But the Lakers aren’t supposed to be the boys of summer

For a fan base seeking any ray of optimism to bask under, I understand Lakers fans rejoicing that the newbies won NBA Summer League in Vegas last night. I’m in the same boat. I’d rather feel good than to remember the disaster the franchise became since the passing of Jerry Buss. Swaggy P? Buss family legal infighting? #TheLakersAreSoWhite? Timofey Mosgov?

But you do realize this is akin to being the valedictorian in summer school, right? No student applying to Harvard would include that on the application.

True, the Lakers are right now better than they were at any point in the last four years. However, that’s an indication of how low the bar was set.

Any improvement by the Lakers in the last few weeks had nothing to do with a handful of games near a casino. You just haven’t been able to see that yet because with the exception of Lonzo Ball, most of those Summer League players will not make an impact during the upcoming season.

The Lakers upgraded in at least two, and as many as four, positions in the starting lineup. That’s what should make you happier.

Brook Lopez at center and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at shooting guard are genuine improvements over Mosgov and Jordan Clarkson. They are simply more versatile, particularly at the defensive end. This matters because in the NBA, defense is suspect. In Los Angeles, defense was nonexistent. 

Further, second-year forward Brandon Ingram was the one untouchable player in a tsunami of Lakers trade rumors, meaning his future is far brighter than Luol Deng’s anything.

And Ball appears to be better right now than D’Angelo Russell ever was. True, analysts took Ball to task for his poor shooting and defense. People took Magic Johnson to task for poor shooting as a rookie, too. I have no problem giving Ball time to develop accuracy in his shot because if those Summer League games proved anything, it’s that the kid is a sniper in terms of passing.

Now for the reasons to curb your enthusiasm: Any other names from the Lakers summer team that you throw at me and I’ll give you the same reply. Maybe they make the team, but the only remaining starting player on the hot seat is Julius Randle.

Josh Hart and Kyle Kuzma aren’t starting. They’re guards. Thomas Bryant is a center. He’s probably third on the depth chart behind Lopez and Ivica Zubac. Maybe Zubac or Bryant or Larry Nance Jr. pry the inconsistent and undersized Randle from the lineup. I wouldn’t mind seeing that. I’d miss Randle about as much as any of you pine for Russell right now.

Does this column read a little cold? It should. When you haven’t won 30 games in a few years, that’s a frigid reality. Johnson was right when he took over the team. Only Ingram was an untouchable. If Johnson didn’t fall in love with the Lakers youth movement of the last few years, why should you? The results aren’t there.

As for the results this year? The smart money is LA winds up with about 35 wins, forfeits its first-round draft pick as the result of horrible trades you don’t remember them making and possibly firing Luke Walton to lure top tier free agents.

It’s time to realize what the Lakers don’t have

I’m about to marginally insult people I’ve never met — namely, D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle. I don’t like doing it, because they don’t seem like horrible people. And it’s kind of a cheap shot.

It has to be done in the name of tough love.

Not for their sakes. They don’t give a damn about me.

It has to be done for Lakers fans — who have started to see this roster get torn asunder by the new leadership team of Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka. It had to be ripped to pieces because what was put together by the scatterbrained Jim Buss looked like a quilt for puppies. It looks cute in a photo, but in real life it’s a rag that stinks up the entire house.

But you’re wrong, James. This is a young core that needs to develop! Give them time!

Um, how much time? Especially when you can clear salary cap room for players in the prime of their career who have already developed. You have no idea if Randle will be better than Paul Pierce. I wouldn’t wager on it. And don’t insult my intelligence by saying Clarkson will ever approach Russell Westbrook.

Not that I believe both Pierce and Westbrook, or Pierce and LeBron James, or Pierce and insert-megastar-here are sure to come to LA. But maximum contracts in exciting cities with player-friendly ownership groups go a long way.

How can anyone argue that wagering on the future of inconsistent players is superior to the certainty of perennial all-stars? True, Russell scored 40 points in a game against the Cavaliers. He is also the 17th-most turnover prone player in a league of about 450 people. He averaged 2.8 per game. Considering when a point guard turns a ball over, it is often at midcourt, that’s the equivalent of about three breakaway layups every game.

You can’t have that. Even worse came public feuds with coaches, a breach of trust with his teammates by posting an embarrassing video to social media and telling Lakers fans that they expect too much.

Lonzo Ball is unlikely to blast his coaches, tell Lakers fans to pipe down or betray the fellas in the locker room. … OK, maybe his father, but let’s withhold judgment.

So why Randle and Clarkson? Well, Clarkson doesn’t even start. There is no such thing as an indispensable reserve on a team that can’t win 30 games. As for Randle, how can I put this?

Consider that the Lakers had no leadership last year. That was, in my opinion, by design. First-year coach Luke Walton inherited a team of young players and — like Phil Jackson used to do — let his players try to figure it out. That whole thing you hear about “whose team it is”? How the Wizards are John Wall’s team. The Cavaliers are LeBron’s team? Well, if those younger players were worth the hassle, one of them would have taken the reins. One would have busted his rear, produced big numbers and insisted his teammates follow his lead.

Randle didn’t. He, too, was as inconsistent as Russell. Given a chance to make a name for himself, Randle scored 13.2 points per game — a mere two points better than his first full season. Even worse, his rebounds per game dropped. And this guy is supposed to be a power forward?

Now, he’s still on the roster, for now. But Lakers fans need to catch up to me. No, better stated, they need to jump off the “next gen” bandwagon and look with sober eyes at players that might mature. They have been affirming a future that his little discipline. 

And affirmation without discipline is the beginning of delusion.

The Lakers: Two easy choices, after that…

Magic Johnson is aware that his reputation as a franchise savior — regardless of whether it’s deserved or fair — depends on the Lakers qualifying for the playoffs next year. 

True, under his stewardship the Dodgers are compelling viewing — if anyone in Los Angeles has Spectrum SportsNet to view them in the first place. But even the prior ownership group knew the Dodgers owned a stocked minor-league system. The franchise was set to consistently win regardless of who cut the checks.

On the other hand, the Lakers have a random collection of lottery-pick level players and no specific sense of direction. In the NBA, that is a recipe for long-term irrelevance. Trust me, I now live in Orlando. The Magic are the definition of a team with a bevy of lottery players and no idea how to make them a winning team.

Simply put, Lakers fans think far too highly of D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson. Maybe Brandon Ingram is worth the hype, but putting the weight of this marquee franchise on those skinny shoulders might be a bit much to bear.

Moreover, coach Luke Walton did not answer the fundamental question — what direction is this team going? In other words, whose team is it? What does the method by which this team will learn to win. What type of team is it?

You watch the Golden State Warriors and you know how they approach the game. Same for the San Antonio Spurs. Heck, even the Atlanta Hawks, Houston Rockets and Washington Wizards have more of a defined approach to the game.

For the Lakers, this is their biggest problem heading into the upcoming season. If Walton can’t give ownership and players a vision, or if Johnson has a vision that Walton cannot produce, then I’m going to be the first to assert that everybody’s beloved former sixth man will have to go. I like him as a guy, but dem’s the breaks, dude.

How do the Lakers get from 26 wins to 40-plus wins? (Portland qualified for the playoffs with 41 wins this season.) I don’t have all the answers, but after careful consideration I know of only two easy decisions for the Lakers:

1) Russell has to go if they draft Lonzo Ball. The idea that Russell can function as a shooting guard seems pie-in-the-sky. He never played off the ball before. Moreover, Russell was given a poor role model when he broke into the league. What the hell was Jim Buss thinking by having a space case like Nick Young mentor Russell?

Russell developed bad habits. I don’t think of him as a bust, but drafting Ball gives the Lakers two of the same player. Moreover, drafting Ball sends a clear signal. The Lakers would indeed be his team. A big part of me thinks that’s why so many stories linking the Lakers and Ball exist. Taking Ball automatically removes the decision from Walton.

2) Pursue no top free agents other than power forward. Like the draft, this class is loaded with small forwards and point guards. The best option at power forward is likely Atlanta’s Paul Millsap, because I can’t see Blake Griffin leaving the Clippers. Free agent centers start with other team’s reserves. No thanks.

Signing Millsap, which I don’t particularly envision, likely sends Randle to the bench.

Everything else is up in the air. Everything. Because the Lakers have a glut of otherwise undistinguished lottery players. They’ve been inconsistent at best. The question for each player becomes: Is that from growing pains or are they just simply unreliable?

Trades for Paul George? Sure, I’ve read the rumors. Doing so would create a forward glut unless you send Ingram and/or Randle and/or Russell to Indiana. And George doesn’t fare well at power forward. So does that make Ingram the target to go? And by me saying that, is your immediate reaction But wait! Ingram’s got real potential here!

As you can see, that discussion alone leads to a headache.

So yeah, two answers are simple. Trade Russell if they take Ball. Save free agent money for the better group of players available next year.

But add at least 15 wins next season.

This is the job, Magic. I don’t have to tell you that.

One arrogant PS opinion: Being realistic here, the best starting five the Lakers can accomplish next year is Ball at the point, Dion Waiters as a shooting guard free agent signing if not one gained from a Russell trade, Ingram, George, Ivica Zubac. I can see that team push for 40 wins next year.

The Lakers are winning and I’m overjoyed

Let’s take a moment to make sure I understand the point of the Lakers losing at this time of year.

It’s to make sure they keep a draft pick in the top three. If they fall out of the top three, the pick goes to Philadelphia — as if the Sixers could do any better with it.

Keeping that top three pick by continuing to lose means, according to most mock drafts, the Lakers will get to choose an elite point guard in UCLA’s Lonzo Ball or a small forward in Josh Jackson of Kansas.

Didn’t the Lakers already draft to fill those needs? Didn’t the guard they drafted hit a three-point field goal as time expired to lift LA to a victory over Minnesota on Sunday? Wasn’t small forward addressed in the last draft with Brandon Ingram? Or Julius Randle three years prior?

Keeping a top three pick is no panacea for the Lakers. What fans haven’t noticed is this so-called disastrous four-game winning streak indicates the team — indeed, the franchise — is trying to cure itself. You should applaud that.

The Lakers are perilously close to becoming what the Sixers have been for far too long — a storied franchise obsessed with “the process” of getting better instead of simply getting better. The Sixers stocked up on picks for years and are still nose deep in the swamp.

Instead, Jeanie Buss — bless our little purple-and-gold nudist — willingly asserted herself in a family dispute when it became apparent the franchise with 16 NBA titles was nowhere near catching the Celtics. The franchise has clearly been scrubbing off the stench of ineptitude left by her brother, Jim. Remember, the only reason the Lakers are forced to tank to keep a draft pick was because of his foolhardy trade that brought a broken-down Steve Nash in the first place.

Under Jim Buss, the Lakers reputation had been so sullied they couldn’t even get a meeting with Kevin Durant when he was a free agent last year.

Not that I’m convinced everything new grand poobah Magic Johnson will find a miracle cure (please insert your own HIV joke here). Put it this way: The Sixers motto for years was “trust the process.” It seems that Magic’s motto to this roster is “trust in yourselves.”

What would happen should the Lakers keep the pick? You really want them to take Ball with his megalomaniac/racial provocateur father? How does that play in the locker room of a young team still finding an identity? How long before there’s infighting between Ball and D’Angelo Russell? How long before that idiot father of his claims Luke Walton can’t coach because he’s white?

If the Lakers keep the pick, great. If not, they either have a foundation with the three lottery picks they’ve already utilized or the Lakers need to look to free agency and trades.

Each win thus far suggests there might be hope with Russell, Randle and Ingram. Putting wins together makes a streak that is more than a sign of hope.

Winning streaks are a sign of what made the Lakers the franchise that it was.

Rapid reactions from the Lakers front office upheaval

About an hour ago, the Lakers announced that general manager Mitch Kupchak and executive Vice President Jim Buss were both relieved of their duties. They were replaced, at least in the interim, by franchise legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson. I could repeat gripes that I’ve had about the team under Buss’ stewardship. Instead, I’d like to focus on what this means for one of the most recognizable brand names in sports.

All of what follows is filtered through the following prism: The good news for Lakers fans is not that Johnson is in, but that Buss is out. Why?

1) Magic would likely make a horrible GM, so the future of the franchise rests on his pick to run player personnel decisions.

It is an educated guess that Johnson would not be ideal to build a Lakers roster for two reasons. One, often in the NBA, successful coaches have significant say in building good rosters. Johnson served rather poorly as an interim coach.

Two, the greatest players in the game are often lacking in scouting talent. For every Larry Bird success story in Indiana, there is Michael Jordan’s mismanagement of the Charlotte Bobcats, and pretty much everything Isaiah Thomas has run in retirement.

Magic has a hit-and-miss record in his post-playing career. His hits have been incredible, such as owning the Dodgers. How terrifying are his mistakes? Aw, man. You really wanna know?

2) Please, Magic, do not make your first phone call to Kobe Bryant, which was suggested in news reports. See above. Because Bryant has been known to miss the mark badly, too. How terrifying? Aw, man. You really wanna know?

3) It does not matter that this move came two days before the NBA trading deadline. The NBA trading deadline features very few blockbusters. Baseball’s deadline does. Besides, unless the Lakers want to break up their alleged “future talent,” they have scant pieces to trade away. Reserve guard Lou Williams is pretty much it.

So what could Magic Johnson do to restore the Lakers?

1) Remind the players and management of their identity. No, I don’t mean wave a purple and gold flag around like a male cheerleader. The Lakers had a formula that worked for decades, only it was abandoned because Jim Buss made a series of impulsive, foolhardy decisions. First, they were going to be a defensive power under coach Mike Brown. Then they were going to return to the 1980s Showtime era with Mike D’Antoni. Now, they want to be a version of the Golden State Warriors and none of it worked because they simply can’t shoot.

This is a team without an identity. Fortunately, it had one for decades — the inside/out game. In the 1960s, inside to Wilt Chamberlain, out to Jerry West. In the 1980s, inside to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, out to Johnson. In the 2000s, in to Shaquille O’Neal, out to Bryant.

Maybe the team has the “out” in D’Angelo Russell. The Lakers need to do whatever it takes to find the inside game.

2) If that means trading Julius Randle or Brandon Ingram, so be it.

3) Support coach Luke Walton publicly, but privately inform him that this roster needs to follow a specific growth plan. For far too often this season, Walton has believed that in order for the Lakers to grow somebody in the younger core needs to step up. Be the leader. Demand the ball. That sort of thing.

At this point, Russell, Randle or Ingram have not answered that call.

That leaves it up to you, coach. You have to pick. Pick wisely. Pick now.

You don’t give up on Russell, but…

While watching the Lakers take apart Indiana on Friday night, an ESPN announcer did something completely unexpected: he said something possibly brilliant.

To be honest, I didn’t want to look up the announcer’s name. It was 1 a.m. in my time zone when he said it and frankly it’s going to be many months before an ESPN announcer doesn’t substitute tired pop culture references for analysis, so why bother? 

He lauded rookie small forward Brandon Ingram as so skilled and versatile, he could also serve as a point guard. The No. 2-overall pick in the 2016 draft has played guard for the Lakers earlier this year when the team was losing players to injury. Coach Luke Walton saw playing Ingram at the point as a way to get the rookie — who has a reputation for on-court acumen — some extra time.

Considering the Lakers have very little set in stone with its current roster, switching Ingram to guard is a distinct possibility.

Because point guard D’Angelo Russell, a No. 2-overall pick from the 2015 NBA Draft, isn’t performing at a level you would want. Russell, who was selected because Lakers officials were wowed by his on-court decision-making, currently ranks at No. 41 in the NBA assists rankings at an underwhelming 4.4 per game.

That’s behind former Lakers Jeremy Lin and Jordan Farmar. It’s one thing to be behind the Clippers Chris Paul. Russell is also behind Blake Griffin.

Oh, but Russell has cracked the top 20 in turnovers per game. He lets the other team have the ball 2.6 times per game, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but only 19 players in the entire league are worse. 

In what many armchair GMs consider a guard-oriented league, that simply isn’t any good.

You don’t want to root for people to get injured. Having said that, you almost have to wonder if Russell’s tumble in the first minute of last night’s game, during which he injured the medial collateral ligament of his right knee, actually helped the team. Without Russell, the Lakers struggled to get their footing, but pulled away in the second half with Ingram controlling the ball. The Lakers led by 20 at one point.

So I get it: You don’t trade Russell because he’s only in his second year and it goes against common sense to abandon ship on someone you invested the No. 2-overall draft pick on. You certainly don’t do it in one game where Ingram took over and excelled.

But at this point, the Lakers don’t have three budding young stars on their roster like their fans want to believe. They might have two — maybe — in Ingram and forward Julius Randle. Russell is the weak link, inconsistent, turnover-prone and pointlessly cocky. He needs to spend less time pointing at his antecubital when he makes a shot. You don’t have ice in your veins, player. Not when you average a very pedestrian 14.3 points per game.

It behooves Russell to humble down and focus on professionalism, because the Lakers franchise is popular, but the actual team is struggling to reach mediocrity. If he can’t figure out what he’s doing, he’ll be out of the league before he turns 25, watching Ingram run the offense on TV.

The Lakers: We all have a learning curve here

Random thoughts on the Brave Bryantless World after the Lakers season-opening 120-114 victory over Houston on Wednesday (and I say random because I have already written on what I think the Lakers will be, so why repeat myself?):

  • The starting lineup was curious until the second half. Nick Young not being staple-gunned to the bench? And chucking up misses in the process? What was that? I think we found out in the second half, maybe. 

The reason Young has an NBA career in the first place is because he stopped Kevin Durant in the NCAA Tournament when USC upset Texas. This Lakers team, as currently constructed, is defense deprived. LA allowed an alarming 71 points in the first half. The guess here is the coaching staff advised Young if he doesn’t do his job in the second half… And Houston scored a more palatable 43 in the second half.

By the way, don’t be too surprised if that means Metta World Peace starts soon in Young’s place. Not that he would play major minutes. The idea being a reminder to the rest of the team: stop the ball.

  • For defensive purposes and considering the development of Brandon Ingram, the lineup will continue to be in flux for at least another two months. They have no idea who they can consistently rely on yet, aside from Julius Randle.
  • I want to hold back on praising the offense. Scoring 120 points is impressive, unless it’s against Houston. Now that the Rockets are coached by Mark D’Antoni, we’re going to have to come up with a new phrase for matador defense.
  • As I’ve written before, the Lakers will at least be fun to watch. Having said that, when D’Angelo Russell followed up a basket by looking at the camera and screaming “This is my shit,” you might be a little ahead of yourself, playa. That was a lucky shot. You threw up some shit.
  • ESPN color analyst Mark Jackson made an excellent point about top draft selection Ingram being part of the reserves. Ingram, a forward, played the point with the second team in the first half. That was a purposeful idea, Jackson said, because it accelerates the learning process to run the offense. Ingram wouldn’t have that opportunity as a passive member of the first team.
  • I still believe the Lakers do not have the personnel to run the Golden State offense that fans were anticipating. Russell was the only Lakers player with more than two 3-pointers.
  • Will somebody — preferably Randle — please commandeer the low post? Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Vlade Divac and Shaquille O’Neal are all rolling over in their graves.

The Lakers embark on a four-game road trip starting in Utah on Friday. Keep in mind, LA started out last season 0-4, so they’re already ahead of last season’s awful curve.

Squint really really hard and there’s hope for the Lakers

If you saw the Lakers depth chart for the upcoming season — and Google pushed ESPN’s chart straight to the top of its search engine — you would be as deeply startled and disappointed as if you had stayed up to watch Julian Assange online this morning.

Here’s ESPN’s cruel equivalent of a WikiLeaks bombshell, which I downloaded this morning:


Please take a moment to ask God if you’ve suffered through enough horrible basketball yet to be punished further by this graphic.

The fact that Roy Hibbert plays for the Charlotte Hornets not withstanding, there’s a lot on the actual roster that will make basketball fans feel equal parts optimism and loathing for the upcoming season. The preseason, by the way, begins tonight in Anaheim against the equally dreadful Sacramento Kings.

Ultimately, much like the graphic above, this team has far more questions than answers. Having questions alone is a reason for good cheer. With the team last year, we already knew the answer: They were going to stink.

Coach Luke Walton is every bit of an unknown as the roster. Sure, he took over to coach the Golden State Warriors for a spell last year in Steve Kerr’s absence, but how much does that mean? One, the Warriors have an elite roster that knows their game plan. Two, Walton coached with Kerr — who let the Warriors rain three-point shots — but he played under Phil Jackson, who ran the Triangle offense. That offense features free-flowing motion and can help post players.

So are the Lakers trying to reinvent themselves into the Warriors or rediscover the Shaq-Kobe era? We can guess. We don’t know.

In the graphic above, the only roster spot we know is locked up belongs to point guard D’Angelo Russell. How close he is to being an impact player is anyone’s guess. The Lakers like him, but if he were a sure-fire star, he wouldn’t have been playing for their summer league team in Las Vegas. There are also legitimate questions of his maturity level, and he’s supposed to be the conduit for the offense?

Jordan Clarkson is likely your starting shooting guard. The only reason he wouldn’t be is if the Lakers craft a three forward offense of some sort after ingesting copious amounts of hallucinogens. And the Lakers are surprisingly deep at forward.

It seems highly likely that Julius Randle is the starting power forward after a productive first full year, considering he averaged a double-double in points and rebounds per game. However, a team that won 17 games last year can’t etch too many sure things in its roster and the Lakers also like what they’ve seen in Larry Nance Jr. It’s also possible both play in the front court for small lineups.

The idea that Nick Young still draws a paycheck or is listed as a starter in the above graphic is beyond me. Young has been rightfully buried at small forward in the depth chart. No. 2 overall pick Brandon Ingram may not start in his rookie year, but the entire organization will tackle him if he ever steps to “Swaggy P” for advice. Your likely starter is Luol Dang, who is serviceable but not a game-changer.

L.A. hopes Timofey Mozgov is serviceable at center. He brings with him a championship from the Cavaliers and also the eternal emotional baggage from this. I sure hope the Buss family is paying for therapy after that. Should he falter, Yi Jianlian is listed as a power forward but he has seen time in practice as a backup center. He’s a defensive liability but can shoot.

So what to make of it? The gut feeling here is that the Lakers aren’t trying to be the Warriors as much as they are trying to be the Oklahoma City Thunder in the near future — deep, athletic and more importantly, versatile.   

For this season, the Lakers can’t be worse than they were the last two years. Aside from 17 wins, there was this sinking suspicion that they simply didn’t like each other or enjoy the way they were playing under Byron Scott. 

I think there’s reason for optimism. 

I think they’ve turned a corner.

I don’t think the results will be that much better, surely not a playoff team. 

If this team doubles its wins, it misses the playoffs by a mile. However, if the Lakers do win 34 games — which is conceivable — Randle makes a firm connection with Russell and Ingram cracks the starting lineup by the end of the year, then the clouds will finally lift for a franchise that is in desperate need of direction.

The state of the Lakers after day 1 of NBA free agency

Every so often, I’ll get asked from random sports fans about the Lakers. Even though I no longer cover them. Even though I no longer live in California. The Lakers are a franchise much like the Dallas Cowboys. Up or down, they spur interest.

So I’m pretty confident after one day of free agency to tell you how the team will do next year.

They’re going to stink. Just not nearly as bad as they have the last two years. Better said, they will stink in a fun way, like when you’re 8 years old and your friend let one rip and you both think it’s the funniest thing ever.

If everything breaks right, maybe they are above .500 and get into the playoffs. That is doubtful, though, considering the youth of this team and the very uninspiring signing of Timofey Mosgov as the new starting center. I had thought it would be a somewhat simple task to upgrade at center over last year’s starter Roy Hibbert. Mosgov was the third center on Cleveland’s depth chart, and before that was best known for this.

In other words, the Lakers front office did the impossible in a thick free agent class. This is a downgrade in a critical position. I’ll wait for another post to outline why you should blame Jim Buss.

The other four starting positions, while reasons for optimism, are far too young. You expect four people — two of whom cannot legally consume alcohol — to meld into a cohesive unit in one summer?

Add to that, incoming coach Luke Walton has no prior NBA head coaching experience. Well, scratch that. He served as an interim coach for the Golden State Warriors, who already did function as a cohesive unit because they were experienced and had the current best player in the game.

Despite the hyperbole from the national press, you have no idea if the Lakers will play the Warriors brand of free-flowing distance-shooting offense. Walton coached the Warriors as an assistant, true. But he also played under Phil Jackson. It’s just as likely the Lakers could revert to the triangle offense — which isn’t reliant on three-pointers.

There are players to like on the team. Julius Randle is a double-double machine in the Kevin Love mold. I didn’t want the Lakers to take guard D’Angelo Russell. (I would have preferred a center. Jahil Okafor had a productive rookie season in Philly. It would have been easier to find a guard than a center this offseason. Okafor is already better than Mosgov.) Still, I don’t think Russell is a bad player.

People have good reason to believe small forward Brandon Ingram is can’t miss. So there is the potential for good times ahead.

Conversely, you have a coach who was charged with the task of rebuilding the league’s glamour franchise over the course of one summer. Four starters are age 24 or younger — yes, three of them lottery picks. And a center who is on a lot of posters for the wrong reasons. What’s the verdict?

I think they can double their win total from last year.

But that’s 34 wins, which is below .500 and out of the playoffs.

Better break out the whoopie cushions and remember to blame the guy next to you when the farting noises come from Staples Center.

The week in L.A. sports (6/23/16-6/29/16)

If you inhale deeply through your nose — down to the diaphragm — you’d be a little confused. Sure, there’s the purification of the Dodgers that makes you want to gag, but wait, is that optimism I smell for other teams?

It is. To wit:

Lakers: Even if you hate the team — and like the Dallas Cowboys or New York Yankees, there is no middle ground; you either love or hate them — the Lakers held an excellent draft last week.

It would be most surprising if small forward Brandon Ingram didn’t start quickly for the Lakers this year, perhaps opening night. And if you’re a fan, you already knew that makes an interesting core of point guard D’Angelo Russell and power forward Julius Randle. 

That leaves 1 1/2 holes to fill. It’s possible Jordan Clarkson is a long-term solution to shooting guard, but I doubt that. Then there’s a great void at center. The kid drafted in the second round, Ivica Zubac, might play quickly. Pundits suggested he stay in Europe. I don’t see that, but I don’t see him starting, either.

The Lakers will not land one of the Crown Jewels in free agency — such as Kevin Durant. If they sign center Al Horford or Hassan Whiteside, though, the Lakers you have an outside shot of doubling the win total from last year. You’d still miss the playoffs with that, but it would make for a fun miss.

Quick side note: I read a story about the Lakers being surprised that Durant doesn’t want to come to L.A. There’s a reason the top free agents have snubbed the Lakers recently. It’s because there’s a big difference between Jerry Buss and Jim Buss. Jerry was revered. Jim is a trust-fund baby. End of story.

Clippers: I can’t help but like their draft pick of Brice Jordan. I don’t see him starting this year, but like most North Carolina players, he will perform like a professional in the NBA. Solid contributions. No disruptions. Every team needs that.

Free agency is another matter. The Lakers have $62 million of room under the league salary cap. The Clippers have about $8 million of wiggle room.

Rams: A few weeks ago, I was taken aback by an NFL columnist suggesting defensive lineman Aaron Donald was one of the top five players in the game. Since then, the hype has grown. J.J. Watt gets all the commercials in Houston, but Donald, some think, might be even better.

This team likely will miss the playoffs with a rookie at quarterback, but if you live in LA, you might want a Rams jersey simply due to Donald or running back Todd Gurley III.

Dodgers: The six-game winning streak turned out to be a fraud. They went on a road trip to play slumping Pittsburgh and Milwaukee. In the process, they are 2-4 with one more game later today, a full six games behind the Giants. In addition, three more players might be injured and they called up a guy who pitched in Single A earlier this year to start last night’s game.

There’s no getting around it. This team is suffering from the neglect of its front office. Injuries do play a part of the game, yes. But if you sign pitchers with a profound history of getting injured, why are you surprised when they get injured? That’s just logic.

If you let a man with one game of managerial experience lead the team, why are you surprised when the team plays poorly for long stretches of time? That’s just logic.

Make no mistake about it. This team is a whisker away from giving up and the season isn’t halfway over yet.

When injuries pile up, don’t forget it was Andrew Friedman who let this team go to seed over the last offseason, paving the way for this mess.

Galaxy: Soccer, for the uninitiated, is a funny sport. Other sports, you play in a league for a title and that’s that. The offseason starts. Where are the groupies?

In this sport, however, you not only play for a league title, but join these quirky side tournaments.

So the Galaxy last night beat the defending MLS champion Portland Timbers 1-0. Only it wasn’t an MLS game. It was an early round game in the U.S. Open Cup. I’ll leave you to determine if that makes your day better.

Kings: They didn’t even have a pick in the first round of the NHL draft. I’m not going to lie and claim I know anything about players taken after the first round.