Sunday, June 26, 2022

Lakers Work Out Former No. 2 Draft Pick Bust Before Free Agency: Report

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Give the Lakers credit. After completely flopping last season while signing a number of big-name players, they’ve been much more open to beating around the bushes to find hungrier, more motivated players this time. They are rumored to be looking for a deal to get into the second round of Thursday’s NBA draft, for example.

And they’ve held practice with at least one guy who was once a big deal on draft night, former No. 2 pick Derrick Williams. The acc JD Shaw of HoopsRumors.comtook place on Tuesday, two days before the draft.

Williams was the No. 2 pick in the 2011 NBA draft behind Kyrie Irving, a 6-foot-8 combo forward who is now 31 years old. He played every game as a rookie for Minnesota in 2011-12, but questions have been raised about his work ethic, and he averaged 8.8 points on just 41.2% shooting. He went through six organizations in seven NBA seasons and finished his league career with two appearances for the Lakers on a 10-day contract in March 2018.

He has been with four European teams over the past four seasons, most recently at Maccabi Tel Aviv, where he carved out a role as a bloody stretch-4 off the bench and scored more than 40% of his 3-pointers.

Williams wasn’t the only former Laker to return to get a glimpse of the team — also in training was Darren Collison, whose connection with the team dates back to early 2020, when the team considered retiring him after the deadline dismiss addition.

Collison hadn’t played since 2018, when the Lakers signed him for a stint as an emergency player last December. He had four total points in three games with the Lakers, and at age 34 it’s unclear if he still has much to offer an NBA team.

Other players with NBA experience also showed off their Lakers merchandise at practice, including four-year veteran Sindarius Thornwell; former top recruit (and teammate of Ben Simmons at LSU) Antonio Blakeney, who spent two years with the Bulls; and Jaylen Adams, the former St. Bonaventure point guard who served in Atlanta and Milwaukee. Most interesting in the group is likely to be French 7-footer Olivier Sarr, who played 22 games for the Thunder while on a two-way contract with the team.

Justin Tillman, Romeo Weems, LJ Figueroa and Craig Randall II of the G-League also played. Randall was the most improved player in the G-League last year.

The Lakers are looking to take a more strategic approach to roster building this season after adding six potential Hall of Famers to last year’s team. The team hopes to build a roster that boasts better athleticism and defensive intensity, but also has some players willing to bring energy to a team that has too often been too cool to play with guts and tenacity.

To that end, the Lakers are expected to retain Stanley Johnson, who played well on a limited occasion last year, for next season. Wenyen Gabriel could also stay, and the Lakers are expected to give last year’s busy and drafted rookie Austin Reaves a bigger role this season.

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