Kobe Bryant, Matt Barnes, Lamar Odom

Hidden key to the Lakers recent success? They’ve cut down their turnovers

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The last two Lakers games (wins over the Rockets and Suns) have foreshadowed a shift in how they hope to play for the rest of the season.

The team that once ground out possessions in the half court has turned up the tempo and blown away the opposition by allowing their talent to shine. Highlight plays have paired with high point totals and everyone is feeling good in Laker-land about the way the team is scoring.

But lost in the euphoria of the Lakers attempt to return to Showtime via Dwight Howard dunks and Kobe Bryant knifing to the basket has been a key element to their offensive success: the Lakers have drastically cut down on their turnovers.

On the season, the Lakers have been one of the more turnover heavy teams in the league. Through 10 games they rank second to last in turnovers per game (16.9) and are worst in the league in turnover percentage (17.9) per NBA.com. Basically, the Lakers have been finding ways to shoot themselves in the foot with giveaways, a reality that has hurt their offense (for obvious reasons) and their defense (giving their opponents easy baskets in transition).

In the last two games this has started to shift, however. Against the Suns and the Rockets the Lakers averaged only 12.5 turnovers per game and their turnover percentage dipped to 12.6. This has made a substantial difference in the Lakers’ ability to be more consistent on offense and has given their opponents fewer opportunities to rip them in transition.

The sample size caveat needs to be stated right up front because we’re only talking about two games and any team can have a nice stretch of mistake free ball over the course of 96 minutes. Not to mention that there’s a certain amount of luck involved with not giving the ball away and avoiding turnovers — 50/50 balls may go your way, a bad pass is only knocked out of bounds, etc.

That said, this shift can’t be totally disregarded either. At the start of the season the Lakers’ transition to the Princeton offense led to a general confusion amongst the players. Often times guys looked lost on where they should be, when they should be there, and how they were supposed to play off of each other to generate good looks. This led to players missing easy passes, making bad reads with the ball, and a general forcing of the action that plagued them each night.

Now, however, the Lakers are running a much simpler offense. The floor is more wide open, passing angles are cleaner, and players seem to have a better understanding of where they should be and where the next pass should go to. The result has been a better looking offense overall and fewer mistakes by players looking to move the ball on to a teammate.

It should also be noted that even though the sample size is small, the Lakers are playing at a much faster pace with more possessions in each game than they had earlier in the year. So, while it has only been two games, the reduction in turnovers is noteworthy simply because the Lakers have had more opportunities within these games to give the ball away and have actually been doing the opposite. They have been playing faster and smarter.

While the signs are encouraging for the lack of turnovers to be a lasting trend, we can still expect there to be hiccups and some regression to the mean. The Rockets and Suns aren’t exactly top flight defenses and the Lakers will have to show they can play this way against teams that pressure the ball and jump passing lanes (a la the Grizzlies who, coincidentally play the Lakers on Friday).

Steve Nash’s return is also likely to cause an increase in giveaways simply because he can be a risk taker with his passes, especially when throwing lobs to Howard or when operating in a crowded lane trying to dish to a diving big or out to spot up shooters around the arc.

However, even with an uptick from Nash or when playing more ball-hawking opponents the hope — at least from the Lakers’ perspective — is that their days of being one of the worst turnover teams are behind them. And based off recent trends and the shift to an offense that they’re grasping well, those hopes look to be substantiated.

Report: Bucks signing Xavier Henry

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 16:  Xavier Henry #7 of the Los Angeles Lakers shoots against the Golden State Warriors at Staples Center on November 16, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.  The Warriors won 136-115.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Bucks hope Xavier Henry is just another thing Byron Scott is wrong about.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Henry – the No. 12 pick in the 2010 draft – never found his footing in the NBA with the Memphis Grizzlies, New Orleans Hornets or Los Angeles Lakers. He made some strides with the Lakers in 2013-14, but he tore his Achilles early the following season. That compounded the knee injuries that made Scott doubt Henry could meet the expectations placed on him coming out of Kansas.

Milwaukee now has 15 players, the regular-season roster limit. If Henry’s deal is unguaranteed, he’s obviously not a lock to stick. But the Bucks could use another wing. I’m guessing they’ll add more players to compete with Henry for that final spot.

Report: Lakers signing Travis Wear

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 19: Travis Wear #6 of the New York Knicks dives for the ball against the Minnesota Timberwolves  during their game at Madison Square Garden on March 19, 2015 in New York City.    NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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Phil Jackson said he warned the Lakers they’d regret passing on Kristaps Porzingis with the No. 2 pick.

The Lakers are getting another swing at stretch big Jackson liked – though this time with far lower stakes.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Travis Wear spent 2014-15 with the Knicks and last season in Spain.

He’ll compete with recently signed Zach Auguste for a regular-season-roster opening that doesn’t exist – until the Lakers ditch Nick Young. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Lakers add more players to the mix.

Both Wear and Auguste are eligible to have their D-League rights assigned to the Lakers’ affiliate if they’re waived before the season.

The 6-foot-10 Wear went undrafted out of UCLA in 2014. He has the makings of a stretch four, but he must become more comfortable beyond the arc rather than just in the mid-range.

NBA rookies love Kris Dunn, Ben Simmons – not so much

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 23:  Kris Dunn walks on stage after being drafted fifth overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center on June 23, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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Rookie of the Year, best playmaker, best defender and funniest. Kris Dunn even received a vote for best shooter despite his jumper holding him back in pre-draft evaluations.

Dunn – the Timberwolves’ No. 5 pick – cleaned up in the NBA’s annual rookie survey.

But when it came to the most important question, Brandon Ingram – the Lakers’ No. 2 pick – claimed the top spot:

Which rookie will have the best career?

1. Brandon Ingram, L.A. Lakers — 26.7%

2. Kris Dunn, Minnesota — 16.7%

3. Buddy Hield, New Orleans — 13.3%

T-4. Dragan Bender, Phoenix — 6.7%

Jaylen Brown, Boston — 6.7%

Jamal Murray, Denver — 6.7%

Ben Simmons, Philadelphia — 6.7%

Others receiving votes: Dejounte Murray, San Antonio; Dario Saric, Philadelphia; Pascal Siakam, Toronto; Tyler Ulis, Phoenix; Denzel Valentine, Chicago

That’s a pretty poor showing for Ben Simmons, whom the 76ers drafted No. 1. Maybe it’s because Simmons didn’t make the NCAA tournament at LSU.

But that lack of exposure only barely dissuades me. I still think Simmons will have the best career and win Rookie of the Year. The 76ers will likely feature him in a major role this season while Dunn is stuck behind Ricky Rubio (for now, at least).

But that didn’t dissuade their fist-year peers:

Who will be the 2016-17 Kia Rookie of the Year?

1. Kris Dunn, Minnesota — 29.0%

2. Brandon Ingram, L.A. Lakers — 25.8%

3. Ben Simmons, Philadelphia — 19.4%

Other notable questions (click through to NBA.com full results) and my picks:

Which rookie was the biggest steal at where he was selected in the Draft?

1. Dejounte Murray (29), San Antonio — 16.1%

2. Tyler Ulis (34), Phoenix — 12.9%

My pick: Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot (24), Philadelphia

Which rookie is the most athletic?

1. Jaylen Brown, Boston — 38.7%

2. Brice Johnson, L.A. Clippers — 16.1%

My pick: Brown

Which rookie is the best shooter?

1. Buddy Hield, New Orleans — 65.7%

2. Jamal Murray, Denver — 20.0%

My pick: Hield

Which rookie is the best defender?

1. Kris Dunn, Minnesota — 23.5%

2. Gary Payton II, Houston — 20.6%

3. Malcolm Brogdon, Milwaukee — 17.6%

My pick: Payton

Which rookie is the best playmaker?

1. Kris Dunn, Minnesota — 29.4%

2. Ben Simmons, Philadelphia — 26.5%

3. Tyler Ulis, Phoenix — 20.6%

My pick: Dunn in a vacuum with the caveat that Simmons’ playmaking – not far behind Dunn’s – will be more valuable at power forward than Dunn’s will be at point guard

Jose Calderon retires from Spanish national team

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 11:  Jose Calderon #8 of Spain moves the ball against Nigeria during the Men's Basketball - Preliminary Round Group B Nigeria vs Spain on Day 6 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Carioca Arena 1 on August 11, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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Jose Calderon has won three Olympic medals – silver in 2008 and 2012 and bronze this year.

Just three men’s basketball players have won more:

  • Carmelo Anthony (three golds and a bronze for Team USA)
  • Gennady Volnov (a gold,* two silvers and a bronze for the Soviet Union)
  • Sergey Belov (a gold* and three bronzes for the Soviet Union)

Calderon, who turns 35 next month, won’t catch them.

O. Cauchi of Sportando:

Veteran point guard Jose Calderon has officially announced his retirement from Spanish NT.

Calderon barely played in Rio. Spain is stacked at point guard with Sergio Rodriguez, Ricky Rubio and Sergio Llull.

The Lakers aren’t as deep at the position with D'Angelo Russell and Marcelo Huertas. Calderon might have a bigger impact in Los Angeles – especially if he’s not saving himself for Eurobasket 2017.