I don’t care if it’s summer league, winning is fun. And since the Lakers haven’t done much winning in recent years, I’m going to enjoy the W’s in any environment, thank you very much. The Lakers are now 3-0 in Las Vegas and after struggling in their 2nd game on Saturday, the team was back to playing well in game 3, controlling the matchup with the Warriors for most of the game to win comfortably 78-65.

The star of the night was D’Angelo Russell. After hitting a game winner vs. the 76ers two days earlier, Russell dominated the Warriors to the tune of 26 points on only 13 shots to go along with 5 rebounds and a single assist. He also had 4 turnovers, and so if you want to nitpick, I guess you can complain about the lone dime to his 4 giveaways, but…well I don’t care.

Russell was clearly the best player again and his confidence is sky high right now. He was making shots all over the floor and punishing the defense no matter what strategy they took. When his man went under screens, he simply hit a long jumper. When they tried to chase him over the top of a pick, he kept his man on his hip and hit a lean-in mid-range shot. When working in isolation he used a tight, low handle to create space. Russell simply looked fantastic all night offensively and had all the answers.

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Steph! Durant! Draymond! Klay!

Wait. No. None of them. Sorry.

The Lakers play the Warriors tonight in Las Vegas and will play an interesting mix of young guys and veterans the defending world champs (oh that’s right they blew a 3-1 lead) Dubs will throw out there. You might even recognize a few names — including former Laker Xavier Henry.

But we’re not really worried about those guys, are we? No, tonight I’ll be watching the Lakers’ young guys very closely. These guys are 2-0 and had a nice comeback win against the 76ers on Saturday. That game saw some tired legs and good pressure defense bother the Lakers, so here’s hoping tonight they have recovered some and can put forth a cleaner game.

With that, a few other things I will be watching for:

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With Julius Randle not participating in summer league, Larry Nance Jr. has taken on the starting role for the Lakers’ in Las Vegas. Over the first two games, he’s played 68 out of a possible 80 minutes and racked up some pretty good stats in the process.

Against the 76ers, Nance as a key performer in helping the Lakers come back from a big 2nd half deficit, playing strong defense and throwing down some highlight dunks. These are things, of course, Nance is already known for. Coming out of Wyoming and through his rookie season, Nance made his noise as a ferocious finisher above the rim and a guy who took pride in his defense.

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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.

Until, well, they did.

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The Lakers’ Summer League Opener was everything fans could’ve hoped for. The team looked organized. Sets and general playing style was tailored for whoever was on the court. I didn’t want to walk down from the stands and try coaching the team, myself. It was really night-and-day from what we had to watch a year ago.

And lost in the Zubanity and Brandon Ingram’s debut, D’Angelo Russell put together a quiet double-double. He took over the game for one stretch and was the guiding force in the half-court with vastly more confidence than we saw for most of last season. There were some issues with his game, but he was impressive.

We’ll start with the few negatives I noticed. There weren’t many, but a couple things stood out to me.

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What a difference a year makes. Last summer in Las Vegas, the Lakers were somewhat of a disappointing team. D’Angelo Russell did not look as good as many hoped he would, Julius Randle looked strong and healthy – but also rusty, and team didn’t look too much like a team when running some of Byron Scott’s offensive sets which didn’t inspire much ball or player movement.

On Friday, the Lakers opened up their summer play and looked far removed from those circumstances which plagued them a year ago. Yes, it was only one game and yes it was summer league. These caveats are real and should be remembered at all times. Still, though, the Lakers came out and looked like a new team who will play a new brand of basketball which does not remember the last couple of seasons.

The highlights from the game reflect that:

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Okay, I’m not going to say much about the Pelicans here since, well, summer league rosters are fluid and usually only have a handful of viable players who will be on the team by opening night. That leaves me knowing very little about their team and, in reality, not even really caring that much.

What these games come down to, then, aren’t the opponents but the Lakers. And with a roster full of young guys who are all candidates to be on the team come October, my eye will be on the talent the team has accumulated over the past couple of drafts.

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After the Lakers traded for Jose Calderon, my initial thought was that Marcelo Huertas would no longer be brought back. The Lakers had tendered Huertas a qualifying offer to make him a restricted free agent, but Calderon, to me at least, made Huertas redundant and no longer needed.

Turns out I was wrong. Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical is reporting Huertas will return to the Lakers with a 2-year contract and Huertas himself confirmed it via instagram:

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