The day before the Lakers played the Timberwolves at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Lakers Coach Luke Walton was asked about the end of the Lakers’ four-day training camp.
He chuckled dismissively and said this is not really the end of the Lakers training camp. They aren’t anywhere near finished installing their system and have done no work on their half-court offense.
It wasn’t the prettiest game from the Lakers, but they got to see things in action from their team. They got to see Lonzo Ball against NBA veterans. He took some lumps shooting, going 2-of-9 from the field, but he contributed seven rebounds and eight assists. Walton’s takeaway was that Ball needs to shoot more — take shots that are there, rather than pass up shots too often to look for teammates.
Here are five takeaways from the Lakers 108-99 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
1. Laker fans are excited again. We knew that already, but Saturday’s game offered another reminder of that. The building sold out, which isn’t normal for a preseason game. Actually, if you ask Walton it is. “To me it feels right,” Walton said. “That’s what it’s supposed to be like. I was shocked last year. When I played, I was always lucky enough to be playing with Kobe, so we had crowds like this everywhere we went in the preseason. Last year we were going around and the arenas were half full. There were good fans there but just not the same energy as when you have a sold-out building. So it felt right, it felt normal to go out there and have that type of energy in the crowd.”
2. Kyle Kuzma is going to be a lot of fun. He led the Lakers with 19 points on Saturday. He can shoot. He fights for plays. He has the underdog quality that people will want to root for. I asked what he learned in Saturday night’s game, and he said this: “That I gotta get a lot stronger. Taj Gibson got me on the rim a couple of times. Just the pace of how people play in the NBA. It’s not so much the 100 miles per hour that you think it is. It’s definitely pace, stop and go. Definitely learned a lot in that one game.”
3. Andrew Bogut has his work visa and can participate in all Lakers activities now. Bogut was on the bench with the Lakers in Anaheim, but he didn’t play because he hadn’t been able to practice yet. Those visas typically take about a week and a half to process, so the Australian missed some time because the Lakers only signed him the week before camp opened.
4. The Lakers haven’t totally decided what message they want to send by participating in national anthem demonstrations, but they know they want to make a gesture. Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr. said the players wanted to have a unified message and then couple that with some action. For now, the team plans to lock arms during the anthem, just as they did for most of last season. Walton said: “I think they chose to show that we are united in this and that obviously, they have a ton of respect… well I will let them speak for themselves but I have a ton of respect for the country, the flag, the military. But by locking arms, I feel like we are showing that there are issues in this country and it is a chance for us to raise awareness and still make it a talking point. If you do nothing then it kind of goes away, and if it goes away, then nothing changes.”
5. LaVar Ball hasn’t been in constant communication with his son since camp started. He said he hasn’t talked to Lonzo at all. Lonzo said they touch base occasionally, but they aren’t talking every day. Either way, LaVar seemed very cognizant of the fact that his son needs some space from him right now. “This is a job,” LaVar said. “I got some other stuff I’m doing right now.”
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli