EL SEGUNDO — They’re younger, faster and maybe a bit more athletic than last year’s crew. But the Lakers’ new generation of free agents also have a few miles on their tires.
On Wednesday, the team released Juan Toscano-Anderson, Lonnie Walker IV, Thomas Bryant, Damian Jones and Troy Brown Jr. to meet the press. Here’s a little bit of what we learned about the actors who will be trying to take the big leap next season:
The golden state of mind of Toscano-Anderson – Before leaving home on Saturday, Toscano-Anderson was unsure of her wardrobe choice.
He was headed to Chase Center, where he spent the past three seasons as a Golden State Warrior. He wore a Kobe Bryant jersey, a nod to his signing with the Lakers the day before. Would that be seen as a disrespectful gesture to the Bay Area — the very area where he grew up?
“I asked my girlfriend, ‘Agh, do you think I’m doing too much putting on this shirt?'” he recalled. “Because I still have so much respect for this organization and these fans, because obviously I’m from there. I grew up as a Warriors fan. But things change, teams change and I’m a Kobe fan – he was my favorite player of all time, so ultimately it was good.
Toscano-Anderson ended up receiving a standing ovation at Chase Center during the California Classic summer league event, perhaps from Golden State fans who have enjoyed him for the past three seasons and Lakers fans who can’t wait to see what he can do.
After a winding career across Mexico and the G League, Toscano-Anderson has a well-deserved reputation for dirty work. He’s athletic enough to take on last year’s dunk contest, but also ready to defend opposing big men, rebound and cut to the basket from any position on the court. He was squeezed into the rotation last season but still had the love of the fans for his courage in his short stints.
Toscano-Anderson has spoken at length about bringing positivity and work ethic to the locker room, cultivating what he called an ‘everyday guy’ mentality since his college days at Marquette. . Now 29, he had to spend every minute he spent in the NBA – and he plans to continue to do so every day.
“I know what it’s like to be outside, and when I say outside, outside the NBA, hoping and dreaming of being in this league,” he said. declared. “And so I’m extremely grateful to have a job in this league. I approach my craft that way every day. I don’t want anyone to take my job away from me. So that’s just who I am. I I’m going to wake up every day and go after this and I’m going to compete.
Walker trying to live up to expectations – Arguably the centerpiece of any visit to the Lakers’ El Segundo practice facility is the wall of sparkling trophies, which are placed in a walkway above the courts so their golden glow can cascade during practices. Standing in front of them, Walker said he felt overwhelmed.
“Just seeing the trophies upstairs, I’m not kidding,” he said, “I was sweating for the first 10 minutes of looking at it.”
The 23-year-old guard is undergoing a drastic change after four years playing for a San Antonio Spurs team that competed on the sidelines of the playoffs but was largely on the mend (they finished between seventh and 11th in the Western Conference all four seasons). Walker initially said he expected to return to San Antonio where he had established a comfort level, but felt after the team traded Dejounte Murray to Atlanta that his days with the Spurs were coming to an end. end: “It seemed like I wasn’t part of this rebooting, refreshing movement, which is perfectly fine.
While the Lakers have a lot to prove after their season out of the play-ins entirely, expectations will be much higher. A lot of that will be on the defensive: Walker says he’s put on weight to around 215lbs, and while he’s most comfortable guarding guards and small forwards, he’ll guard power forwards or four-way stretches if needed. He also expects his shooting to resume, with one reporter noting he shot over 36% from 3-point after the All-Star break.
Walker’s salary except for mid-level indicates he could be a candidate to start at the open guard spot, but he hasn’t held firm to that notion.
“I am adaptable: like a chameleon, I can adapt to my environment,” he said. “If it comes from the bench and it’s considered the best solution, so be it. If it’s a starter, so be it. I’d like to start, but it doesn’t depend on me. I’m just here to play ball, to win and I’m here to get that chip.
Bryant’s second go-around – The player the Lakers cut in 2018 is not the player they signed in 2022.
Bryant can count the ways: He’s more serious about his workouts. He’s more attentive to filmmaking and the intricacies of acting. He’s physically more mature, but perhaps more importantly, more mature in most aspects of his life. Wearing a tucked-in button-down shirt for his first day back in practice since four years ago, Bryant framed the Lakers’ decision to waive him as a significant challenge he needed.
“It gave me a lot of mental toughness that I had to overcome and it makes you stronger over time,” he said. “When something happens, you can either dwell on it or look at the bright side and fix it. That’s what I tried to do, was look at the bright side and, ‘Come on , let’s go and fix it.'”
The biggest question about Bryant is his recovery from a torn left ACL at the start of the 2020-21 season. He had only played 10 games with current Laker Russell Westbrook in Washington when he was injured; last season he was still on the mend. This summer, Bryant said, he’s sticking to the wisdom that the second year of recovery will go easier than the first — “to be honest, my left feels even stronger than my right,” he said. he declares.
Of particular importance will be Bryant’s ability to defend inside (he’s not a great shot blocker, but a better positional defender) and stretch the ground from the corners. New coach Darvin Ham has promised a four-out, one-in system, but the Lakers’ acquisition of centers indicates Anthony Davis will play the forward role despite his outside shots dropping significantly.
At his best, Bryant is a good 3-point shooter for his position: in his 56 games in the 2019-21 seasons, he shot 41.1 percent on two attempts per game. After turning below 29% last season, can he come back to it? It will be a huge point in the case of having Davis and Bryant play in lineups together: if he can’t space, the Lakers will struggle in those lineups. But Bryant has expressed confidence that Ham will play a role for him after having success with greats like Brook Lopez and Bobby Portis in Milwaukee.
“I think it’s going to be like two peas in a pod there, really,” he said. “Because he’s had success with stretch bigs before, and I think he can have the same success with me as well.”
Jones on his graduate studies – Last May, Jones finally achieved one of her longtime dreams: to cross the stage when she graduated from Vanderbilt with a degree in engineering science.
He could hardly have imagined how long it would take him to finish his last eight classes when he left as a junior in 2016 to head to the NBA. Jones returned to school in 2019 for a summer semester, then was helped somewhat by the COVID-19 pandemic allowing him to study for the fall 2020 semester when his Atlanta Hawks were left out of the restart of the bubble. He finally finished his degree in 2021, but he waited another year to walk.
“I knew I had to go back because I had worked so hard up until then,” he said. “So it felt good to finally do it.”
All that to say: Jones isn’t afraid to snack a little at a time. The 27-year-old is entering his seventh season but could finally become his own after being picked in the first round of the draft in 2016. Last season was his best in Sacramento, averaging 8.1 points and 4.4 rebounds. , earning the trust of interim Kings coach Alvin Gentry during the year. The Lakers let him slip away after an eight-game stint in 2020-21 (they then signed Andre Drummond), but they’ve seen enough growth (including a few 3-point attempts) to bring him back on a minimum contract.
Jones said he feels more comfortable shooting 3-pointers, but for the most part he sees himself in a role similar to those Dwight Howard or JaVale McGee played during the 2019-20 league season in as a large rim protector. Like Bryant, talking with Ham has boosted his confidence that he will have a role in LA
“It’s just a good feeling when he inspires confidence in me,” Jones said. “And just to be able to go out there and work with him, I know I’m going to be a lot better.”
Brown finds his form – Count Brown as another Laker who needed a moment to process his new purple and gold jersey.
The team posted a photo of Brown, 22, gazing admiringly at his sons in the locker room. That sentiment, he said, stemmed from his practice before the 2018 draft. The Lakers would eventually miss Brown (who went 15th) and instead nabbed Mo Wagner with the 25th pick.
“For it to come full circle and have a jersey like five years (sic) later, I think that was definitely hitting me right now,” he said. “So that kind of shows you that it’s all finally working out.”
Brown hasn’t really found his footing since entering the league with the Wizards. He seemed closest to his potential in a sophomore season that saw him average 10.4 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists, but for a desperate 25-win Washington team. He was traded to Chicago where he never really got a foothold.
But those situations have helped Brown, who is still just 22, understand what it’s like to be adaptable as a role player. In Washington, he was more of a playmaker. In Chicago, he was asked to play defense and shoot at three. His role with the Lakers will likely be skewed towards the second option, but Brown seems up for anything that gets him on the court — and the Lakers will likely need his 6-foot-6 frame at some point.
“I really think it’s a good fit, just being able to come here right now and be able to give some length on the defensive side of things,” he said. “I’m definitely at the point in my career where I’m shooting the ball a bit better. So just a bit more praise and being able to do the dirty work for some guys, and relieve some guys as well.