Larry Nance Jr. lives to put people on posters. Against the Warriors, David West became Nance’s latest victim, finding himself in the wrong place at the wrong time and suffering the consequences for it.
If you look only at the cumulative stats, Brandon Ingram is not having a very good preseason. He’s shooting 41% from the field, scoring 8.1 points a night, grabbing a little over 2 rebounds, and dishing almost 2 assists a game. For most of the team’s 7 exhibition contests, he could be seen floating around the perimeter, looking more like a ball moving role player than the 2nd overall pick in his draft.
Over the past couple of games, however, Ingram is starting to find his way. On Saturday, in the 2nd half against the Warriors, coach Luke Walton put the ball in Ingram’s hands to be more of a facilitator. This unlocked his ball handling and shot creation ability (for him and his teammates). But more than that, it engaged him in the process of making the offense work.
In Wednesday night’s loss to the Warriors, Ingram again was more engaged and looking for his offense even when he was mostly playing off the ball. As the game progressed, though, Ingram was again put back in position to facilitate and again he thrived. His fourth quarter was one of efficiency and offensive aggression — he poured in 14 of his 21 points and half of his 4 assists while playing the entire period.
I think it’s more than fair to say D’Angelo Russell has had an up and down preseason. Against the Blazers on Tuesday, Russell only mad 6 of his 21 shot attempts, missing all 9 of his three pointers in the process. In the Lakers’ exhibition opener against the Kings, he only scored 4 points while connecting on only 2 of his 8 field goals.
Those bad nights, however, have been balanced against some very good ones. In two games against the Nuggets he combined for 54 points on 60.6% shooting from the field while hitting 8-15 three pointers. If you want to nitpick, he only had 8 total assists over those two games while also racking up 6 turnovers. This led to some discussion about balancing Russell’s scoring and playmaking for others, with some arguing they would appreciate more of the latter even though they greatly appreciate his skill with the former.
On Thursday against the Kings, though, there was no longing for more of anything. Russell was fantastic as a scorer and as a passer, tallying 31 points (on only 14 shots) and dishing out 11 assists to go against only 2 turnovers. In the 3rd quarter alone he had 13 points and 4 assists while not turning the ball over once. He was dominant and helped turn an 18 point deficit into only 2 points heading into the 4th quarter.
Can Russell come close to duplicating Friday’s effectiveness? When Russell is on offensively, he is a terror. His feel for scoring is fantastic and his ability to get buckets at all three levels of the floor stands out compared to some of his PG peers. On Friday he had his entire game working and I would love for the same thing to be the case today.
Russell didn’t just come close to duplicating his previous game’s effort, he surpassed it.
Even though we told you not to forget about Julius Randle, not having him do much of anything basketball related since April can make that hard. We got glimpses of Russell, Nance, and Ingram at Summer League. We even got a taste of Jordan Clarkson at the Drew League. But nothing from Randle.
With the opening of training camp, that’s going to change. Soon we will get snippets of Randle practicing and getting clips of him scrimmaging. We’ll also get clips of him practicing his shooting. You know, like this one:
The NBA just put up a classic video of Shaquille O’Neal obliterating the Clippers on his birthday. As we all know, Shaq will be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday.
We forget how powerful and nimble Shaq was in his prime. O’Neal toyed with the Clippers here as he went for a career-best 61 points and 28 rebounds (according to the video while our good friends at Basketball Reference have it at 23 boards). Poor Pete Chilcutt. Poor Anthony Avent. Poor Michael Olowokandi.
Shaq was the most unstoppable force in that campaign (and for that matter, the first decade of his career). On single coverage, there was no way you can defeat him. He can dominate you physically and he was agile and quick enough for a spin move to get away from the defender. Plus, on the last play of his video, he even threw a perfect alley-oop pass to Kobe Bryant for the reverse jam.
Even when double-teamed, Shaq found a way to get a bucket. And we know how foolish it was sometimes to double-team him because you got guys like Kobe, Glen Rice, Ron Harper, Robert Horry, Rick Fox, etc. to bury a shot when they’re left by themselves.
Let’s remember how Shaq and the Lakers used to be the undisputed best in the NBA.
I, for one, will miss Kobe but will also look forward to the next chapter in Lakers’ basketball. We have already gotten a glimpse of what that will look like this past summer, but the real journey begins in earnest this fall.
Until then, though, I will happily take in some flashes of glory from Kobe’s final season. And thanks to @DawkinsMTA we get a taste of some Kobe’s best plays from his 20th and final campaign:
Summer league was successful in accomplishing a few things. One was showing off the Lakers’ young talent and how the returning young guys had improved while giving us a first glimpse at the skill of the newly drafted kids. A second was allowing us to somewhat forget about Julius Randle.
I know. I know. This is an exaggeration. No one really forgot about Randle.
But I do believe there has been a bit of “out of sight, out of mind” going on with Julius. After all, we got to see Larry Nance, Jr. play really well before his hand injury. Nance flashed an improved jumper, an emerging “grab and go” game off the defensive glass, and a sharpening of his already strong defense. Nance’s development was happening in front of our eyes while Julius’ was going on in private workouts.
That is no longer the case, though. Randle has joined the Team USA training camp as part of the Select Team. He’s practicing, going through drills, and scrimmaging. He’s out there for everyone to see and is looking like an improved player. Or, at least he is in the short glimpses the public has been exposed to. For example, here he is working in one-on-one drills: