Preseason is over for the Los Angeles Lakers, which means the team is hunkering down and preparing for the long grind of the regular season.
The Lakers are a young team with some key veteran additions, and they’re looking to make strides after going 26-56 last season for the third-worst mark in the NBA.
Los Angeles whittled down the squad over the weekend, but there are still some question marks heading into Thursday’s season-opening tilt against the Los Angeles Clippers. Here’s some of the latest Lakers news with preseason wrapped up.
Andrew Bogut Plans to Be Ready for Season Opener
After the debacle that was the Timofey Mozgov signing, the Lakers are turning to other veterans to lock down the center position alongside youngsters Ivica Zubac and Thomas Bryant. Brook Lopez is in line to be the starter, but he will need an understudy if the Lakers don’t think Zubac or Bryant have progressed enough to take on substantial playing time.
Enter Andrew Bogut. The Lakers signed him to a one-year deal in September in the hopes that he can provide capable veteran help at the 5 spot.
Bogut has yet to appear in the purple and gold while dealing with an injury, but he has told the Sydney Morning Herald‘s Roy Ward he will be ready for the start of the season: “Bogut, who will wear No.66, hasn’t suited up this pre-season after tweaking his groin when he slipped at training camp, but he is certain he will play in the Lakers’ season-opener.”
The 32-year-old Australian played in 26 games for the Dallas Mavericks last season and less than a minute for the Cleveland Cavaliers before breaking his leg, so Bogut needs to be floor-ready as soon as possible if he is to prove he can stick in the NBA. The Lakers took a minimal risk with his contract and could jettison Bogut if they believe he is surplus. Of course, they might also find they need his veteran leadership if they are to develop the young big men on the team.
Lest anyone think Bogut is with the Lakers to collect a final paycheck, the center has also been hard at work on re-inventing his jump shot in order to contribute on offense again, per Ward:
“With his leg in a cast, Bogut went to work on his shooting, blocking out the pain in his elbow and working on his ball flight and release day in and day out.
“The product of those hours of work is a softer, more European-looking shot, which Bogut showed off during his workout. Both his free throws and mid-range shots look better than they have in years.”
Perhaps the Lakers will get lucky and have a cadre of big men with improved shots. While Bogut works on his jumper, Zubac is reportedly looking to improve his hook shot this summer.
Brook Lopez Comments on Larry Nance Jr.
While Bogut is looking at a reserve role, Lopez is looking forward to who will be sharing the frontcourt with him in the Lakers’ starting 5.
Julius Randle and Larry Nance Jr. have been locked in a battle for the starting power forward role this season, with Kyle Kuzma also making himself known—though he is perhaps too green.
Nance appears to be in line to win the starting job after taking on that role for much of the preseason, though Randle did outshine him with 15 points and seven boards in just 12 minutes in the Lakers’ 111-104 win over the Clippers on Friday and played well for much of the summer and early fall. Nance had just four points in 21 minutes and turned the ball over three times.
The Los Angeles Times‘ Lance Pugmire noted Nance is the “front-runner” and Lopez is excited about how he pairs with the athletic, tenacious 24-year-old.
“It’s been great. We definitely contrast each other very well,” Lopez said, per Pugmire. “A lot of differences that make us good individual players makes us an even better tandem.”
Nance is known for his hustle, rebounding, shot-blocking and sky-high dunking while Randle crashes the boards and can be more creative on his own offensively. If Lopez wants to concentrate on scoring while Nance flies around and does the dirty work, that could be a fruitful pairing for the Lakers.
Nothing is set in stone with the season opener a couple of days away. According to Pugmire, head coach Luke Walton is “planning an ‘intense’ scrimmage this week that should affirm starting assignments.”
It will be interesting to see how Randle fares this week, as he did leave Friday’s game with back spasms. Any lingering effects could give Nance the starting role in the very near term even if Walton intended for Randle to pick up the starting mantle.
Lakers fans might be disappointed to see Randle in a reserve role, considering he was the No. 7 pick in the 2014 NBA draft, but Walton has shown that he likes to spread the minutes around and use various platoons to get the entire team involved.
No matter who ends up with the starting role, the backup at power forward will likely see plenty of court action and figure heavily into the team’s success this year.
Season Opener Notes
The Lakers season opener against the Clippers is set for 7:30 p.m. PT at the Staples Center. The Clippers will be the home team in this one. The game will air live on TNT.
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