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On the NBA Beat Ep. 2.23: Darius Soriano: “Onus Is on Lakers’ Player Development Folks” to Maximize Potential

The Los Angeles Lakers have a new president of basketball operations and general manager, as first-year head coach Luke Walton leads a youthful squad headlined by lottery picks from the past three drafts, Brandon Ingram, D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle. At this critical juncture for the team, Forum Blue & Gold Editor-in-Chief Darius Soriano stops by to break down the biggest storylines for LA’s present and future.

2:44-3:43: Sadly, the biggest Lakers-related news this season happened off the court with last week’s management shakeup:

“The writing was sort of on the wall once Magic [Johnson] was hired as an adviser to Jeanie Buss…The timing of it, though, was awkward and just the way it was handled, I thought, was rough for everyone involved…I’m sort of intrigued by the [Rob] Pelinka aspect, and I think the Magic Johnson thing – I don’t want to say ‘cautiously optimistic.’ I’m more along the lines of ‘I’m just sort of hanging back and waiting to see how things go.’ Magic’s very well respected in the business world, and obviously he was an amazing player. We’ll see how all of that translates that to a final decision-maker on the basketball side [for the Lakers].”  

13:26-15:14: First-year Lakers head coach Luke Walton’s professional approach to dealing with players could not be more different than that of previous coach Byron Scott, according to Darius:

“It’s basically night and day. I think it was after the Lakers lost to the Spurs very recently…and he [Luke Walton] was kind of like, ‘That’s basically between us, and the way that I coach I’m not going to really get on my guys in public. That’s not really the way that I do things.’ That’s night and day to the way that Byron Scott coached this team…When he was hired, I think that he knew what he was getting himself into, whereas I think when Byron Scott got hired he had this impression that he had Kobe Bryant and that everything was going to be OK, and maybe that influenced the way that he handled things…But I do think that Walton very early on built up some equity with the young guys and sort of got in their ears early about how much he supported them and believed in them, and he said that very publicly to a lot of people.”

22:26-23:24: Our guest contends that while D’Angelo Russell continues to improve his passing, his current difficulties driving to the basket are slowing down his progression when it comes to facilitation: 

“Since Russell’s not necessarily a penetrating guard at this stage of his career, the types of passes that he’s creating are mostly those skip passes [or pocket passes] that come out of the pick and roll…I don’t want to oversell his passing ability, but I think that he’s actually a really good passer who just hasn’t opened up the rest of his passing game based off of the limitations that come from his dribble penetration or lack thereof. One of the things I like about Russell is that he can make the next-level read when it comes to passing…The guy who sort of makes that pass best in the league is James Harden. And I’m not comparing Russell to Harden, but he has sort of similar vision and instincts within that play.”        

30:57-32:27: You won’t hear (or read) Darius complaining about the Lakers’ decision not to deal teenage forward Brandon Ingram. He thinks the kid will be a star some day. 

“One of the things I’d like to see from him for the rest of the season is just sort of continue to remain aggressive. Earlier, I spoke to how he’s this natural ball mover, and I really like that aspect about him, but I also want to see him continue to look for his own shot and not always just so quickly move the ball on to an open teammate just because that guy is open. I’ve mostly liked his defense. He can get a little bit lost off of the ball, but he’s had some really good moments of on-ball defense, and he’s really started to leverage his length defensively…I was totally in agreement when the report came out that the Lakers did not want to include him in a trade for Cousins. Ingram is still only 19. In fact, his whole rookie season is going to be an age-19 rookie season. So he’s just so young, and he has so much potential. He’s got a good head on his shoulders, and he works really hard…I wouldn’t be so quick to bury him. I just think that he’s going to turn into a real player for the Lakers even if he’s not showing it necessarily right now. We only see it in fits and flashes.”   

Music: “Who Likes to Party” by Kevin Macleod

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