The Lakers are quickly sliding out of contention in the Western Conference after a surprisingly good first quarter of the season (we highlighted the early portion of it). LA has lost eight in a row after dropping a decision to the Nets in Brooklyn on Wednesday.
Before the losing streak, the Lakers were 10-10 after 20 games. A big reason was the play of their youngsters, an athletic group that has a chance to form a solid core in the future.
Did we say athletic? One of the kids, second-year forward Larry Nance Jr., is very athletic. The son of a slam dunk champion showed on Wednesday how much so with this early Christmas present: a dunk over and through Nets center Brook Lopez.
Nance, who will turn 24 on New Year’s Day, has done that kind of thing before. He’s still learning how to do other basketball things, though. He came into Wednesday’s game averaging 7.2 points and 5.4 rebounds in 21.8 minutes. He also needs to get — and stay — healthy after a series of injuries. But with those hops … and if he gets the rest down … well, dare to dream, at least.
Did we said athletic “group”? It’s five-deep, in fact: lottery picks Brandon Ingram (19), D’Angelo Russell (21 in February) and Julius Randle (22); a late first-rounder in Nance; and Jordan Clarkson (24), a second-rounder LA bought from the Wizards in 2014. The quintet is under contract together for at least the next two seasons.
For now, the priority is to learn on the job. Clarkson, Randle, Ingram and Russell are leading the team in minutes per game. Nance is part of the second-most frequently used five-man lineup. They’re doing that while also taking notes from veterans Luol Deng, Lou Williams, Nick Young and Timofey Mozgov.
The transition won’t be immediate, but based on what we’ve seen, youth will be served soon enough in LA.