LAS VEGAS — Lakers fans are not exactly renowned for their patience.
Nowhere was that more in evidence than Monday night at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, when after an ugly first quarter — 5 points on 2-of-17 shooting, with seven turnovers — Lakers fans that filled the Thomas & Mack booed their young players.
That may have been the lowlight, but the Lakers’ young stars have had their struggles in Sin City. Through two games Julius Randle is shooting 29.4 percent, and has averaged just 3.5 rebounds a game in 20 minutes a night. D’Angelo Russell is averaging 10 points a night on 33 percent shooting through three games, but the bigger issue he has two turnovers for each assist he has dished out. Jordan Clarkson has looked like a guy who has been through an NBA season and scored 18.3 points a game, but he’s shooting just 40.4 percent overall and 26.7 percent from three. Clarkson and Russell have some work to do on their chemistry.
All these struggles should serve as a reminder to the Lakers organization and their fans:
Rebuilding is a long process. Patience is required.
If that seems hard, just recall how the last quick fix — bringing in Dwight Howard and Steve Nash — went.
Plus, there are things to like from the young Lakers, things they have shown in Vegas. That starts with their attitudes.
“Every game matters to me, and me being competitive I forget that it’s just Summer League,” Russell said. “I’m trying to get better so fast, rather than being patient and letting things come to me.”
“I’ve got to get my teammates going, get myself going,” Randle said, clearly frustrated by the rust in his game. “Everything starts with me; I’ve got to be better. End of story.”
Randle looked better in the second half against the Knicks Monday, but he remains a guy with limited moves. When he gets the ball and faces up he has a great first step and but tries to use that and power to get to the rim, not a variety of moves (he did show one spin that drew a foul). He looks in Vegas like a guy who has been away from the game for a year — which is exactly what he is after he broke his right leg on opening night a year ago and had to have surgery. Rust was to be expected.
For Russell, the game just seems to be moving too fast, and he isn’t letting it slow down yet, which is leading to 6.7 turnovers a game. It will eventually start to slow down for him.
“I’m just trying to force the issue to get big guys involved, and for myself forcing the issue on the offensive end trying to just get something out of nothing when it’s not there,” Russell said. “Realizing it’s Summer League and being patient is my problem right now…
“Summer League is great for the adjustment process. I’m young, I feel like I’m going to get better every game, every practice, once I get under the system and get the hang of it a little more.”
While Lakers Summer League coach Mark Madsen has put in plays, the nature of Summer League — a thrown-together roster that doesn’t get a lot of practice time together and is devoid of veterans — leads to an unstructured game. For much of the time in Vegas the Lakers offense has been “watch Jordan Clarkson create stuff” and that hasn’t helped build cohesion and chemistry.
For the Lakers, hope sells.
The strength of that hope and the Lakers brand has been evident in Vegas — Russell and Randle again packed the house Monday, where fans sat in the upper deck (never before at summer league has the curtains had to be pulled back from the upper deck at the Thomas & Mack). When the Lakers have played there have been attendance records this summer.
But there needs to be patience. This coming season those young players will grow while the fans celebrate Kobe. With roster additions such as Lou Williams, Brandon Bass and Roy Hibbert — plus hopefully a dash of health thrown in the pot — the Lakers will be respectable on the court.
From there, and as Clarkson/Russell/Randle show their potential, then the big free agents the next couple years will give the Lakers a longer look.
It’s all just going to take time.