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No quick fix for Lakers' glaring problem: Free-throw shooting

No quick fix for Lakers' glaring problem: Free-throw shooting
Lakers head coach Luke Walton reacts to a call during a game against the Charlotte Hornets in Charlotte, N.C., on Dec. 9. (Chuck Burton / Associated Press)

Back when Phil Jackson coached the Lakers he could sometimes be found wandering around with a burning bunch of sage.

"He wouldn't say anything," Lakers coach Luke Walton recalls. "He literally would walk around the locker room and just hold a thing of sage, and if you tried to talk to him he just kept walking. And he did every room downstairs at the old facility.

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"Kind of once you were there for a while you expected it, but the first time it used to blow people's minds … if it was their first year with us or whatnot."

Walton said Jackson did that whenever things got chaotic around the team. The subject came up after Walton was asked if he'd considered any unusual tactics to help improve the Lakers' free-throw shooting.

Walton didn't recall Jackson burning sage over poor free-throw shooting, but Jackson did seek help from a free-throw specialist. Walton hasn't ruled that out.

"We're not there yet … but obviously, if this thing continues …. we'll have to look at some other options," Walton said. "Maybe we'll meditate before a game or maybe we'll bring somebody in."

The Lakers rank last in free-throw percentage, having made 70.2% of their free throws, which is actually an improvement from earlier in the year. Walton said he doesn't believe the Lakers' free-throw shooting problems are a matter of a lack of skill or talent. And for now he thinks the right way to fix those issues is the old fashioned way.

"When you work harder you gain confidence in something and you become better at it," Walton said. "So we'll stick to the traditional path for now."

Kuzma bounces back

Kyle Kuzma didn't change anything about his routine after a tough shooting night against the Philadelphia 76ers.

"Everybody is going to have tough shooting nights, it's natural," Kuzma said. "I really haven't had too many this year, but I just do what I always do. I don't try to change up anything."

That game was just a temporary blip in Kuzma's season. Two days later, on Saturday, Kuzma scored 12 points and grabbed 14 rebounds for his eighth career double double. The 14 rebounds marked a career high for Kuzma. And to top it off, his plus/minus rating was the best of any player in the game.

Part of what helped Kuzma on Saturday was he played more of his natural position (power forward) than he did against the 76ers.

"It's a lot different when I'm at the three (small forward) …. it's a little bit harder to ball and be in the action a little bit because of in our offense what the three does," Kuzma said. "But you know, when I'm at the four (power forward) I can be in the action, have the ball in my hands. Make plays. Just be around the ball."

Etc.

The Lakers flew to New York after Saturday's game in Charlotte and took the day off. They'll practice on Monday and then face the Knicks on Tuesday evening. … Lakers assistant coach Mark Madsen did not make the trip with the Lakers so he could attend the birth of his first child. Madsen's wife, Hannah, gave birth to their son, William, on Friday. … Lonzo Ball used his day off to attend a Big Baller Brand pop-up shop with his father and brothers in Manhattan. Thousands of people lined up to purchase merchandise and get autographs.

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Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli

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