Archives For Laker News

Yesterday I had a pretty pessimistic take on Kobe Bryant playing in Wednesday’s season opener. After it was revealed he’d again not practiced, opting instead to “get some shots up” and receive treatment there seemed to be too little progress made in the last 10 days for me to feel comfortable about him being available in three days.

Well, Sunday proved to be a big step forward for Kobe and, it seems, for him being available for the season’s first game.

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Before their final preseason game, the Lakers made minor waves (well, for some) by waiving undrafted big man Robert Upshaw in favor of keeping Tarik Black and Robert Sacre. Upshaw tantalized with his inherent talent and upside, but ultimately a combination of his checkered past and not showing as much as the coaches or front office would have liked during training camp and the preseason got him waived.

After he was cut, however, head coach Byron Scott mentioned the team was hopeful Upshaw would clear waivers and sign with the D-Fenders. Well, Scott’s hopes have come to fruition.

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After Jordan Clarkson left Thursday’s game with a shoulder injury, it was easy to think the worst. While he said he thought the injury was “minor” he also noted there was a sharp pain and intimated his shoulder had popped out. Further, his head coach was saying Clarkson might not play in the season opener which was, at the time, still nearly a week away.

Thankfully Clarkson’s MRI came back normal and he was said to be “day to day” with a “sore” shoulder. That first bit of good news settled everyone down, but today’s news is even better.

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Earlier I tried to project what the Lakers’ final 15 man roster would look like. That projection has already been proven wrong as the team announced its first two cuts:

The Los Angeles Lakers have waived guard Michael Frazier II and center Robert Upshaw, it was announced today by General Manager Mitch Kupchak.

Frazier II, an undrafted rookie from Florida, was originally signed by the Lakers on August 25. He appeared in four preseason games for Los Angeles, averaging 2.0 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 0.8 assists in 13.5 minutes per game.

Upshaw saw action in four of the Lakers’ seven preseason contests, averaging 2.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 0.75 blocks in 14.1 minutes per game. The undrafted rookie out of Washington was originally signed on September 14.

Cutting Frazier is not much a surprise, though I might have struggled with it. As I have noted, he has real two-way potential and has enough of a shooting stroke to project into a viable three point shooter with some seasoning. He’s clearly not there yet, though. Releasing him now reflects that. I’m guessing the team is hopeful he’s open to playing for the D-Fenders this upcoming season.

Cutting Upshaw will make more waves than Frazier, but in a way the situation is exactly the same. Upshaw’s potential is one of a rotation player who can impact the game on both ends of the floor. Because he projects to be that player, however, doesn’t mean he is right now. In fact, he’s not close yet.

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When Kobe Bryant left Tuesday’s loss against the Kings with a “lower left leg contusion”, Byron Scott noted he was not concerned and him not returning to the game was precautionary. Kobe proceeded to miss Thursday’s practice and, still, Byron was not concerned. Kobe did some light shooting on Friday, but really did not practice, is still sore, and there’s still swelling. Byron is not concerned, but with a game on Saturday, well, you know the drill.

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The Lakers’ hiring of Tracy Murray as their full-time shooting coach isn’t the only news they announced on Thursday. They also informed us they have exercised Julius Randle’s 3rd year option on his contract.

While this is important news, it is also wholly expected. The recent high lottery picks — remember, Randle went 7th in his draft — to not have their 3rd year options exercised are Hasheem Thabeet and Anthony Bennett. Those two not only severely under-performed their draft status, the fact that they went number 2 and 1 overall in their respective drafts meant they carried very high costs in comparison to other rookies in their class*.

Even though Randle has already missed an entire season due to a serious injury, he’s actually showing he can play. His summer league stats — 12.8 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 1.2 steals — reflect positive steps from the glimpses we got in the past two summer leagues and last year’s preseason. At the money he will be slated to earn next season (roughly $3.26 million), he is a bargain. Especially as the cap makes its first in what could be multiple huge jumps due to the new national TV deal.

Ultimately, then, this is good business. But it also reflects where Randle is seen as going in his career. As I discussed with Nate Duncan, I think Randle’s game — especially offensively — is exactly what teams will be looking for from their PF’s in the years to come. The Lakers, then, are simply taking the steps in order to ensure he stays in house.

*For comparison’s sake, Randle, as the #7 pick last year will make $3.13 million this season. D’Angelo Russell, as the #2 pick from this year, will make $5.1 million. Already, you see the difference between guys picked as high as Russell vs. those picked in the 2nd half of the lottery like Randle. 

Before training camp, the Lakers hired Tracy Murray as a “shooting consultant” — a temporary role for camp which had the chance of blossoming into a more permanent one. That day has arrived as the Lakers have named the former Bruin (and Laker) as their shooting coach for the upcoming season. From the press release:

In his position, Murray will work with head coach Byron Scott and his staff, focusing on improving the players shooting form and technique.

“I’ve known Tracy a long time, and he was one of the purest shooters I’ve ever seen,” said Scott. “I think he’ll be a benefit to our players, especially our young guys, and I look forward to working with him as a member of our staff.”

As I wrote when Murray was brought on in his consultant role, this type of hire is a good look for the Lakers. They have not always invested in these types of specialist coaches, but considering the revenue the team generates and the fact positions like these do not count against the cap in any way, it is good to see the organization leverage some of their resources to add to their player development team.

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D’Angelo Russell challenged a dunk attempt by the Jazz’s Rudy Gobert early in the Lakers’ second preseason game and hasn’t played since. Marcelo Huertas strained his hamstring before the Lakers even played a preseason game and has yet to see any game action. The good news is that both are nearing returns to the floor. The bad news is that it may not be in Sunday’s contest against Maccabi Haifa.

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