Monday, December 22, 2014
Blog Page 5

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Image

After 16 NBA Championships and 31 Western Conference Titles, the Lakers have been one of the most storied and successful franchises in NBA history. From the eras of West, Chamberlain, Kareem, Magic, and Kobe, there have been countless record-breaking performances and memorable games that have added to Lakers glory. Let’s take a look back at some notable moments for the purple and gold in this off-season version of “A Blast from the Past,” with some of the best Laker-memories from June, over their 66-year history.

June 2, 1985

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar became the NBA’s all-time leading playoff scorer when he exceeded Jerry West’s previous record of 4,457 playoff points in Game 3 of the NBA Finals against the Celtics. Abdul-Jabbar finished his career with 5,762 playoff points, but was eventually surpassed by Michael Jordan’s 5,987.

June 9, 1985

At 38 years old, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar became the oldest player ever voted NBA Finals MVP, after the Lakers defeated the Celtics in six games to secure the title.

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images

June 14, 2009

Phil Jackson won his 10th NBA championship as a head coach when the Lakers beat the Orlando Magic in five games in the NBA Finals. Jackson passed Red Auerbach for most-ever coaching titles in NBA history. He would go on to win one more NBA title as a head coach in 2010, before retiring from coaching in 2011.

June 15, 2001

With their Game 5 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA Finals, the Lakers solidified themselves as the most dominating playoff team in NBA history. Los Angeles set NBA records, which still stand today, for best playoff record (15-1) and highest playoff winning percentage (.937).

June 19, 2000

Shaquille O’Neal became the third player in NBA history to sweep MVP honors during a season when he was named the unanimous MVP of the 2000 NBA Finals. O’Neal also captured the All-Star Game MVP award before being named the NBA MVP at the end of the regular season. O’Neal joined Willis Reed and Michael Jordan as the only three players in history to capture the NBA’s version of the triple crown.

June 25, 1979

The Lakers selected Magic Johnson from Michigan State University with the first overall pick in the NBA draft. The sophomore Johnson became the first underclassman selected with the top pick in NBA history. Johnson won both the NBA title and Finals MVP award in his rookie season with the Lakers, making him the first-ever rookie to do so.

June 29, 1982

The Lakers traded Don Ford and Chad Kinch to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for the number one overall pick in the NBA Draft. With the pick, Los Angeles selected James Worthy of the University of North Carolina Tar Heels at the Felt Forum at Madison Square Garden. Worthy spent his entire career with the Lakers and won three NBA championships during his 12 seasons in Los Angeles.

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Photo courtesy of Lakers.com

There is something to be said about being a Los Angeles Laker and if Monday’s introductory press conference was any indication, the attitude and confidence of Julius Randle will bode well in Los Angeles.

Sporting a purple-tie and bright smile, Randle was formerly introduced as the newest Laker at its practice facility in El Segundo as he was presented his new #30 jersey and spoke to the Los Angeles media.

“I’m truly blessed to be in a great organization, the greatest organization in the NBA,” said Randle. “Such an amazing opportunity for my family and I.  I couldn’t be more happy to be in the city of Los Angeles.”

Every season, prospects are considered NBA ready in large part to their basketball skills, but having an NBA ready personality is just as important to succeed on and off the court.

That was evident in his response when asked if he could start right away on a ‘wide open roster’ as the season rolls around in October.

Randle is currently one of five players who are expected to make the team. That includes Kobe Bryant, Robert Sacre, Steve Nash, and second round draft pick Jordan Clarkson.  With starting positions up for grabs, Randle does not expect to be handed anything just because he is a rare Lakers lottery pick.

“As far as the starting thing, that is something you have to earn,” said Randle, who averaged 15.0 points and 10.4 rebounds in his freshman year at the University of Kentucky. “I think I can come in and contribute right away, it’s just all going to depend on my work ethic, willing to put in the time into the gym and I think the results will show if I do that.”

After being selected at No. 7 by the Lakers in the 2014, Randle noted that teams would ‘regret’ passing on him.  When asked what motivates him, it is not the naysayers but instead an attitude that fans will surely respect.

“First off to win, I hate to lose. I think that’s one of my biggest motivations,” said Randle. “Me wanting to be the best, reach my full potential, I definitely push myself in that way.”

Growing up a Laker fan, Randle is familiar with the expectations and demands of the fans and franchise.  Coming from a historic basketball program with high expectations like at Kentucky, Randle will be no stranger to a transition where wins and losses are magnified by the fans.

“They love the Lakers and they expect nothing less but championships.”

There are some players that join the Lakers for a season or two and then there are those are simply Lakers at heart.  For Randle, his attitude embodies what the franchise is about, a rare quality in players today.

If anything else, Randle earned many new fans with all the right answers on Monday.  For the new kid on the block, his introduction in Los Angeles was a success and if that is any indication, the Lakers and its fans should be very happy and optimistic about what lies ahead.

 

 

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Photo: Jason DeCrow AP

 

Julius Randle, Kentucky, Power Forward, 6-9, 250 (Stats: 15.0 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 1.4 apg)

The Lakers came into the draft in a very interesting situation.  With only three rostered players, the team did not have the luxury of picking based on need, but instead was able to use its pick on the best available talent.

That is exactly what they got with Randle.  One of the best basketball players in the country this past season at Kentucky, Randle impressed the Lakers at his individual workout, not just with his basketball skill, but his attitude and the way he conducts himself as an individual which goes a long way when being an athlete in media heavy Los Angeles.

Concerns about Randle’s height came into question throughout the draft process, but his tenacity and style of play will surely translate to the NBA.  A throw-back forward who would rather do damage in the paint and on the boards instead of away from the basket, Randle’s frame along with his drive will be problematic for opponents as Randle will rarely get outworked.

Randle led the country with 24 double doubles last season, good for second most in Kentucky’s history which has produced players such as DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis in recent years.

As with any young player, there is room for improvement. Randle is a lefty and as with many players has issues with his off-hand which teams took advantage of at times by forcing him to go right.  His passing needs work but it is important to remember that Randle faced constant double teams, which resulted in turnovers and forced shots at times.  Defensively, he is a rock down low and hard to back down, but might have problems with the taller forwards in the league.  He is far more athletic than what he is given credit for and that will help in his development on both ends of the court.

Then comes the issue with his foot.  The situation is that after breaking his foot in high school, a screw was inserted into Randle’s foot but incorrectly. The bone did not heal the way some doctors would like but it has yet to hinder his play. The Lakers will decide whether surgery is necessary for the forward but Randle says he would be ready in time for training camp in three months.

The best part about is he is just 19 years old (turns 20 in November). After being drafted, he certainly said all the right things and seems to have an attitude that Kobe Bryant will like, which goes a long way when playing for the Lakers.  When it comes down to it, the Lakers got the pick right which should make fans happy.

Randle Quote: “I think I should’ve went higher for sure, but you know, the teams that passed on me will regret it.”

LakerNation Grade: A

 

Jordan Clarkson, Missouri, Guard, 6-5, 186 (Stats: 17.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 3.4 apg)

The Lakers were able to purchase the no. 46 overall pick from the Washington Wizards and the draft rights to Clarkson, a guard who had himself a nice season for Missouri last season after playing his first two years at Tulsa.

Many expected Clarkson to be an early second round pick in the draft. Considered to have first round talent, Clarkson slid on draft night and the Lakers were able to snag him for good value in the second round.

Clarkson ran point guard for a majority of the year at Missouri and did a decent job because of his strong ball handling and vision, but there was a transition period for the player who was comfortable at shooting guard. For a combo guard, Clarkson has good size at 6-5 and has a nice first step when attacking the basket.

He will need to work on his perimeter shooting as he shot 28 pct. from beyond the arc but the positive is his game is about getting to the basket and getting to the line where he shot 83 pct.  If anything else, he provides the Lakers with versatility off the bench as he continues to improve his game.

In recent seasons, the Lakers have had success with second round picks, notably Robert Sacre and Ryan Kelly, so there is hope Clarkson is another player that can be serviceable early.

LakerNation Grade: B

 

It is safe to say the Lakers were successful on draft night.  I would have personally liked to see them acquire a late first round pick or early second rounder as there was great value there, but it is hard to complain about the draft.  With two pieces in place, the Lakers can now turn its attention to hiring a head coach and NBA free agency.

It remains to be seen if the Lakers flip Randle in a deal after July 1st, but it would be nice to keep a young player like him on the roster moving forward as he can develop into something special.  Depending how the summer goes, Randle could find himself as a starter at power forward come opening night and will be in the conversation as a Rookie of the Year candidate.

For a team that had three rostered players, adding pieces to the puzzle is necessary and the Lakers did just that.  They did not try to shock anyone with its pick or get desperate in the draft, they simply made the most logical and best choice at the time.  After some head scratching decisions the past few years, it is certainly a step in the right direction.

LakerNation Final Grade: A

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Julius Randle
Photo: Chris Reynolds

With the No. 7 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Lakers selected power forward Julius Randle out of the University of Kentucky.

Considered one of the more NBA ready prospects in this draft, Randle is considered a throw back type player who bullies his way in the post.  Not the tallest at 6’9, there are questions regarding his height being a problem in the NBA but so far in his career has not allowed that to limit his production at any level of basketball.

Last season for Kentucky, Randle averaged 15 points and 10.4 rebounds in 30.8 minutes a game as a freshman.  The 250-pound Randle was one of the better players in the NCAA Tournament and helped his team to the NCAA Championship Game where they ultimately fell to the University of Connecticut.  He led the NCAA with 24 double-doubles, good for second most in the stories history of Kentucky.  As a senior in high school, Randle averaged a ridiculous 32.5 points and 22.5 rebounds and led his school to a state title.

Considered a top-five pick early on in the draft process, questions arose after reports surfaced he would need surgery to remove a pin that was incorrectly inserted in his foot after breaking it in high school.  Randle ultimately shot that news down saying his doctors told him his foot would not be an issue.

Moments after being drafted, Randle was asked about him slipping down to No. 7:

“I think I should’ve went higher for sure, but you know, the teams that passed on me will regret it”

Welcome Randle to the Laker family and follow him on Twitter @J30_RANDLE.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

In case you haven’t checked what is trending this morning on Twitter Joel Embiid stole headlines with his most recent, now deleted, tweet.

Embiid as of late, has been heavily discussed within the sports world. His navicular bone injury could cost him the #1 draft spot in the 2014 NBA draft, as well as any within the top five. That would be perfect for the LA Lakers as they would be more than fortunate to have Embiid available when drafting tonight at #7.

Per Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com, it seemed that someone was having a little fun with Embiid’s twitter account last night.

If this happens to be the case, many Lakers fans can breath a sigh of relief in having a very talented player who will, probably, be with the franchise long term. If not, it is almost a certainty that whatever does happen will help to progress the franchise forward.

Joel Embiid's Tweets

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Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony
Image: Catherine Steenkeste | Getty Images

Superstar forward Carmelo Anthony opted out of his contract with the New York Knicks as expected on June 22nd.

As Anthony explores his options to identify which destination, most notably the Knicks, Chicago Bulls, and Houston Rockets, will help him win his first NBA championship, a current member of the Lakers’ organization has apparently started the recruiting process to help lure Anthony to the City of Angels.

According to ESPN.com’s Chris Broussard, Lakers’ guard Kobe Bryant, who missed most of last season with injuries, has already started his own recruiting process this week:

Though the Los Angeles Lakers are not on Anthony’s current list, Kobe Bryant plans to recruit him to the team. Bryant, who is close with Anthony, spoke to him by telephone when they were in separate parts of Europe earlier this week.

Bryant told ESPN.com in a text message that he plans to meet with Anthony, as well.

With stars like Anthony and LeBron James set to become free agents on July 1st, we will soon find out  whether or not Bryant’s recruiting pitches work to help rebuild a roster that currently only has Bryant, PG Steve Nash and C Robert Sacre.

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Photo: Stephen Dunn | Getty Images

In what was an expected decision, guard Nick Young officially opted out of his final year with the Lakers and will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1st.

A fan favorite, “Swaggy P” was one of the positives in a season full of negatives for the Lakers.  Young led the team with a career-high 17.9 points in 28.3 minutes a game for the purple and gold, providing a spark to an offense that was without Kobe Bryant for all but six games.

“We anticipated and expected that Nick would choose to become a free agent,” said Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak. “We very much appreciate his contributions to last season’s team, and we will hopefully be able to bring him back. However, he, his agent and the market will dictate his future direction.”

While Kupchak and the Lakers would love to bring Young back, his price tag will surely play a part in his future with the team. Earlier this month, Young noted that he would take a hometown discount to stay in Los Angeles:

“It depends how much the discount is,” Young said. “But as a player, everyone wants a place they feel comfortable at. I feel comfortable in L.A. But I can’t keep taking these discounts. I need a raise a little bit. But if it’s for the right cost and they’re bringing in players and I fit into the rotation, then I’ll probably take a pay cut.”

In his seven year career, the most Young has made per year is $5.6 million in 2012-2013 with the Philadelphia 76ers.  It remains unknown what the market will be for former USC Trojan, but he will surely receive interest from many teams looking for a spark off the bench.

Young has a career average of 12.2 points but has shown the ability to go off for big nights.  This past season, Young led the bench in scoring with 18.8 points and had two 40-point games.

 

 

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Joel Embiid -- Credit: Getty Images

Exclusively for LakerNation.com, draft analyst Ed Isaacson (@NBADraftBlog) of NBADraftBlog.com ranks the best options for the Lakers as Thursday’s NBA Draft nears.

The purple and gold will select #7 and while there was disappointment of a non-top three pick, there are players available that could give the Lakers great value at the slot.  Here is the breakdown of nine prospects:

1. Joel Embiid (C) – We knew about the back issues and know there is the stress fracture in his foot. Even with those issues, Embiid is by far the best big man prospect in this draft. He is still very raw, but could provide a presence on the defensive end as a rebounder and rim protector early in his career. If Embiid somehow falls to the Lakers, they need to take this risk with a post-Kobe rebuild looming anyway.

2. Marcus Smart (PG) – Many chastised Smart for going back to school for his sophomore year, and though there were a few hiccups during the season, he did come out as a better player. Smart is a strong point guard with the ability to bully his way to the basket, but also the vision to find open teammates. He rebounds well for his size and he is one of the top 2 or 3 on-ball defenders in this draft. Perimeter shooting needs to be more consistent, but Smart is the type of young point guard a team can build around.

3. Dante Exum (SG/PG) – The young Australian made his name in International competitions, and his size and athleticism will be attractive to many teams, including the Lakers. He is a skilled player on both ends of the floor, and though his perimeter shooting can be inconsistent, he should be fine long-term. His size and speed allow him to gaurd multiple positions and he has shown good defensive instincts. The big question is whether he can actually play the point in the NBA. Nothing I’ve seen shows me he can be a strong decision-maker, but he may still have it in him down the road.

4. Julius Randle (PF) – A big-bodied, but athletic, power forward, Randle has the ability to overpower players in the low post, and score with surprising touch around the basket. Randle is dominant with his left-hand, but he isn’t very good with his right, and by the end of last season, teams understood this and played him to take away his left. He is quick after rebounds on both ends of the floor, and though he isn’t a great defender, he has the body to defend in the post and the athleticism to defend the perimeter. He just needs someone to get him to focus more on the defensive end.

5. Noah Vonleh (PF) – Vonleh has good length and above-average athleticism, but is still developing most parts of his game. On offense, Vonleh has the size to be a good low post option, but he doesn’t have the aggressiveness or strength to consistently fight for position. He prefers to play more on the perimeter, where he showed good ability to knock down long jumpers. Vonleh can be a good rim protector, and he is already a pretty good defender for his age. He is just 18 years old and still has a lot of potential, though there is still much of his game yet to be seen.

6. Doug McDermott (SF) – The country’s top scorer, McDermott will give any team an instant long-range threat, as well as a player who understand spacing well and how to move the ball to open teammates. McDermott is also a crafty scorer around the basket and even against longer players, he finds ways to get his shot. While not particularly strong, McDermott can be a good rebounder and post defender. His perimeter defense can be a problem because of a lack of speed, but he knows how to play angles well and he will find adjustments after some time in the league. Either way, he is the player on this list most ready to contribute right away to the Lakers.

7. Elfrid Payton (PG) – Many might not know Payton, but he was one of the best guards in college basketball this past season at Louisiana-Lafayette. He has great speed, good ball-handling skills, and a very strong basketball IQ. Payton is very good at beating his man off the dribble or using high screens, and once he gets into the lane, he is good at finding open teammates after drawing defenders. He is a creative finisher around the basket, though a bit wild at times, and he is very good at drawing contact. Payton is a strong perimeter defender and rebounds very well for his size. Like Smart, Payton has trouble with his jumper, though Payton’s form needs a lot of work from long-range.

8. Aaron Gordon (PF) – Gordon is an athletic freak and tough competitor on the court. He is a very good defender, capable of guarding multiple positions and in the post or on the perimeter, and he uses his athleticism well to get after rebounds. Gordon’s offense is really limited to scoring off of offensive rebounds or getting out in transition for what usually end up as highlight reel dunks. His shooting isn’t very good, and he is a mess at the free throw line, but in the right system, a team can find a way to get him good looks around the basket. I’m just not sure if that is the direction the Lakers want to go in for the future.

9. Zach LaVine (SG/PG) – LaVine, like Gordon, is an athletic freak, but he may even more raw than Gordon. LaVine’s offense was limited to some three-pointers, where he was an average shooter, and getting baskets in transition, though most times he leaked out instead of trying to rebound and beat both teams down the floor. Word is that LaVine believes he is a point guard, and while being a decent ball-handler, he has never shown that he can make the decisions necessary to play the position in college, let alone the NBA. LaVine is as long term a project as there is in this draft, and the Lakers are even considering picking him at #7, someone should be fired.

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A big thank you to Ed Isaacson for taking the time to breakdown the prospects that could be available to the Lakers with the #7 pick.  For additional breakdown, follow Isaacson on Twitter @NBADraftBlog and visit NBADraftBlog.com

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Credit: Getty Images

NBA.com’s David Aldridge is reporting that while the Toronto Raptors will have the chance to re-sign Kyle Lowry, the Lakers are looming as a possible candidate for the point guard’s services:

Raps have a decent shot at keeping Kyle Lowry, but there will be suitors — and the Lakers are at the top of the list.

The Lakers need a lot of help to rebuild its roster and point guard has long been a position of need of the team. Last season, Jordan Farmar, Kendall Marshall, Steve Blake, and Steve Nash made up the point guard rotation, but injuries affected the production of the players most notably Nash and Farmar.

Blake was eventually traded to Golden State and Marshall took over the majority of the minutes as he played well upon arrival for the Lakers, but his offensive production declined the rest of the season, except for his assist rate. There are questions if Marshall will be a rotation player next season as a back up but the overwhelming consensus amongst fans is that there is no chance where he starts for the purple and gold.

While the 28-year old Lowry would be a solid fit in Los Angeles, the question remains of how much he will cost. This past season, Lowry made $6.2 million but he is due for a raise after averaging 17.9 points, 7.4 assists, and 4.7 rebounds a game last season.

A big key to the pursuit of Lowry will be the Lakers ability to rid themselves of Nash’s contract. Without doing so, the Lakers will be hoping that Lowry accepts $6-$7 million a year which does not seem realistic at this point.

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Photo by Steve Boyle

With the NBA draft less than a week away, the rumor mill is picking up momentum and as is the case more times than not, the Lakers are involved.

The latest rumor from Ryen Russillo of ESPN has the Lakers trading away the #7 pick and Steve Nash to the Philadelphia 76ers for Michael Carter-Williams and Thaddeus Young:

The deal would be fantastic for the Lakers. Carter-Williams was last season’s Rookie of the Year, averaging 16.7 points, 6.3 assists, and 6.2 rebounds. The 6’6 point guard was the Sixers 11th pick in last year’s draft out of Syracuse.

Young is a power forward but is considered undersized at 6’8. Last season, Young averaged 17.9 points and 6.0 rebounds. Depending how free agency goes starting on July 1st, the Lakers could go forward with Young or he can be used in another trade for additional pieces.

Trading Nash would be a plus for the Lakers for the sole reason that there remains doubt that the point guard will ever play again. If he doesn’t, the Lakers will have $9.7 million sitting on the bench until his contract expires at the end of next season.

Once again though, this is only a rumor at the moment. It could be a case of the Sixers leaking the information to let teams know that Carter-Williams is available. Whatever the case may be, expect trade talks with the Lakers and the #7 pick to intensify over the coming days.

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Zach LaVine
Image courtesy of the Pac-12 Conference

NBA draft prospect Zach LaVine spoke with Laker Nation’s Johnny Navarrette in an exclusive interview to discuss the draft process experience, comparisons to Russell Westbrook, and also shared his thoughts about growing up a Lakers fan, Kobe Bryant, and the current state of basketball in Los Angeles. Be sure to watch LaVine’s pre-draft workout below, presented by PureSweat and Laker Nation’s own Sam Limon.

JN: Since leaving UCLA, how has the entire draft process experience been for you? Competing against the best young talent in the world, meeting with teams and media? 

ZL: “It’s been a lot of fun, just enjoying the process.  You only get to go through it once or twice so it is definitely something that is enjoyable. I’m going in it full-hearted, very confident, and just ride through this process.”

JN: There are some who feel you will be a shooting guard at the next level and some who feel you will be a point guard, what position do you see yourself playing in the NBA?

ZL: “A lot of people haven’t seen me play point guard yet so they can’t really play judgment on to it until they see me in person.  I feel like I have been proving in these workouts that I can play and compete at the point guard position.  I definitely feel comfortable with the ball in my hands but I am also not scared to shoot or score the ball as well because I feel that comes easy to me. I’m a player first so wherever the coach needs me to play at I’ll do it but I definitely feel comfortable with the ball in my hand.”

JN: Do you feel that you are underrated in this draft?

ZL: “I wouldn’t say underrated.  I’m going up and competing against dudes everyday, holding my own, and I feel like my stock keeps rising because I’ve been doing very well against everybody else, stacking up against the competition.  I’ve been doubted a couple times so I guess you can say I’m underrated but I really don’t let outside voices get to me or anything like that.  I know what I can do, I’m a very confident person, and I put in the hard work so I don’t let any of those distractions really mess with me.”

JN: What areas of your game do you feel you need to improve in?

ZL: “I’m still 19-years old so my body is still maturing. I feel like I’ve added strength, I feel that will come naturally.  I want to get my body stronger, add some weight like I said before and just learn a little bit more about off-ball defense, I feel like I am a pretty good on-ball defender.   The grind and the process of the NBA lifestyle as well, you know you mess with 35-year old men so becoming more mature on and off the court as well.”

JN: How big has working with Drew Hanlen (@DrewHanlen) been to you?

ZL: “It’s been really good.  I’ve been working a lot on pick-and-roll reads, sharpening up my ball handling skills, and just becoming more consistent with my jump shot, getting all these different finishes and getting in condition so it has been a lot of fun.”

JN: What is one thing that he has taught you that changed who you are as a player?

ZL: “He’s a really cool dude and one of my close friends now. He’s been teaching me little tricks of the trade, dealing with NBA players before.  I feel like I’m going to be working out with him in the future as well.”

JN: The constant comparison when it comes to you is that of Russell Westbrook, another guard out of UCLA with elite athleticism.  Do you think those comparisons are fair and who is the NBA player you model your game after the most?

ZL: “I see the Russell Westbrook comparisons a lot. I feel like we do don’t play in the same way, he’s a little bit more reckless than I am.  He has a stronger body but athletically I feel we are on the same page.  He pulls up on the break a lot, I like to pull up and I feel like I can get to the lane very easy and create.  I feel like I play like Steph Curry as well with his dribbling and shooting ability off the dribble and one of my good friends Jamal Crawford, same body type, loose handles but still not that conventional point guard but has a lot of different moves to get a shot off on anybody. So I feel I have a little bit of all three of those players.”

JN:  With Jamal Crawford being a close friend, what has he done for you throughout this process?

ZL: “Jamal is a really cool dude and you can talk to him about anything.  He’s from the town like me so all the players from Seattle are definitely close to each other.  He gives me little tricks of the trade, been around the block a couple of times so it’s definitely something you look forward to talking to him about whenever you’re struggling with something and need to know something.”

JN: How was your experience at UCLA? Some questioned your decision to leave after one season, but what did you learn in college that made you feel that you were prepared to make the jump to the NBA?

ZL: “I felt it was my decision and felt it was the right time in my career to take that step.  I’m a confident person; I’m not scared of challenges and feel that my game translates to the NBA pretty well.  I learned life lessons, I had to deal with adversity, play at a level where you could see yourself at and just getting another year of experience.  It was my freshman year, I enjoyed it, living and dying with the guys every game so it was definitely a great experience for me.”

JN: Growing up a Lakers fan, was it surreal to workout for the Lakers in the pre-draft workout? How was the experience?

ZL: “It was a lot of fun. Growing up being a Laker fan, watching everything they do has been really fun for me. Then actually getting to workout for them, getting to put on that jersey is really cool and I took it all in, but at the same time I knew I had a job to do, try the best I could, and just impress.”

JN: You set a Laker pre-draft workout record with a 46-inch vertical, are you surprised by the reaction it’s getting?

ZL: “I mean I could see why, you don’t see that everyday (laughs).  I had I think a 45-inch vertical before at UCLA, 42 at the draft combine, so it depends some days on how you’re feeling, I was little more pumped up that day.  I feel like I did good overall. On the three quarter sprint I ran a 2.95 or something like that and the fastest at the combine was a 3.1, so I don’t know if that is a record for the Lakers or not, but I feel like I did pretty well in all of them.”

JN: Aaron Gordon said in an interview that he would be “tied at the hip” with Kobe Bryant if drafted by the Lakers, what would it mean to you to get drafted by the franchise and what would you hope to learn playing under Kobe?

ZL: “He’s been my favorite player growing up. Not just because of his flashy game, but I love his demeanor. He’s a killer, he puts in the work. I pat myself on always being one of the hardest workers on the team so you can learn everything from him.  He’s one of the greatest of all-time so it’s definitely something I can look forward to picking his brain from.”

JN: His work ethic and competitiveness is considered to be second to none, how do you think your work ethic and attitude would mesh with Kobe, someone who demands greatness from his teammates?

ZL: “He can see someone who he can see as his younger self. I feel like I have a very high competitive nature as well, someone that works extremely hard and is very focused.  Hopefully he would have a good reaction to it, I know at the end of the day he’s still going out there trying to kill you, it’s Kobe Bryant.”

JN: Being a fan, you know the expectations of the team and players are high in Los Angeles when it comes to the Lakers.  How would you handle those expectations?

ZL: “There are expectations but you can only handle what you can handle.  You go out there and try to do the best you can, work hard, try to win, and do the best to your abilities. Knowing me, if I got dressed up to be a Laker, I would be extremely happy.  I feel like my game fits LA. I’m excited to play out there, I feel like I can get the crowd off their feet.  It’s the Lakers, it’s show time, and I feel like my game is little bit of show time. I definitely feel like I can reach those expectations.”

JN: The Lakers and Clippers have somewhat flip flopped roles in Los Angeles in terms of success. What are your feelings on the current state of LA basketball?

ZL: “Lakers are one of the best franchises of all-time, so they are going to get back where they should be in the standings and in the rankings.  Every team goes through its ups and downs, it just happens.  The Clippers are a great team as well, they had their downs and now they are at the top of the pedestal so the Lakers are trying to get back up there.”

JN: Finally, what is your message to Laker Nation about why you are the right choice for the Lakers?

ZL: “I’m a player you can bank on, who is always going to be in the gym working hard, working on their game.  Someone who fits the play-style, fits the face of LA that I feel that I am an exciting player and I’ll do anything to win.  I’m competitive, I’m a team player, and I just feel like my game fits LA.”

Find out where Zach LaVine is drafted on Thursday June 26, 2014, live on ESPN.  Be sure to follow Zach on Twitter at @ZachLaVine as well as Laker Nation at @LakerNation for the latest news and updates surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers.

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Julius Randle
Photo: Chris Reynolds

Former freshman sensation Julius Randle worked out for the Lakers on Tuesday in front of Jim Buss, Mitch Kupchak and the rest of their staff. According to numerous reports, Randle had a great workout for the team. He even received some love from Jim Buss.

The concern surrounding Randle has been the rumors that Randle will need surgery on his right foot to remove a screw that was placed in there when Randle was in high school. When asked about the injury, according to the LA Times, Randle stated, “I met with the best foot doctor in the country, and he said he wouldn’t do anything for my foot. There’s no scheduled surgery or anything. I feel healthy, athletic. I’m moving great—no problem recovering. I’m ready to go.”

With the 7th pick in the upcoming 2014 NBA Draft, the Lakers may be in position to draft Randle if the concern about his foot scares some teams away. Randle, once the 2nd best high school recruit, has been compared to double-double machine Zach Randolph because of their similar body type, physical style and their apparent lack of athleticism. The 6’9” 19 year old quieted some of the doubts of his athleticism on Tuesday when he posted a 38 inch vertical during his workout with the Lakers.

When asked about the possibility of playing with Kobe and the Lakers, Randle had an interesting perspective.

“I’m the biggest Lakers fan. Probably more of a Kobe fan. I heard Kobe was a little tough on rookies, but I don’t care. The city of Los Angeles expects nothing but championships.  What more can I ask for?  I’m a little prepared for it because, coming from Kentucky — lose a game and they go crazy.”

Randle is one of many intriguing prospects the Lakers will be scouting before the day of the draft on June 26th. Other big men include Aaron Gordon, Noah Vonleh and Joel Embiid. When asked how he compares to his competition in the draft Randle responded, “How do I rate myself against them? I feel like I’m the best one.”

The Lakers will definitely have options with their No. 7 overall pick. The team would still love to trade the pick for a player that can help them win in the immediate future with Kobe still under contract. If they don’t trade the pick, though, the Lakers should be ecstatic to land a player like Randle. Out of all the players in the draft, Randle, along with Jabari Parker, is seen as the most NBA-ready of the group. His skillset and toughness would be huge additions to a Laker team with only four players currently under contract.

Jeff Haynes/AFP/Getty Images

After 16 NBA Championships and 31 Western Conference Titles, the Lakers have been one of the most storied and successful franchises in NBA history. From the eras of West, Chamberlain, Kareem, Magic, and Kobe, there have been countless record-breaking performances and memorable games that have added to Lakers glory. Let’s take a look back at some notable moments for the purple and gold, from the week of June 15-21, over their 66-year history.

June 16, 1975

The Bucks traded Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to the Lakers after the three-time MVP requested to be traded away from Milwaukee. Abdul-Jabbar went on to win five NBA championships, three MVP awards, and became the NBA’s all-time leading scorer while wearing the purple and gold. His number 33 was eventually retired by both the Bucks and Lakers after his playing days came to an end in 1989.

June 16, 1999

The Lakers hired Phil Jackson to become their head coach after his wildly successful run as the head coach of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. In his first three years as the Lakers’ head coach, Jackson led the team to three-straight NBA championships. During his second coaching stint with Los Angeles, Jackson led the Lakers to consecutive championships in 2009 and 2010. In 12 seasons at the Lakers’ helm, Jackson won five NBA championships and became the NBA’s career leader in playoff victories and playoff winning percentage.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

June 17, 2010

The Lakers defeated their rivals, the Boston Celtics, 83-79 in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Despite an ugly game on both sides, an unlikely hero emerged for Los Angeles, as Metta World Peace, formerly known as Ron Artest, stepped up and dropped 20 points for the Lakers. Although Kobe Bryant struggled uncharacteristically, going 6-24 from the field, he finished with 23 points and 15 rebounds in the win. The Lakers’ Game 7 victory avenged their loss to Boston in the 2008 Finals and secured their second consecutive title.

June 21, 1988

“Big Game” James Worthy picked the perfect time to live up to his nickname, as he recorded the first triple-double of his career with 36 points, 16 rebounds, and 10 assists, to lift the Lakers over the Pistons 108-105, in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Worthy’s clutch performance allowed the Lakers to become the first NBA team to defend its championship since the 1969 Boston Celtics. With their victory in the title-clinching game, Los Angeles also became the first team in NBA history to win three straight playoff series in seven games, having done so consecutively against Utah, Dallas, and Detroit.

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With the Lakers off to a poor start, trade rumors have begun to swirl around Kobe Bryant, leading many to speculate if he'll leave for greener pastures. Kobe puts those rumors to rest in his interview with Yahoo Sports.