With only 10 days left until opening night, Lakers coach Luke Walton now has two preseason games to experiment with his rotation.
He tinkered quite a bit in Sunday’s win over Sacramento, starting Larry Nance Jr. alongside Brook Lopez in the front court, while Julius Randle came off the bench.
The results were positive, as Lopez scored 12 points in 15 minutes, while Randle fueled the win with 17 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and three steals.
Lopez — who missed the Lakers’ first three exhibitions due to back spasms — made his impact felt immediately. He scored 10 points in the first quarter alone, posting up on the block for three buckets and hitting a pair of 3-pointers.
Walton knows that Lopez’s ability to space the floor with his shooting and drag opposing centers out of the paint will be key to opening up the offense.
But he also likes how Lopez’s talent for posting up can collapse the defense and free up perimeter shooters. Lopez himself is committed to finding balance in his offense — from inside and outside to rolling and popping to sprinting in transition and trailing.
“I’m not just shooting 3’s,” Lopez said at Monday’s practice. “I’m working on my mid-range game, working in the post as well, trying to mix in everything and be the most complete player I can both offensively and defensively.”
Lopez expects to increase his minutes played in both of the preseason games leading up to the season opener. Another player who figures to expand his role is rookie Kyle Kuzma, who has been a revelation thus far.
The 27th-overall pick is currently second in the NBA in preseason scoring with 19.5 points on 62.0 percent shooting. He was crucial down the stretch in Sunday’s win, scoring or assisting on all of the Lakers’ final five buckets.
Walton called Kuzma a “special young man” who has a natural talent for understanding mismatches, overpowering guards and blowing past big men.
The head coach said that Kuzma may get a chance to start in the preseason, but that his value off the bench has been important thus far.
“The scoring and the energy that he provides that second unit right now is pretty crucial as well,” Walton said. “But it’s on the debate table.”
B.I. Looking for Answers
President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson had some advice for Brandon Ingram on Sunday night: Have fun.
“Magic told me last night (that) he hasn’t seen me have fun yet,” Ingram said. “I’m just trying to go out there, relax a little bit and just play my game.”
Johnson — famous for wearing a smile on the court during his own playing days — wants Ingram to enjoy himself given how frustrated he has become with his game in preseason.
Through three contests, Ingram is averaging 8.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 0.7 assists in 24.4 minutes. He has shot just 27.6 percent from the field and 1-of-8 on 3-pointers.
“Offensively is not going so well at all,” Ingram said.
Ingram considers himself his own biggest critic, and said that he feels like he is being a little too tight with his shot.
Meanwhile, Walton says that the 2016 second-overall pick is pressing too hard in attempt to prove himself.
“He wants to be great so bad and he’s worked so hard that he wants to show everyone how good he is,” Walton said. “I think because of that he’s had some possessions where he’s definitely trying to do too much.”
Walton echoed Johnson’s advice to simply have fun, telling Ingram that he is going to be around for a long time and will have plenty of opportunities to show his talent.
“He’s hard on himself,” Walton said. “He holds himself to a high standard, which we like. He comes in and uses that type of stuff to motivate him.”
Neither Lonzo Ball (left ankle sprain) nor Andrew Bogut (groin strain) will play in Tuesday’s preseason contest against Utah.
Ball has missed Los Angeles’ last two games, while Bogut has yet to debut for the Lakers.