Nick Young couldn’t possibly have felt great about his Lakers signing Lou Williams this summer. The redundancy between the two is fairly obvious if simplified down to layman levels. Young and Williams are both chuckers best used off the bench to bring an immediate scoring punch to whichever lineup they’re joining on the court.

So, Young took the type of measures any normal person would if threatened with replacement by their employer: get a Tupac tattoo on the arm previously reserved for buckets. In all seriousness, though, trying to figure out what to expect from Young this season is pretty difficult given the several variables at play heading into the 2015-16 campaign.

First, we need to understand how we got to this point. Two years ago, Mike D’Antoni’s system lent itself to success in the form of spot-up jumpshots in efficient parts of the floor and isolations against defenses spread thin by excellent spacing. As a result, Young enjoyed a career season and earned the contract the Lakers seemed pretty quick to want to shed this offseason.

So, the question begs asking: is Young the player we saw under D’Antoni or the punchline to the joke that was last season? The answer, as usual, is somewhere in the middle and, as such, he still deserves a spot on an NBA roster. But, Young has some roadblocks to overcome if he hopes to flip the narrative.

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Kobe Bryant is currently in China on what has become his yearly summer trek, engaging with fans, telling his story, and further embedding himself as the most popular basketballer in Asia. Seriously, when you watch clips of him there or see photos, he’s like a one-man Coachella. The fans there love him and he loves them back.

But while Kobe is planting seeds for future endeavors in China, his present in the US and with the Lakers remains front and center. There are many questions about the team he will return to, his ability to perform on it, and how much time remains in his career to still do it. Marc Spears of Yahoo! caught up with Kobe and got a lot of insight on these topics and more. The entire interview is well worth your time so give the full piece a read, but for our purposes, let’s unpack some of the more pressing questions:

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We have officially entered the dog days of summer. With no NBA on the horizon, the type of news we’re left with is Kobe visiting China to mobs of fans, a 52 year old Hakeem breaking out a vintage move in the #NBAAfricaGame and players dunking off phunkeeducks. Not exactly stuff with any sort of shelf life.

For me, though, during this long slog of the off-season, my mind will almost always turn back to roster construction and team building. The draft and free agency was a chance for the team to reshape itself with new talent. The initial trade market offered similar chances, with the Lakers diving in to nab a starting big man. The Lakers have done well, then, and reflecting on that is worth some time.

However, just because things have ground to a virtual hault, it does not mean there aren’t decisions to still explore, regardless if they’re viewed as minor. The team still possesses a depth chart showing a real glut in the front court and needs on the wing and, potentially, at point guard. Filling the back of the roster isn’t something the Lakers are used to worrying about, but for an organization still looking to make a substantial leap forward, all decisions carry a measure of import.

This includes the 15th roster spot, a spot currently empty which the Lakers plan to fill eventually. The question, however, is how the Lakers should fill this spot. From my seat, I see four possible scenarios:

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For a good portion (probably a little too long, if we’re being completely honest) of the summer league in Las Vegas, I and a decent number of guys covering the festivities for SBNation tried to figure out a Lakers rookie. Not D’Angelo Russell. Not Julius Randle – who may as well be a rookie. Not even Anthony Brown, who impressed many that weekend. I wish I was exaggerating. There we were, in Las Vegas, a city literally built to distract people from their jobs, mired in conversation about who a late first-round pick reminds them of.

The rookie in question: Larry Nance, Jr. And the worst part: We never actually found an answer. Ah, to be an NBA nerd.

First, you have to figure out what Nance brings to the table. He’s a power forward in a large small forward’s body. He is decently skilled offensively but who hopes to earn his way through hustle, rebounding and defense. He doesn’t have three-point range and it’s hard to really envision him developing that aspect of his game with his shooting form. If that is the case, it’s hard to consider Nance a modern-day, NBA wing.

In many ways, he’s what a player from the 90’s and early 2000’s would look like if dropped into today’s NBA.

Yes, Nance has the physical tools guys like Trevor Ariza, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or even Al-Farouq Aminu (probably Nance’s closest modern comp), but as of right now, he lacks their skill defensively. Offensively, he has a little more to offer than those guys early in their careers, but not enough to make up for the considerable gap on the other side of the ball.

If Nance is more of a throwback player, who might he be?

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When your nicknames are “Mr. Clutch” and “The Logo” it’s pretty difficult to argue you might ever be considered underrated. Jerry West certainly is not that, but as time passes and the game evolves it is sometimes easy to forget just how good some of the players from previous generations were, West included.

Luckily, youtube exists and we are able to look back and see the ride range of skill and ability some of these players had. Special hat-tip to the Wilt Chamberlain Archive channel on youtube for always bringing the heat, including this career tribute to the long time Laker:

Comparing players from the 60’s and 70’s to players today will always be tricky simply due to how the skills from that era stand up aesthetically to how the players play today. How the guys back then handled the ball, the sophistication of some of their moves, and what can seem like less fluidity in their movement can lead to some people question how good some of these guys really were.

But when you watch the clip above, while some of that might apply to West, what really stands out to me was the complete game he had and how so much of what he was doing back then is found in today’s game.

The one dribble left/right and pull up jumper is a staple of today’s best shooters. The way he rubs off picks or uses a tight handle to get into the creases and finish with a variety of shot types are all things you find from similarly sized players today. The way he jumps into passing lanes, causes deflections, and makes secondary reads to get steals and blocks are all staples of the game’s best defenders.

In other words, let this be your reminder that Jerry West, for any era, was a monster on the court.

For those of you who managed to escape from the forest fire that became of Tuesday’s post, today’s links (hopefully) serve as a shelter of reassurance as we focus on the Lakers’ future.

To put it bluntly, this summer’s free agency was something of a slap in the face for both Lakers fans and the front office. However, the team has since dusted off their wounds and, as Bleacher Report’s Josh Martin writes, the Lakers’ current construct could lead to a significant turnaround in the near future:

One of these days, a top-tier free agent is going to buy what the Lakers are selling and not just as a product of sheer persistence on the part of the NBA‘s marquee franchise. At this point, the Purple and Gold are counting on the precocious but unproven trio of D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson to improve and eventually make their pitch to players in search of a new home.

With any luck, those three will eventually have the chops to pull it off.

The key word is “eventually.” If there’s anything the Lakers learned from their sojourn to NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, it’s that their most promising prospects all appear to be a long way from actualizing their tantalizing potential, both individually and as a collective.


By now it has been well-documented that not only is coach Scott aiming to start Kobe at the small forward spot this season, but he also expects him to spend some time at the four. Beyond the question of how this transition could play out on the court, Scott’s apparent open-mindedness led Andy Kamenetzky of LakersNation to ponder whether he has finally “evolved” as a head coach:

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The 2016 off-season has long been on the mind of Lakers’ fans. This is the summer where Kobe Bryant’s contract is off the books, the summer the salary cap will jump to (potentially) $90+ million, and the summer in which a certain small forward currently living in Oklahoma City hits the open market. The Lakers have big plans for this summer so, while it is still a year away, it is not really too early to look ahead.

While we all look at the things listed above, however, one thing not often spoke about is the pending free agency of Jordan Clarkson. When Clarkson was signed by the Lakers after being the 46th pick in the 2014 draft, he inked a two year, non-guaranteed deal**. We all know what happened next: Clarkson, after starting slowly and getting minimal playing time, came on strong in the 2nd half of his rookie season and earned 1st Team All-Rookie recognition.

Now, heading into his second year, his summer league play showed continued development, he is slated to be a starter at shooting guard, and will end this upcoming season as a restricted free agent. In a recent article at ESPN, Kevin Pelton mentioned Clarkson as a player who could be in for a big payday come next summer (insider):

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The biggest news surrounding the Lakers this weekend was the imminent departure of long-time team trainer Gary Vitti. To be clear, the news that the 2015-16 season would be Vitti’s last run with the purple and gold was reported in mid-April, but Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times reinvigorated the discussion with a recent feature on the 30-year franchise mainstay. The piece chronicles Vitti’s run with the team and highlights some of the key moments during his tenure. Among the many revealing quotes, one of the more interesting bits involved how Julius Randle’s injury last season affected Vitti’s departure:

So much has happened the last few years, so little of it positive. Vitti even called it “a nightmare.” Few would disagree, the Lakers continually losing Bryant and Steve Nash to injury, along with a slew of games.

“When somebody gets hurt, I blame myself. That’s the Laker way — you’ve got a problem, you go in the bathroom, you look in the mirror, you start with that person,” Vitti said. “The one that really affected me and maybe even affected this decision [to retire] was Julius Randle. All of his doctors and his surgeon are saying that nothing was missed, but the guy goes out there and breaks his leg the first game [last season]. That one really bothered me.”

Vitti connects with his players like few other trainers in the league and since joining the Lakers in 1984, there is perhaps no player he has bonded with more over the years than Kobe Bryant. Now, as both their careers may be coming to a close, Vitti revealed that the two recently shared some thoughts on the upcoming season:

“He was asking about our young kids, and I said, ‘You cannot believe how quick and athletic Jordan Clarkson is. He looks fantastic,'” Vitti said. “I said I personally thought D’Angelo Russell is going to be a star. He makes hard things look easy when he has the ball in his hands.

“Then Kobe said to me, ‘Well, then who’s going to play [small forward]?’ I looked at him and I said, ‘You.’ And with absolute, 100% confidence, he said, ‘I can do that.'”

Can Bryant, soon to turn 37, really do it? His last three seasons were cut short by injury and he became a part-time player last season, sitting out eight of his last 16 games for “rest” before sustaining a torn rotator cuff in January. He is under contract for one more season at $25 million.

“When Nash retired, that didn’t mean he couldn’t play in an NBA game. The problem was how much time did he need to get ready for the next game.” Vitti said. “He had lots of issues that prevented him from playing an NBA schedule.

“That’s going to be the big question with Kobe, and we’re just going to have to feel it out. It’s been a while since he’s played. We just need to see.”

There’s a lot of good stuff there, but what is of most immediate interest to Lakers fans is Kobe’s apparent willingness to step into the small forward role for his (maybe) final season. For more insight on how that transition could look for Bean, our own Darius Soriano covered it yesterday. Give it a look as well.

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