As we relayed yesterday, the Lakers have hired former Bulls’ Director of Sports Performance Jen Swanson, adding her to the team’s Training Staff. As noted in that post, and reported by Kevin Ding, Swanson effectively replaces the departed Judy Seto who was the team’s lead physical therapist.

In the wake of that report, there have been questions about Judy Seto’s departure from the team since there was no formal announcement by the team about a change and, at the time the Swanson report, we had not heard anything from Seto stating she was retiring. That changed when Seto put out the following on Twitter:

Well, there you go.

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In an off-season of change to both the coaching and training staffs, the Lakers have added one more new addition. According to Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding, the team has hired the Bulls’ former director of sports performance to work on their own staff:

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You know the drill. We did this last year and the series lives on with updates for the 2016-17 Lakers’ roster. First up in our series is D’Angelo Russell and his spot up shooting. Enjoy.

We already told you D’Angelo Russell is on the verge of a breakout season. And while our focus was mostly on the team/coaches nurturing his confidence and, via a more consistent model of deployment, gained experience, we cannot possibly ignore how an adjustment of the X’s and O’s from the system Luke Walton will employ should help Russell’s game.

Last season the Lakers ranked last in FG% on catch and shoot shots (35.5%) and 2nd to last in points produced on catch and shoot shots (19.8). The Warriors, meanwhile, ranked first in both categories (42.8%, 33.7 points per game). The first reaction this should be, well, duh. The Warriors have the best shooters in the league. Steph and Klay are dominant catch and shoot players and have the eternal green light to fire at will.

But, it’s important to note that the Warriors’ offense was designed to create those types of shots. Golden State ran a lot of P&R’s and were an excellent passing team which also focused on attacking closeouts off the dribble to further produce open jumpers. Luke Walton, of course, is now the Lakers’ coach and he will try to bring some of that magic to his new team.

The Lakers will not get the system down pat right away, but them even trying to implement it means the players are going to benefit from more catch and shoot opportunities than they did last season. And there’s few Lakers’ who will benefit more from these chances than D’Angelo Russell.

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Next time Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley deride the current NBA for shooting too many threes and lacking dominant centers, instead of sarcastically mocking their antiquated standards for style of play, we should maybe credit the former for what we’re watching. He deserves as much credit for it as just about anyone. Crazy, right?

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The buzz is already here. After a strong summer league, an invite to Team USA’s training camp as part of the Select Team, and social media clips of the work he’s been putting in, D’Angelo Russell is being properly recognized as a player on the rise. Buzz and actual NBA production, however, are not the same. Can Russell carry over a summer of proper work into real progress?

At The Ringer, Kevin O’Connor believes it will by proclaiming Russell is better than you think he is. O’Connor covers a lot of ground in his piece and the entire thing is worth your time, but this passage is the crux of his argument:

Russell played so well without Kobe that he could have been in the conversation for second-place Rookie of the Year votes if Bryant hadn’t played last season. His usage skyrocketed without Bryant, and while his scoring efficiency dipped slightly, his per-36 numbers improved drastically. He projects as the full-time starter alongside Jordan Clarkson under new Lakers head coach Luke Walton, so he could receive a similarly high usage rate. It’ll be a shock for Lakers fans to go from Scott’s Kobe-centric isolation offense to Walton’s free-flowing, motion-based system. But the stylistic change is tailor-made for Russell’s strengths as a versatile combo guard.

Yes. All of that. Redistributing Kobe’s touches across the roster while replacing Scott’s offense with one which caters more to Russell’s strengths and…voila, improvement. This is the basic formula, but beyond the schematic changes and adjustments in usage, I’m looking in an an even more simple direction: experience and confidence.

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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.

In the months since he was named head coach of the Lakers, Luke Walton has done a good job of resetting expectations to appropriate levels. He’s spoken about his desires to build a winning culture, but has been careful to not equate that to actual wins. In fact, he’s done the opposite by stating — several times, actually — that this team should not be judged by wins and losses early on.

All of this has been very strategic on Walton and the front office’s parts. After years of selling the myth of the “ultimate goal being a championship” while constructing rosters not built to even make the playoffs, the Lakers have, seemingly, learned their lessons. They hired a young coach, targeted specific veterans at positions of need, and have put the young players front and center as key pieces who need development.

However, just because things seem new; just because Luke Walton is seen as the anti-Bryon Scott, it does not mean there is a complete departure from all ideas which existed under the previous regime. Take Walton’s recent quotes about the Lakers being “built around” the young players:

I don’t think we’re built around the young guys. Obviously they’re a huge part of what we’re doing and developing them, but we brought in some good vets that we feel are really going to help lead in Kobe’s absence. We’re going to be doing our best to develop these guys, but we’re going to be playing the guys who are helping us win and playing the right way and competing every night. We feel like we have some vets who have done that for a lot of years in this league. So we’re going to lean heavily on them as well.

Wait, there’s more. Here he is on whether Brandon Ingram will need to “earn his spot” in the rotation:

Absolutely. Everyone has to earn a spot. You come into camp and you compete against your other players, you respect your teammates, but whoever outplays the next guy in line, that’s who gets to start.

Now, let’s grab Doc Brown, hop in the Delorean, set the date for the summer of 2015, and ramp up the speed to 88 miles per hour. Now re-read the quotes above. Could you hear Byron Scott uttering the same words Walton did? I can.

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The NBA schedule was released a couple of weeks ago. And yes, it’s tough to get a bit excited (myself included, to be honest) since the season doesn’t even start in roughly two months.

But we should take a look at the schedule and break it down a bit. Do they have an extended home stand somewhere? Are they going to go through a perilous road trip or two at some point? What about the back-to-back games?

So in case you need to take a look-see, here’s the schedule.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver has made it a point to reduce back-to-back games and the dreaded four games in five nights stretch. Lakers have 16 back-to-back games this season, which is pretty much the average for the season. The Hawks have the most with 19 back-to-backs while the Thunder have the least at 13. Nine teams don’t have to go through the four games in five nights stretch but, unfortunately, the Lakers aren’t one of those nine teams. That happens early in the schedule, though (Nov. 29-30, Dec. 2-3), so if the Lakers do have a shot at the playoffs later, they wouldn’t have to worry about that.

Their schedule doesn’t do them any favors early. After their opening game against the Rockets, they immediately go on the road for four straight. And when they do go home after that, they face the deadly Golden State Warriors. In fact, they face the Warriors three times before November ends; the Lakers and the Warriors have a home-and-home around Thanksgiving. The Lakers face the Warriors one more time but it won’t be until the final game of the season.

The first 20 games are actually split evenly for home and road games. But they have their longest road trek before Christmas as they play seven game outside of the comfy Staples Center (Kings, Nets, Sixers, Cavs, Hornets, Heat, Magic). Then the Lakers face the Clippers in the battle of Los Angeles as part of the NBA Christmas schedule.

While the seven-game road trip might spell doom if you guys are hoping for playoffs, the Lakers will be really tested in late January-early February when they play eight out of nine games on the road (with the only home game against the Nuggets in that stretch on Jan. 31). They go on a three-game road trip against the Mavs, Blazers, and Jazz (Blazers/Jazz are a back-to-back). After going home against the Nuggets, they go on a five-game East Coast trip (Wizards, Celtics, Knicks, Pistons, Bucks). This may make or break their season so we should keep an eye on that part of the schedule.

If they survive that, the schedule after the all-star break is very favorable. 15 of their last 24 games are at home and they have a six-game home stand (Bucks, Cavs, Clippers, Wolves, Blazers, Wizards) in late March. So if they’re in the running for a playoff spot, this post-All-Star schedule will be good for them.

As for games that I’m looking forward to, here are some:

Oct. 26 v Rockets: Because it’s the opener!

Oct. 30 @ Thunder: We’ve seen it before but this is permanent now: a Thunder team being led by Russell Westbrook. I want to see some destruction! (They also play the Thunder on Nov. 22 and Feb. 24.)

Nov. 4 v Warriors: An early test for the young Lakers. And why wouldn’t you wanna see them go against this new-look team that includes Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Kevin Durant? (They also play the Warriors on Nov. 23 and 25.)

Nov. 13 @ Wolves: Because why wouldn’t you wanna see the battle of #1 and #2 picks from last season? Karl-Anthony Towns is going to be a monster if he isn’t already. (They play the Wolves three more times at Mar. 24, Mar. 30, and Apr. 9.)

Nov. 18 v Spurs: So this is weird. A Lakers/Spurs match-up without Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan. (The Spurs come at the Lakers three more times: Jan. 12, Feb. 26, and Apr. 5.)

Nov. 20 v Bulls: This seems better on paper. We get to see Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo on the Bulls. I felt weird typing that.

Dec. 11 v Knicks: Carmelo Anthony has former Bulls Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah as teammates. But more importantly, Kristaps Porzingis! (They face the Knicks one more time on Feb. 6.)

Dec. 16 @ Sixers: Another #1 and #2 pick battle! Ben Simmons against Brandon Ingram! (They get the Sixers again on Mar. 12.)

Dec. 17 @ Cavs: Talk about a test. The Lakers get the NBA champions not even 24 hours after the Sixers. (The Lakers and Cavs face each other once more on Mar. 19.)

Dec. 25 v Clippers: Of course, you wanna watch these crosstown rivals go at it. And let’s be honest, this is one of the things you’re going to do on Christmas if you’re a Lakers fan. (The L.A. teams face each other three more times: Jan. 14, Mar. 21, and Apr. 1.)

Feb. 3 @ Celtics: Obviously not what it used to be but come on. Lakers vs Celtics, guys. (We get this again on Mar. 3.)

Apr. 12 @ Warriors: The final game of the season. We close it out on an exciting note. I think.

So that’s the schedule. What games are you looking forward to? Does this schedule seem fair to you?