Monthly Archive for October, 2013

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LAL 108, Jazz 94: 10/22 Preseason Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s preseason contest against Utah with comments drawn from Mike Trudell’s @LakersReporter Twitter account, to ensure you’re covered from start to finish:

Lakers: Nash, Blake, Young, Williams and Gasol
Jazz: Lucas III, Hayward, Jefferson, Favors and Kanter





Henry Finds his Stroke

blog_131021xavierdriveThe word on Xavier Henry coming into 2013-14 – fair or not – was that he was great at getting to the bucket, but not a consistent shooter.

In his first three seasons since being drafted 12th overall by Memphis in 2010 out of Kansas, Henry shot only 40.3 percent from the field and 28.9 percent from three-point range. The sample size was pretty small, as he played only 14.4 minutes and attempted 4.1 shots per game, but large enough to draw the conclusion that his shooting needed to improve.

And, well, through three weeks of preseason basketball in Los Angeles, his shooting stroke has looked pretty good, especially from three, albeit in an even smaller sample size.

While averaging 12.3 points in 20.8 minutes per game, Henry’s hitting 42 percent from the field and 56 percent from three (5 of 9). His play has certainly aided his chances in making L.A.’s roster, which currently stands at 16, one more than allowed once the season begins.

To understand what’s going on with Henry’s stroke, we interviewed Lakers player development coach Larry Lewis:

Q: On Henry’s emergence this preseason:
Lewis: It’s a brand new day for him and the team. It’s a new system. I can’t say why things happened the way the way they did in other places, but I know here, it’s like a breath of fresh air to see him grow and strive the way he’s doing.

Q: On what Lewis sees fundamentally from Henry’s shot, particularly his release, his follow through, etc:
Lewis: Nothing’s wrong with his shot fundamentally. He has a good shot. The timing of his explosion from his toes to his release, I think there was a timing issue there. Other than that, he had a nice looking shot. It’s not bad at all.

Q: On what was wrong with the timing and the release:
Lewis: I think he was holding the ball a little too long. For athletic guys, sometimes they have to tone it down in their jump shots. Sometimes, non-athletic guys shoot better because there’s less going on if you think about it. That’s all; nothing big. Just a few minor tweaks here and there, and that’s all it took.

Q: On how long it took the coaching staff to identify that and the process of cleaning up his shot:
Lewis: We saw it immediately. You just take them to the side and start with one concept. I remember early on with (assistant coach) Kurt (Rambis) on his side, it’s drilling him and you just do shooting the right way repetitiously for an amount of days. Then you go from one basic concept to deeper concepts. Like I said, Xavier’s a fast learner and he listens very well. He just tried to do it as we were saying it, so he started to practice right.

Q: On seeing Henry shoot so well (29 points) in the preseason opener and if it was a confidence building thing for Henry:
Lewis: Yeah, and he was going to the hole as well. That’s something he does well. Now it’s about taking him to the next level as far as when to go to the hole and making him a better passer, which he can do.

Q: Bottom line: He can shoot the ball well in the NBA as opposed to what he’s done in the past:
Lewis: Right, and bottom line, he has a chance to help this team.

Sunday Practice Report

blog_131020dantonipracticeAfter a weeklong trip to China as part of the NBA Global Games, the Lakers reconvened Sunday to watch film and a light practice.

Kobe Bryant (Achilles) and Chris Kaman (stomach virus) did not participate, while Steve Nash ended his day a little early because of a stomach virus, according to coach Mike D’Antoni. He told reporters post practice he would be fine, though. Both Jordan Farmar (calf strain) and Wesley Johnson (foot strain) went through a full practice after both played in the second game of the trip. Nash, who has also battled ankle problems, has played limited minutes in the last three preseason contests.

“It’s OK,” he said. “It’s not perfect, but it’s not bad, so I’ll take it.”

Even though the Lakers dropped both contests to the Golden State Warriors, the coaching staff maintains there were some positives to take away.

“I thought the guys practiced extremely well over there,” D’Antoni said. “We didn’t finish up the games really well, but a lot of it was very good stuff. We got some guys coming on and we got some guys trying to get back like Wesley Johnson (foot strain) and Jordan Farmar (calf strain) getting their wind back after missing a couple weeks. But I think overall, it was a good trip.”

Another player who had been off the court was the team’s second-round draft pick, Ryan Kelly (foot). He made his NBA debut in China, playing 12 minutes in both Tuesday and Thursday’s contest. He recorded a total of 10 points (two three-pointers) and four rebounds.

“He had a great couple practices, but he hasn’t played in six to eight months,” D’Antoni said. “It’s like starting golf – first couple times you go out, it looks good and then you’re all over the place. I thought he was all over the place, but that’s normal. He’ll keep working out. He looks good, though.”

With about a week-and-a-half before the season opener, D’Antoni acknowledged there are a number of areas he would like to see improvement from the team, especially in the final two preseason contests against Utah.

“It’s hard to say one thing,” he said. “I think we’re trying to get our pace down on offense, trying to get more disciplined on offense, running the right way and getting into our spots. Same on defense – trying to get back in transition, trying to get our bigs up on pick and rolls and trap a little bit better. We still have nine days of work, and we have to get ready for opening day.”

Lakers-Warriors Postgame Numbers

Los Angeles Lakers v Golden State WarriorsWe broke down some of the more intriguing numbers from LAL’s 115-89 loss vs. Golden State in their sixth preseason game in Shanghai:

Percent field goals for Golden State with 63 of their 115 points coming in the second half. L.A.’s starting unit kept the game close in the first 24 minutes, but the Warriors used a hot shooting performance – particularly in the third quarter – from the floor to put the game out of reach.

Points for Klay Thompson on 10 of 14 field goals and 5 of 6 three-pointers. Thompson keyed a 16-4 Warriors run to end the third quarter with three straight triples during a minute-and-a-half stretch. In three preseason games vs. the Lakers, he averaged 21.3 points on 53 percent shooting and 45.4 percent on three’s.

Combined minutes for Shawne Williams and Wes Johnson, both of whom started alongside Pau Gasol in the frontcourt in the first half and second half, respectively. This was a new starting lineup combination in the preseason for coach Mike D’Antoni as he opted to play small throughout much of the game. Johnson scored five points and five rebounds in his first action since the team’s second preseason game (foot).

Three-pointers made for the Warriors out of 26 attempts, a 57.7 percent clip. Thompson led the way with five triples, followed by Draymond Green’s four (as a rookie, Green shot just 21 percent on three’s in the regular season) and Kent Bazemore’s three.

Assists for Andre Igoudala, six coming in the third quarter when Golden State turned a four-point halftime deficit into a 12-point lead. Igoudala scored just four points, but grabbed seven rebounds and recorded five steals.

Steals for Jordan Farmar, to go along with nine points and four rebounds, in 23 minutes off the bench. Farmar returned to action for the first time since the preseason opener (calf).

LAL 89, Warriors 115: 10/18 Preseason Diary

blog_131018shanghaiarenaBelow is a running diary of L.A.’s preseason contest against Golden State with comments drawn from Mike Trudell’s @LakersReporter Twitter account, to ensure you’re covered from start to finish:

Lakers: Nash, Blake, Young, Williams and Gasol
Warriors: Curry, Igoudala, Thompson, Lee and Bogut





Roundup: Lakers in China

2013 Global Games - BeijingIn case you’ve missed anything from L.A.’s preseason trek to the Far East, we put together a list of links and notes from Beijing to Shanghai:

Check out some video footage of the team’s journey from the private terminal at LAX to Beijing’s international airport, highlighted by some pandemonium in China upon the team’s arrival.

Nobody could have captured the team’s visit to the Great Wall quite like Nick Young did in video form. CHECK IT. Young bought all kinds of souvenirs (including nunchucks and a hat that looks like Rayden’s from Mortal Kombat), fell off a toboggan on a descent from the Wall and generally improved USA-Chinese international relations with his good humor.

The section of the Great Wall we visited was about an hour and a half’s drive north of Beijing, in an area built up by the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) to help defend against Mongol raiders to the north and Manchurian tribes from the northeast.

The largest square in the world, bigger even than Moscow’s famed Red Square, Tian’anmen Square was a historically interesting sight for many of the team’s staffers, taking in the sheer mass of the Chinese government buildings. Just beyond the borders of the square sits the entrance to the Forbidden City, where Chinese emperors were safeguarded for 500 years. Inside, massive castle-like structures seemed to go on endlessly, separated by once heavily-fortified squares that made getting anywhere near the Emperor a ridiculous proposition.
Pictured:’s Ty Nowell, Zac Murray and myself. Photo credit goes to radio play-by-play voice John Ireland.

We spoke to Jordan Farmar at the team’s first practice in China, getting an update on the strained calf that’s kept him out since the opening preseason game, his thoughts on the Far East and who was better in high school between himself and buddy/fellow L.A. native Nick Young.

Hearing Kobe Bryant talk about his Achilles will be the most important information we’ll relay up until his return to the court. China’s most popular/worshipped NBA player also addressed why he thinks he’s caught on to such a remarkable degree in the country over the years.

Through three quarters, the Lakers played perhaps their best game of the preseason, opening an 80-69 advantage on a nearly full healthy Warriors team (only Harrison Barnes missed the game), with Kobe Bryant of course watching in street clothes. The starters were particularly good for L.A., with Chris Kaman going a perfect 7 for 7 from the field for 14 points with his 10 boards and three assists in 22 minutes; Pau Gasol scoring 15 points with six boards and three dimes in 22 minutes; Steve Nash going for eight points and four assists in 18 minutes and moving much better than he did in the previous game (where he had to leave in the second quarter with a sore ankle); and Nick Young going off for 18 points on 7 of 10 shooting, including 3 of 4 triples, plus three assists in 23 minutes.

In the fourth quarter, Warriors coach Mark Jackson played his starters nearly the entire time against L.A.’s bench group consisting of Marcus Landry, Darius Johnson-Odom, Ryan Kelly, Shawne Williams and (eventually) Steve Blake. The result was a 31-15 fourth quarter advantage and a 100-95 Warriors win, with Stephen Curry playing 37 minutes, Andre Iguodala 39, David Lee 38 and Klay Thompson 35. Overall, coach Mike D’Antoni was pleased with his team twice outplaying a healthy Warriors team this preseason.

We followed along with the Running Diary and Postgame Numbers, noting that despite the entertaining game, nothing was more exciting to the fans than when Bryant was shown on the jumbotron.

The team went directly from the game in Beijing to the airport to hop a late-night flight to Shanghai, where they’d finally arrive at the downtown hotel in the financial district at 4:30 a.m. Shanghai is the world’s most populous city, boasting 17+ million people in the city proper alone, and 23+ million when you including surrounding areas. We got as good a perspective of the city’s mass as is possible from a restaurant on the 58th floor of the team hotel that closed throughout the day, but was opened for us to interview and photograph Chris Kaman, Robert Sacre and Ryan Kelly on Wednesday afternoon.

Once on the roof, we checked in with both Sacre and Kaman:
1-on-1 with Chris Kaman
1-on-1 with Robert Sacre

Up next? An NBA Cares event in Shanghai on Thursday evening, and Friday night’s game at Mercedes-Benz arena.

Lakers-Warriors Postgame Numbers

Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles LakersWe broke down some of the more intriguing numbers from LAL’s 100-95 loss vs. Golden State in their fifth preseason game in Beijing:

Minutes or more for all of Golden State’s five key players – Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Igoudala, David Lee and Andrew Bogut – while no Lakers starter logged more than 27 minutes. Warriors coach Mark Jackson used that lineup for much of the fourth quarter, as they erased an 11-point deficit against L.A.’s second and/or third unit. Curry scored 14 of his 24 points in the final frame (3 of 4 field goals, 3 of 4 three-pointers) after struggling through the first three quarters (4 of 14 field goals, 0 of 6 three-pointers).

Paint points for the Lakers, with most of their scoring coming off open jumpers from the perimeter. L.A. drilled 11 three-pointers, a high for the preseason, and started particularly strong on the offensive end in the first half (47 percent field goals, 54 points).

Minutes for Lakers second-round draft pick, Ryan Kelly, who made his NBA/preseason debut after sitting out recovering from injury (foot). His first basket – a three-pointer – came off a feed from Steve Nash, who finished with a plus-12 rating in 18 minutes after playing just nine minutes in Thursday’s contest in Las Vegas (ankle).

Assists for Steve Blake off the bench in 27 minutes. Blake did not shoot the ball well (1 for 11) for the second straight game, but did find his teammates. The highlight pass of the night came off a lob to Xavier Henry early in the second quarter.

Made field goals for Chris Kaman without a miss. The 7-footer finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds and three assists in just 22 minutes.

LAL 95, Warriors 100: 10/15 Preseason Diary

Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles LakersBelow is a running diary of L.A.’s preseason contest against Golden State with comments drawn from Mike Trudell’s @LakersReporter Twitter account, to ensure you’re covered from start to finish:

Lakers: Nash, Meeks, Young, Kaman and Gasol
Warriors: Curry, Igoudala, Green, Lee and Bogut





Lakers Open Practice in Beijing

practice1Lakers practice on Sunday morning had all of the usual components: dissection of the offense; drills on defense; shooting work; and on the bright side for the team, participation from Steve Nash (ankle), Wesley Johnson (strained foot), Jordan Farmar (strained calf) and Ryan Kelly (foot).

And, oh yeah, the team is in Beijing, China.

“It’s really exciting to be here,” said Farmar. “I was actually here with the Nets once before, but it’s great to have this much time to spend with teammates, and have a cultural experience from some huge basketball fans.”

nash1Farmar strained his left calf in L.A.’s first preseason game last Saturday, and has yet to return to game action, but said he’s feeling better by the day and hopes to return to game action soon. The team’s next game is on Tuesday, against Golden State in Beijing, and he’s calling himself a question mark at this time.

Kelly is also a question mark for that game, but the second round pick out of Duke continues to ramp up his work in practice and participated in all of Sunday’s session.

Johnson left the team’s second preseason game (Sunday vs. Denver) in the first half and has yet to return to action, but did practice fully for the first time, and hopes to play on Tuesday. Likewise, Nash thinks he’ll play against Golden State. His ankle continues to be bothersome, but he practiced in full before icing down (pictured) after the fact.

As such, everybody on the roster but Kobe Bryant (Achilles) practiced. Though in fairness, Bryant’s handling of his incredible celebrity in China appears* to be pretty hard work in its own right.
*Check for videos throughout the week.

After practice, the players and team staff boarded some buses destined for the Great Wall of China, the first of many cultural experiences of the week in the Far East.

InstaVid: Beijing Airport