The dragging offseason continues, yet the news cycle rolls on…
Earlier this month the Lakers signed former Texas forward and Summer League standout Jonathan Holmes. To this date, not much has been heard about the Holmes-Lakers pairing since the signing, however, Mark Stenberg of Study Breaks Magazine recently caught up with the San Antonio native for a very insightful interview, here’s some of what stood out:
Can you walk me through everything that’s happened from Draft Day till now?
Holmes: Draft Day was a tough. Heading into it, we thought we had a pretty good chance of going late first round/beginning of the second round, but some unexpected trades happened and I ended up going undrafted.
After that, the next thing to do was try and get ready for summer league. I was in San Antonio on Draft Day, and two days later my agent called and said the Celtics had a good opportunity for me to play. That’s really the biggest thing you need as an undrafted guy—a chance to play—so we jumped on that right away.
I flew to Boston a couple of days later and had a week of training camp to prepare for Summer League. Then we flew out to Utah, played two games, and then flew to Las Vegas to play in that Summer League
(Boston lost in the quarterfinals to the Becky Hammon-coached Spurs, the team that ended up winning the tournament).
After that, we were just waiting for some deals. Then we got some, we chose Los Angeles, and now I’m here hanging out, waiting for training camp.
What do your days look like now?
Holmes: I wake up 8:30 and work out with one of the coaches, then go to the weight room and get a little work out there. Right now, there’s a lot of open-gyms going on at the Clippers’ facility, so some of the guys on the team and I might go over there and play with some of the guys there. Then I’ll usually come back here, eat lunch, rest, take a little nap and then head back to the facility. I’m really just trying to put some shots up. Afterword, I’ll come back here and kick it pretty low key. Right now everything’s still pretty unofficial.
How the vibe in LA? Have you played with Kobe yet?
Holmes: No, I haven’t seen him yet. It’s actually really cool though, because there are a lot of young guys right now. I mean there are definitely veterans here, like Roy Hibbert, Ryan Kelly, Brandon Bass, and Nick Young, but for the most part, most of the guys on the team are young. It makes it different than if you were coming into a team that was nothing but veterans, cause most of these guys are going through what I’m going through.
Do you have a basketball role model?
Holmes: I definitely model my game after Draymond Green, but there are guys from San Antonio who paved my way to get [to professional basketball]. When people think about Texas they think about football, but I watched guys like André Roberson and Jordan Clarkson (who also plays for the Lakers) when I was growing up. We played for the same AAU programs, and so just seeing them make it coming from San Antonio pushed me and motivated me to live out my own dreams.
The Lakers’ second UDFA signing this offseason was ex-Florida guard Michael Fraizer, and while most have little expectation that he’ll amount to anything more than a mere camp body, Jackson Sanders of Hoops Habit recently looked into just where Fraizer could find his role on a Lakers roster:
If Michael Frazier makes the Lakers roster in 2015-16, it’s going to be as a spot-up three-point shooter.
As a junior last season, Frazier shot 38 percent from deep. That’s an OK mark for a guy who wants to make his living by being a sniper from beyond the arc. The real intrigue lies in how that number is actually low for what Frazier is actually capable of.
In 2013-14, Frazier’s sophomore season, he shot an excellent 44.5 percent from three on nearly seven attempts per game. His freshman year? 46.8 percent on 3.1 attempts per contest.
Clearly, his numbers trended in the wrong direction in his final collegiate season, which could have contributed to him dropping out of the draft. After all, he is likely a specialist in the NBA, and slipping more than 6 percentage points on your bread-and-butter shot is concerning.
However, Frazier’s conference play numbers (around half of the collegiate season) show that he was still the deadly three-point shooter that he was from years prior. In 11 conference games, Frazier shot 45.1 percent from three on 4.6 attempts per game.
Sanders also looked into the competition Fraizer could put pressure on during training camp:
If the three-ball is kind to Frazier in training camp, it is possible that he will put some heat on Jabari Brown for a reserve role. Brown, who shot 37.1 percent from deep for the Los Angeles Lakers last season, is best suited as a shooter off-the-bench, making the addition of Frazier interesting for his roster prospects.
Of course, Brown is the more experienced player, so it’s unlikely that Frazier walks into camp and performs better all-around than the second-year guy. However, it’s possible that the Lakers could look to move other veterans if the sharpshooter from Florida impresses enough to warrant a permanent stay in Los Angeles.
With the Lakers roster currently 1 spot over the 15-player threshold, the piece goes on to note that Robert Sacre and Ryan Kelly — two Lakers who, despite having experience, could be expendable due to position crunches — could be roster casualties if Fraizer (and Holmes) manages to prove himself a worthy roster mainstay throughout the preseason.
One of the players all but guaranteed to be a part of the roster come October 30th is rookie Larry Nance Jr. Though uncertainty does exist about his ability to find a role with Brandon Bass and Julius Randle already expected to see the bulk of minutes ahead of him at PF, Nance is trying to improve his game to earn some time. One way to do so is to become a “David West type mid-range shooter”, an idea he expressed to Lakers Nation’s Serena Winters, here’s the spin:
If Nance is indeed looking to extend his range and become a consistent mid-range shooter, David West is about as good of a player to study. The majority of West’s shots in his career have come between 16 feet and the three-point line, and he has shot nearly 48 percent from that distance throughout his career.
Nance developing a mid-range game similar to West would be a massive addition to his game as, unlike West, Nance has great athleticism as well. Nance being great on both the pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop would make him a very dangerous player.
Nance getting to David West status as a mid-range shooter may be a little far-fetched, but as long as he can become a consistent shooter, it will surely help him have a long career in the NBA. Nance would also be wise to learn from his teammate Brandon Bass, who is an excellent mid-range shooter in his own right.
While the development of the Lakers rookies will be highly monitored throughout the year, the primary goal for the team will be to win games. As we noted on Wednesday, ESPN recently projected a 26-win season for this year’s Lakers squad in their annual NBA forecast. For the readers who detest the notion of a meager 7 win improvement from last season, this piece from Apratim Ghosh of Silver Screen and Roll lets you know you are not alone:
ESPN’s much-hyped Summer Forecast of the NBA’s ’15-’16 Western Conference standings debuted this week. The mothership turned in a scathing projection for the Los Angeles Lakers‘ record, declaring the team would achieve a mere 26-56 record, giving them the second-worst record in the Western Conference.
The #TeamTank enthusiasts out there may enjoy this news. The Lakers first-round pick in the 2016 NBA Draft is top-3 protected and at 26 wins, or the fourth-worst record in the league, the franchise would solidly be in the running to once again retain said pick at lottery time.
However, I have my doubts that the Lakers will flounder as badly as ESPN projects, or to the depths of the previous two seasons. This Lakers team should be able to win more than 26 games during the upcoming season due to three primary reasons.
Ghosh goes on to detail three specific reasons for his bullishness on the upcoming year — Hibbert, Pace and Space, and Health — with quite sound reasoning, and the piece is well worth your time.
Lastly, as we all prepare for the closing of Kobe’s career, it is important that we begin to appreciate just how era-defining his 20 years in the league will have been. It is no secret that the NBA has seen a modest amount of transition since Bryant entered in ‘96, however, as highlighted in this piece by Bleacher Report’s Grant Hughes, Kobe has remained valiant in sticking with and perfecting his unparalleled playing style, despite it being of a dying breed:
Since Bryant entered the league in 1996, the NBA has moved the three-point line back to its original distance (in the 1997-98 season), gradually outlawed hand-checking (through rule changes in 1997, 1999 and 2004) and dramatically altered the restrictions on zone defense (2001).
No longer afraid of illegal defense calls, roaming defenders now feint toward post-up threats, leave their assignments entirely and shift position in concert with their teammates. As a result, the types of shots teams seek out are different. Slinging it into the block and standing around is a worse option now, because it’s no longer obvious where the double will come from, and when it does, it can be a soft one, or even a trick.
Big men are hoisting more threes than ever. Isolation play has fallen out of favor. Pull-up jumpers are now roundly recognized as poor percentage plays.
Yet there’s Kobe taking 10.4 pull-up shots per game in 2014-15, ranking second in the league behind the possibly-in-need-of-an-exorcism version of Russell Westbrook we saw last year, according to NBA.com. And there he is again using 5.5 isolation possessions per game, fourth-most in the league, despite shooting 34.8 percent and ranking in the 57th percentile on such plays.
He’s held steady, playing his game his way. And for the vast majority of his career to this point, he’s been good enough to get away with it (#Ringzzzzz). Last year, as the Lakers floundered and Bryant raged against efficiency norms for 35 games before his season-ending shoulder injury, he caught increasing flak.
However, he continues responding to this flak with the same unshakable defiance that helped him fire up those shots in the first place.