If I had to describe this game in one word, that word would be frustrating.
The first quarter was a nightmare. Lakers scored just four points in the first seven minutes, and only five points in the first quarter as a whole. FIVE. F-I-V-E. Cinco.
The players have been set up to fail. The Lakers’ “Princeton” offense hasn’t generated many, if any, open looks, and it puts the players in an incredibly difficult position to create something as the shot clock is winding down.
They’re usually left to iso, or have one shot at a pick-and-roll. If it doesn’t work, well, you’re out of luck and you’re gonna have to chuck up a shot to beat the shot clock.
To run an offense like that when you have Clarkson and Russell, two solid pick-and-roll guards, is nonsensical. Play to your players’ strengths, not to some systematic offense that requires proper timing and chemistry. Certainly a much higher level of timing and chemistry a group of players can achieve while only playing and practicing with each other only a handful of times.
The schemes on the defensive side of the ball are laughably just as bad. They were playing a freakin’ zone for a major part of the game. Summer League is supposed to be about preparing players for when it really counts, and in no way does a zone do that.
So now that we’ve established how horrendous the coaching has been, let’s move on to how the players performed.
D’Angelo Russell had eight turnovers, and only one assist, but it’s not that concerning, in my opinion. If you re-watch some of his turnovers, many of them are the result of a lack of chemistry. I can think of two or three with Tarik Black alone that were actually good passes, but Black either didn’t roll hard enough to the basket, or simply was not prepared to catch the ball. These are the types of things that will correct themselves as the players get more accustomed to each other. I think the important thing is that he’s seeing these passing lanes.
Some of his other turnovers can be attributed to poor spacing. When Russell is coming off pick-and-rolls, often times he has no where to go. He’ll try to fit a pass into a tight window, or is forced to dribble through traffic. Both are turnover-prone actions.
Obviously not all of his turnovers are the result of these things – there was in semi-transition that he threw right to Porzingis, for example. It looked like he simply didn’t see him. He’s a rookie, and the game is probably a little fast for him right now. These things happen, and they are not worrisome. What is more worrisome for me is that he’s not being put in a position to succeed.
I guess I’ll focus on Julius Randle now. Unlike Russell, I don’t attribute Julius’ Summer League struggles to coaching woes.
Randle didn’t have a great first half. His touch was still a bit off, and he didn’t finish at the rim well, though he can still beat his man off the dribble whenever he wants. He didn’t even look to take a jump shot, which he needs to do if only to keep the defense honest. Scoring issues aside, he finally made an impact on the glass, with six rebounds. In his first and only Summer League game, he didn’t have a single defensive rebound, so it’s nice to see an improvement there.
He also improved on the defensive end from the first game. He missed a couple rotations, but overall his effort was solid. And you can really see his defensive potential with his combination of strength and quickness.
But the best thing from Randle tonight was his distributing. In the first half, he was looking mostly to score when he drove to the basket and had tunnel vision, which often resulted in him getting stripped, blocked, or simply swarmed by the defense. In the second half, he was more willing to drive-and-kick and it helped open up this horrible offense. Since he usually always beats his man off the dribble and forces help defense to rotate, he can create a lot of problems for the defense if he’s a willing passer. He only finished with two assists, but his passing was better than that number indicates.
All in all, it wasn’t a terrific performance by Randle by any means, but it was a step forward from his first Summer League game, and that’s obviously what you’re looking for.
And for my final thoughts, I think I’ll just take some time to recognize Jabari Brown for his performance in this one. He was returning from an eye injury, yet he picked up right from where he left off last year. He didn’t have a great shooting night (5-14 from the field, 2-7 from three), but he got the line quite a bit and ended up with 20 points. With an offense as bad as this one, his production was sorely needed. Though the only criticism I have is that the dude doesn’t pass the ball AT ALL.