Friday, August 22, 2014
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LakerNation

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(Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)

Byron Scott’s hiring as Lakers head coach is not only a homecoming for the franchise he once played for, but also for the city he grew up in and is already doing his part to give back to the community.

On Tuesday, Scott announced his role as a mentor at Centennial High School’s Male Academy, an intervention program for the school’s ninth and tenth grade students. During the school year, Scott will be part of the program to mentor the young men while also taking part in motivational discussions.

Scott attended Morningside High School in Inglewood, which is six miles away from Centennial in Compton.

In his introduction at the high school, Scott’s main focus was to tell the students to focus on their education more so than athletic aspirations.

Lakers reporter Mike Trudell said Scott asked how many students believed they would become professional athletes, with many hands going up.

“You have a better opportunity to be the next (President) Obama than the next LeBron,” said Scott.

The response was not in any way to discourage the students from chasing their dreams, but to drive home the point that getting their degree and education is essential.

The press conference did not come without basketball as students were able to ask questions of their own and Scott was asked by a student as to who would be starting for him once the season came around, which resulted in an interesting response from the new head coach.

“Other than Kobe, it’s up for grabs.”

It is no surprise that Kobe is penciled in as a starter, but with acquisitions such as Carlos Boozer and Jeremy Lin, to say every position other than shooting guard is open was not the answer some would expect. Although it could very well mean Scott is promoting competition as training camp opens in the coming weeks, giving legitimate shots for players like lottery pick Julius Randle to prove their worth.

As Scott begins his new tenure as head coach for the purple and gold, it is great to see him going back to his roots and giving back to the city he loves by putting effort into making a difference in the lives of the younger generation.

In the past four years, the Male Academy at Centennial High School has helped students improve attendance rates, disciplinary issues and academic performance. It is also credited for increasing graduation rates by 10 percent. The previous mentor was former NFL quarterback Vince Evans, who graduated from USC, and played for the Chicago Bears as well as the Los Angeles Raiders.

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Image Credit: Juan Ocampo

It may have been months in the making but the Lakers officially introduced Byron Scott as its new head coach at the team’s practice facility in El Segundo on Tuesday.

“The one thing I will say is that this has been a dream of mine for so long,” said Scott, who enjoyed 11 seasons with the purple and gold. “It’s a dream come true to be here sitting and talking to you guys today and be introduced as the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers.”

Since Mike D’Antoni’s resignation in April, the discussion as to who would be the next coach always circled back to Scott, who served as an analyst on Time Warner Cable SportsNet this past year.

After uncertainty the past three years with D’Antoni and Mike Brown, the hiring of Scott looks to bring stability to a franchise that desperately needs it. While stability is needed, the expectations remain the same, something that Scott made sure to acknowledge in his opening statements.

“This organization is all about championships. Period. We don’t look at Western Conference finals, Western Conference championships,” said Scott. “We look at championships.”

The press conference got off to a memorable start as Scott’s former teammates, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Jamaal Wilkes came to support their friend.

“This is a great day for all former Lakers as well as Laker fans all over the world,” said Magic. “We’re just excited for what Byron will bring to the table and get back to playing Laker basketball… Again, congratulations to the Laker organization. You chose the right guy.”

One of the other selling points other than Scott’s history with the franchise is that of his relationship with Kobe Bryant, who had issues with his two previous head coaches.

“Great relationship. I mean we get a long extremely well. We talk a lot. We text each other a lot during the season and obviously during the off-season,” said Scott, who was Kobe’s mentor during his rookie season in 1996. “I’m looking forward to coaching Kobe. I know his drive, and I know his will and determination. I think we’re on the same page as far as how we think about this game and how it should be played.”

While this is Scott’s ‘dream job’, many do not consider the roster as currently constructed a playoff team, but the new head coach is happy with his upcoming collection of players.

“I just was looking at all the moves that Jim [Buss] and Mitch [Kupchak] were making. When we talked, they would ask me my opinion, and I would give it to them. And like I said, I think they did a great job of putting this roster together,” said Scott.

“I’m excited to work with these guys on the floor too, and I think you’re going to have a few of these guys on this roster that have a chip on their shoulder, which to me is a very good thing, and you have a lot of people real down on us right now, and I think that’s something that can drive us going through the season.”

As the Lakers now move forward, trying to establish an identity for the years to come, it will be a challenge for Scott but for someone that understands expectations of the franchise and its fans; he is definitely the right choice at the moment for this team.  But what can the fans expect out the Lakers led by Scott?

“Play hard every single night, and we’ll come ready to defend.”

And after last season’s 27-55 performance, even that small promise from Scott is the step in the right direction.

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Image: Andrew D. Bernstein | Getty Images

While some believe Carlos Boozer is better suited to come off the bench for the Los Angeles Lakers, the 12-year veteran fully intends to start when next season begins.

“Absolutely,” said Boozer, in response to being asked if he thinks he will be a starter in Los Angeles at his introductory press conference Friday.

The Lakers acquired Boozer late last week, submitting the winning bid, $3.251 million, for the power forward after the Chicago Bulls used the amnesty clause.  Chicago will be responsible for paying Boozer the remaining $13.55 million on his contract that expires at the end of next season.

General Manager Mitch Kupchak said he was surprised the team was able to pick up Boozer in the bidding process.

“Unexpectedly for us, our bid was the highest bid and we were awarded Carlos,” said Kupchak. “Not for a second did we think he would be available to us.

With a front court consisting of Jordan Hill, Robert Sacre, Ryan Kelly, Ed Davis, and Julius Randle, Boozer joins a rotation as the player with the most NBA experience, which surely will be crucial when it comes to playing time.

Boozer mentioned that he has spoken multiple times to his new teammate Kobe Bryant, who played together on All-Star teams and in the 2008 Summer Olympics on the “Redeem Team”.

“Come ready. Come ready to lead. Come ready to surprise some people,” said Boozer of Kobe’s message to him.

There are concerns whether Boozer will be able to produce at a high-level. Defensively, there is not much to expect from him, but offensively he will surely help fill a void left by the departing Pau Gasol, who joined the Bulls this offseason.

The 32-year old said he continues to work hard everyday, noting he was in the gym when he found out the news of the Lakers acquiring him and while he was excited, he continued to work out for two more hours.

He will turn 33-years old in November but feels he still has a lot to offer to the Lakers and the NBA.

“My body feels great,” said Boozer. “I don’t know how long I’m going to play, maybe four or five, six more years, maybe seven.”

Boozer has been a solid contributor over his 12-year NBA career, averaging 16.6 points and 9.8 rebounds a game. His best years came in Utah where he averaged 19.3 points and 10.5 rebounds over six seasons.

In 2010, Boozer agreed to a five-year deal with the Chicago Bulls as a free agent but did not perform as well as in previous years, averaging 15.5 points and 7.1 rebounds in the last four seasons. His contract was always in question and the Bulls attempted to move him in recent seasons but with no success.

Boozer was drafted out of Duke in 2002 as a second round pick, 35th overall, by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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VIDEO: Carlos Boozer scores 19 points and grabs 12 rebounds in 101-92 victory over the Phoenix Suns

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Image: Andrew D. Bernstein | Getty Images

Welcomed by a large media contingent, Jeremy Lin was officially introduced as a Los Angeles Laker on Thursday at the team’s practice facility in El Segundo.

“Really excited to be part of this organization,” said Lin. “Obviously for me it’s a new start, a fresh start.  I’m excited to be back in the state of California.  It’s definitely good to be back.”

With Lin comes expectations and hype thanks to his rise to stardom in New York in 2011 when ‘Linsanity’ was born.  While fans and media may expect a similar performance here in Los Angeles, the 25-year old point guard let it be known that he is not attempting to put on a Hollywood sequel.

“I’m not trying to relive that banner season and I think that’s been a big weight off my shoulder. I’m not trying to recreate a ‘Linsanity,’ ” said Lin, who grew up in nearby Torrance. “I’m not trying to be that phenomenon that happened in New York. I just want to be myself more than ever.”

While Lin does not expect ‘Linsanity’ to return, he ironically is going back to No. 17, the number he wore with the Knicks when his career took off.  He wore No. 7 with the Warriors and Rockets.

As with New York, playing for the Lakers comes pressures of performing at a high-level on a national stage, but Lin says he does not feel any added pressure upon his arrival in Los Angeles.

“I feel the least amount of pressure on my shoulders now than I ever had,” said Lin, who averaged 12.5 points and 4.1 assists last season in Houston. “I try to make sure the circumstances don’t dictate the pressure I feel.”

While Lin may not feel pressure now, it could very well be a different story come training camp and the regular season.  In recent seasons, the point guard position has been somewhat of a problem for the Lakers.  The team hoped that Steve Nash could add a different dynamic to the team but unfortunately injuries have derailed those hopes and now Lin has a chance to take ahold of the starting position moving forward.

Lin brings along career averages of 11.9 points and 4.8 assists, but has shown stretches of brilliance and playing at an elite level that could translate even more so in the bright lights of Los Angeles.  While his stint in Houston was not favorable due in large part to James Harden handling the ball and running the offense, it is important to look back at what Lin did in New York when given the opportunities.

In 2011, the Lakers entered Madison Square Garden for its first look at Lin and the point guard decided to have himself career game, scoring 38 points while dishing out seven assists in a 92-85 victory, out dueling Kobe Bryant (34 points and 10 rebounds), who said he had no idea who the point guard was before the matchup, but did later question how NBA personnel missed a talent like Lin.

“The biggest thing to me is how everybody missed it,” Bryant said before the 2011 All-Star Game. “They all would be fired if I was owning a team. I hear this stuff, ‘It came out of nowhere.’ I think it’s a load of [garbage]. You can’t play that well and just come out of nowhere. There has to be something there and everybody missed it. So heads would roll [if I was owner].”

For the Lakers and its fans, there will be zero complains if ‘Linsanity’ is recreated, but Lin made it clear he is looking to create a new chapter with the purple and gold instead of hanging onto past success.

“I’m not trying to be a player from the past,” Lin said. “I’m trying to make history again.”

And with a historic franchise like the Lakers, the stage is set for him to do just that.

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July 11, 2014

 

  • Jeremy Lin: The Lakers/Rockets agreed to a trade that sends Lin to the purple and gold along with a 2015 first round pick.  The Lakers send no salary back to the Rockets as Houston prepares to offer Chris Bosh a max contract.
  •  Pau Gasol: The Lakers are open to a S&T deal if Gasol decides to pursue another career opportunity elsewhere (via Mark Medina – LA Daily News)

 

July 10, 2014

 

  • Steve Blake: Reached agreement on a two-year, $4 million contract with the Portland Trail Blazers (via Adrian Wojnarowski – Yahoo! Sports)
  • Pau Gasol: Met with GM Mitch Kupchak at the Lakers practice facility on Wednesday night (via Marc Spears – Yahoo! Sports)
  • Kent Bazemore: Lakers called Kent Bazemore again on Wednesday to reiterate that the team would like to re-sign him (via Michael Scotto – Sheridan Hoops)

 

July 9, 2014

 

  • Kobe Bryant: While not a free agent, Kobe at his basketball camp in Santa Barbara spoke to the media before it got started.  Couple things to note, endorsed Byron Scott as the next head coach of the Lakers and mentioned that the Buss family has a solid plan they want “to put a contender on the floor next year… “they’re going for it.” Also said there is a plan B in place if Melo does not sign with the Lakers.
  • Carmelo Anthony: Barring a ‘last minute change of heart’, Anthony will reportedly re-sign with the Knicks and will announce his decision on Thursday, according to a source close to the forward.  Other sources, including his agent Leon Rose, all denied that a decision was made (via Frank Isola – NY Daily News)
  • Isaiah Thomas: “I’m just waiting to see how it goes and waiting for Carmelo to decide. His decision just opens it up for me.” (via Eli Friedman – ThunderousIntentions/OKC Blog)

July 7, 2014

 

  • LeBron James: It is said that LeBron’s decision will come down to the Miami Heat or Cleveland Cavaliers (via Adrian Wojnarowski – Yahoo! Sports)
  • Jordan Crawford: The guard is receiving interest from the Lakers,  Bulls, Mavs, Knicks, and Nets (via Marc Spears – Yahoo! Sports)
  • Pau Gasol: The Thunder, once considered a front-runner, feel like Gasol is now a long shot. The center met with OKC coach Scott Brooks on Monday.  The Lakers, Spurs, and Bulls are all interested.  It is reported that Gasol has concerns about leaving a ‘culturally diverse’ city like Los Angeles and asked Brooks about the quality of life in Oklahoma City (via Dave McMenamin – ESPN)

July 6, 2014

 

  • Image: Andrew D. Bernstein | Getty Images
    Image: Andrew D. Bernstein | Getty Images

    Carmelo Anthony: There is a “rising sense around the league” that Melo will choose between the Lakers and the Knicks (via Marc Stein – ESPN) UPDATE: “After contemplating his options this weekend, free agent Carmelo Anthony’s decision isn’t expected to linger late into the week, a source said” (via Marc Spears – Yahoo! Sports)

  • Jordan Farmar: The point guard agreed to a 2yr/$4.2M deal with the Clippers (via Brad Turner – LA Times)
  • Isaiah Thomas: The Lakers are a “real possibility for Thomas.  While the Heat are also pursuing the point guard, the Lakers have the money to get a deal done.  As with everything else, nothing will happen until decisions from Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James are made (via Jared Zwerling – Bleacher Report/NBA TV)

 

July 5, 2014

Carmelo Anthony
Image: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke
  • LeBron James: The Lakers met with LeBron James’ agent Rich Paul on Friday, and the four-time MVP is giving similar consideration to what the Lakers have to offer, according to sources. (via Ramona Shelburne / Chris Broussard)
  • Carmelo Anthony: The one stumbling block is that Anthony is holding out hope that good friend LeBron James can find the two a place where the money is good and they can run together. (via NY Daily News)
    The Lakers’ pitch — of teaming Anthony with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and prized rookie Julius Randle on a team with no long-term salary obligations — made what one source described as a “strong impression” on Anthony. (via Ramona Shelburne / Chris Broussard)
    The Lakers made a MAJOR impact on Melo this week. It is now a legit three-way battle between Los Angeles, Chicago and New York to land him. As one source in process says of Lakers bid, “They can promise max money (4 years, $97M) without any roster moves needing to be made.” (via Bill Simmons / Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Pau Gasol: Gasol has emerged as a key selling point for the Lakers. While the Spaniard has been listening to pitches from championship contenders who lack much financial flexibility, such as Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Miami and Chicago, sources believe he would quickly re-sign with the Lakers if they are able to land Anthony or James. (via Ramona Shelburne / Chris Broussard)

July 4, 2014

  • LeBron James: Lakers met with LeBron James’s agent, Rich Paul, Friday in Cleveland. (via David Aldridge)

July 3, 2014

  • LeBron James: GM Mitch Kupchak is on a plane to Cleveland to meet with Rich Paul, agent for James.  They will reportedly meet Friday. (via Ramona Shelburne – ESPN) MORE: Lakers said they didn’t have meeting set up with LeBron James’ agent but Kupchak + Lakers biz VP Tim Harris are in CLE. Kupchak and Harris flew to CLE on a private jet immediately after meeting with Carmelo in Los Angeles this afternoon. (via Mike Bresnahan – LA Times)
  • Carmelo Anthony: The Lakers are scheduled to meet with Melo this afternoon and it is reported that Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher have flown into Los Angeles to meet with the forward later this evening.  Dave McMenamin of ESPN reports that Laker legend James Worthy will be involved in the meeting. UPDATE: Lakers have offered a 4-yr/$97M deal to Melo (the maximum salary)
  • Pau Gasol: Carmelo Anthony reportedly wants to sell Gasol on playing in New York together.  The center continues to get interest from teams and could be a priority for teams that miss out on Melo and LeBron.
  • Chris Kaman: The center signed a 2yr/$10M deal with the Portland Trailblazers
  • Jordan Farmar: Clippers are interested in the point guard and it could be a fit after Darren Collison left to sign a deal with the Sacramento Kings.
  • Isaiah Thomas: The Sacramento Kings signed Darren Collison to a 3-yr/$16M deal which could mean the end for Thomas in Sacramento. The Lakers have expressed interest in the point guard. UPDATE: Thomas’ preferred destinations in order are: Lakers, Heat, and Pistons.

 

July 2, 2014

 

  • Photo Credit: Getty Images
    Photo Credit: Getty Images

    Pau Gasol: The San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder have emerged as serious suitors for the center.  OKC’s Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook spoke directly to Gasol in LA today and the Thunder are considered a “frontrunner” (via Ramona Shelburne – ESPN)

  • Greg Monroe: If the Lakers are unable to re-sign Pau Gasol, it has Monroe on its list of potential replacements. Signing the center could be tough since he is a restricted free agent (via Brian Windhorst on SportsCenter)
  • Jordan Farmar, Xavier Henry, Wesley Johnson, and Chris Kaman: All players’ agents were contacted by general manager Mitch Kupchak about a potential return to the Lakers (via Dave McMenamin – ESPN)
  • Kyle Lowry:  The Lakers are among the bidders for the point guard who is mulling over an offer to stay with the Toronto Raptors (via Brian Windhorst – ESPN) UPDATE: Lowry has agreed to a 4yr/$48 million deal to stay with the Toronto Raptors (via Adrian Wojnarowski – Yahoo! Sports)
  •  Carmelo Anthony: UPDATE (2:30 pm) - The Lakers are ‘laser-focused’ on its Thursday meeting with Melo.  They’re making other calls, but all other business is conditional on that
    (via Ramona Shelburne – ESPN)
  • Lance Stephenson: The Lakers reached out to Stephenson’s agent to express interest in the guard. The Pacers offered Stephenson 5-yrs/$44M but the offer was not accepted (via Chris Broussard – ESPN)

 

July 1, 2014

 

  • Kyle Lowry:  The Lakers are among the bidders for the point guard who is mulling over an offer to stay with the Toronto Raptors (via Brian Windhorst – ESPN)
  • Josh McRoberts: The Lakers have shown interest in McRoberts who played for the team during the 2011-2012 season (via Jeff Goodman – ESPN)
  •  Pau Gasol: The Lakers placed a call to Gasol to express interest in bringing him back (via Ramona Shelburne – ESPN) — UPDATE (5:25 pm): Gasol met with Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak on Tuesday and the meeting lasted a “few hours” (via Dave McMenamin)
  • Jodie MeeksThe Lakers reached out to Meeks to show its interest in bringing the guard back (via Mark Medina – LA Daily News) UPDATE: Meeks and the Detroit Pistons have agreed to a 3yr/$19 million deal (via Adrian Wojnarowski – Yahoo! Sports)
  • Image: Robert Mayer | US Presswire
    Image: Robert Mayer | US Presswire

    LeBron James: The Lakers placed a call to Rich Paul, the agent for LeBron (via Ramona Shelburne – ESPN)

  • Carmelo Anthony: The Lakers secured a meeting with Anthony that will take place on Thursday (via Ramona Shelburne – ESPN)
  • Chris Bosh: The Lakers have expressed interest in the power forward (via Chris Broussard – ESPN)
  • Chandler Parsons: The Lakers expressed interest in the small forward (via Jeff Goodman – ESPN)
  • Trevor Ariza: The Lakers are on the list of Ariza’s potential destinations (via Dave McMenamin – ESPN)
  • Luol Deng: The Lakers have shown interest in Deng (via Alex Kennedy – Basketball Insiders)
  • Nick Young: The Lakers contacted Young’s representatives to express its interest in bringing him back (via Mike Bresnahan – LA Times)
  • Jordan Hill: The Lakers expressed interest in bringing Hill back (via Adrian Wojnarowski -Yahoo! Sports)
  • Isaiah Thomas: The Lakers were one of the teams to contact Thomas’ agent to express interest in the point guard (via Alex Kennedy – Basketball Insiders)
  • Caron Butler: The Lakers have expressed interest in the veteran forward (via David Aldridge – NBA.com)
  • Kent Bazemore: The Lakers reached out to the guard to express interest in bringing him back (via Michael Scotto – Sheridan Hoops)

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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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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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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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Byron Scott
Image: Chris Chambers | Getty Images

The search for the next coach of the Los Angeles Lakers became a little more clearer on Friday as it was reported by LA Times Lakers beat writer Mike Bresnahan that the team will narrow its search to coaches with previous NBA experience:

The Lakers’ decision to go with an experienced NBA coach also officially ends their brief thought of interviewing a college coach. The team was open to many scenarios after Mike D’Antoni resigned in April, including talking to Roy Williams and John Calipari, but a college coach is no longer an option.

As Bresnahan writes, that decision eliminates the idea of the Lakers hiring a college coach, but also takes Derek Fisher out of consideration for the vacancy.

The candidates with experience who have interviewed so far are: Byron Scott, Lionel Hollins, Mike Dunleavy, Alvin Gentry, George Karl, and Kurt Rambis.

With the team looking to play a more half-court system opposed to the up-tempo style that was played under Mike D’Antoni, one has to think that Scott and Hollins are likely choices moving forward in the process.

Bresnahan goes on to say:

The Lakers currently have no interviews scheduled for the early part of next week and there is only a 50-50 chance they hire a coach by the June 26 draft, according to a person familiar with the situation.

The Lakers said from the beginning of the process that there was no rush in selecting a new coach but with free agency beginning on July 1st, having a coach in place would help give the team a sense of direction in the off-season.

It is also safe to assume that any coach would like input on who the Lakers select at #7 in the NBA Draft, if they do in fact plan on keeping the pick.

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Getty Images

Everyone’s favorite point guard Smush Parker is at it again, this time in an interview on ESPN’s show Highly Questionable where he ‘reveals’ that Kobe Bryant did not allow Parker to talk to him during practice.

“He told me one day at practice – I tried to talk to him outside of basketball, about football. And he looked at me in practice and was dead serious and said, ‘You can’t talk to me. You need more accolades under your belt before you come talk to me.”

In the video below (starts at 2:58), Parker goes on to discuss the lack of relationship the two had as well as his thoughts on being considered a ‘bad’ player with the Lakers.

Someone should let Parker know that it has been seven years since he last played with the Lakers.

Let it go.

 

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Getty Images

As we get closer to the June 26th NBA Draft, the head coaching search will continue to gain momentum, which has been apparent over the last two weeks with the first round of interviews completed.  

Here are the candidates as of June 3: Byron Scott, Lionel Hollins, Mike Dunleavy, Alvin Gentry, George Karl, and Kurt Rambis.

While the list may be underwhelming to some, it is important to remember that the Lakers will continue to interview new candidates in the coming weeks before giving second interviews to finalists for the job.

On Monday, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne mentioned Larry Brown and Scott Skiles as possible coaches the Lakers were interested in talking to although Brown told Sam Amick of USA Today that he is not interested in the head coaching vacancy and is content at Southern Methodist University where he hopes to win a national championship.

As for former Laker Derek Fisher, Amick also reported that general manager Mitch Kupchak would like to have a conversation with the fan favorite to “gauge his interest and state of mind before deciding whether to interview him in person.”  Fisher is considered the favorite for the New York Knicks head coaching job as Phil Jackson looks to bring him to the Big Apple.

Fisher commented about potentially coaching former teammate Kobe Bryant, “I hadn’t thought about that much. But when you’re brothers, you’re brothers, regardless of what capacity it’s in.”

Moving away from the coaching search, the Lakers do have the 7th pick in the upcoming draft and have plenty of prospects to choose from.  On Wednesday, the team will hold two workouts for the following prospects:

Tyler Ennis (PG), Brendan Lane (PF), Marcus Smart (PG), Nik Stauskas (SG), Noah Vonleh (PF), James Young (SG), Aaron Gordon (PF), Gary Harris (SG), Rodney Hood (SF), Zach LaVine (PG/SG), Doug McDermott (SF), and Elfrid Payton (PG).

There are plenty of questions regarding who the team will draft as it could change the direction of the offseason for the Lakers.  There are sure to be additional workouts leading up to the draft at the end of the month.  Whether any coaching candidates have been asked about which player they would like to draft remains to be seen, but it is sure to have relevance as a coaching decision nears.

 

 

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Byron Scott's hiring as Lakers head coach is not only a homecoming for the franchise he once played for, but also for the city...