And now the real season begins for the Los Angeles Lakers.
At least that’s what the fans of the 16-time NBA champions repeatedly have been told while Los Angeles missed the playoffs and finished with a losing record for the fifth consecutive year.
Ever since they took over the Lakers’ basketball operations a year ago Doug Kotar Jersey , Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka have founded their rebuilding project around the acquisition of one or two elite free agents this summer – or next summer, they’ve recently amended.
Magic firmly believes the Lakers’ championship pedigree, glamorous location and salary cap room for two enormous contracts can attract superstars near the primes of their careers to lift one of the NBA’s cornerstone franchises back to its accustomed heights. The Lakers had only missed the playoffs five previous times in their first 65 years of existence before they doubled that number during this dismal half-decade.
But while the pursuit of Paul George and LeBron James constantly loomed on the horizon, the Lakers’ day-to-day development over the past season has been downright intriguing. For all their talk of the Lakers’ irresistible lure, Johnson and Pelinka knew they probably couldn’t attract free-agent stars without an attractive young core, and the last six months suggested they have it.
”If guys want to come here, they come,” rookie Kyle Kuzma said Thursday after his exit interview with team brass. ”But if not, we’re not depending on that. We want to be those great players, those max-level guys. We just think about, `How can we make the team better?”’
Rookies Lonzo Ball, Kuzma and Josh Hart all showed clear NBA ability, while youngsters Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle continued their development into above-average pros. Los Angeles’ 35-47 record and 11th-place conference finish in the just-completed season are its best performances by a considerable margin during this woeful five-year stretch.
The Lakers aren’t good yet, but the guys who are already in purple and gold could be key pieces in a very good team.
Here are more things to watch during another long offseason in LA:
The Lakers are expected to put a full-court press on George Mark Ingram Jersey , the Oklahoma City Thunder star who grew up idolizing Kobe Bryant in Palmdale, just north of Los Angeles. Even if James decides to stay home in Cleveland instead of becoming a dual-threat Hollywood mogul, the addition of George’s 20-plus points per night almost certainly would make the Lakers very entertaining in coach Luke Walton’s up-tempo system this fall. If George decides to play for a franchise closer to a championship, the Lakers will undoubtedly spin the narrative to the summer of 2019, when another bumper crop of free agents will be on the market.
Randle’s improvement was among the Lakers’ most impressive developments of the season. The formerly inconsistent power forward played in all 82 games, averaging 16.1 points and 8.0 rebounds and emerging as a dependable two-way player. Randle is a free agent this summer after the Lakers decided not to lock him down with a contract extension last year, but Randle’s outstanding year has greatly increased the chances of a long-term deal in LA. ”As far as the summer, who knows what will happen?” Randle said. ”I’ve never done this before. All I know is it’s going to be a longer summer than I want it to be, with us not being in the playoffs. I think it’s exciting for me, though.”
The Lakers’ desire for plenty of cap room this summer means they’ve got four talented veterans with expiring contracts: Brook Lopez, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Isaiah Thomas and Channing Frye. Lopez had a strong debut season with his hometown team, which won’t be able to afford him unless it comes up empty with the top-shelf free agents. Caldwell-Pope also seems likely to leave, while the market for Thomas’ skills is unpredictable after his injury-plagued year ended with hip surgery. If Thomas doesn’t attract a big offer Corey Linsley Jersey , he seems amenable to a return to LA – as does Frye, a dependable veteran backup.
After showing incredible basketball intelligence and a distressingly inconsistent shot, Ball said he is headed into ”pretty much the biggest summer of my life.” The UCLA product with the opinionated parent understands the weaknesses in his game, and he seems determined to address his offensive flaws while building his overall strength. If Ball takes significant strides as a scorer, he would quickly become one of the NBA’s most dynamic young guards with his preternatural court vision and rebounding ability.
Walton seems extremely likely to return for a third season after his Lakers made a nine-game improvement on last year’s performance. Johnson and owner Jeanie Buss continue to speak glowingly of the young coach, and Walton doesn’t seem satisfied by the Lakers’ incremental improvements. ”We know this is a team that’s supposed to be in the playoffs and to contend for championships, and that’s the goal we’re all trying to reach every day,” Walton said.
Robert Griffin III spent the final preseason game watching from the sideline.
Now it's time to wait.
Ravens rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson ran for a touchdown, Griffin III didn't play and Baltimore beat the Washington Redskins 30-20 Thursday night to complete its third consecutive unbeaten preseason.
Jackson played the first half and led Baltimore (5-0) on three scoring drives. The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner and first-round draft pick is sure to make the team, but coach John Harbaugh has not yet revealed whether he will keep Griffin, who's currently No. 2 on the depth chart behind starter Joe Flacco.
"It'll be tough. It just depends on the rest of the math," Harbaugh said afterward. "There's no doubt you want Robert Griffin on your team."
Griffin, who broke into the league with Washington in 2012, went 27 for 41 during the preseason and showed no rust after sitting out last year. In Harbaugh's eyes Derrick Shelby Jersey , Griffin had nothing left to prove.
"We felt like Lamar needed to start," Harbaugh said. "Robert really didn't need to play. He's played a lot so far. He's a veteran."
The question is, do the Ravens want him behind Flacco or can they take a chance on the rookie?
"He makes our quarterback room stronger and he makes you better," Harbaugh said of Griffin. "He's been a starter. He's certainly a backup in this league, without question. It's not even close. I'd like to have him on the team. We'll just have to see how the math works out."
Neither team used its starters on offense or defense, accepted standard procedure in a preseason finale.
Kevin Hogan played the entire game at quarterback for the Redskins (1-3), going 22 for 38 for 272 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions in his bid to unseat Colt McCoy as the backup to Alex Smith.
His first interception was returned 23 yards for a touchdown by Kai Nacua to make it 27-7.
"Hogan did some good things," coach Jay Gruden said. "He threw the ball in the heat of some pressure and made some nice throws. We'll evaluate it, but I think he did good."
Jackson went 9 for 15 for 109 yards and ran for his team-leading third score of the preseason. The former Louisville star looked far more poised than in his previous outings, but he failed to convert a third down and was sacked once.
"We only scored 13 points and had two field goals. That really wasn't what I wanted," Jackson said. "We'll be better next time."
Fourth-stringer Josh Woodrum played the second half for the Ravens.
Looking back on his fifth preseason with Washington, Gruden was pleased with what got accomplished.
"Overall, I think we got looks at everybody that needed to get looked at," he said. "I think everybody had a fair shot. I think everybody had opportunities to make this football team Nick Boyle Jersey , to show us what they can do."
Starting for the first time with Baltimore, Jackson opened the game with an impressive 82-yard drive, utilizing both his arm and legs. Jackson completed all four of his pass attempts, including an 8-yarder on a fourth-and-1, and fooled the Redskins defense with a 1-yard bootleg that he ended with a nifty side-roll into the end zone.
Hogan got the Redskins even with an 87-yard march that lasted more than seven minutes and concluded with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Brian Quick .
Baltimore added two field goals before halftime 鈥?the first following a 45-yard pass from Jackson to rookie tight end Mark Andrews, the second after a fumble by Washington's Samaje Perine.
Perine led the Redskins with 603 yards rushing last year, but now he's fighting for a spot on the roster.
Redskins: C Casey Dunn underwent concussion protocol.
Ravens: CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste hurt his right forearm on the final play of the first quarter, and Harbaugh suspects it's broken. The fifth-year player was expected to get increased playing time while starter Jimmy Smith opens with a four-game suspension. ... Ravens guard Randin Crecelius left with a back injury.
All the Redskins players stood at attention on the sideline for the national anthem, as they did in Washington's previous three preseason games.
Every Ravens player stood on the sideline as well.
The Redskins open the regular season on Sept. 9 at Arizona of the NFC West. Washington beat the Cardinals 20-15 last December.
Baltimore hosts Buffalo in the season opener on Sept. 9. Two years ago, the Ravens beat the Bills 13-7 in Baltimore.
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