I thought that Game 1’s crowd couldn’t be beat. Boy, was I wrong. They opened up the upper deck AGAIN for the game between the Lakers and the Philadelphia 76ers (who had the jilted, could-have-been Laker Jahlil Okafor).
Today's crowd for Lakers/Sixers SL game. Hi, Upper Deck. pic.twitter.com/Qu7iOq0qD9
— Rey-Rey (@TheNoLookPass) July 12, 2015
Summer League produces a lot of bad NBA-caliber basketball so when I say this one is hard on the eyes, it’s really, REALLY ugly. But the highlight of this game was definitely late first-rounder Larry Nance, Jr. He finished with eight points, five rebounds, three steals, and two blocked shots. He also finished with the highest +/- stat at +20 and won the Thomas & Mack crowd with his relentless play. He got “LARRY” chants from the people more than once (which is also hilariously ironic coming from Laker fans… and if you don’t get it, I’m not even sure if you know basketball). The game was won by the Lakers, 68-60.
After the game, Nance mentioned that “he knew his role.” He knows he’s “the athletic, energy guy” on the team and “he’ll lock you up on defense.” He was asked when he accepted that role as an energy guy and he answered that he knew that while he was playing in college (Wyoming). Nance said that he wants to get his hands on a loose ball whenever possible. He said that “energy” is a skill nowadays in the NBA and teams are looking for that. I like the fact that Nance seems like the type of guy that would do whatever is asked from him by the team. If that means being the energy guy or scoring 20 points a game, he’ll do it. He buys into the team and that is excellent. Nance also noted that he talked to his dad (Larry Nance, who is the 1984 Slam Dunk champion) and the advice that he got was to “rebound more.” He definitely enjoyed the Larry chants.
Jordan Clarkson looked great yet again, finishing with 19 points off 8 of 16 shooting. He mentioned that he was working on a “little bit of everything” but he did note about his pull-up jumpers. He said he was getting more comfortable shooting jumpers after going off a pick. It’s nice to see his confidence continue to grow. He said he’s not looking for any individual goals and “just wants to play his best.” Clarkson said that hearing the chants for Nance was “dope and real cool” and that he talks to D’Angelo Russell “all the time” and said that he’s gonna be a “great player.” Laker fans are hoping for that, I’m sure.
D’Angelo Russell (14 points, 4/15 shooting, eight rebounds, seven turnovers) said that the difference in this game from the previous one was slowing it down and focusing on stops on defense. Russell didn’t seem to have as much legs in this game but he was a little better defensively in terms of making rotations and not ball-watching. When I asked him about his defense, he gave himself a C or a C+. He mentioned both individual and team defense and that he/they had to be better on following up on rotations. Russell was then asked about Clarkson and he said that he was a “great leader” and that he was “growing and getting better every day.”
Summer League coach Mark Madsen was definitely a bit more pepped up with the win. He talked about the defensive intensity and communication being much better than the previous game. Mad Dog said that Laker coach Byron Scott’s little pep talk contributed to the team getting in rhythm earlier. Madsen also was glowing about Jordan Clarkson’s “knowledge of the game”; he especially pointed out Clarkson’s adjusting from the point to the shooting guard and helping his teammates get to the right spots. Madsen complimented Larry Nance and called him a “special player.” I’m gonna pump the brakes a little bit on that but I do think Nance can help a team. As for getting the assists up (ONLY FIVE), Madsen answered that they just needed to make more shots and move the ball a little bit more.
All in all, pretty encouraging stuff. Julius Randle was given the game off for precautionary reasons but he’s expected to play in the next game. Again, I expect most of these guys in this Summer League team to be the core of the next few years so I would pay a little bit more attention to them.