Going into the second Summer League game is interesting. Some of the “mystery” has already worn off, we’ve seen these guys for the first time. We have an idea of what we’re getting, but guys are still getting used to the speed of the game and the size of the players. I’ll try to keep this one shorter, and it’s more random thoughts than from game 1, but here’s what I saw last night:
I saw a good display of ball movement in the first quarter. They just whipped it around the floor, every player touched it. Russell to Clarkson to A.Brown to NanceJr to Black who missed dunk but good to see ball movement.
There were a few interesting lineups in this game that I didn’t quite understand, and I know that Coach Mark Madsen can’t play Clarkson and Russell 40min a game. I just don’t understand playing Buycks and Munford together. They’re both 6’2” and on this team where the rest of the team is 6’5” and taller they look short. The 76ers played both TJ McConnell (6’2”) and Pierre Jackson (5’10”) together a decent amount of time so the Lakers got away with it.
One of those lineups was: Upshaw/Mitchell/Buycks/Munford/Russell playing really small with Tony Mitchell (6’6”) at the 4 spot. Then again with a lineup of Black/Mitchell/Munford/Clarkson/Russell.
I don’t think we’ll see that type of small ball in the regular season. Remember Julius Randle is out for this game (precautions with his foot) so it left the Lakers pretty small with Upshaw (7’0”), Black (6’8”), and Larry Nance Jr (6’9”) as the only “bigs.” Once you add Hibbert (7’2”), Scare (7′), Bass (6’8”), and Ryan Kelly (6’11”) there’s a logjam in the front court.
We saw last game that D’Angelo Russell caught an inbounds pass from Anthony Brown on the other side of the half court line. Which is a backcourt violation. You can do that in college but not in the NBA. Then in this game we saw two shot clock violations from both starting guards. Both rookie mistakes, but can be ironed out with coaching. This just made me think that this team hasn’t been coached very much, NBA level coaching. They’ve only had a few Summer League practices and haven’t even gone through training camp yet.
Also, having not been through Byron Scott’s famously rough training camp most of these guys aren’t in the final shape that we’ll see in the regular season and even as the season goes on. Upshaw and Randle haven’t played organized basketball in a long time. Upshaw’s last was January 25th and Randle has been out since October 28th. For a team that wants to play fast it’s pretty obvious how important that is to a team.
However, this game was a lot slower than the last one for the Lakers. 90% of it was half court offense. That’s either due to lack of coaching like I mentioned or lack of conditioning.
Reggie Miller also mentioned that these young guys aren’t used to playing basketball all the time. When they were in school they had to take classes and are only allowed to practice a certain amount of time, and there’s no back-to-back games in college either so having multiple practices then a back-to-back could be brutal for some guys. As always though, the cream rises to the top.
By the way the “Let’s go Lakers” chant didn’t start until 9min left in the in 3rd quarter. Come on guys…
That being said, he still has a LOT of room to grow in decision making. One possession the shot clock was winding down and Clarkson ended up having Okafor on him at the top of the key and he passed the ball off with 3 seconds left and it expired. There was enough time for him to try and drive by and enough space between them for Clarkson to pull up but he deferred. This is probably why he’s playing Summer League.
Clarkson also almost threw the alley-oop of the game to Anthony Brown but as Kevin Calabro put it “he put too much mustard on it.” The chemistry between these guys is still a work in progress. These guys have only played together maybe 3-4 times, TOTAL, between summer league practice and these two games.
He also had this nasty crossover on Sampson.
Upshaw and Black are the ones that are expected to turn away shots but Russell alters shots from the point guard position too because of his size. In these two games he’s had really active hands on defense but he full on swats at the ball a lot. Whether a guy is at a standing dribble or driving. Summer League that’s great, but that won’t go well in the West. Curry/Harden/CP3/Lillard/Westbrook those guys are going to eat that alive.
A few more rookie mistakes in this game, shot clock violation and he caught the ball out of bounds on the right side of the court. He also missed his first free throw and the second one bounced in, he’s nervous you can see it. There’s a ton of pressure on him especially in these first few games.
Russell finally throws up a Curry shot. Especiually in Summer League this guy should have the green light to try those kinds of shots, but they’re more rare than I expected.
Russell overthrew Brown too on an outlet pass. Russell’s was farther away than Clarkson’s though, about 3/4ths court. That pass was more about Russell not knowing how fast Anthony Brown is but he was also pretty careless with the ball in this game. He ended up with 7 turnovers. On one turnover he drove straight into the heart of the defense but didn’t change directions or pass when the defense collapsed so he lost it.
Reggie Miller actually had a good point about this. (That’s three for Reggie…I’m getting concerned.)
He said, “In high school the defense collapses in ‘one…two…three…four…’ in college it’s ‘one…two…three…’ in the NBA defenses collapse on one.” He didn’t even finish the word ‘One’ to emphasize how fast they collapse. That’s one of the big issues with transitioning to the NBA from college everyone is an elite athlete. There’s no walk ons in the NBA so everyone is bigger, faster, stronger. We hear that a lot but this is a reason it’s a big deal.
Russell and Clarkson are like safeties when the ball is in the air though, it’s awesome. When a guy throws an outlet pass and Russell and Clarkson are anywhere near it they close out like Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. (by the way, the NFL is 52 days away http://www.tickcounter.com/countdown/20150903083000pm/w5270/1/NFL_SEASON_KICKOFF_2015)
Russell and Clarkson need a celebrity couple nickname, I’ll be workshopping this all year but early leaders are Ruskson or Clarksell. D’Anjordan… Ok I’ll stop.
He got in trouble a lot this game against Okafor, reaching and getting overpowered. Jahlil also totally got away with an over the back on Black that would’ve been a put back dunk. He’s way undersized on Jahlil, ESPN.com has him listed at 6’11” but he looked about 4 inches shorter than Jah and he gives up about 30 pounds.
Black’s a fighter though, he worked his butt off everytime Jahlil backed him down but he only played 17 minutes in this game.
This was the Larry Nance Jr game, the box score wasn’t too impressive but he filled it. 8pts, 5rebs, 1ast, 3stls, 2 blks, only 1 foul and 0 turnovers in almost 28 minutes. I praised Anthony Brown after the last game for knowing his role and I think Larry Nance Jr knows his too. He’s a super athletic forward hybrid that can defend, run for fast breaks, and make good decisions with the basketball. After the first game I saw him as Tristian Thompson but my opinion has changed (Robert California style) I think he’s Josh Smith with a better basketball IQ. Not sure he ever becomes a borderline All-Star like Smith has been but he’s that genre of player.
Nance good on ball defender and he goes straight up when guys drive at him. One thing that separates Nance is that when he gets stops he immediately runs to the other side of the court, doesn’t hang around making faces or admiring his work. Russell rewarded him by hitting him on the fast break for a few dunks in this game. He knows when to get out and run but he also knows when to not give up on a play. On another play, a 76er (they’re all interchangeable) got the rebound and everyone else ran to the other end but Upshaw and Nance swiped at the ball and got the steal and Nance Jr dunked it.
Nance also talks a lot on the court, defense, transition, and offense. I think it’s a good sign when they talk.
Speaking of active hands…dang. Watch this:
Nance Jr follows the ball again and dunks on McConnol.
LA-RRY LA-RRY LA-RRY
Didn’t see a lot from Brown in this game hit another three, got the the line twice, but we saw some defense. In the first few seconds of this highlight reel Brown gets the block and starts running the fast break.
Upshaw was the first player into the game for Black. Remember in my first post I said Mitch Kupchak downplayed Upshaw a lot but seeing him be the first guy off the bench is a good sign. That might be because they were so thin up front and Black was getting killed though.
Upshaw is a really good runner, he doesn’t look awkward and that’s important. Just ask Hasheem Thabeet. (Grizzlies fans nodding). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMF1QeFgSSM
Upshaw turns away a lot of balls that don’t count as blocks, alters everyones shots near the basket. Altering shots is more important to me than a block, it definitely happens a lot more. A block is just a way to qualify a completely altered shots, but there altered shots that aren’t touched by a player. Blocks are more fun though. When Upshaw finally cleans Okafor’s clock at the end of the second quarter and everyone in the crowd goes crazy.
Upshaw also grabbed a rebound away from Okafor, which is hard to do. He’s pretty strong.
One thing I don’t like from Upshaw is his screens. He doesn’t really screen as much as he just runs into people. Again, that might work in Summer League but it’s not going to fly in the NBA.