The Lakers’ Summer League Opener was everything fans could’ve hoped for. The team looked organized. Sets and general playing style was tailored for whoever was on the court. I didn’t want to walk down from the stands and try coaching the team, myself. It was really night-and-day from what we had to watch a year ago.
And lost in the Zubanity and Brandon Ingram’s debut, D’Angelo Russell put together a quiet double-double. He took over the game for one stretch and was the guiding force in the half-court with vastly more confidence than we saw for most of last season. There were some issues with his game, but he was impressive.
We’ll start with the few negatives I noticed. There weren’t many, but a couple things stood out to me.
First, his hands need to get stronger. There were several occasions where he had the ball stripped from him in various spots on the court that he probably shouldn’t have. It became fairly noticeable throughout the game, really. Now, he’s still very young and this is some of the first live basketball in this kind of setting for him in a month, so there might be explanations, but this is something I’ll be keep an eye out for.
Next, and this could also be explained by this being the first game of summer league, but it took Russell a little while to figure out which spots to attack and when to try to set up teammates. It’s the hardest part of playing point guard, especially for someone who can score as easily as Russell can against this level of defender, but there was a fairly obvious point in the game where he seemed to figure this out. When he did, was he dominant.
Which leads me to what he did well.
Offensively, when he wanted to score, he scored. He absolutely bullied guys in the post when he had to, either for an actual shot, or to set up the swing through that got him to the line. There was a moment in the game where I leaned over to the guy I was with and mentioned how quiet it felt like Russell was to that point. Then this happened:
He finished with 20 total points, 11 rebounds, six assists and five turnovers, which, overall, is a very solid game.
Defensively, Russell used his length to create issues. This was a trend from start to finish for the entire team, especially that starting five. Now, the obvious caveat is that the Pelicans aren’t a very good team, but there were stretches of the game where the defense was absolutely suffocating. We were fortunate enough to have seats a little closer to the court, and the angles we had showed very clearly how quickly passing lanes shut down, shooters were closed out to and how physically contested plays at the rim were. Russell did his part on that side of the court.
This is only one game, but it really says something that Russell would quietly represent himself as the best player on the court, even with the incredible excitement that surrounded the event. There are definitely things he can work on, but there is also a lot he can carry into the rest of this tournament, and into the regular season.
Mid Wilshire says
After the game, D’Angelo Russell mentioned the word, “fun,” 5 or 6 times. This seems a marked difference from last year’s boot-camp mentality. The Lakers, remarkably, are having fun again. This could be the influence of Luke Walton and apparently reflects the Warriors’ approach to the game.
I’m eager to see how the team responds tonight. I was very encouraged by last night. Let’s see if they can sustain a good effort.
On the TV broadcast when Russell score first driving layup Tom Pen launched into a diatribe about how disappointing Russell had been to that point, seeming to imply that he was at threat of being out of the league if he didn’t dominate Summer League. Russell just continued his tear and had 13 of the team’s points in a row at which culminated in Pen declaring he had to average 30 to make up for whatever disappointment he’s been, then finally letting it slide
He looked like a man among boys out there which given that it is his second year of Summer League, is both expected, and super encouraging. The announcers put it best. Success in Summer League doesn’t always translate to success in NBA, but it’s very rare for players to fail in Summer League and success in NBA.
Clay Bertrand says
That’s why Penn is on NBA TV and is no longer a Front Office guy. He’s crossed the line into TALKING HEAD now……….
Speaking of which, Amin Elhassan kept it pretty real when interviewing Russell. In a nutshell he said, “Last summer league you were horrendous. Now you look phenomenal.” A little extreme on both ends there but still brutally honest.
_Craig W says
What it looked like last night was that Russell was running the team. I know, that’s what he is supposed to do, but he did it – and did it well. ‘Nuff said for the first summer league game.
When the Lakers drafted big “Z” I looked up all the mock drafts – his place was between 16 and the end of the 1st round. Well, he is 19 and didn’t play much basketball last year – so perhaps the front office should have picked someone else at 32. From this game, I would say they were right not to let him slide by them. He may start the year as the 3rd center, but he could be the backup center by the middle of the year. Sure, Black will play ahead of him for some opponents, but I can really see good things happening if we have a 2nd team lineup of Huertes, Williams, Ingram, Nance, Zubac.
Clay Bertrand says
I disagree with your assessment Mid. D’Angelo barely mentioned the word “fun” after the game. Rather, SEVERAL times he said, “FUNNER”…….. which, as we all know is WAY better than just, “FUN”. ; )
And Hell it WAS FUNNER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I was SAVORING the whole affair and I think I rewound every Ingram and Zubac play 3 times!!!!
I was very encouraged too regardless of the competition. A lot of people have had such a bad taste in their mouths about the last couple of years that they are almost gunshy about supporting these guys. I really think this year is finally a year where we can embrace improvement instead of being dazed and confused about the direction of the team. NO more Kobe. No more pretending to contend. No more Carlos Boozer signings and Metta signings (hopefully).
I’m so stoked to watch tonight!!!! Might be some regression but the energy and attitude was great!!!!
I’m hoping tonight is even FUNNER!!!!!!!!!
Clay Bertrand says
I was very intrigued listening to the interview with Jesse Murmuys (the Head Coach) after the game. We are all so happy and hopeful based on last nights snippets of what could be. Honestly though, we ain’t seen NOTHIN yet as to what Luke is trying to instill and establish here.
According to Coach Murmuys (who I’d say was very measured in his comments), most of Russell’s looks were just “OK” and he/they could have worked to get BETTER shots. Very telling statement. That’s Golden State Ball to the MAX!! ALWAYS get a better look. Oddly, sometimes Curry and Klay think that the 3 ball is the better shot, but that’s their strength and I won’t go there cuz SCREW THE WARRIORS!!! WHO CARES?????!!! .
He also highlighted that D’Angelo is still a work in progress as far as knowing when to get others involved and when to get his own shots. While we saw a pretty good game save for the 5 TOs, the Coaches saw an “OK” start.
They have emphasized that the team will go as far as Russell takes them in discussions with D’Angelo too so they are really concentrating on molding him into the player he needs to be and perhaps reigning in some of his freewheeling tendencies in favor of a more responsible floor general approach.
SO many great story lines to watch unfold and such a different feeling than the last couple of years. Instead of just standing there watching the Escalator like we have the past 2-3 years, I feel like we have at least STEPPED ON and are beginning to ascend. Maybe even to the DEELUXE PLAYOFFS, IN THE SKYYYYY–HYYYY–HYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!! Movin on UP!!
Good for others to finally see what some of us have seen from the beginning.
D’Angelo is the real deal, and the front office was right on point, when selecting him for our team at 2nd last year.
They also nailed Zubac, – someone I had never heard of – which I see as a potential star center in this league, fitting perfectly with our young core.
With only one practice with the team, he showed some fantastic skills in not only fluid and pinpoint defense but a quick mind and dangerous shooting touch, including a Duncan like bank shot.
Ingram, what can I say about him, but that even if Simmons were available, I’m with those that say Ingram is the right choice for the Lakers, and possibly the right choice over all.
Tonight we will have some fun, and I can’t wait !
Go Lakers !!!
Mid Wilshire says
According to Adrian Wojnarowski, James Harden has just agreed to a 4-year, $118 Million re-negotiation with the Houston Rockets. These numbers seem as if we’re playing with Monopoly money. It also makes Mozgov’s deal seem paltry by comparison. Here’s the link:
There is no such thing as renegotiated contracts in the NBA per the cba. Do you mean he signed an extension?
Clay Bertrand says
Oh and regarding Big Z, ZUUUUUUUUU, Zubie, Zubac Shakur “All Eyes On Me”, the Mark Gasol comparisons are really right on at least, physically speaking. Both Zubac and Gasol have sort of this trunk legged, Lurchy posture and gait when running down the floor. They don’t know what to do with their hands and arms when they run. They are both sort of big dorks with their LESS THAN PROTOTYPE athleticism. Also both are somewhat Baby Hueyish in that their builds are sort of big boned and lacking in mature definition.
However, BOTH guys use their height and especially their Girth to play a very physical, punishing style of interior ball. Zubac can already handle alot of banging because of his frame and he’s only going to get better as his body and strength benefit from an NBA strength and conditioning program and diet etc. IF IF IF he can stay healthy and not have splintering feet a la Yao and Ilgauskas, he will have a place in the NBA.
I was really happy when he slid to us and I’m shocked he was able to do anything productive under the circumstances he is in and is coming from.
Lastly, the man HIMSELF prefers his nickname given by his former team:
Works for me!
Mid Wilshire says
OldmanLakerfan Here’s a quote from the article by Wojnarowski. It explains it all:
“A provision in the collective bargaining agreement allows Houston to use its own salary cap space to renegotiate the final two years of Harden’s contract – and add two additional years onto the deal.”
Clay Bertrand says
A handful of players are allowed to “RESTRUCTURE” their deals under the current CBA for some reason I haven’t fully been able to nail down. I believe perhaps Paul George can also do this……..its unclear to me but it IS apparently allowed for a handful of situations right now.
Guys can also sign extensions at certain points. I need to look at the Harden details…..
ED 10 says
I just want see steady progress rather than W&L. Expect some ups and downs in SL.Come Oct I expect to see that Ingram has gained the muscle and strength thru hours in the weight room to compete on a nightly basis with the men in the NBA. A good start for some guys,and a good team attitude about competing every minute on the court.
_Craig W says
Since he is only 19, don’t expect Ingram to be anything like a finished product in OCT. I doubt he will have gained much weight by then. However, he should understand better what the Lakers are trying to accomplish and he should continue with his fluid shooting touch. With his length, I doubt he is going to have much problem shooting the rock.
_Craig W ED 10 18
Clay Bertrand says
_Craig W ED 10
We all understand that Ingram is slight to put it mildly. However, this kid hasn’t filled out yet because he is 18 and still growing. Perhaps not height wise (although that is certainly very possible) but he is a late bloomer. He played PG in HS until he shot up half a foot. Then he had one year at Dook (as BigGame spells it).
You can’t rush weight gain on guys like this because their metabolism is still running at light speed with his body is still reaching full manhood. He will likely ALWAYS be on the lean end build wise and may always have a fast metabolism.
People say Ingram is another Durant and then others Pooh-Pooh that comparison as unfair and somehow almost disrespectful to KD.
I think the comparison is RIGHT ON if only in terms of build and body type— much the way I see Zubac having similar physical traits to Gasol. Am I saying Ingram has better stats and will be an MVP like KD or that Zubac will win DPOY and become an All Star like Gasol??? Not necessarily. I’m not speaking on their potential. Merely the physical comparisons.
People refer to Ingram, Durant and others like them as being “skinny strong” or having “wiry strength.” Ingram has an ectomorphic body type. Long, thin, lean. His muscles are long not short and compact. His strength therefore reveals itself in different ways that may not be easy to see or appreciate. He ain’t gonna bench much if he can even lift the bar!!! But bench pressing isn’t what long lean arms do well. They also don’t do pull ups. In basketball, neither exercise is of much value.
Ingram will look the part once his body is naturally able to maintain a heavier weight under more normal dietary conditions i.e. NOT a Mega Weight Gaining diet. I would not be surprised to see him struggle early in his career to maintain weight he does gain once the season starts and he’s running and playing all the time. Guys like him often will put on 10-15lbs and then burn it all off again or close to it by midseason.
Ingram is tough enough to handle getting knocked around his first few years IMO. I think this is very much were the validity of the KD comparison is accurate.
Ingram is the second youngest player taken in the draft (behind only Dragan Bender) making Ingram the Second Youngest active NBA player. PERIOD.
Zubac is only 6 months younger putting him at something like the 6th youngest active NBA player.
IOW we have 2 of the 6 YOUNGEST players in the League to go with our OLD guys like Russell 20, Randle 21, Nance 23, A. Brown 23, Black 24, and Clarkson 24.
Its gonna be great to watch this all happen.
_Craig W says
Clay Bertrand _Craig W ED 10
FYI: The system now puts a space between paragraphs – i.e. you don’t have to do it yourself anymore.
I noticed d’angelo taking advantage of the smaller players guarding him.
is TWC blacking out the summer league games, or do I just get some lousy reception? all my other channels are working OK… but I’m up in a canyon, and at times it’s dicey
This game is brutal. Don’t know if it’s due to the back to back, the much stiffer defense or what.
The Lakers look tired; lots of misses off the front of the rim. Its not like the 76ers are playing great either but Simmons creates a ton of easy looks. His passing is the real deal.
Also, I just learned that Zubac has a really nice looking midrange J.
Is this a Summer League game or a playoff game?
Wow, what an ending !!
D’Angelo does have ice in his veins~!
So where are the “Ingram is a bust” comments? Because thats what DAR got last summer league. He struggled but hit some big buckets down the stretch. Simmons can pass but he can’t shoot that was ugly…
I imagine DAR gor himself a big fine after the game.
Wins are so hard to come by that even summer league wins get me excited now…
Laker Old Timer says
Back to back, game a reality check for the rookies and a challenge to 2nd year players. Larry answered the call as the catalyst in the rally. Won by squeaker but will not bail out DAR icy veins stiffed on defense. Brandon eyes always appear about to sleepy but calm while Zublock got NBA posterization lesson on his 2nd game. Both rookies should have more beef in their diet daily. lol!
DAR was merely repeating what everyone else was saying for 3.9 quarters. It was good to see him get redemption.
Clay Bertrand basquiatball
Yeah…Penn started talking about Russell because in the first quarter he was the same old non-aggressive guy we all saw last year. I love everybody closing ranks to protect this guy when they should be saying hey prove everybody wrong and dominate. Yes he had a good first game and hit two huge shots in the next, but I would have lived with a great “summer league” game the whole way through last night and then a couple of misses at the end rather than a poor game and two big shots. He wasn’t being checked by Rondo or defending Lillard last night. He was having trouble with TJ Mconnell.
By the way Russell may become a good player, but lets put the once in a lifetime vision & passing comments to bed as that clearly belongs to his former teammate Simmons. Simply incredible passing (yes seven turnovers, but hey this DLO’s 2nd time around and he is averaging what 5 a game and I haven’t been wowed once and we need him to dominate against real NBA players.) I agree it was amazing at Ohio State, but maybe not so much in this quicker environment.
Come to think of it, I would have been thrilled with how Russell is playing (turnovers & all) if this was happening as the 2nd pick in last years summer league.
In closing hey….DLO prove me wrong I seriously hope that you do.