Los Angeles Lakers coaches Luke Walton and Brian Shaw finished up Friday’s practice with an ‘Around The World’ shooting competition against Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma. Normally, it’s Miles Simon who partakes, but since he was working out with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Walton said he had to come in from the “bullpen.”
And guess what? The coaches beat out Ball and Kuzma for the second time this year, and this time, we caught the entire shooting competition on video. You can catch an edited version with commentary in the video above or head here for the full 15-minute competition.
Speaking of Kuzma (back spasms), he did a lot more in practice today than the coaches anticipated and may play on Saturday against the Denver Nuggets.
Brook Lopez has seen his minutes decrease quite a bit the past four games, playing just 16 minutes against the Golden State Warriors and 17 minutes against the L.A. Clippers, despite being healthy.
Walton talked about different variables that have contributed to Lopez’s dip in playing time, including the impressive play of Julius Randle.
In addition to Randle playing well at the backup center position and doing so well against switching defenses, Walton says some of the reason for Lopez seeing less floor time is also that opponents are playing small ball the entire second half.
For more from Walton on Lopez, check out our practice notes and videos below.
Kuzma on winning Rookie of the Month: “Pretty cool, for sure. I wish I was rookie of the month, and we had a winning record, that would be even better. Definitely a great accomplishment, especially the first one of the season.”
Kuzma on Shaw’s trash-talk during their shooting competition: “B. Shaw got in my head, he’s a king trash talker. He got in my head a little bit…calling me short dog because I kept missing short and I kept missing short everytime he said it so he kept messing me up.”
Luke Walton: “I encourage my players to play with passion and emotion, and they are allowed to be angry as long as they keep it under control and are ready to play when they go back in.”
Walton on Lopez: “We want to establish an inside game with him, and kind of let it work its way out to the free throw line and the three-point line. We’re on the same page with all that, some of the low minutes just come from the fact that a lot of teams play small ball the entire second half or once that first unit in the third quarter comes out, they never go back to a traditional center again, and some of it is because Julius has been playing so well at that 5 spot and our switching defense. Obviously different variables, but he’s fine.”
Walton on Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and why he’s been so effective with his shots lately: “I think that he’s getting more comfortable with what we’re looking for. Early in the season, I asked him to kind of tone down on some of the shots, as far as being one of the vets on the court, to help show the way we want to play, which means getting in the lane and making the extra pass and I think he did a very good job of that, and now the guys have seen what we’re trying to do, and I’ve given him a little more freedom again as far as taking some of those shots in transition, and there’s always going to be some give and take, but he’s a pretty good scorer, so a lot of it just comes from him deserving credit because of going out and getting points.”
– Walton said Kuzma felt great at practice. Originally, supposed to have a limited practice but head athletic trainer Marco Nunez cleared him for some contact. If his back still feels good after their plane ride to Denver, he’ll play.
– The coaches are currently up 2-1 over Ball and Kuzma in their shooting competition, which is suppposed to go all season long.
– Kuzma gave us some more details on his back spasms, said that during his pregame shootaround, he came off a screen to get into his shot and felt his back pop a little bit. Then, when he walked back to the locker room, his back felt tight again.
– Kuzma said he’s not a big trash-talker, unless someone gets him riled up (i.e. B. Shaw).
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