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:
I know the caveat. It’s only summer league. I’ve been saying it myself since before the games started and continued echoing the point through every performance by every player. Here’s the thing, though. While it’s easy to dismiss any strong (or poor) performance with that mantra, evaluations from the summer aren’t completely useless.
Summer will never tell us the entire story, but if you watch intently enough, it can give you hints as to what is possible for a player. Especially when what you see isn’t so much based on athleticism or eye popping numbers, but innate skills or traits which will carry forward regardless of the competition level.
This brings us to Lakers’ 2nd round pick Ivica Zubac. The Bosnian by way of Croatia had a really strong showing in Vegas and looks as though he might end up being a steal of the draft. His all-around play showed glimpses of high level two-way play and hinted that he might be more ready than assumed for a 19 year old Euro big man who missed most of last season dealing with injury and contract issues.
Heading into Friday night’s summer league finale, Brandon Ingram had done lots of things well but not had a singular strong performance. His best game in the four previous contests to that point was the Lakers’ Vegas opener where he scored efficiently and played a nice all-around game. But even that game was just sort of a let-the-game-come-to-me sort of performance rather than one where he actively tried to take control.
That approach changed on Friday against the Jazz and, boy, was it fun to watch. Ingram finished the night 22 points on 13 shots, grabbed 5 rebounds, and dished 4 assists. Down the stretch he made key plays, but more than that showed a certain assertiveness throughout that was great to see. Just watch the highlights:
Looking all the way back to when it all started, maybe it wasn’t clear Kobe would end up being the player he became, but there were certainly flashes. Jerry West saw it in pre-draft workouts and did everything he could to acquire him on draft night.
Then, in the summer of 1996, Kobe showed summer league spectators a glimpse of what was to come. In (grainy video) footage I’d never seen until today, here is a 17 year old Kobe playing at the Pyramid in Long Beach in a Lakers’ summer league game against the Suns. Even then, he looked like something special.
Even in summer league the 2nd night of a back to back matters. The Lakers dealt with some heavy legs and strong ball pressure from the 76ers and looked the part of a team struggling. After having everything work out for them against the Pelicans on Friday, Saturday brought a slog of a game which looked very much like a contest the Lakers would not win.