Lakers News: Top Happenings Regarding Robert Upshaw, D'Angelo Russell and More

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistJuly 17, 2015

Washington's Robert Upshaw in action against Grambling in an NCAA basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Lakers are among the most intriguing teams in the NBA entering the 2015-16 season as they attempt to bounce back from a nightmarish campaign and continue to take steps toward stopping their downward spiral.

L.A. has been active this offseason in terms of signings and trades, and it also made a big splash at the draft by selecting talented guard D'Angelo Russell. Even though most of the top players are off the market at this point, the Lakers still have a chance to make some improvements.

Here is a look at the latest news regarding the Lakers' preparations for the upcoming 2015-16 campaign.

Robert Upshaw and Lakers Working on Deal

It seemed as though University of Washington center Robert Upshaw was a good bet to be selected in the first round of the 2015 NBA draft, but that changed when he was flagged at the combine for a possible heart condition.

That resulted in the seven-footer going undrafted, but after spending some time with the Lakers' summer league team, everything appears to be in place for him to sign a deal with L.A.

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Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

According to Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times, the two sides have an agreement in place, although no contract has been signed yet.

Per Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News, Upshaw met with Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak Thursday in an effort to hammer out the particulars of the contract. It still remains unofficial, but it is believed Upshaw will sign a two-year deal at the veteran's minimum.

He has been used sparingly in the summer league thus far and has put up modest numbers, but his talent is undeniable. The Fresno, California, native averaged 10.9 points, 8.2 rebounds and 4.5 blocks for the Huskies last season before being dismissed for a violation of team rules.

Upshaw was previously dismissed from Fresno State, but he believes he is ready to put that behind him and be fully committed to basketball, according to Medina:

"I matured and learned," Upshaw said. "I learned things about authority, how to listen instead of talk and how not to have excuses."

Kevin O'Connor of Draft Express is among those who believe Upshaw is an NBA-caliber player based on his ability alone:

Kevin O'Connor @KevinOConnorNBA

Robert Upshaw has his major flaws, but I still don't see how a single team didn't draft him with his elite potential as a rim protector.

It seems as though the Lakers are willing to roll the dice on Upshaw, and it is tough to blame them since they finished as one of the NBA's worst teams last season.

Upshaw won't cost them much, and he will have a chance to grow behind Roy Hibbert. If he manages to live up to his potential, then L.A. will be well on its way to a return to prominence.

D'Angelo Russell Expected to Work With Steve Nash

The Lakers' future success will depend largely upon the development of their backcourt. Future Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant is in the twilight of his career, but youngsters D'Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson could make for a dynamic duo for many years to come.

They are also already taking the necessary steps to become great, as Clarkson told Bill Oram of the Orange County Register that he and Russell plan to work out with former Laker and two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash this offseason.

Nash's tenure in Los Angeles didn't go as well as planned since he was plagued by injuries and ultimately decided to retire, but there is perhaps no better person young point guards can learn from than the Canadian legend.

Former Lakers and current Charlotte Hornets point man Jeremy Lin gave Nash a ringing endorsement in that regard, according to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer:

Rick Bonnell @rick_bonnell

Lin said he thought he was detail-oriented until he worked with Steve Nash, realized there's a next level.

There is a great deal of pressure on Russell to perform as the No. 2 overall selection in the draft, and that pressure is magnified in L.A. The Lakers have a winning tradition they are expected to adhere to, and Russell is the guy who is supposed to bring the franchise back from the doldrums.

Working with Nash doesn't guarantee that will happen, but it shows he is committed to learning from the best in order to become the best.

Clarkson has been overlooked this offseason to some degree with Russell and Hibbert coming in and forward Julius Randle returning from injury, but he was perhaps the Lakers' best player last season.

If Nash can help Clarkson and Russell learn how to co-exist, then the immediate and long-term future is very bright for the Lakers.

Lakers Are No. 6 Most-Valuable Franchise in Sports

The Lakers suffered through an awful 2014-15 season, but it certainly didn't hurt their brand in terms of overall worth.

According to Forbes.com, the Lakers rank sixth in value among all sports franchises in the world and first among NBA teams. The Lakers are worth $2.6 billion thanks largely to their 20-year, $4 billion television deal with Time Warner.

That puts them $100 million ahead of the New York Knicks, who check in at No. 8 overall and No. 2 in the NBA, per Forbes.com.

Winning always helps in terms of popularity and making money, but some franchises are essentially immune to falling off when the on-court product is poor. The Lakers are part of that group.

With 16 NBA championships to their credit and a lengthy track record of success, the Lakers will continue to be given the benefit of the doubt by their worldwide fanbase.

That doesn't means Lakers supporters are happy with a losing record, but there is certainly confidence that they'll find a way to turn it around since they always have in the past.

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.


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