What a difference a year makes. Last summer in Las Vegas, the Lakers were somewhat of a disappointing team. D’Angelo Russell did not look as good as many hoped he would, Julius Randle looked strong and healthy – but also rusty, and team didn’t look too much like a team when running some of Byron Scott’s offensive sets which didn’t inspire much ball or player movement.
On Friday, the Lakers opened up their summer play and looked far removed from those circumstances which plagued them a year ago. Yes, it was only one game and yes it was summer league. These caveats are real and should be remembered at all times. Still, though, the Lakers came out and looked like a new team who will play a new brand of basketball which does not remember the last couple of seasons.
The highlights from the game reflect that:
A few thoughts on the game:
- D’Angelo Russell looked in control and played with a better understanding of how to score and get to spots on the floor. He looked like a 2nd year player which, while expected, was still nice to see. His stat-line of 20 points, 11 rebounds, and 6 assists pretty much reflect this.
- I would have liked to have seen fewer turnovers from Russell (he had 5), but these were almost all a product of aggression, so I can live with them. If he’s carelessly throwing the ball away, that’s one thing, but if he’s attacking the rim and loses the ball or has a good idea with a pass and it just doesn’t get through, I am okay.
- Brandon Ingram can play. The things he did at Duke translated to this environment quite nicely. Even after only one game, it was easy to see the smoothness of his game, the offensive acumen he has, and the skill of his all-court game.
- Two Ingram plays which stood out to me were left handed drives. The first was when he worked in isolation from the right side of the floor, went middle, and then finished with a nice lefty layup. The 2nd was a good drive baseline from the left hand side of the floor where he was able to get to the rim and collapse the defense. Once he was converged on, he hit Russell on the opposite sideline for an open three-pointer which went in.
- Like Russell, Larry Nance Jr. looked the part of a 2nd year player who simply gets how to be effective in this environment. He was decisive and showed good instincts on both ends. The fact that he hit a mid range jumper out of a P&R and a 3-pointer when left open above the top of the key speak to a growth in his game we all hoped to see. His defense is still his calling card, though, and he shined on that end too.
- Before the game I wrote I wanted to watch how Zubac performed — especially how he moved around the court and whether he was able to protect the rim defensively. Well, he lived up to expectations. He showed good instincts and timing when blocking shots, showed some scoring ability from the post, and, in general, showed good short area quickness and athleticism.
- Team wide, I liked the defensive intensity. Guys rotated around the floor well and tried to help the helper. They protected the rim well and really tried to cut off the paint.
- Anthony Brown smothered Buddy Hield. You could tell Brown took pride in trying to slow down last season’s college player of the year. Brown chased him well off screens and did an excellent job in isolation whenever they were matched up.
- Offensively I really liked how they tried to move the ball — especially from side to side. The ball didn’t really stick too often — especially with the top group.
Overall, I don’t see how anyone wouldn’t be pleased with how the game went. Not just because of the result, but because the players really looked like they had a good energy, were having fun, but also played with poise. Yes, it’s only one game and we will see how they do today playing a back to back. But this group really does look fun. What a difference a year makes.