D’Angelo Russell

D’Angelo Russell says Kobe Bryant is “mentally on another level”

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The big headlines involving Lakers’ rookie D’Angelo Russell and Kobe Bryant this off-season came from an innocuous comment about Tracy McGrady and Kobe’s amusing Twitter reaction.

But the Lakers drafted Russell No. 2 because they saw a little Kobe in him, in the way he approached the game. They saw the mentality that helped make Kobe a star.

Russell threw out the first pitch at Dodger Stadium recently (he threw a strike) and before he went out he talked with Serena Winters of Lakers Nation about his mentality and what he sees in Kobe (hat tip Matt Moore at Eye on Basketball).

“I always preach, I didn’t get here from being the most athletic guy, the fastest guy, the tallest guy, or the strongest, I got here from my mind.”

And, that’s also what he respects so much about Kobe Bryant.

“That’s something when I watch Kobe interviews or listen to Kobe talk, he’s mentally on another level, when I listen to him, I relate to that.”

Russell is saying the right things, although following through with a Kobe-like mentality is different from talking about it. We’ll see where Russell ultimately falls on that scale.

It’s been discussed plenty that Russell didn’t have a great Summer League, that he was trying to do too much, and he struggled to catch up with the speed of the game. It’s also almost meaningless — plenty of players who had rough Summer Leagues had good seasons, while the list of Summer League MVPs who didn’t do much in the league is long. What matters is what Russell learned and how he grows from that experience. Can he apply those lessons when the games get real in late October?

That will be the true test of his mentality, because the learning curve for point guards in the NBA is steep.

Lakers’ Jordan Clarkson does his imitation of Kobe’s shot

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We’ve already seen D’Angelo Russell do a Kobe Bryant imitation, which was all about the fist pump.

But Jordan Clarkson has the whole Kobe shot process down.

The best part of this is the multiple pump fakes before just going to the fadeaway. It’s not a shot you want young players to grow up practicing, but with Kobe’s footwork it gets the job done.

We’re going to miss Kobe and these shots when he’s gone.

Hat tip Eye on Basketball.

Report: Lakers to sign Brazilian, FC Barcelona point guard Marcelo Huertas to one-year deal

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The Lakers will be giving the ball to their new point guard, No. 2 pick D’Angelo Russell, and letting the rookie learn on the job this year. They are high on his potential.

Backing him up there is some real talent — the Lakers already have Lou Williams and Jordan Clarkson on the roster who can handle the ball. Oh, and that Kobe Bryant guy likely will want the ball in his hands a little.

Now add to the mix a very good international point guard in Marcelo Huertas, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

Free-agent guard Marcelo Huertas – one of the Euroleague’s most accomplished playmakers – has agreed to a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Huertas, 32, could give the Lakers an experienced pick-and-roll point guard to complement the development of No. 2 overall pick D’Angelo Russell.

If you’ve watched any of Huertas guiding Barcelona to the highest levels in Europe — three straight EuroLeague Final Fours during his six years there — you know the man is a playmaker. Specifically, he is a very strong pick-and-roll guard with fantastic court vision. Synergy Sports has the numbers to back that up:

Where you probably have seen more of Huertas is leading Brazil against the USA at the Olympics and other international competitions. Coach K uses a high-pressure defensive system, wisely trying to take advantage of the USA’s overwhelming athletic advantage over the rest of the world, but Huertas handled that pretty well and gave the USA some trouble (relatively).

Bottom line, he can come in off the bench in the NBA and run a team very well. Those guys have real value in the NBA.

This is a fantastic pickup for the Lakers. If Byron Scott uses him right. The Lakers have a nice backcourt to support Russell, and the team will be competitive this season with all its additions. That’s a step in the right direction.

D’Angelo Russell on Tracy McGrady tweet: “Some Lakers fans are spoiled”

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You probably remember the “controversy.”

Lakers No. 2 pick and hope for the future face of the franchise (they hope) D’Angelo Russell tweeted out this:

https://twitter.com/Dloading/status/631961606285590528

To which Kobe Bryant responded:

That tweet plus less kind ones from a lot of Lakers fans had Russell back peddling quickly.

Russell spoke to Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News recently about some things — including his Summer League struggles — and one of the topics was that tweet. Russell took a pretty rational approach to it.

“There’s a lot of spoiled Lakers fans. I wasn’t downgrading Kobe at all,” Russell said Saturday in an interview with the Los Angeles News Group. “I was just watching a highlight tape of Tracy McGrady and I got excited. I tweeted and the whole state of California went crazy.”

He’s right. There are plenty of spoiled Lakers fans. Take it from someone who used to run a Lakers’ blog, there is a segment of that fan base that isn’t happy unless the Lakers win two NBA titles a year.

That said, those people don’t like to be called out. Russell will hear from them soon.

More than that, what happened to Russell with this tweet speaks to a mindset online, particularly on Twitter — people have their favorites and see any attempt to raise anyone else up as a direct challenge to their established order. You can’t say LeBron James will go down as one of the game’s all-time greats without some fool bringing how he’s no Michael Jordan. As if saying LeBron is amazing is somehow an insult to MJ. Same thing here. Vintage Tracy McGrady was a joy to watch and a fantastic player, it’s fair to wonder how we view him if not for injuries at the end of his career, and if you want to say maybe he should be considered in the GOAT conversation that is not a direct insult to Kobe or MJ or Wilt or whoever.

But reasonable discussions on twitter are too often hard to find.

Jim Buss defends Byron Scott as Lakers coach, “He has the Laker blood in him”

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Byron Scott has been questioned as the Lakers’ coach for a lot of reasons. For using Kobe Bryant heavy minutes early last season, leading to health problems for the star. For using an old-school, dinosaur of an offense. For not using advanced metrics and analytics. For not developing players. The list goes on.

But he’s not being questioned — or at least doubted — by the one guy whose vote matters, co-owner Jim Buss.

Speaking to the Los Angeles Times in a couple different articles, Buss defended Scott and his job as coach.

“He has the Laker blood in him,” Buss said. “[Mike] D’Antoni and Mike Brown, they weren’t Lakers. They loved the Lakers and they tried their best and I think they’re both great coaches.”

“Having that history of the Lakers from the very beginning of when [the Buss family] bought the team, gives you such a family sense. He’s a coach, a brother,” said Buss. “He gets it. He’s a strong personality. He believes in himself and the Lakers.”

Laker blood? This sounds like the lines the late Al Davis used as the Raiders struggled — trumpeting some mystical bond in the organization over smart decision making.

Buss also said the Lakers are using analytics more than people realize.

“We’ve been using them for quite a long time. That’s basically [on] what I make all my decisions, is my own analytics.” Buss said the team has relied on an analytics staff for “six [or] seven years, but before that we were breaking down shot charts, everything we could get our hands on.”

What made the Lakers great for extended periods was not just that they had the resources of a big market (something the new CBA stripped from them to a degree), but also that they spent those resources wisely. They had the best coaches, they thought outside the box, they had a team identity then got players that fit it, they identified and went after talent before others caught on (trading for a young Kobe Bryant on draft day may be the best example).

The Lakers are rebuilding now and we’ll see over the coming years how their decision making works out with young players such as D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle. What they Lakers have to show now — something that organizations such as Golden State, San Antonio and other elite teams have — is that the Lakers can develop those players. Do the Lakers have that infrastructure? Is Byron Scott the guy to do it? And what kind of team are they building, what is their identity?

The answers to those questions determine whether or not there is success. Not “Laker blood.”