Strength and Conditioning: Larry Nance Jr.
With a seemingly endless supply of highlight-reel dunks, Larry Nance Jr. spent much of his rookie season showing off the athleticism that led to the Lakers selecting him with the 27th pick in last year's draft.
That natural talent makes for plenty of material for Strength and Conditioning Coach Tim DiFrancesco to operate with.
This offseason, the goal for DiFrancesco and Nance is to put on about 2-6 pounds of "lean mass." Currently listed at 6-foot-9 and 230 pounds, Nance figures to be able to use that added bulk to battle with the likes of All-Star power forwards LaMarcus Aldridge (6-foot-11, 240) and Paul Millsap (6-foot-8, 246).
“He’s going to play that four spot and go up against some of those guys that are pretty bruiser-type guys that he’s having to battle with,” DiFrancesco said. “He’s never had a problem athletically out-dueling them, but he realized as the season went on just how much of a challenge this is going to be to bang with these guys."
DiFrancesco went as far as to call the added mass "necessary" for Nance's upcoming sophomore season. He also considers it a plus in case Nance continues to get minutes at small forward, which then-head coach Byron Scott started experimenting with toward the end of the year.
For what it's worth, new head coach Luke Walton said that he plans to run a system similar to that of Golden State, which includes plenty of small-ball lineups.
“He’s already athletically above and beyond most guys at the three position,” DiFrancesco said. “It only will help him to have some of that lean mass. I think other threes are sort of at a disadvantage athletically against him already.
“If you put on a little bit of lean mass and make him start giving hits instead of taking hits, you’re gonna have threes in that league that are like, ‘What am I supposed to do with this guy? He outruns me, out-jumps me and he’s also stronger than me. This is a disaster.’”
Along with Nance's mass-building early in the offseason, DiFrancesco is happy with how the 23-year-old's right knee has recovered after causing him to miss 14 games last season.
Nance, who tore his right ACL as a junior at Wyoming in February 2014, was still rehabbing from that injury when he joined the Lakers, leaving DiFrancesco impressed that he was "the best athlete, some people could argue, on one leg.”
Now, the coach is excited to see Nance return to full strength.
“It’s now a matter of cementing the strength and stability and balance of his lower body and everything that comes out of the final stages of the rehab process," DiFrancesco said. "It’s scary to think about what happens at the end of this offseason when he’s going out there with that process being completed.”