Summer League is for Teaching


The name “Bill Bertka” carries considerable weight in basketball circles.

The long time coach, scout and executive – currently L.A.’s Director of Scouting/Basketball Consultant – has quite literally been working with the game’s best players for longer than any current NBA player has been alive, and enters his 30th season with the Lakers alone.

We mention Bertka because before L.A. played the Kings in their fourth summer league game in Las Vegas, he revealed the primary purpose of the summer sessions for the Lakers: to see how potential senior team roster prospects (see: Ebanks, Devin and Caracter, Derrick) fit into the triangle offense.

Towards that end, Bertka and Lakers summer league head coach Chuck Person and assistant Rasheed Hazzard spent six practices teaching their players the basics of the triangle, and continued to preach the key elements of the triple-post offense through four games, with one final contest to come on Thursday.

As such, while the Lakers are trying to install perhaps basketball’s most intricate system, most other teams run more simple offenses in Vegas.

61032342In related news, the Lakers have lost all four games, most recently Tuesday evening’s 90-84 defeat to DeMarcus Cousins (19 and 12) and Sacramento.

The triangle, after all, can take years for NBA veterans to learn, so one can imagine what it looks like when a group of guys with no previous triangle experience try to get their Tex Winter on.

But as Bertka explained, that’s the whole purpose heading into training camp in October.

“We’re trying to show these players how to operate the triangle in a short period of time,” he said. “There’s a long way to go, but we’re pleased with the progress they’ve made. (Tuesday night) was the best they’ve run the offense thus far.”

Indeed, after shooting just 33 percent in a Monday loss to New York, L.A. converted 45.5 percent of its shots against the Kings, including Caracter’s 6-of-9 performance for 14 points, as he grew more comfortable with where to be on the floor.

“My goal has been to understand the offense overall in general, continue to learn and take the things that my coaches are telling me,” said the team’s No. 58 pick. “I think I’ll be a lot better once everybody else knows the triangle in training camp.”

It’s much the same in the NFL, when teams hold OTA (Offseason Training Activities) primarily to integrate their rookies and young players into the team’s offensive and defensive schemes.

And, after four games, reports on both Ebanks and Caracter are positive.

“They’ve done well with the basic parts of the triangle,” said Person. “It’s a simple but complicated offense, so the fact that they’re making the right reads, have the right foot work and are trying to do the things we do with our regular (Lakers) team.

“I think Caracter and Ebanks are definitely NBA players.”

All the post-draft buzz about Ebanks (43rd pick) centered on his defense, and while he didn’t disappoint in that aspect, he showcased a more-developed-than-was-reported offensive flair, averaging 17.3 points in the first three games before a 12-point performance against the Kings.

Caracter, whom had atop the rookie ladder (with Ebanks third) after he posted double-doubles in the team’s first three games (17.7 points, 10.7 rebounds), posted 14 points with five rebounds and four blocks against No. 5 overall pick Cousins, who had a true size advantage against which Caracter battled ably.

“Cousins is a legitimate center in this league, and Caracter is a little bit undersized, but he has a good nose for the basketball, has good hands and he can jump, is quick off his feet,” Person continued. “I think he fared well, and as he continues to lose weight and get in shape and get acclimated into our system, he could (play) for us down the line.”

“Down the line” is what matters anyway.

“We’re looking for these guys to come into camp well versed in the things that we like to do out of Coach (Phil) Jackson’s system, so I was very impressed with what they did tonight,” Person concluded. “We try to get guys in the right positions to make the right reads out of the triangle, and I’ve been impressed and excited with the way things have worked out so far.”

That’s just how Bertka likes it.