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.
Good game, and the team seems to being “having fun” rather than being worried about not “messing up.” They also seem relaxed and not “stressed out.”
Minor Threatt says
It is possible — only possible at this point, but the signs are encouraging, especially regarding Brown and Zubac — that we have added seven legit rotation players in the last three drafts. In other words, that we have hit on all seven picks.
Are any of them superstars? That remains to be seen. Should we have drafted other players? (Porzingis over DLo, etc.) Also a legitimate question that may take years to answer. But the difficulty of what the F.O. seems to have pulled off should not be underrated.
Minor Threatt I don’t think Brown emerges as a rotation player. He was horrendous last year, given he was a rookie. He was lucky to get that many minutes due to Kobe maintenance, and he didn’t show up. He shot less than 29% from 3, and over 50% of his attempts came from there. He was like 14th worst in defensive RPM. We asked for a 3 and D guy and he was horrible on both front.
Laker Old Timer says
Before reaching the star status, it involves “growing pains” especially in a competitive setting of consistency requirement in NBA. Unlike College, they seldom meet quality teams until March, well it’d be different setting in NBA there is constant challenge in practices and in the 82 games and injuries could occur anytime with these rigorous p/t, It is as test of will whether they really belong to this league.
Minor Threatt says
matthewhaotran That’s fair. If he can shoot the three like he did in college, he becomes a rotation player. If he can’t, it’s going to be much more difficult.
Last night I was impressed with the defense — he was active, disruptive, used his lateral quickness to fight through screens, and, as Darius noted, really seemed to make it his mission to harass Hield. However, on the other end, he only shot 1 of 5 from three-point range. That has to improve — something to watch tonight, and during the rest of Summer League.
Minor Threatt matthewhaotran I’m pulling for him to succeed too. I like his hustle and attitude. But I also recognize the writing is on the wall and when it comes time to it, we shouldn’t invest extra years if he doesn’t show a resemblance of a 3-D type guy. Flashes aren’t going to cut it, we need it to be at least a semi-regular basis (i’m not asking for straight consistency, that’s high expectation). My early synopsis is that he’s a 2nd round player that gets drowned out of the league early.
_Chris J says
I was at the game and the atmosphere was great. They were fun to watch, which I haven’t been able to say much in recent seasons. Darius his the salient points — Ingram looked comfortable and poised on an NBA floor, and Zubac’s athleticism and size were a great surprise. He changed shots and schemes; hopefully he develops into a guy who can get 10-12 minutes a game as a rookie. Another good sign was Russell’s waistline. He pulled up his shirt once in a timeout and he was not at all doughy. He’s spent the summer getting into shape, which showed, especially when he played the post. Lastly, there was a set when Russell let Ingram bring it up while Russell spotted up off the ball. Add in Clarkson and Williams, even Randle, and there is a lot of flexibility in how they approach their half court sets. First step in a long process, but it was nice to see progress and fun on the floor. A 20-point win was icing on the cake.
I think the big point is that they were not afraid of getting yelled at and called soft or “bone-headed” by their coach publicly for playing open and wildly efficient on both offense and defense. Good start! The ball rarely died at the top of the key with a big man on 1/2 court sets. That was 99% of the plays the last two years. Blech. Last night showed a new mind-set. They are not a playoff team yet, but when they get all 15 players together and start to gel, this could be a team that takes the 8th seed away from the now less powerful Thunder.
What a difference a year makes! Nance showing some confidence in his shots and Russell showing why he was a #2 pick. If the Lakers took a big, and Philadelphia drafted Russell as planned, Hinkie would still have his job. The Lakers defense actually had more than one level with one long armed big after another altering shots. Zubac could venture out to challenge shots and Nance or Ingram would have his back. Ingram looks taller on TV than his listed height. I expected Zubac to be noticeably taller than him. Brown looks like the answer to what do the Lakers do when they need to slow down a hot shooting guard. This is the year to see what he can do.
Just not having Hibbert was a major plus.Hibbert might have been the worse player I have seen in the NBA last season..Zubac has a nice game…. Challenging everything !!!
J C hoops says
sorry for the all caps
I LIKE INGRAM SO MUCH THAT I WISH HE COULD START.
BUT THEY HAVE TO START CLARKSON AFTER SIGNING HIM TO ALL THAT MONEY–RIGHT?
CLARKSON – RUSSELL – INGRAM – DENG – DO U BRING RANDLE OFF THE BENCH?
I’D PREFER TO SEE
Russell, Ingram and Deng, Randle, Mozgov
and let clarkson murder the other team’s bench
zubac was a steal – great job mitch
Minor Threatt says
FredP Good point on the team defense. One thing that was nice to see was that while individual guys missed assignments occasionally, there were very few of those “clear path to the basket” breakdowns that happened so often last year. I would love to see a figure on the number of shots the Pelicans got inside of 10-12′ that weren’t contested or altered. Very few that I recall.
Drew Gordon says
matthewhaotran Minor Threatt Brown guarded Hield on 12 possessions last night. Hield managed a total of 2 points.
Thanks for giving AB some love. He played terrific defense on a very difficult to keep up with opponent. Buddy’s movement was even better than I expected yet every time he touched the ball AB was there to make his life difficult.
I was worried about the lakers depth at center, but after seeing zubac play I’m actually excited about it, if the roster stays intact zubac will get good minutes as a rookie, and develop nicely, also, tarik black will get playing time, they gave him a nice raise so they gotta believe he can contribute, remember he was lost on the bench last year.
One more thing is anthony brown looked scared last year, he looked really relaxed last night, definitely due to coaching change.