best rebounder or shot blocker — especially for a player his size. Combine all of these facts and Robert Sacre is what he is: an end of the bench big who, in spot minutes, can provide adequate play for short stretches.

I like Robert Sacre as a player, however. He works hard. He’s good in the locker room. He celebrates his teammates’ success from the bench. He is the classic good teammate who can play a small role on any type of team in the league simply because the above things are true. Where he’s gotten in trouble is that he’s been asked to play a larger role than he’s capable of, but that’s another post for another day.

Today, however, we look at one of the key things he does well and, why, I’m guessing, his coaches have found a reason to put him on the floor as much as they have. As a back line defender, Sacre seems to be in the right place more often than not.  For all the things I listed above which do not work in his favor, what Sacre does possess are good feet for a man his size. He slides well when coming up as the hedge man in the P&R. He’s able to identify his help responsibilities early in a possession and move to his spot accordingly. He will not be many players in a sprint, but his short area quickness is good enough for him to effectively patrol the paint as a viable last line of defense.

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Lakers’ training camp opens in 15 days and, with Monday’s signing of Robert Upshaw to a two-year contract, there’s no better time than now to provide an update on the team’s roster. As it stands the Lakers now have 18 players under contract:

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Robert Upshaw told us he was going to go to Lakers’ training camp and it looks like he was right. Today the team officially announced his signing via press release:

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

The still unknown terms of the contract are important, but likely not a huge difference maker here. My assumption is that Upshaw’s deal is either fully non-guaranteed like Marcelo Huertas’ or has only small, partial guarantees like those given to Jonathan Holmes and Michael Frazier. In either case, Upshaw will have to prove his worth in training camp to crack the final 15 and earn a roster spot. (UPDATE: Baxter Holmes of ESPN is reporting Upshaw’s deal has a partial guarantee in the 1st year and is fully non-guaranteed in the 2nd year. While not outright stated, I am assuming his contract is for the minimum both years.)

(UPDATE II: Eric Pincus of the LA Times is reporting that $35K of Upshaw’s first year salary is guaranteed. The 2nd year, as Holmes also reported, is non-guaranteed. The totals for the contract are (roughly) $525K in year one and $875K in year 2.)

The fact that we’ve gotten to this point, though, should not be ignored. Yes, Upshaw said he’d be joining camp (while adding he thinks he’ll make the team), but the rhetoric coming out of the Lakers’ front office did not make any such assurances. Those statements were likely just the carrot the team was hanging out in front of the big man as motivation to do what was needed of him, but the chance he wouldn’t was always there.

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