When the Lakers plan their “Genius Series” talks, they can’t anticipate what will be happening on the court when their geniuses join them.
It just so happened, that Denzel Washington came to speak to the team at a time when a little inspiration might have helped. Washington spoke to the Lakers on Wednesday, after back-to-back lackluster losses, including a 32-point loss to the Denver Nuggets.
“Be good to people,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said about Washington’s message. “Be thankful for what we have. Start every day being humble and grateful for the lives we live, and use the blessings we have to help other people.”
The Lakers began this series last year and have had high achievers from the realm of sports, entertainment, technology and other businesses speak to the team. People like SpaceX founder Elon Musk, rapper Kendrick Lamar and Olympian Allyson Felix have spoken to the team.
LeBron James thanked Washington in an Instagram post because he used people like Washington as inspirations growing up.
“They had no idea that they were inspiring a kid from Akron, Ohio, and these guys are in Los Angeles shooting movies and TV shows or they’re on tour doing skits and things of that nature,” James said. “So, that’s what it boils down to. And where I grew up, the only real inspirations are really like drug dealers. Those are the only inspirations that you have where I grew up. And thank God I was able to be inspired by people that were doing it the right way and not the wrong way.”
James had trouble trying to pick his favorite movie by Washington.
“That’s like asking me for my favorite Jay Z album,” James said. “I don’t know. Top three? Top three would be ‘Man on Fire,’ ‘He Got Game,’ obviously. Everybody wanted to be Jesus Shuttlesworth growing up. For me personally, I did. I would say those two off the top. I love so many of his movies, obviously. ‘Remember the Titans,’ ‘John Q.’
James was reminded of Washington’s movie Training Day.
“Yeah, ‘Training Day,’” James said. “Who could forget about that. Alonzo, of course. So there’s so many. So many.”
The Lakers are playing back-to-back home games this week — Thursday’s game against the Pacers, followed by Friday’s game against the Mavericks.
That kind of scheduling is rare for the team. The Lakers haven’t played back-to-back home games since the 2011-12 season.
They faced the New Orleans Hornets at home on March 31, 2012, winning 88-85. The next day, they faced the Golden State Warriors and beat them 120-112.
Lance being Lance
Lance Stephenson had two stints with the Pacers, from 2010-14 and again last season. Pacers Coach Nate McMillian was an assistant coach in 2013-14 with Stephenson and was the head guy last season with the 6-6 multifacet player.
“He’s still being aggressive, attacking when he has the ball,” McMillian said before the Pacers played the Lakers on Thursday night. “He’s a guy that can create some things for you. He speeds up your pace with the style that he plays. He’s shooting the ball a little better it seems like from three. But he’s still in an attack mode. Very aggressive player when he gets the ball, capable of creating, getting to the basket and finding perimeter shooters. They have a number of guys that can handle the ball.
“But, very similar. He’s being Lance. (He’s) very aggressive and looking to make something happen.”
Stephenson is averaging 8.4 points per game this season with the Lakers, down from the 9.2 he averaged last season with the Pacers. But Stephenson is shooting 37.9% from three-point range with the Lakers, an improvement from the 28.9% he shot in Indiana last season.
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Update: The Mavericks are on a three-game winning streak including a home win over the Boston Celtics and a road win against the Houston Rockets. Dallas beat Houston by 20 points behind 20-point games from Luka Doncic and Devin Harris.
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli