Julius Randle

Will Robert Upshaw be in training camp for the Los Angeles Lakers?

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There were reports that the Lakers and Robert Upshaw had reached a training camp deal way back in July during Summer League — but that turned out to be premature, the contract has never been formally offered. The Lakers put the undrafted Upshaw — an imposing, physical, shot-blocking seven-foot center who was dropped from two college programs — on their Summer League team. He looked like a project Las Vegas, one who may be years from being a rotation player, but one with some promise (he set good screens, for example). He’s the kind of player that teams bring to training camp so they can get a closer look.

But will Upshaw be at Lakers’ training camp?

Upshaw seems to think so. After a Seattle Pro-Am game Upshaw spoke with Scout.com about it — as found by our friend Darius Soriano at Forum Blue and Gold — and said he expects to be at Lakers’ training camp if he does the things he needs to do.

Eric Pincus of the LA Times tweeted something similar.

It’s unlikely Upshaw makes the Lakers’ roster. They will start Roy Hibbert at center and bring Robert Sacre in off the bench, plus they are pretty stacked at the four spot with Julius Randle, Brandon Bass, Tarik Black and Larry Nance Jr. Difficult to imagine Upshaw in that mix right now. This may be something where the Lakers would love to get him on their D-League team and have him work on his conditioning, his offense and game skills, plus show he’s got his life in order.

But first he’s got to get his life on track, and then get to training camp.

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.”

Jim Buss heaps praise, hope on young Lakers

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The big Laker story line this season revolves around Kobe Bryant — will he or won’t he?

The more important story line to the future of the Lakers is the development of their three young stars — D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, and Julius Randle.

Lakers co-owner Jim Buss spoke to the Los Angeles Times about all things Lakers — Buss is trying to raise his profile and grow his positive numbers among Lakers fans, but that’s another story — and he heaped praise on their three young stars. That starts with Russell — the Lakers didn’t take big man Jahlil Okafor and instead bet on the point guard out of Ohio State with the highest draft pick the Lakers organization has had since it selected James Worthy.

“We’ve got high aspirations for him,” Buss said. “We normally look to get bigs, but [Russell] was just that impressive, that we just didn’t feel right passing up on him.

“My enthusiasm for D’Angelo Russell, I have to curb it because I’m so excited about it. He could be anything in this league.”

The Lakers are very high on Russell — in a point guard driven league they see him growing into one of the elites. They are high on his potential and chose that over Okafor, who may not have the higher ceiling (that’s up for debate) but certainly has the higher floor. The Lakers rolled the dice that Russell is special.

As for Clarkson and Randle:

“(Randle is) a beast. He’s been working out with some ex-NBA players and handling himself very well. He’s super strong, very fit,” Buss said…

“Watching Jordan Clarkson develop [this summer], he’s followed that same path, how he got better and better every game,” Buss said.

Watching the three Lakers at Summer League, each of them showed moments of promise and lots of room for improvement — like all young players. Clarkson put up big numbers in Las Vegas but dominated the ball and didn’t work as well off it. Randle understandably looked rusty at times, showed that physicality and athleticism at other times, but worked too much in a straight line and needs more moves. Russell had a rough start to the Summer League as the game just seemed to move too fast, and he tried to do too much. But that’s Summer League, it is a place for development, what matters is how they grow as players from these early points.

The question is, do the Lakers have the infrastructure to develop these players? Is Byron Scott the coach to do that?

That is the story line that matters most for the Lakers next season, while we all talk about Kobe.

Lakers’ coaches liked how D’Angelo Russell handled himself, pressure in Summer League

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Nobody was under the pressure D’Angelo Russell was in Las Vegas at the NBA Summer League. Not Karl-Anthony Towns, not Kristaps Porzingis, not anybody. It comes with being the highest Lakers’ draft pick since James Worthy — in Russell’s first game, they had to open the top level of the Thomas & Mack Center for the first time in Summer League history (the Lakers were playing Towns’ Timberwolves, but this was a Lakers’ crowd). The crowds for Lakers games were huge all through Summer League, plus camera crews were popping up around Russell off the court as well. Welcome to the Lakers’ spotlight.

Which made his struggles at Summer League seem more pronounced. He looked slow while the game was moving fast. He averaged 11.8 points per game on 37.7 percent shooting, 11.8 percent from three. He had 3.2 assists and 5.2 turnovers per game. The fact this is that Summer League should be about learning — you can’t read much into his numbers, it’s about development — seemed lost on people. Lakers’ nation is not known for its patience.

But the Lakers’ coaching staff liked the big picture things they saw, Holly McKenzie wrote for Complex Magazine.

The biggest positive that the Lakers coaching staff took from his experience in Vegas was watching how he reacted to adversity. Rather than getting flustered or frustrated with those around him, he paid attention to things he needed to improve on as well as the ways the NBA game is different than college. Russell was the same player to his teammates during practice sessions whether the team had won or lost its previous game.

“It is rare any time you have a rookie [with] so much confidence,” Madsen says. “Most rookies enter the league so timid, really nervous. They were ‘the man’ in college and now going to the NBA, you’re dealing with grown men, you’re dealing with superstars. You’re dealing with financial endorsements that are massive. The pressure is that much higher. D’Angelo’s confidence never wavered and his love of the game never wavered.”

That is a good sign. When I spoke about Russell’s play with someone who saw a lot of him in college, he talked about how Russell took a little bit to adjust to the speed of the collegiate game as well. But once he got his mind around it, he played well enough to get drafted No. 2 — the lesson was to give him time.

The Lakers will do just that. They will sell the Kobe Bryant farewell tour (maybe) this season as the young potential future core — Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle — start to adapt to the NBA game. They will have good veteran mentors like Kobe, Brandon Bass, and Lou Williams.

What should matter more Lakers fans is how Russell looks next summer in Las Vegas — has he improved dramatically, has his mind and body caught up with the speed of the game? If Russell is still struggling a year from now, then there should be concern. Right now, he looks like a player learning, sometimes the hard way.

Report: Lakers considering bringing back Metta World Peace

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One of the frequent criticisms of the Lakers is that they are still living in 2008 as an organization. From their choice of Byron Scott as coach and his old-school offensive systems, to their lack of trust in analytics, to their reliance on an aging Kobe Bryant both on the court (see Byron Scott) and off it to sell tickets/sponsorships, it seems like time has frozen with one of the NBA’s storied franchises.

This isn’t going to help any.

The Lakers are considering bringing back Metta World Peace (the former Ron Artest), reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

The Los Angeles Lakers are discussing the possibility of signing free agent forward Metta World Peace to a one-year contract, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

No deal has been agreed upon, but there have been talks between the Lakers and World Peace’s representatives, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

There are varying degrees of interest within the Lakers organization about bringing him back to the franchise at 35 years old, but World Peace has been in the Lakers’ practice facility this offseason playing against the team’s players, including 2014 first-round pick Julius Randle, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Varying degrees of interest? This is about like debating if Donald Trump’s hair is real — we all know the answer. Some people may just not want to admit it.

The Lakers have potentially superb young players to help them move into the future — D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle — but this would be a return to the past. And if you’re looking for a veteran mentor, there are better options.

When last we saw MWP on an NBA court, an unimpressive Knicks team waived him in 2014 because he isn’t near the same defender he once was and his offensive game has slipped (he shot just 31 percent from three). Last season he played in Italy where he averaged 13.3 points a game. At age 35, he’s not going to bounce back to NBA levels of play.

World Peace had an impressive NBA career — an All-Star, an NBA Defensive Player of the Year, and a champion. He’ll be remembered fondly for his colorful antics, and not as fondly for things like the Malice in the Palace. But he had a fantastic NBA career.

One that should be over.

I’d like to say they can’t be serious, but the Lakers are hard to read lately.