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Jordan Clarkson shines, rookies rusty in Lakers' summer league opener

The Lakers unwrapped some of their new toys with varying degrees of success Friday.

Julius Randle was not sharp, Jordan Clarkson continued to pick up where he left off toward the end of last season and D'Angelo Russell had moments good and bad.

Clarkson was easily the Lakers' best player as they lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves in their summer league opener, 81-68, at Thomas & Mack Center.

Clarkson had 23 points and entertained the vocal pro-Lakers crowd with a series of successful drives and fastbreak dunks.

He had a much larger impact than Randle, who hadn't played a game of any consequence since sustaining a broken leg last October in the Lakers' season opener.

It showed.

Randle had 11 points on three-for-nine shooting and didn't look real fluid. He took only one rebound in 21 minutes.

He missed on drives and also from outside, including an air ball from 17 feet. One of his turnovers was a poor cross-court pass that turned into a Zach LaVine dunk at the other end.

"My biggest thing is 'slow down,'" Randle said. "Just slow down and kind of let it come to me."

Randle showed some late burst, cruising past Adreian Payne for a baseline dunk in the final three minutes.

He will not be handed a starting spot in the fall, said Lakers Coach Byron Scott, who watched Friday's game from a baseline seat next to Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak. Randle will have to earn it against undersized veteran Brandon Bass.

"I'm hoping Julius just takes the lead and jumps on that opportunity to be our starting power forward," Scott said. "I'm going to let it play out."

Russell had eight points, six assists and three steals but also six turnovers.

He had some plays to remember with the ball, including a quick pivot after an abrupt stop near the top of the key, followed quickly by a pass to an open Clarkson on the left side for a three-pointer.

But Russell also got lost on defense at times and got trapped in some turnover-inducing situations.

"Honestly, I felt rusty," Russell said. "We've got a lot thrown at us in [a short] time, so I'm just trying to fit in."

Russell brought the ball up court much more often than Clarkson when the two played together. Early in the game, Lakers fans cheered every pass he made, whether it led to a basket or not.

Scott was even asked by a reporter if Russell, drafted second overall last month, was "superstar special."

"It might be a little too early to tell, but I've seen some gifts that he has that are special," Scott said. "His vision on the court is special. Every practice he does something that your eyes just kind of get a little bit wider."

Looking ahead a few months, it's hard to see how center Roy Hibbert will fit in with this group on offense, not that he's really known for scoring.

It will be entertaining to watch the plodding 7-foot-2 center try to run up and down the court with the Lakers' young ones.

"We'll figure out the offensive part," Scott said of Hibbert's role. "The biggest part is on the defensive end. Roy and I talked the other day a little bit and I told him the one thing I need you to do is rebound and protect that paint."

Hibbert was acquired from Indiana earlier this week for a 2019 second-round draft pick. The former All-Star waived almost all of his $2.3-million trade kicker to help facilitate the deal by keeping the Lakers under the salary cap.

Scott said the Lakers' other notable addition, Lou Williams, would probably come off the bench next season.

"He did win sixth man of the year. I don't think they have a 'seventh man' and all that stuff," Scott said. "He'll probably — definitely — come off the bench."

It was fitting that the Lakers opened summer league play against the Timberwolves, who had the No. 1 pick at last month's draft and took Kentucky center Karl-Anthony Towns.

The Lakers would have quickly taken Towns had Minnesota not selected him. Towns had 12 points and three rebounds Friday.

Lakers center Tarik Black was active with nine points, 13 rebounds and also 10 fouls. Players are allowed to accumulate 10 fouls until they are disqualified.

Times correspondent Eric Pincus contributed to this report from Los Angeles.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

Twitter: Mike_Bresnahan

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