OKLAHOMA CITY – As most players anxiously thumbed through their phone using the plane’s Wi-Fi connection, a Lakers official alerted them they made a trade to the Houston Rockets.
“Everyone was looking at me,” Lakers guard Nick Young said. “I thought I was gone.”
For the third consecutive season, though, Young remained on the roster past the trade deadline. Instead, the Lakers traded 33-year-old point guard Marcelo Huertas to the Rockets for 22-year-old point guard Tyler Ennis.
“That was tough. That’s one of my best friends off the court,” Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell said. “On the court, I learned so much from him. This is a business. Whatever happens, there’s some things we can’t control. But that’s my brother.”
Although Lakers coach Luke Walton thought Young “was great” at handling his uncertain future, Young still called the experience “tough.” Relieved to still be wearing a Lakers uniform, he encountered another obstacle in their 110-93 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Young had three points on 1-of-9 shooting in 20 minutes, something he attributed to “just getting the rust off” and Walton chalking it up to just “an off shooting night.” Still, Walton doesn’t believe an off night or the coach’s increased focus on the young players as any reason to change Young’s role as the starting shooting guard. Instead, Walton suggested Young might play more than his season-average of 26.5 minutes considering the Lakers traded high-volume shooter Lou Williams to Houston a few days before the deadline.
“His role will be similar for now,” Walton said.
Still, Young remains mindful of the Lakers’ priorities.
“I understand the business side and letting the young guys grow,” Young said. “I still consider myself one of these guys. I can make shots for them when they need me.”
Even with the trade deadline passing and practice ending, Magic Johnson found another way to ingratiate himself with the Lakers by having dinner with the team’s coaching staff in Oklahoma City on Thursday night.
“Just talking about the ideas, visions and what he sees and what I see,” Walton said. “It’s been a lot of healthy dialogue going on.”
On Tuesday, Lakers president Jeanie Buss named Johnson the president of basketball operations, demoted Jim Buss and fired Mitch Kupchak, who had served as general manager for the past 17 years. Since then, Johnson has been heavily involved with handling trades before the deadline and helping players with individual instruction during Thursday’s practice. Johnson also told players he is open to the idea of individual sessions.
“It’s like you’re starting over and everybody is trying to impress,” Russell said. “Everybody has to look over their shoulder once again. It’s like coming to a new team, trying to impress the GMs and guys in the front office with your play, off the court and the way you handle yourself. It’s all different.”
Walton also observed “letting the other coaches get to know him and feel comfortable with him was important to him.” That’s because Johnson has expressed a desire to have synergy throughout the organization. In addition to Johnson traveling with the Lakers to Oklahoma City, scout Jesse Buss and D-Fenders president Joey Buss also went on the trip. Although Johnson was not present at the Friday’s morning shootaround, he attended the game and later talked on the Spectrum SportsNet telecast.
“There’s a reason he’s as successful as he is,” Walton said. “He has a way with people and he’s been in the office all day every day since the change. He’s constantly trying to get things done. He knows what he wants. It’s been interesting and fun watching him work.”
Will Johnson continue to work this way as a constant practice observer and talent companion? Though Walton said “we’ll love to have him around as much as possible,” Johnson’s recent involvement is partly him planting roots with his new job.
“Once we get back in the flow of things,” Walton said, “I wouldn’t expect him to be on all these one-game road trips across the country.”
Walton sounded doubtful veteran forward Corey Brewer would play against Oklahoma City. He had completed only one practice after the Lakers acquired him and a first-round pick from Houston for veteran guard Lou Williams. Walton changed his mind, and Brewer had two points on 1-of-2 shooting in four minutes off the bench.
“Just being out there in a Lakers jersey was good with getting my feet wet,” Brewer said. “I’ll get in a practice tomorrow. Hopefully I can play more on Sunday” against San Antonio.
Newly acquired guard Tyler Ennis will join the Lakers for his first practice Saturday and will likely be available to play in Sunday’s game at Staples Center. The Lakers acquired the 22-year-old Ennis from Houston onb Thursday in exchange for 32-year-old point guard Marcelo Huertas shortly before the midday trade deadline.
Lakers associate coach Brian Shaw stayed in Los Angeles during Friday’s game in Oklahoma City because of an illness. Shaw also felt ill when the Lakers played in Phoenix on Feb. 15 before the NBA All-Star break. That night, Shaw watched the game from the locker room.
Source : http://www.ocregister.com/articles/lakers-745033-young-walton.html