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As we relayed yesterday, the Lakers have hired former Bulls’ Director of Sports Performance Jen Swanson, adding her to the team’s Training Staff. As noted in that post, and reported by Kevin Ding, Swanson effectively replaces the departed Judy Seto who was the team’s lead physical therapist.

In the wake of that report, there have been questions about Judy Seto’s departure from the team since there was no formal announcement by the team about a change and, at the time the Swanson report, we had not heard anything from Seto stating she was retiring. That changed when Seto put out the following on Twitter:

Well, there you go.

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In an off-season of change to both the coaching and training staffs, the Lakers have added one more new addition. According to Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding, the team has hired the Bulls’ former director of sports performance to work on their own staff:

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You know the drill. We did this last year and the series lives on with updates for the 2016-17 Lakers’ roster. First up in our series is D’Angelo Russell and his spot up shooting. Enjoy.

We already told you D’Angelo Russell is on the verge of a breakout season. And while our focus was mostly on the team/coaches nurturing his confidence and, via a more consistent model of deployment, gained experience, we cannot possibly ignore how an adjustment of the X’s and O’s from the system Luke Walton will employ should help Russell’s game.

Last season the Lakers ranked last in FG% on catch and shoot shots (35.5%) and 2nd to last in points produced on catch and shoot shots (19.8). The Warriors, meanwhile, ranked first in both categories (42.8%, 33.7 points per game). The first reaction this should be, well, duh. The Warriors have the best shooters in the league. Steph and Klay are dominant catch and shoot players and have the eternal green light to fire at will.

But, it’s important to note that the Warriors’ offense was designed to create those types of shots. Golden State ran a lot of P&R’s and were an excellent passing team which also focused on attacking closeouts off the dribble to further produce open jumpers. Luke Walton, of course, is now the Lakers’ coach and he will try to bring some of that magic to his new team.

The Lakers will not get the system down pat right away, but them even trying to implement it means the players are going to benefit from more catch and shoot opportunities than they did last season. And there’s few Lakers’ who will benefit more from these chances than D’Angelo Russell.

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The buzz is already here. After a strong summer league, an invite to Team USA’s training camp as part of the Select Team, and social media clips of the work he’s been putting in, D’Angelo Russell is being properly recognized as a player on the rise. Buzz and actual NBA production, however, are not the same. Can Russell carry over a summer of proper work into real progress?

At The Ringer, Kevin O’Connor believes it will by proclaiming Russell is better than you think he is. O’Connor covers a lot of ground in his piece and the entire thing is worth your time, but this passage is the crux of his argument:

Russell played so well without Kobe that he could have been in the conversation for second-place Rookie of the Year votes if Bryant hadn’t played last season. His usage skyrocketed without Bryant, and while his scoring efficiency dipped slightly, his per-36 numbers improved drastically. He projects as the full-time starter alongside Jordan Clarkson under new Lakers head coach Luke Walton, so he could receive a similarly high usage rate. It’ll be a shock for Lakers fans to go from Scott’s Kobe-centric isolation offense to Walton’s free-flowing, motion-based system. But the stylistic change is tailor-made for Russell’s strengths as a versatile combo guard.

Yes. All of that. Redistributing Kobe’s touches across the roster while replacing Scott’s offense with one which caters more to Russell’s strengths and…voila, improvement. This is the basic formula, but beyond the schematic changes and adjustments in usage, I’m looking in an an even more simple direction: experience and confidence.

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In the months since he was named head coach of the Lakers, Luke Walton has done a good job of resetting expectations to appropriate levels. He’s spoken about his desires to build a winning culture, but has been careful to not equate that to actual wins. In fact, he’s done the opposite by stating — several times, actually — that this team should not be judged by wins and losses early on.

All of this has been very strategic on Walton and the front office’s parts. After years of selling the myth of the “ultimate goal being a championship” while constructing rosters not built to even make the playoffs, the Lakers have, seemingly, learned their lessons. They hired a young coach, targeted specific veterans at positions of need, and have put the young players front and center as key pieces who need development.

However, just because things seem new; just because Luke Walton is seen as the anti-Bryon Scott, it does not mean there is a complete departure from all ideas which existed under the previous regime. Take Walton’s recent quotes about the Lakers being “built around” the young players:

I don’t think we’re built around the young guys. Obviously they’re a huge part of what we’re doing and developing them, but we brought in some good vets that we feel are really going to help lead in Kobe’s absence. We’re going to be doing our best to develop these guys, but we’re going to be playing the guys who are helping us win and playing the right way and competing every night. We feel like we have some vets who have done that for a lot of years in this league. So we’re going to lean heavily on them as well.

Wait, there’s more. Here he is on whether Brandon Ingram will need to “earn his spot” in the rotation:

Absolutely. Everyone has to earn a spot. You come into camp and you compete against your other players, you respect your teammates, but whoever outplays the next guy in line, that’s who gets to start.

Now, let’s grab Doc Brown, hop in the Delorean, set the date for the summer of 2015, and ramp up the speed to 88 miles per hour. Now re-read the quotes above. Could you hear Byron Scott uttering the same words Walton did? I can.

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Nick Young is currently a member of the Lakers. And, if you listen to Young tell it, he would like to continue to be a Laker. This, on a lot of levels, makes sense. Young is from Los Angeles. He went to school at USC. After signing a one year deal with the team as a free agent back in 2013, he had one of his best statistical seasons under Mike D’Antoni and promptly signed on for 4 more years while making it pretty clear he loved playing for the franchise.

Of course, that first season was Young’s high-point with team. His play on the court has steadily declined and last year he also had a very private matter turn public in a way which jeopardized the locker room and his relationship with D’Angelo Russell. Regardless of how you view that situation or who you blame, its impact is still being felt. And, ultimately, that means it is likely time to move on.

Again, though, Young seems open to a return. He told Mark Medina of the LA Daily News that he “can’t be mad forever” and, as Medina explains, is ready to give it a go:

Young indirectly outlined reasons for the Lakers to consider giving him another chance. He reported devoting plenty of his offseason toward improving his strength and conditioning. After clashing the past two seasons with then-Lakers coach Byron Scott about his public criticisms and role, Young sounded thrilled about Luke Walton’s subsequent hiring.

“It’s a breath of fresh air for me,” Young said of Walton, who spent the past two seasons as a Golden State Warriors assistant. “Luke is a big-time coach and came from a championship team. I think I have the tools that we can use as a shooter.”

In a vacuum, that’s all fine. Of course, this situation doesn’t exist within a vacuum. Young has played poorly. There are circumstances which contributed to that, but when you tack on his fit within a locker room which is young and ready to move on without his (potentially negative) influence and, well, it’s clear which way the scales are tipping.

This moves us to how to extricate him from the team. It really comes down to two options: trade or waive.

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In a deal long ago reported as done, the Lakers have officially announced the re-signing of big man Tarik Black. From the team’s press release:

“Tarik is a player whose strengths are well-suited for the style of play we envision for our team going forward,” said Kupchak. “He plays the game with a mix of athleticism, energy, and physicality that make him a valuable frontcourt contributor in today’s NBA.”

In two seasons with the Lakers, Black has averaged 5.3 points and 5.2 rebounds in 16.9 per game while shooting 57.5% from the field over 77 games (27 starts). Awarded to the Lakers on a waiver claim on December 28, 2014, he also appeared in 25 games (12 starts) for the Houston Rockets to begin the 2014-15 season before being waived.

When this deal was initially announced, the crux of my analysis was as follows:

Lakers’ fans should be familiar enough with Black’s skill set, but if there are any questions as to why he’s such a good fit with this group, one only need to see how he attacks the rim as a roll man in the P&R and how hard he works defensively to protect the paint and to get after rebounds on both backboards. Black still has a ways to go in terms of developing the type of craftiness undersized big men like him need to be full time rotation players, but what he lacks in savvy he makes up for with a high motor and by always playing hard.

While Black is a strong fit for how the Lakers want to play, time will tell how much floor time he actually sees. As we know, the Lakers recently signed Yi Jianlian to a contract which could be worth up to $8 million. Yi, of course, joins Timofey Mozgov and rookie Ivica Zubac as other bigs who were added this summer. Combine those three with Julius Randle and Larry Nance, Jr. and the team has 6 players who will compete for playing time at the PF/C spots — and this doesn’t even include Luol Deng (or Brandon Ingram) who could be slotted at PF in small-ball lineups.

Regardless of this potential logjam, Black will get his chance to prove he deserves minutes. This was apparently promised to him as part of his agreement to return, not to mention Walton has a history with Black from when Walton served as an assistant coach during part of Black’s time at the University of Memphis. This doesn’t guarantee Black a role, but it should ensure he gets a fair shot at earning a rotation spot.

Ultimately, I do believe this type of competition will help this team in the long term even if, in the short term, it creates a challenge for the coaches when trying to manage roles and keep players happy while still maintaining buy-in. This is the balance which must be struck, though, and it is up to everyone — coaches and players alike — to continue to be flexible and ready to shift things around in order to maximize the play of the entire group.

Lastly, now that Black is on board, there is little left on the Lakers’ plate in terms of moves to be made. Black’s signing brings the team to 15 roster spots and while there will be additional signings for training camp, the likelihood any of those players make the team will be slim. Those odds could change if Nick Young is waived or traded, but until that actually happens (which I think it will), this is the team the Lakers are very likely to start the season with.

Brandon Ingram is the last 1st round pick from the 2016 NBA draft who has yet to sign his rookie contract. That, though, will change on Tuesday according to Shams Charania of The Vertical:

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