VIDEOS: More scrimmage footage from the Lakers’ practice facility

Good news: Courtesy of the Lakers’ Instagram accounts, we’ve got hold of some new footage of a recent scrimmage at the team’s practice facility in El Segundo.
Once again in these videos, it’s the Lakers’ rookies, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson, that stand out the most.
Randle can be seen converting on another mid-range jumper – just like he did in the first video – and is also shown attacking the basket with aggression. The same can be said for Clarkson, who threw down a nice dunk over the outstretched arm of Ed Davis (although, to Davis’ credit, he did get a block on Randle on a later possession).
The videos also feature a couple of Robert Sacre highlights, a pair of Davis scores in the paint, a Wesley Johnson jumper and a couple of nice assists by Ryan Kelly.

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What Can Lakers Center Jordan Hill Do to Justify His Big Salary in 2014-15?

A quick glance at Jordan Hill’s five-year NBA career shows glimmers of greatness, sudden bursts of brilliance and enough stretches of high-energy athleticism to warrant an opportunity at a full-time gig playing center and power forward for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Or does it?

What really possessed general manager Mitch Kupchak to offer the 27-year-old Hill a two-year contract worth $18 million, a significant jump over his $3.5 million salary from last season?

Granted, Hill is essentially on a one-year deal with the Lakers, who hold a team option for 2015-16. But even that $9 million for 2014-15 looks awfully expensive for a 6’10” former first-round draft pick who has never averaged more than 21 minutes per game for a season.

After the team lost out in its bid to bring back Pau Gasol, lure Carmelo Anthony or sign LeBron James, the Lakers decided to gamble on Hill with the hope that a new coach and some starter’s minutes would help him blossom. That meant outbidding other suitors and almost tripling what he earned in his last couple of seasons in L.A.

As the Lakers pursued Anthony and James in early July, they were also concerned about the possibility of losing Hill. From ESPNLA.com’s Dave McMenamin on July 2:

Jordan Hill was also on the minds of plenty of teams, with Boston, Dallas and Houston all inquiring about the big man coming off a season in which he averaged career highs in points (9.7) and rebounds (7.4) per game despite playing only 20.8 minutes a game in Mike D’Antoni‘s system that didn’t necessarily fit his skill set.

After using his Bird rights to re-sign Hill on July 23, Kupchak issued a statement in which he praised Hill and the deal:

Jordan has been a consistent contributor for us over the last three seasons and we are pleased to keep him in the Laker family. Jordan’s frontcourt versatility is a benefit to our roster and his on-court work ethic is something we value on our team. We hope he’ll continue to work hard and develop as an NBA player.

A closer look at Jordan Hill may offer some insight and explanation as to why the Lakers made him such a good offer.  Hill has all the tools and just needs to use them on a regular basis with a new coach and within a new system that seems much more suited to his abilities.

The reason the Lakers and other teams were so intrigued by Hill this offseason was the potential not yet fully realized but within reach. While some may question Hill’s stamina and focus, he was one of the league’s more efficient big men and deserves more court time. 

He’ll get it, but the question marks will remain until proven otherwise. From Mark Medina of InsideSoCal.com:

A discrepancy emerged between the games Hill averaged at least 20 minutes per game (40) and the ones he averaged 15 minutes or fewer per contest (20). But for all the frustration Hill felt about his role under D’Antoni, there were practical reasons why Hill’s playing time fluctuated. He missed eight consecutive games in March because of a right leg injury. Hill’s energy level also often dropped once he logged more playing time. So as much as Hill prided himself on being an “energy guy,” he still has to prove he can fulfill that description consistently.

 

Continue to be a great rebounder

When he’s on, Hill is one of the more ferocious rebounders in the NBA. Among power forwards last year, only Reggie Evans finished the season with a better rebounding rate than Hill’s 19.0 according to Hollinger’s NBA Player Stats

Hill had the league’s third-best offensive rebounding rate (13.8) and was 10th in defensive rebounding at 24.3.

If, as expected, Hill starts on a front line that includes Carlos Boozer and Wesley Johnson, he will be asked to supply much of the heavy lifting early in games. 

But there will be reinforcements. Los Angeles is suddenly top-heavy with power forwards, having signed Boozer and former Memphis Grizzlies forward Ed Davis to contracts this summer. Add in 6’9″ rookie Julius Randle, second-year stretch forward Ryan Kelly and center Robert Sacre, and there is no shortage of talented big men to help out.

If everyone does their part, Hill should continue to see those rebounding numbers improve as the year continues. 

Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding emphasized the important role Hill should and will play in Scott’s system: ”Scott puts a premium on defense and rebounding, and he believes Hill was underutilized as a Laker because of D’Antoni. Bear in mind how fantastic a newly acquired Hill was for Mike Brown in the Lakers’ two-round 2012 playoff run.”

 

Scoring: Play within his comfort zone

Under D’Antoni, Hill was encouraged to shoot more from the outside and was actually pretty decent at it, though it wasn’t his forte. He shot fairly well from 18-24 feet but was just 39 percent (16-41) from the free-throw line area.

Where Hill shined was in the low post, where he took the vast majority of his shots. He made 61 percent of the 371 shots he took from eight feet or less, many of them short putbacks off rebounds. 

There’s no reason to doubt that, given an increase to about 30 minutes of playing time, Hill can’t average closer to 15 points per contest. His overall accuracy rate of 55 percent last season would seem to bear that out.

When Hill is in that zone, as this Denver game pointed out, he is unstoppable.

 

Consistency

In nine games as the team’s starting center last year, Hill averaged almost 29 minutes, 17 points and over 10 rebounds per game. He showed much-needed consistency when given the opportunity to play a key role.

Hill’s numbers soared in December when he took on additional minutes, showing a consistency over a seven-game stretch that included seven double-doubles. Big games included 24 points and 17 boardsin a 15-point win over the Detroit Pistons, 18 and 15 in a loss to the Denver Nuggets and 21 and 11 in a blowout victory against the New Orleans Pelicans.

Still, there were times that Hill struggled and seemed to lose focus. It could be partly attributed to the inconsistency of Hill’s playing time last year, whether due to injury or the choice of his former coach.

 

It’s time for Hill to shine

There are two possible scenarios for Hill this season, and both outcomes will be determined by how well he plays early in the year.

The Lakers are offering Hill an opportunity to start and move the needle on the numbers that matter most: rebounding and scoring.

Should Hill succeed, one possibility may be the Lakers entertaining offers from other clubs to acquire the former Arizona Wildcat before the trade deadline. Those teams would see a still-young, developing talent with an expiring contract in 2015-16, and the Lakers would see an opportunity to further shrink their overhead in anticipation of a free-agency bonanza next summer. 

Otherwise, Hill could show enough improvement for Lakers management to use the team option and keep him around at least another year.

Either way, Jordan Hill finally has the opportunity he sought since coming into the league in 2009 as the eighth overall pick (New York Knicks) of the draft.

The ingredients are there; they just need the right amount of time to cook, simmer and be served.

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Who Should Start at Small Forward for Los Angeles Lakers?

To say there’s not a lot of obvious depth at the small forward position for the Los Angeles Lakers is saying just a little. It’s a tale of “tweeners.”

Wesley Johnson is the clearest natural candidate, even if Mike D’Antoni did insist on using him as a vastly undersized power forward last season.

And then there’s Xavier Henry, a young, athletic slasher who played three positions in just 43 games last season as a point guard, shooting guard and small forward.

Kobe Bryant has stepped into the 3-spot on a number of occasions in the past, depending on lineups. And Nick “Swaggy P” Young is also capable of playing the position—although he’s clearly at his best when letting it rain from his natural shooting guard role.

Even rookie Julius Randle—a 6’10” bull in a china shop—thinks he can play interchangeable frontcourt positions, as he mentioned soon after being drafted, according to Mike Trudell of Lakers.com:

A lot of the league is going to small ball, but the good thing about me, I’m interchangeable. I can play small ball because I can guard multiple positions because I can really move. But I think it’s going to be an advantage for me to be able to take a smaller guy inside but also take a bigger guy on the outside.

But as Darius Soriano for Forum Blue and Gold points out about Randle, there are inherent problems with tall trees lineups that pack the frontcourt with size:

Put a 6’10” player on the perimeter and tell him to defend a like sized player who just so happens to be able to put the ball on the floor with skill and quickness and the advantage will almost always lie with the player who possesses the ball. Big players normally lack the needed lateral quickness to stay in front of such players. Add in the advantages that come with drawing that bigger defender away from the paint and the benefits to an offense only increase via better spacing for the entire team.

During the wild and woolly D’Antoni era, even 6’11” Ryan Kelly got to try his hand at small forward.

But the small-ball innovator has moved on now, and there is a new sheriff in town. It’s hard to see Byron Scott, with his fondness for traditional interior fundamentals, playing footloose and fancy-free as guys like Randle or Kelly try to make like Lamar Odom.

There is, of course, another wild-card factor. With only 13 players on the roster, the Lakers are likely to go into the regular season with another body—especially someone who could fill an obvious positional need.

This leads us to the rumor that won’t go away until it finally, and mercifully, does go away—that Michael Beasley, who has worked out twice with the Lakers, could somehow wind up as their starting small forward.

This is a recipe ripe for disaster. 

Because what would happen if a rash of injuries were to hit and you were suddenly left with Swaggy and B-Easy playing alongside each other? Lots of buckets and unintentional hilarity for sure—but solid basketball? That’s highly unlikely.

Or, as The Great Mambino recently wrote for Silver Screen and Roll, “It’s a really stupid idea.” He elaborates further:

Michael Beasley isn’t a lottery ticket. He is a skunked bottle of wine. He’s 25 years old, sure, but has alienated himself from his last three teams in six seasons. He couldn’t stick with a Minnesota squad hurting for shooting swingmen, a rebuilding Phoenix club looking for any semblance of talent or a Heat team desperate for an explosive scorer off the bench. He would come to the Lakers needing to beat out a dozen other guys for a spot at either of the forward positions. Bringing him on isn’t just an indictment that the Lakers aren’t hitting on their reclamation projects, but an indictment of incompetence.

So take away all the positional musical chairs and the idea that Beasley could somehow shoot his way into the heart of a hardliner like Scott, and what do you have left?

It comes back full circle to Johnson—the most obvious choice for the starting small forward role. He’s got the size and the natural ability, can alter shots at the rim and is a decent perimeter defender as well.

He also has support from Scott, per Mike Trudell for Lakers.com: “I think the kid is so talented, I’m really hoping it can be a break out year for him. Now, obviously, he has to come to camp and win that spot, and that’s on him.”

As I recently noted for B/R, Johnson has been working out with the Mamba this summer. This is not a new development—per Jonah Ballow for the Minnesota Timberwolvesofficial site, the former No. 4 pick met Bryant during predraft workouts in 2010 and has been mentored by him ever since.

Still, there continues to be a need for improvement. Johnson’s 9.1 points and 4.4 rebounds per game last season aren’t markedly different from his nine points and three boards during his rookie campaign.

This season will be his last best chance to prove himself as a solid contributor in the NBA. If he can’t do it with the support and encouragement of Bryant and Scott, then it really will be time for Plan B.

Just as long as the “B” doesn’t stand for Beasley.

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Los Angeles Lakers: Steve Nash Or Jeremy Lin?

Los Angeles Lakers: Steve Nash Or Jeremy Lin?
By Mike Elworth: Owner and Publisher/Hoopstuff…
The Lakers have a couple of questions about who to start, but their biggest starter question is Steve Nash or Jeremy Lin at point guard? Steve Nash has won 2 MVP’s and is one of the best players in the history of the NBA, but he’s 40, injury prone and is no longer that effective, while Jeremy Lin is young, productive and a perfect fit starting at guard with Kobe Bryant. This seems simple, but Steve Nash is likely to be the starter which would be a mistake, as the man for the job is Jeremy Lin.
Why is Nash going to start? Well he has the name recognition, the 10 million dollar salary and it is difficult for a player his age to go through the stretching, running and all of the things that players have to work on to get ready for a game and sit on the bench. However, it makes no sense. Jeremy Lin is an excellent scorer, a strong distributor and his talents pair with Kobe incredibly well. They …

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Nick Young Has Lakers Rookies Call Him ‘Daddy Swag’

Fans know Los Angeles Lakers guard Nick Young as “Swaggy P,” but Young’s rookie teammates have to call him something different.

In an NBA.com video, Swaggy P revealed that rookie teammates Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson have to call him something special as part of their “rookie duties.”

Well the rooks know. Y’all gotta ask them what they gotta call me all year. When you talk to them next time, ask Jordan (Clarkson) what he calls me every morning, and ask Julius (Randle) what he calls me every morning.

It’s got a little Swag in it.

What exactly do the rookies have to call him? 

Here’s what Clarkson said: ”We call him Scrappy Feet. Ugly feet. Naw, he told me to call him Daddy Swag. … That’s a rookie duty, so I’ll make sure I get it done.”

Randle was not as upfront about the nickname that he has to call Young. He did a good job of mumbling through his answer, as to not make public what he has to call his veteran teammate.

It’s no secret that veterans have rookies do certain things just for fun. It happens in every sport, and something like this is no big deal. It may be embarrassing to reveal what a player has to call his veteran teammate, but this is relatively nothing compared to some of the other things that rookies have had to do to get their teammates’ respect.

As Swaggy P said, he’s going to have some fun with these rookies.

Visit NBA.com to see Young, Clarkson and Randle talk about the “rookie duties.”

[h/t The Score]

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Lakers Rumors: Pooh Jeter, Ryan Hollins no longer options for L.A.

As training camp inches ever closer for the Los Angeles Lakers, it appears that two of the players the team were considering are no longer available.
Firstly, according to Sportando (via HoopsHype) point guard Pooh Jeter, who worked out for the Lakers last week, will not be leaving his team in China to make a return to the NBA.
“I was a native of Los Angeles who grew as Lakers’ fan and so I’m very honored to receive their invitation, I will train in L.A. for two weeks,” Jeter said, per the report, “but I’ll play in Shandong also becuase I have a contract with them.”
Secondly, big man Ryan Hollins was in contact with the Lakers, according to the player himself, though the UCLA product has agreed to a guaranteed deal with the Sacramento Kings, per Marc J. Spears from Yahoo Sports:
The @SacramentoKings have agreed in principle to sign center @TheRyanHollins to one-year, fully guaranteed deal, a source told Yahoo Sports— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) September 18, 2014
The Lakers likely could

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Analyzing the Lakers’ frontcourt depth

If there’s one thing the Los Angeles Lakers have always been known for, it’s for being a literal land of giants. One only has to look in the rafters of Staples Center to see the legacy that the likes of Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’ Neal have built in Los Angeles. While big men aren’t the league’s superstars like they used to be, they are still essential on a contending team, especially in the Western Conference. The road to the Finals goes through several elite bigs (proven champion Tim Duncan, defensive stopper Serge Ibaka and versatile MVP-caliber star Blake Griffin), making post play crucial. Although the Lakers lack a big-time post talent like in the past, what the Lakers do have in the frontcourt is immense depth. With a mix of traditional bruisers like Carlos Boozer, Jordan Hill and rookie Julius Randle and face-up forwards like Ed Davis and Ryan Kelly, the Lakers have a versatile group capable of dominating foes down low. In order to truly show how solid this frontco

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Pressey, Eyen, Madsen on Lakers’ coaching staff (Yahoo Sports)

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) — Paul Pressey, Jim Eyen and Mark Madsen will be Byron Scott’s assistant coaches with the Los Angeles Lakers.

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Lakers Rumors: Kobe Bryant’s NBA 2K15 rating leaked?

via 2K Sports
Does Kobe Bryant pay attention to his rating in NBA 2K? It’s possible – especially seeing as he was the cover athlete for NBA 2K10 – and if he does, the 36-year-old will likely gain a little extra motivation from his rating in this year’s version of the game.
According to a video posted by Javier Gonzalez, Bryant will be an 89 in NBA 2K15, his lowest rating since the series began.
Now, it should be noted that Bryant’s rating hasn’t officially been announced by 2K Sports yet, though this appears to be legit as the other ratings that have already been revealed – such as Julius Randle (76) and Ryan Kelly (71) – match the numbers released by 2K on their Facebook page.
Do you agree with Bryant’s rating? To be fair, the five-time NBA champion only managed to play in six games last season and is coming off two major injuries, so agreeing on a sensible number for Bryant without seeing him in action was likely a pretty tough task for the 2K Sports team.
H/T Lakers Nation

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Nick Young, Robert Sacre, Jordan Clarkson, others put in work at the Lakers’ practice facility

This is what I like to hear.
Although there’s still around two weeks to go until the start of training camp, Lakers players have been present at the practice facility for a while now.
Yesterday, the Lakers’ official Twitter account posted a couple of photos of Robert Sacre and Jordan Clarkson putting in work in the weight room:
Monday morning #LakersWork with @JClark5on pic.twitter.com/Y72XbFepwN— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) September 15, 2014
#LakersWork pic.twitter.com/wNUPqk4yCw— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) September 15, 2014
And today? They were back at the team’s practice facility in El Segundo, along with Nick Young, Julius Randle, Wesley Johnson, Ryan Kelly and Ed Davis, according to Lakers sideline reporter Mike Trudell, who says that the group were taking part in a scrimmage:
Among those playing in a 5-on-5 scrimmage right now at the practice facility: Swaggy P, Sacre, Johnson, Kelly, Davis, Randle and Clarkson.— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) September 16, 2014
Then, after the scrim

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