(J Alexander Diaz/Los Angeles Lakers)
Lakers Media Day Takeaways
It’s officially basketball season, as the Lakers tipped off the year with their annual Media Day.
Here’s what’s going on as the Lakers head into training camp:
LeBron James isn’t worried about fitting in
It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but the greatest player in the world hasn’t fretted much about how his skill set will fit on his new team.
“My game does not change no matter who I’m alongside,” LeBron James said. “I believe my game can fit with anybody. I’m a team-first guy. I love passing the ball, love sharing the ball.
“And then watching these guys from the outside looking in (last year), the level of pace that they play with I’m excited about. I love running up and down and things of that nature.”
That latter point is good news for a Lakers squad that ranked third in the NBA in pace last year.
In his career, James has never played on a team that was among the top 10 in pace, but he is unquestionably a monster on the fast-break, bolstering an already-potent transition attack.
Everybody’s talking about Kuz
Few players break down tape like Rajon Rondo, and new teammate Kyle Kuzma reached out over the offseason to set up a 45-minute film session.
They played a pick-up game afterward, and — in a move that reminded Rondo of himself — Kuzma texted him late that night while watching tape from that day.
“He’s on my good side,” Rondo said.
Meanwhile, Josh Hart said he hasn’t seen another player who has improved as much over the offseason.
“I pride myself on defense,” Hart said. “Me and Kuz work out together, and there were a couple times I’m sitting there like, ‘Man, how am I supposed to stop this guy?’ I’m forcing him to take tough shots, and he’s making tough shots.”
Kuzma’s status as an offensive weapon is nothing new. This offseason he put in work to bring up his effectiveness on the defensive side.
“I think the biggest thing is defensively — that’s been my focus this whole summer,” Kuzma said. “Really just trying to get my body right. Get stronger, quicker, more agile. The knock on me last year was defense. Not every rookie can come in and be perfect. That’s just one area I really wanted to fine-tune.”
JaVale’s working on his mid-range game
Whether it’s in transition or the half-court, JaVale McGee knows that he lives at the rim. But the Lakers’ vertical-spacing center also plans on flashing his mid-range game this season.
He was already promising in this area last year, hitting nearly half of his mid-range shots (12-of-26). The season before, he barely even attempted anything from that area (3-of-8).
McGee rarely broke out the mid-range game outside of garbage time, but his efficient clip suggests it could be a more featured tool moving forward.
JaVale knocks down the turnaround jumper pic.twitter.com/pgBu3gJwqZ— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) February 27, 2018
Zo credits his strength for his new-look jumper
Lonzo Ball’s offseason was restricted by arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, but that didn’t stop him from putting in some work.
The 21-year-old has noticeably bulked up, and President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson called his jumper “beautiful” after Ball tweaked it over the summer.
Ball said the two are intertwined, as he credited his added muscle for making his previous slingshot mechanics less of a necessity.
“Everybody’s saying my jump shot’s this new thing,” Ball said. “To me it’s not really changed a lot. I think I’ve just got a lot stronger, so I ain’t really gotta fling the ball like I did last year. It’s moved a little bit more to the middle, but it’s still on the left side.
“I’m just trying to focus on my mechanics now: keeping my hand up, keep my elbow in more. I think me just being stronger in my upper body (makes) it easier to get it to the rim.”
In the ZOne pic.twitter.com/5VIcrw1Y3v— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) September 8, 2018
If you’re looking for B.I., he’s on the court
Brandon Ingram isn’t really interested in anything that doesn’t involve two hoops and an orange ball.
Ingram — who has worked extensively on his game both in L.A. and back home in North Carolina — repeated that he doesn’t do much in his free time except work on his game.
“I don’t like video games,” Ingram said. “Every time y’all ask me that, I tell y’all the same thing. I really don’t do much. I play basketball.”
KCP’s got a new diet
Last week, Magic Johnson praised Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, promising that, “He looks like a totally different guy and he’s playing like it too.”
Turns out that the secret is KCP’s improved eating habits, as he cut out fast food and high-sugar foods.
Caldwell-Pope said that he isn’t getting fatigued when he plays now, which is good considering that his primary tasks include high-energy responsibilities, like rebounding, running the floor and chasing shooters around screens.
A quick shoutout to KCP for crashing through this elevator screen like he's the Kool-Aid Man. pic.twitter.com/dw8pRI98yJ— Joey Ramirez (@JoeyARamirez) March 8, 2018
Svi is the talk of the gym
Svi Mykhailiuk has been putting everyone on notice this offseason. The 47th draft pick scorched his way to 16.6 points and 40.8 percent 3-point shooting at the Las Vegas Summer League.
Then he dropped 22 points in the Ukrainian national team’s upset over Spain. Then he impressed Magic Johnson by hitting six straight 3’s in one of the Lakers’ in-house scrimmages.
Svi — who rejoined the Lakers following his stint with the national team earlier this month — recently caught the attention of L.A.’s two-way players.
Travis Wear came away surprised by Mykhailiuk’s defensive prowess, while Alex Caruso went even further with his analysis.
“I’ve been really impressed with Svi,” Caruso said. “I think he’s going to be the steal of the draft like Kuz was last year.”