The Los Angeles Lakers have endured a bumpy start in the Las Vegas Summer League, dropping their first two games — a blowout loss to the Phoenix Suns and a sudden death overtime loss to the Charlotte Hornets.
The Lakers have fielded a strong cast of two-way players and Summer League exceptions, but have yet to win a game in Vegas. L.A. is now out of championship contention with the 0-2 start.
In the loss to the Hornets, fans were treated to a rare Pippen to O’Neal highlight — Scotty Pippen Jr. stole the ball leading to a basket-rocking slam by Shareef O’Neal.
The younger O’Neal has struggled to get acquainted through two games in Vegas. He’s played 29 total minutes in two games with a combined 11 points and 11 rebounds. He came into the draft behind a history of injury issues, but in pre-draft workouts, O’Neal insisted he’s fully healthy.
His development in Summer League has been all positive so far.
“It’s just awesome. Coach has given me opportunity. The more opportunity I get the more I can show. I try to do what I can to get a win — rebound, run the floor, get my few little buckets and I just want to win,” O’Neal said. “We gotta get these next two and make it to the playoffs so, you know, we just gotta bounce back tomorrow. Tomorrow we’ll have practice, watch film and all that and you know. I did good, I could do better always, but you know I just want to get a win too.”
O’Neal had a well-chronicled up-and-down college career.
He medically redshirted his first year at UCLA because of preseason heart surgery. In the three seasons after, O’Neal played a combined 37 games and no more than 14 in a season.
After limited playing time with the Bruins his first year, he transferred to LSU midseason. The move didn’t lead to increased playing time and O’Neal entered the transfer portal again after his final season with LSU.
For a raw talent like O’Neal, more playing time can tap into the potential. O’Neal has experienced that with the Lakers’ Summer League team.
“I for sure have gotten more reps than I have since high school, you know, in college I didn’t get too many reps but here it’s a learning experience. They throw guys out there to learn and I’m learning a lot,” O’Neal said. “Every time I go out there on the floor I feel like I’m learning a lot and showing more and more each day. I just can’t wait to see what the future holds but got to take it one day at a time.”
O’Neal’s high activity and athleticism for his size can be utilized in the league. He’ll likely need more development in the G-League because of the lost time in college, but shouldn’t be pushed aside.
Cole Swider discusses hot shooting and off-ball movement
A two-way jackpot for the Lakers in Vegas has come in the form of Cole Swider. He’s shot 57% from deep through five Summer League games, a figure that can be useful for L.A. in the regular season.
“I try and take good ones,” Swider said. “I take a lot of shots and make a lot of shots when I workout and try to make everything game-like so when I get into a game it’s going well.”
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