For the third time in four days the Lakers will play a summer league game at the Thomas & Mack center. They were able split those first two games — losing to the T-Wolves but recovering against the 76ers — and now find themselves taking on the Knicks.
To this point, as their record indicates, the team’s performance has been a bit of a mixed bag. The only consistent performer has been Jordan Clarkson with every other player mixing flashes of their potential with moments I’m sure they would want a do-over on. This is what summer league is about, though. Even the young players — especially the rookies — who get their numbers will likely find more than a few mistakes and learning moments when dissecting their game on film.
The point is to get your feet went and, in the process, hopefully show enough positives to build on heading into training camp. From the Lakers’ side, things are certainly moving well in that direction. I can understand fans wanting to see more, but, in reality, this is what summer league is about. With that, here are a handful of things I’ll be looking for when the team takes the floor against the Knicks:
- I do not believe D’Angelo Russell is so much more athletic than he’s shown in the first two games, but I also do not think he has his legs fully under him right now. The team was having heavy practices leading up to Summer League and then played games on back to back nights where he logged 27 and than 33 minutes. Yes, he’s young, but after not playing in meaningful games since March, getting back on the floor into full bore practices has probably had some affect on him. I am interested in seeing how he plays today after a day off.
- Keeping on the Russell theme, my thoughts on him have not really wavered since he was drafted. His passing and court vision are special. His jumper, though not falling at the rate anyone would want, looks pure with a great release point. He plays with a poise and confidence beyond his 19 years. In saying all that, he’s mostly only using the P&R when orchestrating the offense and hasn’t yet gotten many (any?) opportunities to run off screens or attack a defense closing out on him when he’s spotting up on the weakside. In other words, we’ve seen a fraction of what his game actually is (and what I think it will be down the line). In other words, I know some fans are getting antsy. I’d advise against putting too much into what we’re seeing since what the team is running offensively in the half court really isn’t doing much to highlight any of his skills beyond his passing ability.
- Speaking of the Lakers’ sets, I don’t expect them to change much in this environment, but I would like to see them play with a bit more tempo in the actions they are running. Certainly some of this is the product of them not knowing each other or having a firm grasp of the sets. But, as the deeper we get into the summer, it would be nice to see them start to work off the ball with more urgency and start to be tighter in how they execute. Yes, I know, it’s the summer, but a man can hope, right?
- The match up I am looking forward to most is Julius Randle against Kristaps Porzingis. Randle was clearly disappointed in having to sit out Saturday’s game. I expect him to come out active and aggressive. Matching his strength and physicality against Porzingis’ slender frame and length will be an interesting contrast to watch. Porzingis should be able to shoot over the top of Randle when match up in space. But Randle will likely try to bully him into the paint and take away his length advantage on the other end. It should be fun to watch them go at it.
- Will we get more “Larry!” chants? Nance Jr. has shown off the skill set and energy that surely caught the front office’s eye in the lead up to selecting him in the first round. His athleticism stands out in a major way and he’s flashing the type of value he can bring to a team should he continue to refine his game (making a couple of jumpers when the ball is kicked out to him would be a nice place to start).
- I’ve only caught a little bit of the Knicks to this point, but they are sticking with their Triangle offense even in the summer. Filling the post, quick cuts off the post entry, and some nice off-ball movement was the norm in the few glimpses I got of them. It will be interesting to see how the Lakers’ defense responds to ball and player movement after seeing a lot of P&R against the Wolves and a post heavy attack from the Sixers.