The Los Angeles Lakers parted ways with both of their true centers from the 2019-20 championship team, JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard. They were replaced by Marc Gasol and Montrezl Harrell, guaranteeing that the Lakers’ paint protection would look slightly different.
While L.A. still has an elite defense, it has not come by way of blocked shots and stifling teams in the paint. The Lakers tried to remedy the lack of true rim protection on Friday by signing athletic big man Damian Jones on a 10-day contract.
Jones — while only a temporary option — is looking to bring exactly what McGee and Howard provided for last year’s team. “It’s kind of like the JaVale and Dwight role last year,” Jones said. “How they could catch lobs and protect the rim and stuff like that. I try to bring some of the same things.”
It appears that the Lakers agreed with him when they outlined what his role could look like over the next few games. “They brought up vertical spacing on the offensive end and being able to defend the rim,” Jones relayed.
If Jones needs help becoming acclimated to the Lakers’ culture and play style, he’ll likely turn to former Golden State Warriors teammate Alfonzo McKinnie. “Yeah, it’s cool to have former teammates,” he said.
“They kind of show me the ropes of what’s going on and the culture of the team. Just a familiar face to help you get accustomed.”
Jones has already shown that he’s willing to go the extra mile for the team, as he had to rent a car and drive for seven hours just to get to the team facilities on time. “It was pretty crazy [Thursday]. I got a call and had to get down to L.A. by 11 p.m.,” he began to explain.
“It was around 4 or something like that, so I had to rush up to get a rental car and try to get down here to get everything going. I made it in time, with 20 minutes to spare. Got the test in and I was on my way.”
Jones’ first 10-day contract is set to expire during the All-Star break, meaning he’ll have just three games with the team to show whether or not he can play. More so, he needs to convince the coaching staff and front office he’s worthy of one of the final two roster spots.
Vogel searching for different looks amid mid-season slump
After defeating the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday, the Lakers ended a four-game skid but are still losers of five of their past seven. Talen Horton-Tucker and Markieff Morris had been inserted in the starting lineup prior to Dennis Schroder’s return, which Lakers head coach Frank Vogel explained was about finding different looks.
“Just to give us a little more diverse offensive attack with the ability to play through ‘Kieff a little bit in the post,” Vogel said of the lineup changes. “Having a ballhandler out there with ‘Bron was something we really wanted to do after the overtime game the other night.”
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