Lakers’ Tarik Black aims to be ready when called upon

Lakers center Tarik Black had nine points and nine rebounds in 14 minutes against the Toronto Raptors on Sunday.
(Brandon Dill / Associated Press)

To discuss Lakers backup center Tarik Black’s situation by considering how he handled losing playing time because of an injury goes a step further than Black thinks matters.

“Can’t complicate it,” Black said. “That’s complicating it. You’re sitting on the sidelines. Whether you’re not healthy or waiting for your opportunity to play, you’re sitting on the sideline, watching games. You have to be prepared to play. When your number’s called, you have to go out there and perform.”

On Sunday against the Toronto Raptors, Black got his first significant playing time since spraining an ankle Dec. 5. Since then, he played only three minutes as the Lakers worked to get him back and fully healthy.

While he was out, another big man, Thomas Robinson, began to flourish. With Robinson playing as well as he was, Coach Luke Walton hesitated to give Black back his regular playing time.


That meant more waiting for Black until Sunday. On Sunday, Walton used a lineup that included Black and Robinson together.

“People haven’t seen it yet,” Black said. “They haven’t scouted it yet. That’s why last night it was so successful.”

It gave the Lakers more size on the court, and it also gave them two players with a strong defensive presence. Facing the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday, that lineup might return.

“Memphis is a big team that beats you up on the glass,” Walton said. “They’ve got three or four bigs coming at you all the time. …

“[Robinson and Black] were great. They brought us an energy and a toughness that we lack a lot of the times on the defensive end. It was nice to have them out there fighting and battling and watching the other team get mad at each other for not matching that level of intensity.”

Black had five rebounds in his first six minutes. He finished with nine points and nine rebounds in 14 minutes. Robinson had 12 points and nine rebounds, with two assists.

As for Black, his right ankle isn’t 100% healthy. It caused some pain at halftime Sunday, and is something the Lakers are watching. Neither Walton nor Black expects the ankle to keep him out Tuesday.

“I can’t call it,” Black said. “Still some inflammation but coming in every day, getting treatment. Doing what I’m supposed to do. We’ll see what happens.”

D’Angelo Russell is more aggressive

Since D’Angelo Russell’s return from a knee injury, he has been hesitant in some ways in his game.

Sunday’s game showed a more aggressive Russell, and it was one of his best offensive outputs this season. Russell hadn’t scored 20 points since he sat out 12 games because of a sore left knee. He hadn’t made nine field goals since before then.

“Just really trying to read the defense,” Russell said. “I feel like I can get the shot anytime, but I’m trying to read the defense and attack it at the same time.”

On Sunday, he made nine of 18 shots for a team-high 28 points with five assists. He hadn’t shot even 40% in the two games before Sunday, shooting five for 15 in the game before, against the Dallas Mavericks, and two for 11 against the Utah Jazz on Dec. 27.

“I think over the last couple weeks, even though he hasn’t been shooting the ball great, the way he’s been playing over the last couple weeks has gotten better and better,” Walton said. “Last night it was good to see him play with that type of aggression on offense.”

Lakers tonight


When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Where: Staples Center.

On the air: TV: Spectrum SportsNet, Spectrum Deportes; Radio: 710, 1330.

Records: Lakers 12-25; Grizzlies 22-14.

Record vs. Grizzlies: 0-1.

Update: The Grizzlies are one of the best defensive teams in the NBA, and will test a Lakers offense that was very productive on Sunday against the Toronto Raptors. Center Marc Gasol, a major factor in the Grizzlies’ defensive success, has been battling an ankle injury.

Twitter: @taniaganguli