On the first day of Lakers training camp, coach Darvin Ham was effusive in his praise for his entire team Tuesday when asked who looked good.
“Everyone,” Ham said, laughing.
He then went on to say that LeBron James, in his 21st NBA season, “is still sharp as ever” and that Anthony Davis, who signed a four-year extension for $186 million this summer, was “moving well, covering ground, being a stalwart on defense.”
James and Davis are the kingpins for the Lakers and everyone else will follow their lead.
Simply put, Ham said, “everybody was engaged,” and they all had to be because James and Davis were.
Ham liked what he saw from D’Angelo Russell and newcomers Gabe Vincent, Taurean Prince, Jaxson Hayes and Christian Wood.
The Lakers are deep and talented, which made for a good first day of training camp.
“We’re really blessed to have the type of roster we have,” Ham said. “We’ve been putting in some work, having those returning players helps us, collaborate with us to communicate what we’re trying to do on both sides of the ball. It just speeds up the process. You see everyone listening and engaged, seeking information, embracing it and trying to apply it during practice.”
When several Lakers were asked who impressed them the most, they pointed to rookie guard Jalen Hood-Schifino.
The 6-foot-6 point guard out of Indiana whom the Lakers selected with their first-round pick (17th overall) has improved from his time playing in the summer league in Las Vegas.
“I will give you one actually: Jalen played really well today,” Russell said. “Competitive. Made shots. Got after it.”
Austin Reaves, who is easing his way through camp because he played for Team USA in the FIBA World Cup, liked what he saw from Hood-Schifino.
“Jalen looked really good today for his first day,” Reaves said. “So, super excited just to see what they do.”
Even though the NBA has said teams can have two-a-day practices twice during the first six days of camp, for a total length of three-and-a-half hours, the Lakers will practice just once a day.
Ham said it’s the best way for the Lakers to get the most out of practice time.
“Naw, I’m not doing two-a-days,” Ham said. “What we’re doing right now, I think, is the most efficient way to go about our business. Everything was high intensity today. It wasn’t any dropoff.
“I’m not trying to win a tough-man contest just to say we went two-a-days. We need everybody to be healthy and be available for as long as possible. So, we jumped right into it. Everything is timed. We moved from one drill to the next to scrimmage, sprinkling in water breaks in between those sessions of whether it’s the break-down drill or all-out scrimmage, and we try to be as efficient as possible and get the highest level of performance during these training sessions.”
The idea, Ham said, is to build slowly toward the regular season.
The Lakers play their first preseason game at Golden State on Saturday and then open the regular season at the Denver Nuggets, the NBA champions who swept the Lakers in the Western Conference finals, on Oct. 24.
“You target one or two things offensively, one or two things defensively, to work on and you just stay there,” Ham said. “And we’re going to have plenty of time to really get more detailed with our offense, more detailed with our defense, different counters and stuff like that on both sides of the ball.
“But today, it was just a matter of creating a skeleton, so to speak, and eventually, that skeleton will have meat on its bones. But right now, it’s just laying a foundation of competitiveness, playing together, committing to the trust for one another on both sides … before we start literally getting into the intricacies on both sides of the ball.”