Archives For Laker News

We recently told you the Lakers had upped their training camp roster to 18 via the signing of 3 players. Well, their camp roster is now up to 20 after the additions of Metta World Peace and Thomas Robinson according to Shams Charania of  The Vertical.

Before we get to the merits of each player, I think the best way to look at both signings as a continuation of the major theme of the Summer. After Luke Walton was hired, almost every soundbite coming from him or his staff has been related back to two central themes — competition and culture.

Walton has openly discussed wanting to establish a culture where players wanted to come into the gym and work hard. He wants players to have fun, but he wants that fun to come out of competing every day and cultivating an environment where players can improve.

The Metta and Robinson signings are an extension of these ideas.

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With Lakers media day in exactly 10 days, training camp is right around the corner. The Lakers have had an eventful summer, swapping coaches, drafting a couple of players they have high hopes for, and adding new veterans to help on the court and in the locker room to help fill the leadership void created by Kobe Bryant’s retirement.

But training camp is not just the first step for the players who have secured a spot on the roster, it is also for fringe players to try and make their mark — not only on the Lakers, but to showcase their skill and work ethic in a way which might earn them a more permanent spot in the league should they not make LA’s roster. With that, the team has recently announced the signing of three players who are looking to take advantage of their time in the Lakers’ camp.

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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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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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The Lakers made the long discussed Yi Jianlian signing official today. From their press release:

“We’re excited to have a player of his worldwide accomplishments,” said Kupchak. “We look forward to bringing him to training camp and hopefully having him make an impact on our team.”

Yi, who hails from the Guangdong Province in China, recently concluded competing for his country at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, averaging 20.4 points (3rd overall in group play competition), 6.6 rebounds (6th), 1.4 steals (t-6th), and 1.0 blocks (t-6th) per game over his five contests while shooting 46.7% from three-point range.

We have discussed this pending signing plenty, but there was still the open question about how much Yi would earn this upcoming season. There had been reports that his contract would be for $8 million, but we now have more clarity on how, exactly, that number could be achieved. From Broderick Turner of the LA Times:

The contract for Yi is one year at the veteran’s minimum of $1.13 million that could reach as high as $8 million this season if he reaches several wide-ranging incentive bonuses in the deal.

Without getting into all the minutiae of contract language or the nuances of the collective bargaining agreement, it will be interesting to know exactly what types of bonuses exist in the deal. Bonuses pretty much fall into two categories: likely or unlikely. That said, bonuses which are considered “unlikely” cannot makeup too high a percentage of overall contract value in order for the deal to be legal by league standards.

So, again, I am interested in knowing what the bonuses are and how that translates to what Yi will actually make this next season. My guess is that by the end of the year he actually will not make the full $8 million.

That said, none of that really matters much to me. As we have discussed previously, Yi fills a role which is currently lacking on the team (stretch big man), but plays a position (PF/C) which already has a lot of players who the Lakers have invested in via draft picks or high salary. How Luke Walton balances minutes while maintaining buy-in is storyline I will be watching intently throughout the season.

The Lakers announced Friday they have added 4 coaches to Luke Walton’s staff. Three of the coaches are new hires while the 4th was an internal promotion from the defenders. The team also hired a video coordinator. From the team’s press release:

The Los Angeles Lakers announced today that the team has hired Jud Buechler, Brian Keefe, and Theo Robertson as player development coaches on Head Coach Luke Walton’s staff, joining associate head coach Brian Shaw and assistant coaches Jesse Mermuys and Mark Madsen. Additionally, it was announced that Casey Owens has been named assistant coach/advance professional scout and Will Scott has been named to the staff as video coordinator.

Owens takes on the most prominent role here, moving up from the head man on the D-Fenders to an assistant and advanced scout under Walton. Owens time with the D-Fenders can only be considered a great success, with his team appearing in the D-League Finals this past season. Owens is considered a smart offensive coach who relates well to players, offering encouragement and building their confidence in the process.

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