The Los Angeles Lakers will seemingly move away from small-ball under head coach Darvin Ham in the 2022-23 season after signing two competitive centers — Damian Jones and Thomas Bryant — in free agency.
Both Jones and Bryant have played for the Lakers in the past. The former tried out for the Purple and Gold during the 2020-21 season, signing a couple of 10-day contracts to rack up eight appearances for the team.
Meanwhile, Bryant made his NBA debut with the Lakers in 2017 but left after just one season, before enjoying his breakthrough on the Washington Wizards.
Now, Jones and Bryant return to L.A. to partner Anthony Davis in the frontcourt. And the two big men think they can complement each other, providing the Lakers with a variety of options at the 5.
“He’s a very athletic, big man who can really attack the rim, protect the rim as well,” the 25-year-old Bryant said of Jones at Lakers Media Day. “And, and I feel like myself is a great inside score but also the three-point shooting that I can bring to the table as well really helps.”
Bryant added his goal isn’t to start games — but rather, to help the Lakers win.
“Whatever you play in this game of basketball, you always want to play with the best of the best all the time and everything. But for me, throughout this team, it’s not about starting,” he said.
“It’s about what does this team need me to do? What can I bring to the table? How can I help myself and this team to perform the best way possible — and that’s winning. That’s all we care about, it’s winning. So it doesn’t matter if I’m starting, coming off the bench, we want to win.”
Jones agreed that Ham will have different lineup options at his disposal with Bryant and him on the roster. The 27-year-old added they will comply with any personnel decision the Lakers head coach makes.
“The options are all in the air so whatever happens, we’ll see,” Jones said. “But we’re all just competing to get our minutes in. And, you know, it’s all going to work out. I feel like we can definitely complement each other. But whatever happens, whatever the coach decides, works.”
So far, it looks like Jones has the edge when it comes to starting as Ham revealed that he and Kendrick Nunn have been with that group most in practice.
Ham says Lakers will focus primarily on defense early in training camp
Jones and Bryant will have to step up on the defensive end after the Lakers leaked a huge amount of points in the paint last season. Ham has been emphasizing his defense-first attitude — which showed during the first day of training camp.
Ham said L.A. focused heavily on defensive drills and will continue to do so for the time being.
“Not so much worried about the offense right now,” Ham explained on Tuesday. “Just putting them through different drills and scenarios in terms of transition defensive drills, pick-and-roll shell, regular shell drills.”
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