I was able to chat with the face of the Lakers to preview Los Angeles a bit, while also chatting about the Wolves. Is this face Lonzo Ball? Kobe Bryant? Magic Johnson?
Nope. It’s Mike Trudell. He writes. He does radio. He does TV. And he’s from Minnesota and had my job once (albeit a much better-looking version of me who dresses a lot nicer).
Here’s our three-question conversation:
The Lakers have one of the best young cores in the league. The spotlight is on Lonzo Ball, and understandably, but how good can Brandon Ingram be?
The Lakers are really excited about Ingram’s future, and think he has a great chance at becoming a star one day, which is why he went No. 2 overall in the draft. Ingram literally just turned 20 in September, and made significant progress both after the All-Star break and in the offseason, when he re-worked his jump shot amongst other things. They expect him to make significant progress this season, but recognize it may take some time as he develops physically and mentally. The Wolves certainly know the feeling, working with such great young talent as (Karl-Anthony) Towns and (Andrew) Wiggins.
It finally feels like the Lakers have a clear plan. What have you seen since Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka took over?
Magic and Pelinka have accomplished a few important things since taking over in February, most notably drafting Ball and potential all-rookie teammate Kyle Kuzma, and making a deal to move Timofey Mozgov’s contract to help open the potential for two max level free agents in the coming offseason. Meanwhile, they found a way to motivate the young players to make big time gains in terms of physical conditioning and development over the summer while trying to set a tone for the level of competitiveness and commitment they expect moving forward. The idea is to pair the young core with the coming-at-some-point veterans under Luke Walton’s system to get back into contention.
Your overall thoughts on the West beefing up this summer…
It’s going to be a fun ride in the West, featuring some established teams full of All-Stars like the Warriors and Spurs, along with teams such as the Rockets, Thunder and Wolves that all added major stars in the offseason. And that doesn’t even mention really strong teams like Portland, Utah or Denver that think they’re in great playoff shape. The Lakers are young, much like Minnesota was last year, and perhaps a few pieces away, but can in some ways follow the blueprint the Wolves laid out in letting their young players grow while simultaneously looking ahead.