On Tuesday afternoon, to the surprise of many (myself included), the Lakers waived Robert Upshaw (and Michael Frazier) and Twitter erupted. It was labeled as another bad move by Byron Scott. He was called dumb, a moron, and the worst coach ever.
Somehow a man who cut a player with tons of baggage who hadn’t played competitive basketball for nearly six months prior to Summer League play was in the wrong.
Twitter with knee-jerk reactions? That’s so unlike them.
Coming into the pre-season, Upshaw was one of the most intriguing players on the Lakers roster. His college numbers told part of the story: a 7-footer with an average of 4.45 blocks per game in 24.9 minutes a game. We know the rest of the story at this point, though. Upshaw was kicked off two college teams and had his own personal demons he needed to exorcise.
Over the summer, the rookie said all the right things centered around working hard, living in the gym and being dedicated to his craft. However, talk was cheap. In Mike Bresnahan’s LA Times piece on the roster move, a little more info was revealed on Upshaw’s actions.
Upshaw, despite his enticing shot-blocking skills, had trouble picking up the offense, often left the training facility after practice without putting in extra work, and was guaranteed $35,000.
The move to keep Robert Sacre over Upshaw was not a popular one, or an easy one, for that matter. But no one has questioned Sacre’s work-ethic. He’s a great locker room presence, and from a financial perspective, he was guaranteed $1 million.
Upshaw was a fan-favorite, no doubt. But fans only see a small part of what it takes to make an NBA roster. Even with the vastly growing social media presence bringing scrimmage footage to your laptop or phones within seconds, fans still only see minuscule amounts of practice time.
For all the talents Upshaw has, many fans began vastly overrating both his skill set and potential. Each mistake on the court was met with a “but if he has more time.” The fact remains that Upshaw had as many fouls as points, and managed just three blocks in five games played.
His timing was never right, neither offensively or defensively, evidenced by his blown wide-open dunk in Monday night’s contest. He never looked fluid on the floor, always out of position.
What Upshaw needs is playing time at a level above college, but not quite the NBA. He’s not ready for NBA action and riding the bench does him no good. The Lakers admitted their desire to add him to the D-League roster.
Lakers hope Upshaw clears waivers + signs with their D-League team. He was cut because of "big-time learning curve on both ends," Byron said
— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) October 20, 2015
At the end of the day, this isn’t a move that can be met with too much criticism. A non-guaranteed player like Upshaw needs to play his way onto a roster, especially if he wants to take the spot over a player with a guaranteed contract. The fact is, he did not do this. You can pine for him being a future role player, if not more, but at the end of the day, his future was too murky and his present wasn’t good enough.