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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Earlier in the week it was D’Angelo Russell’s foot which limited him in practice. We have also recently learned that Metta World Peace has been dealing with a calf issue which kept him out of a couple of practices too. Now, for Saturday’s session, it’s two rookies who are banged up and sitting out:
Injury update: Marcelo Huertas has a right hamstring strain. Larry Nance, Jr. has a back spasms. Neither are practicing.
— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) October 3, 2015
I told you earlier that Media Day, with its assortment of rehashed quotes, wasn’t really a place where we would learn anything new about the team, but it seems I have spoken to soon. At the start of today’s session, Mitch Kupchak announced the team has hired James Worthy to the team’s coaching staff. From the press release:
Worthy will work with head coach Byron Scott and his staff, focusing his attention on working with the Lakers big men. He will accompany the team to Hawaii for training camp and will continue to work with Lakers players throughout the season. Worthy will also continue his role on Time Warner Cable SportsNet as an analyst for the network’s Lakers coverage.
Worthy takes on a role which used to be occupied by Kurt Rambis under Phil Jackson and is a call to the team’s glorious past and one which can hopefully pay dividends in the future. As the Lakers noted in their release, Worthy was one of the best Forwards of his era, specializing in the type of mid and low post work which has often been lost in the translation to today’s game where big men often stretch to the 3-point line.
One player who Worthy might be able to pay immediate dividends with is Julius Randle. Randle’s turn and face game where a dynamic first step is a foundation of his attack is very similar to the style Worthy played as the Lakers’ small forward during Showtime. Worthy was able to mix a good mid-range jumper with his explosive first step and a fantastic finishing touch around the rim which are two key areas Randle can improve on in his continued development.
Once the word leaked this was a possibility, maybe we should have known this was always coming. We really should have known when it was reported this was getting closer. It turns out, today is that day. If you didn’t read the title of this post and have no clue what I’m talking about, the Lakers will (reportedly) sign Metta World Peace:
Metta World Peace will sign a one-year deal today to return to the Los Angeles Lakers, league sources tell Yahoo Sports.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) September 24, 2015
As simple as it would seem a deal like this would be, nothing is ever really like that, is it? At his pre-training camp press conference, Mitch Kupchak spoke today about the positive influence he believes Metta can have on the lockerroom, in helping to mentor young players, and in passing down knowledge from his decade-plus career as an impact (and elite) defender. Noting that, while observing him in scrimmages and pick-up game sessions, MWP could still play is also meaningful.
Julius Randle had a frustrating rookie season, watching from the sideline for all but 12 minutes of his first campaign while healing up from a broken leg. Randle’s frustrations continued through summer league this past July as a he had a strict minutes restriction that saw him capped at 20 minutes a night while also sitting out back to back games.
Heading into the season, however, the hope was that those frustrations would dissipate. Randle has been working hard on his game, his body, and, via word of mouth, he looks very good. Just because he’s progressing nicely, though, does not guarantee his frustrations will be fully behind him. Especially if he was hoping to get a solid endorsement from his head coach about being the starting power forward once the season began.
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.
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.
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.
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:
ESPN sources say two-time MVP Steve Nash finalizing agreement with Golden State to join Warriors as part-time player development consultant
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) September 15, 2015
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.