Lakers Notes: Tournament, Trade Rumors, Russell, LeBron

The Lakers blitzed most of their competition on the way to the finals of the in-season tournament, but they haven’t encountered an offense on the level of the Pacers, whom they’ll face in tonight’s title game, writes Khobi Price of The Orange County Register. Indiana has scored 122 and 128 points in its two knockout-round contests, pushing the ball repeatedly and relying heavily on three-point shooting.

“Their pace of play is second to none,” Austin Reaves said. “They score a lot of points and are very capable of going on quick runs just with the way they shoot the ball and the way they play. Being able to transition or not – honestly, they kind of make it all transition; even if you make a shot, they get it out of the net real quick. Just being able to focus on kind of building a wall and trying to stop that.”

It’s a sharp contrast with the Lakers, who are an older team with plenty of size to overpower opponents. Price notes that the Pacers tend to allow a lot of shots in the paint and are prone to foul trouble, and coach Darvin Ham said it’s important to not let Indiana dictate the style of play.

“We can’t get so caught up in trying to stop and prevent them from doing what they like to do,” Ham said. “We will, but we also can’t forget to enforce our will upon the game, too. They have to guard us, too. Coming out with an aggressive mindset will definitely be the first and foremost thing that we do.” 

There’s more on the Lakers:

  • The front office wants to see the full team in action for a while before getting serious about trade talks, sources tell Zach Lowe of ESPN. Jarred Vanderbilt, Cam Reddish and Rui Hachimura all returned from injuries within the past week, and Gabe Vincent remains sidelined with a left knee issue. Any deals likely won’t happen until after January 15, Lowe adds, when the last of the team’s offseason free agent signees will become eligible to be moved. L.A. has been mentioned as a possible destination for the Bulls’ Zach LaVine, but Lowe hears that management is reluctant to downgrade the team’s defense to improve its offense.
  • D’Angelo Russell tells Chris Haynes of TNT and Bleacher Report (video link) that the in-season tournament is providing a “cheat code” to prepare for the playoffs, saying it has a “second-round, third-round type of feel.”
  • In an interview with Sirius XM NBA Radio (Twitter link), Ham touts LeBron James as the front-runner for this season’s MVP honors (hat tip to Bleacher Report). “He’s spearheaded everything you see going on with our team,” Ham said. “The numbers he’s putting up. He’s impacting winning. The numbers when he’s on the floor as opposed to when he’s off the floor. … I think it’s a no-brainer.”
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