Lakers dynasty derailed

October, 23, 2016
Oct 23


Tom Penn and Marc Spears join Bob Ley in examining the Lakers' decline and front office turmoil, and the direction in which the franchise is heading.

Relive the best posterizing dunks in recent NBA history, from Blake Griffin's stuff on Timofey Mozgov to DeAndre Jordan's monster flush over Brandon Knight.

Lakers looking for improvement after franchise's worst season

October, 20, 2016
Oct 20

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- As the Los Angeles Lakers embark on the post-Kobe Bryant era, their most notable newcomer is one of his former teammates, first-year head coach Luke Walton.

The 36-year-old Walton, a player on back-to-back Lakers championship teams in 2009 and 2010, is tasked with changing the culture and ultimately restoring luster to the franchise.

"I think he is our best free-agent signing in a few years," Lakers president Jeanie Buss said.

But that isn't as impressive as it sounds, given that every marquee free agent the Lakers have pursued in recent years has spurned them.

And while Buss, the team's top official, and her brother Jim, executive VP of basketball operations, apparently see eye-to-eye on Walton, the state of the siblings' relationship adds Hollywood drama to the Lakers' unprecedented struggles on the court.

Jeanie, 55, and Jim, 56, attained their positions at the behest of their late father, Jerry, who won 10 NBA championships in 34 years as owner of the storied franchise. By the time he died in 2013 after battling cancer, the Lakers' slide had begun.

The club has since endured its three worst seasons ever, posting successive records of 27-55, 21-61 and 17-65.

Last season's debacle led to Jim and general manager Mitch Kupchak firing coach Byron Scott in April, a move that Jeanie says she did not know was coming. She told Outside the Lines it would "probably make me more comfortable" to be consulted on important basketball decisions, but "I have to defer to them, because I've empowered them to run the basketball operation."

Official job titles notwithstanding, the Scott episode "says that her brother is in charge of basketball operations and she has absolutely no say-so," said John Salley, who played 11 seasons in the NBA and won the last of his four NBA championships as a member of the Lakers.

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The odds are against Metta World Peace making the Los Angeles Lakers' opening night roster, but the Lakers have interest in keeping the veteran forward around as an assistant coach if they can't make room for him as an active player, according to league sources.

Sources told that World Peace's impact as a mentor to young players last season was a big reason they invited him to training camp again under new coach Luke Walton.

This time, though, competition is much stiffer for the Lakers' 15th and final roster spot, thanks to the post-Olympics signing of China star Yi Jianlian and the strong play of camp invitee Thomas Robinson.

Sources say World Peace's preference, at age 36, is to continue his playing career, even if the Lakers ultimately decide they won't keep him and that forces him to look elsewhere. L.A.'s decision must be made by Monday at 5 p.m., when all NBA teams are required to get down to 15 players in advance of the first night of the regular season.

Yi, who can operate as a backup center as well as a floor-stretching forward, is regarded as the favorite to win the duel for the Lakers' last roster spot, after L.A. signed him to a one-year, $8 million deal to lure the former Milwaukee Bucks lottery pick away from his native China and back to the NBA. But because of the unique way the contract is structured, only $250,000 of that total is guaranteed, with Yi required to earn $6.8 million in what the league deems "likely" bonuses to collect the full amount.

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Brandon Ingram turned a corner against the Golden State Warriors: Brandon Ingram laughed when he heard the lighthearted question. Should Lakers point guard Marcelo Huertas be concerned about the backup point guard slot, given what a great job Ingram did at the point for parts of Wednesday night’s exhibition? Then he collected himself and offered the kind of measured and serious response he generally does. -- Los Angeles Times

Changes could lead to a breakout second season for Lakers guard D'Angelo Russell: The barriers no longer stand in front of D'Angelo Russell. He has a coach who will develop him more with positive reinforcement than frequent criticism. He is now leading a Lakers team instead of deferring to a Hall-of-Fame teammate. He also has an extra year of experience that taught him various lessons in work habits, maturity and basketball expertise. But even if Russell feels empowered in his second season, he does not feel encouraged that unnamed general managers voted him fourth in an poll on which players are most likely to have a breakout season. -- The Orange County Register

Lakers sought national anthem protest that stresses unity without disrespecting others: The nearly 20 players stood side-by-side near center court. Behind them, 20 more players did the same thing. Every player on the Lakers and the Portland Trail Blazers then performed one uniform gesture. They locked arms together during the national anthem before a recent preseason game at Staples Center. Since San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started kneeling during the anthem before games during the NFL preseason, other pro, college and high school athletes have followed with their own gestures to protest social injustice. So, the Lakers huddled in recent weeks and brainstormed how they would protest with one specific goal in mind. -- The Orange County Register

Luke Walton and D'Angelo RussellJoshua Dahl/USA TODAY Sports

This story is part of ESPN The Magazine's Oct. 31 NBA Preview Issue. Subscribe today!

Los Angeles Lakers

Overall: 109

Title track: 29

Ownership: 73

Coaching: 72

Players: 109

Fan relations: 112

Affordability: 116

Stadium experience: 80

Bang for the buck: 120

Change from last year: -8

Coming off their worst season in franchise history and after missing the playoffs three straight seasons, is it any wonder the rebuilding Lakers continue their Ultimate Standings slide? The (somewhat) bright side: Kobe Bryant and Byron Scott are out, which gives Luke Walton and the Lakers' kids a chance to start anew.

What's good

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Brandon Ingram plays his best game, but Lakers fall to Warriors: Rookie Brandon Ingram played his best game of the preseason and led the team with 21 points. He also had four assists, seven rebounds and two steals. “I think I’m making progressions every time I step on the floor,” Ingram said. -- Los Angeles Times

Brandon Ingram has breakout game in 123-112 preseason loss to Warriors: The movement looked so natural as Brandon Ingram navigated his way around the court. He sank shots with balance as he set his feet and squared up in triple threat position. He scanned the court and found open teammates both in half-court and transition. He slid his deceptively thin frame into the lane to pluck rebounds off the rim as if they were apples on a tree. The Lakers fell in love with Ingram when he perfected all those qualities during his lone season at Duke. After seeing him experience some hiccups in summer league and training camp, the Lakers saw Ingram flash signs of promising growth in their 123-112 preseason loss to the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday at Valley View Casino Center. -- Los Angeles Daily News

Luke Walton visits father's statue before exhibition vs. Warriors in San Diego: The man’s outstretched arms and infectious smile capture his friendly personality. The bike represents one of his favorite hobbies. And the statue depicting Hall-of-Famer center Bill Walton shows how much his native city reveres him. Despite endless preparation ahead of him before the Lakers’ exhibition against Golden State on Wednesday at Valley View Casino Center, Lakers coach Luke Walton visited his father’s statue in the arena’s upper concourse. “I heard nobody wants it,” Walton said. “Is that true?” -- The Orange County Register


Timofey Mozgov impresses in the third quarter with a perfectly executed jam and a highlight-reel block at the other end.

Check out 35 seconds where the Warriors got it done on the defensive and offensive end to prevent the Lakers from getting anything accomplished.

Klay Thompson stops D'Angelo Russell, takes the ball down the court and finds Kevin Durant for the dunk.

Are D'Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram future stars? Are the Lakers headed in the right direction? Which trades should they make?

Our NBA Insiders preview Los Angeles' 2016-17 season.

Thomas Robinson working hard to earn a spot with the Los Angeles Lakers: Thomas Robinson was the last player off the court after the Lakers’ midday practice Tuesday, just as he has been after nearly every practice this fall. So if Robinson is the last player cut before next week’s regular-season opener, it won’t be for a lack of effort. “It’s out of my hands now,” Robinson said after slumping wearily into a folding chair, his uniform soaked in sweat. -- Los Angeles Times

Luke Walton considers return to San Diego 'more of a business trip': More than 40 friends and family members will greet Luke Walton in his hometown Wednesday. They will see the same man who helped University High of San Diego win a CIF State championship his senior year patrol the Lakers’ sideline. They get to watch Walton guide the Lakers (2-4) against his former employer, the Golden State Warriors (4-1) in a preseason game at Valley View Casino Center. And they will see the unveiling of a statue of Walton’s Hall-of-Fame father, Bill. -- The Orange County Register

Nick Young hopes his new effort on defense earns him a spot in Lakers' rotation: As soon as the Lakers broke from a team huddle at the end of Monday’s practice, Nick Young shuffled to a spot in a corner of the court, behind the three-point line. His teammates were slow to clear out from under the basket, so Young blew on his hands to stay warm in the chilly gym. Then he got antsy, shifting his weight from side to side before beckoning for a Lakers staffer to throw him a ball. -- Los Angeles Times


Luke Walton takes his team through practice in his first season as head coach of the Lakers.

Brandon Ingram's confidence hasn't wavered as he adjusts to the NBA: The matchups won’t get much tougher for Brandon Ingram than one he faced Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Kevin Durant, another former second-overall pick, a seven-time all-star, the 2014 league MVP and new Golden State Warrior, metaphorically towered over Ingram during the Lakers’ 112-107 loss. -- Los Angeles Times

Lakers impressed with Thomas Robinson's hustle: The devastating force seemed unstoppable no matter how hard Lakers forward Thomas Robinson contested the shot. The Lakers became disorganized on defense once again, leaving Robinson with the thankless task with stopping Warriors center JaVale McGee. Instead, he threw down a one-handed dunk in the Lakers’ 112-107 exhibition loss Golden State on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena, a play that soon became fodder afterward in the locker room. -- The Orange County Register

Draymond Green says Julius Randle 'has potential' to be better than him: With the ball in his hands, Lakers forward Julius Randle stared straight ahead at one of his mentors, but he didn’t look intimidated by Draymond Green’s formidable presence. Instead, Randle charged past him. After drawing a foul on the Golden State Warriors’ All-Star forward, Randle shouted four words that quickly went viral. “He can’t guard me!,” Randle said, shaking his head dismissively. The Lakers play host to the Golden State Warriors in a preseason game Wednesday at San Diego Sports Arena nearly a year after that episode took place at the same venue. -- The Orange County Register



Kobe Bryant
17.6 2.8 0.9 28.2
ReboundsJ. Randle 10.2
AssistsM. Huertas 3.4
StealsD. Russell 1.2
BlocksT. Black 0.5