In my preview for Sunday’s Lakers vs. Nuggets preseason game, I wrote the following about what I was watching for with D’Angelo Russell:

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.

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The Lakers’ preseason rolls on today with another match up against the Nuggets. The Lakers may have lost the last game against this team on Friday, but showed new tweaks on offense which allowed them to be in control for most of the contest. Defensively they also continued to look solid, though there were still breakdowns to work on.

Of course these types of growing pains are to be expected. The Lakers are relying on several young players while also integrating new veterans who will play meaningful roles. With a new coaching staff in place as well, all sides need to get familiar with each other and find ways to get on the same page. After this happens, the level of play will go up even if wins don’t always follow.

That said, I don’t want to undersell some of the real progress we have seen. As noted, the offense is taking a more modern approach and we are seeing the fruits of this improved focus. The team has also been drilling fundamentals on defense and, if watch closely, those things are showing up on tape and helping the team win possessions. Watch how D’Angelo Russell dips is inside shoulder when navigating on ball screens. Look at Jordan Clarkson’s hand placement when defending back door cuts. Look at how Larry Nance is passing off cutters and rotating early to stop dribble penetration.

These are small things, but small things help you win; small things are what good teams execute every possession because they have become second nature. The Lakers are not there yet, but seeing them starting to do them more often gives me hope that they will become habits which can be built upon.

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The Lakers may have lost to the Nuggets in their second game of the exhibition season on Friday, but in many ways they actually played better than they did in Tuesday’s win over the Kings. Odds are the Lakers actually win this game if they hadn’t played a lineup which featured a total of zero players who should see any sustained minutes in the regular season, if they make the team at all.

So there are many positive takeaways from Friday’s game despite taking the L. D’Angelo Russell bounced back. Julius Randle, while still a bit erratic in the halfcourt, showed the open court skills which make him such a tantalizing prospect. Jordan Clarkson was again a positive defensively while bringing his typical attack style on offense. Nance, Zubac, Black, Calderon, and Ingram also all had flashes. All in all, there were just a lot of good things to build on even though there is a lot of work to do to improve.

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The Lakers had what was almost the exact kind of win you want in their preseason opener against the Kings. They got the W on a strong second half performance which saw them pull away, but also had enough of a struggle in various parts of the game to provide multiple teaching moments and offer lots to improve on.

So, when the team takes the court on Friday night against the Nuggets, there will be plenty to look forward to in seeing what adjustments are made and whether some of the general sloppiness can be cleaned up — especially by the starting group.

Speaking of the starters, it remains to be seen who will actually be in that first five. Loul Deng is listed as doubtful with a bruised knee after running into Anthony Brown at practice. There is also the question of whether Lou Williams will be swapped out for Jordan Clarkson after the latter was moved the bench vs. the Kings.

If I were making the call, I’d probably start Ingram and Clarkson, getting the “young” group that Walton highlighted as wanting to see as reserve unit into the game right away. Then my first subs would be Nance and Black for Randle and Mozgov. Of course, we’ll see if that’s how Walton plays it, but with Deng out, why not see if the young guys can find an early flow like they did in Summer League.

Beyond the lineup and the general flow of the game, here are a handful of things I will be watching for:

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On Wednesday the Lakers announced several hires to their training and analytics staffs for the 2016-17 season. From their press release:

The Los Angeles Lakers announced today the hirings of Jennifer Swanson as Head Physical Therapist, Stacey Robinson as Massage Therapist, and Sean Light as Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach. The trio will report to Head Athletic Trainer Marco Nuñez, joining Assistant Athletic Trainer Nina Hsieh, Strength and Conditioning Coach Tim DiFrancesco, and Equipment Manager Carlos Maples on the training staff.

The team has also hired Lorena Martin as Director of Sports Performance Analytics, reporting to Assistant General Manager Glenn Carraro and Jae Kim as Basketball Data Analyst, who will report to Director of Basketball Analytics Yuju Lee.

Not all of these names are “new” as we have already discussed the hiring of Swanson (and her replacing the departing Judy Seto) at length. And while at least one of the other hires (Stacey Robinson) is also filling a position which existed last year, it would seem — at least based on last season’s media guide — the other positions are either brand new or were not made public previously.

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The Lakers returned to the court to play an actual…uh…preseason basketball game on Tuesday night and, what do you know, they won! Luke Walton for President! This team is a juggernaut! Break up the Lakers. BREAK UP THE LAKERS.

In all seriousness, it was nice to see these guys back on the floor and showing off some of the new things they have been working on in training camp. They were far from perfect and the overall flow of the game was shoddy for a lot of the night. The starters especially looked like they were having a hard time finding a rhythm and never quite found a good footing.

However, the team did pull away in the 2nd half. As we noted in our preview, I don’t think there are any real takeaways to latch onto after this contest — other than, maybe, the Lakers in spots 6-12 look to be better than the Kings in spots 6-12. That does not mean we do not have some thoughts from the game, however. In fact, here’s 10 of them:

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I know the caveats. It’s only preseason. Training camp is only a week old. The team is still getting acclimated to new head coach Luke Walton and is still getting up to speed on what he and his staff are installing on both sides of the ball. All of this means don’t take too much away from tonight. And it’s true. You really shouldn’t.

You know what, though? I don’t even care. Lakers’ basketball is back and I’m here for it.

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After a recent training camp practice, Mike Bresnahan of Spectrum Sportsnet interviewed D’Angelo Russell. Their chat was all the standard fare about how camp has been going and the new atmosphere under Luke Walton, but at the beginning there was an interesting exchange:

Bresnahan: Finally started to do more offense, the first couple of days was defense, defense.

Russell: Still defense. It’s been the main focus.

Bresnahan: Really? Does that surprise you?

Russell: Not really.

Bresnahan: It surprises me. Only because Luke came from Golden State right? And you would think, “oh, you guys are just going to shoot 3 pointers all day.”

Russell: Also, well, what were they? A top 3 defensive team in the league, so, it came from getting stops.

This. This right here.

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