This past offseason, the Los Angeles Lakers made it a point to sign young, athletic players to the roster.
Los Angeles inked deals with Nick Young, Wesley Johnson, Marcus Landry, Elias Harris and Xavier Henry to bring some much-needed speed to the wings. Each of these players possesses the ability to make an impact on both ends of the floor.
Head coach Mike D’Antoni realizes what his new youthful group can provide, and this preseason he is letting them play with freedom so they can be as effective as possible. That was evident in each of the Lakers’ first two preseason games.
In the opener on Saturday against the Golden State Warriors at the Citizen’s Bank Arena in Ontario, Calif., Young scored 17 points in the first half while in the second half, Henry took over, scoring 15 of his game-high 29 points in the fourth quarter.
After the game, Henry not only expressed his satisfaction playing for an organization that has faith in his ability, but also more importantly for a coach that believes in him.
“I knew it would come back around with me working hard,” Henry said. “I found a team that I can play with that guys are unselfish and found a coach that believes in me. When you have those two things you can do anything.”
Henry’s statement following Saturday’s game sheds light on how D’Antoni has allowed the 22-year-old to play with more confidence in his ability; he’s rewarded his coach with great performances on the court. It showed that a coach’s trust in a player can go a long way.
In the Lakers’ second preseason game on Sunday against the Denver Nuggets more young players stood out, despite the collective poor shooting. Henry, Young and Landry each turned in strong performances. Henry for the second consecutive game led the team in scoring with 15 points, Landry tallied 13 points that included three 3-pointers, and Young, despite struggling from the field, had nine points.
After the game, D’Antoni talked about Young and giving him a chance to prove himself out on the court.
“That’s what he does — he scores,” D’Antoni said. ” If you don’t give him leeway then he shouldn’t play. Again he’s coachable and he wants to learn. He wants to play the right way and he will. He is one of those guys that puts up a lot of points. Nick, he is going to score a lot of points for us.”
Young after Sunday’s game spoke about his satisfaction with D’Antoni’s unwavering confidence in his players.
“It’s great, Mike has confidence in all his players,” Young said. “Marcus was airballing and he told him to keep shooting. That is the type of coach you need. Someone who has your back out there.”
D’Antoni on Sunday also spoke about encouraging Landry to continue to shoot regardless of whether or not he’s in a shooting funk.
“Oh yes, because if you don’t you will have to get therapy on a couch,” D’Antoni said when asked if he would continue to encourage the youngster. “It was odd. I don’t know if he was nervous or what but he is not like that. It’s only matter of time (that) he is going to make some.”
D’Antoni’s comments show that this preseason, he’s letting his team showcase their skills and what they can offer the team by providing them room to perform to their capabilities without the fear of a quick hook.
So far in the Lakers’ first two preseason games, it has shown to beneficial to the team as it gives the coaches and other players on the team a chance to get a gauge on how they can contribute to the team. Ultimately what this does for D’Antoni is get the best out of his young players as they are trying to find their roles.
As D’Antoni gives his young players leeway to prove themselves on the court, Lakers fans hope these players can become major contributors to the team’s success for the 2013-14 season.
Photo Credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Bob Garcia IV
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