The Lakers gathered in Las Vegas in September to have private workouts before the start of training camp, hoping to develop a bond that would carry over into the regular season.
LeBron James, who organized the workouts, found out that new teammate Troy Daniels was a knock-down shooter and that the 6-foot-4 guard the Lakers signed as a free agent from the Phoenix Suns had range.
So when Daniels caught fire in the third quarter Friday night, scoring nine of his 15 points, the nickname James had bestowed upon Daniels rang true.
“Yeah, his name is ‘Layup,’ ” James said after the Lakers defeated the Utah Jazz 95-86 behind a big scoring burst from Daniels. “Every time he shoots a three, it’s a layup.”
Daniels, 28, shot three three-pointers in the third quarter and all of them went in.
The six-year veteran made one of his three-pointers off an assist from James, the two of them then thinking back to those days in Las Vegas when Daniels was given his nickname.
“I think we were in Vegas and we had private workouts. I think we had a workout when I didn’t even miss,” Daniels said. “So that’s when he started calling me ‘Layup.’ ”
Near the end of the third quarter, James collected the rebound of his missed free throw. As he surveyed the court with time running out in the quarter, James found Daniels, who accepted the pass and let fly a three-pointer that settled into the net.
“I looked at the shot clock and I had about six or seven seconds, and once I saw that, I was just locating anyone that was open and one of the best guys for us that could be open at that point and time would be Troy,” James said. “He’s a laser-guy, a knock-down shooter and he was able to get a pump fake, get a dribble and then knock it down.”
Daniel’s shot had given the Lakers a 19-point lead to end the quarter.
“I think it’s just shooter’s instinct, just to create space for yourself, find that pocket and obviously he’s going to find you no matter what,” Daniels said about James delivering the pass. “So that was my job to just go in there and find an open shot and hit a shot.”
The Lakers’ 22-point lead had been sliced to 13 points in the fourth quarter, all the momentum they had built swinging to the Jazz.
So a timeout was in order for the Lakers with 7 minutes and 15 seconds left in the game.
The Lakers turned to Daniels, running him off a screen to take a pass from James that resulted in a 12-foot jumper that Daniels converted to stop Utah’s run.
“It’s very important for everyone coming off the bench to find a rhythm, going forward and during the season,” Daniels said. “Our first team, we call them the ‘Monstars’. They’re really good. Some nights they’re gonna need us to come out there and give good effort, so I think it’s important for us to find a rhythm early and be ready.”
Daniels five-for-nine shooting from the field, including four of eight from three-point range.
He also had three rebounds and was a plus-nine in the plus-minus category.
“He’s earned a spot in the rotation with his ability to shoot the basketball,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “He’s arguably the best shooter on the team and he’s the kind of player you want to put around LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
“He works really hard on the defensive end, so he pulls his own weight on that side of the floor. When he’s out there, he not only brings gravitas, but then when the help comes, he’s able to punish defenses and he did both of those tonight.”
Kyle Kuzma is working hard
Vogel said Kyle Kuzma, who is out with a stress reaction in his left foot, has been “ramping things up” with his workouts. Playing four-on-four games with the Lakers assistant coaches was “the most he’s done.”
“He’s continuing to progress the intensity of his work,” Vogel said. “I think he’s been doing a little bit more half court (stuff).”
When: 6:30 p.m., Sunday.
On Air: TV: Spectrum SportsNet; Radio: 710, 1330.
Update: Second-year point guard Devonte Graham leads the Hornets in scoring, averaging 23.5 points per game, and rookie power forward PJ Washington is second on the team in scoring, averaging 18.5, and he is first in rebounding, collecting 7.0 per game.