Lakers News: Nick Young Trade Talk, Summer League Struggles and More

Nick R. Moyle@@NRmoyleFeatured ColumnistJuly 15, 2015

The Los Angeles Lakers have had a difficult summer, culminating with brutal performances in the NBA Las Vegas Summer League.
The Los Angeles Lakers have had a difficult summer, culminating with brutal performances in the NBA Las Vegas Summer League.John Locher/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Lakers, they of the 16 championships and 23 division titles, have become a laughingstock of the NBA.

After striking out on every marquee free agent, the team has also struck out in the NBA Las Vegas Summer League. D'Angelo Russell and Julius Randle have pressed too hard and found their play stifled at every turn.

It hasn't been a great summer for the purple and gold thus far, but it has been newsworthy.

Here's a look at the latest goings-on in Lakersland, including Nick Young trade talk, summer league woes and coaching staff moves.

The Strange Saga of Swaggy P

Chris Carlson/Associated Press

The Lakers have been sending mixed signals on Nick Young for weeks now. No one is quite sure what L.A. plans to do with Young because, it would appear, the team doesn't precisely know.

Lakers coach Byron Scott isn't even sure what Young is doing during the offseason, according to Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News:

Young told Los Angeles News Group in late May he has followed Scott’s advice to improve his decision making, playing off-the-ball and off-ball defense.

“I don’t know what he’s doing,” said Scott, who said he has only talked with Young twice this offseason. “If he’s saying that’s what he’s doing, then that’s what I believe he’s doing.”

Young has never been easy to handle—he can vacillate between potent scoring threat and volatile liability from game to game, even possession to possession. He's a valuable bench scorer capable of little else on the court, and when his shot isn't falling, his units often falter.

The addition of 2014-2015 Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams appeared to make Young's inclusion on this season's roster superfluous—there are only so many shots to go around for volume shooters like Williams, Young, Kobe Bryant and Russell—but it appears that trade talk involving the 30-year-old have stalled, per Bill Oram of the Orange County Register:

Bill Oram @billoram

Heard today Lakers have no plans to trade Nick Young. Called around seeking suitors so they could clear cap room quickly. Didn't materialize

The saga of Swaggy P likely isn't over yet. A workable coexistence between Young and the rest of the Lakers' guard rotation seems highly untenable this season, meaning his name will continue swirling around in trade talk for the foreseeable future.

Randle and Russell's Bogus Journey

John Locher/Associated Press

With the Era of the Mamba nearly complete, the next chapter in Lakers history is expected to be written by the youngsters: D'Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson.

The problem with leveraging the future on unproven—aside from Clarkson, who was named to the All-Rookie First Team last season—commodities, especially in a sports market like Los Angeles, is that early expectations are generally unreasonable.

Just look at this tweet directed at Oram from a Lakers fan following Russell's brutal summer league start:

Bill Oram @billoram

This is the problem with expectations in an instant-gratificaton culture. https://t.co/4dqbucYF3w

Through three summer league games, the No. 2 overall pick is averaging 10 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 6.7 turnovers per game. He's connected on just 10 of his 30 shot attempts, including going 1-of-8 from three.

Randle, who is essentially a rookie again after breaking his leg in the Lakers' opening game last season, has had growing pains of his own. Through two summer league games, the 20-year-old is averaging a paltry nine points, 3.5 rebounds and three turnovers per game. He's shooting just 29.4 percent from the field and 57.1 percent from the charity stripe.

Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding believes the two supposed saviors are pushing too hard to prove something not only to the city and the league but to themselves:

They know what is expected of them, and they welcome the challenge. But for now, that challenge comes with pressure that is making it harder for them to shine in summer league.

The nature of these games, with thrown-together rosters and little practice time, makes spacing and teamwork hard to find. But Randle is over-dribbling and Russell is over-passing as they overdo their efforts to succeed.

The Lakers organizational dysfunction hasn't been strictly limited to the court, either. During Monday's loss to the New York Knicks, the Los Angeles Times' Bill Plaschke noted that, while several Lakers officials were attending the game, most decided to take in the proceedings separately:

While all the Knicks officials sat together on one baseline, the Lakers officials were noticeably spread out all over the gym. Jim Buss was courtside, Jeanie Buss was on one baseline hanging out with boyfriend and Knicks President Phil Jackson, and Coach Byron Scott was on the other baseline.

Not that it really mattered but, still, for a front office with a reputation of being increasingly dysfunctional, it might have been nice to see everyone sitting together chatting about their team.

What does that mean in the grand scheme of things? Little, if anything, but it certainly doesn't paint a picture of happy cohesion within the organization.

This may be just summer league, but for a fanbase yearning for a return to prominence, every little on-court miscue and off-court tidbit is a big deal.

Moving into the Future

Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

The Lakers have long been derided for their organizational resistance to the futurenamely, advanced statistics and analytics.

According to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times, one of the main factors in the Lakers losing the LaMarcus Aldridge sweepstakes was the team's overall basketball presentation, which Aldridge regarded as inferior because of the lack of importance placed upon advanced statistics:

Aldridge also sat down with Houston, San Antonio and Phoenix, and was notably impressed by the analytics part of the Rockets' plans. It didn't necessarily mean he would sign with Houston but symbolized another example of what he wanted and didn't get with the Lakers.

The Lakers contended that their analytics pitch would have been stronger if they had a better roster last season and privately expressed envy that Houston's presentation could be bolstered by projections and on-court analysis of a team that already had James Harden and Howard.

Oram also noted that Scott has been resistant to analytics, even going so far as to essentially ignore the weekly breakdown of advanced statistics he received from assistant coach Mark Madsen.

But, after being thoroughly beaten by other organizations that have embraced the future of the sport, it finally appears that the Lakers are ready to follow suit, per Oram:

The organization, however, is taking steps to strengthen the analytics side of things, with plans to create a position for a staff member to facilitate better communication between the basketball staff and those crunching the numbers.

Assistant coach and advance scout Clay Moser is expected to transition from the bench to the front office in a sort of liaison position, which previously did not exist within the organization. A team spokesman confirmed Monday that the move is in the works.

Bill Oram @billoram

Point is: Lakers (that's everyone, including Byron) recognize a need to improve. That's why they're rearranging staff.

Most casual fans will ignore the move, since it won't appear to have an immediate impact on the on-court performance, but all Lakers supporters should welcome it, as it signals a shift toward the future and away from stone-age statistics.

It should also help L.A. climb out from the bottom of ESPN's Great Analytics Rankings, which listed the Lakers as "nonbelievers" alongside the Knicks and Nets.

That's company L.A. would like to distance itself from as quickly as possible.


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