Locker room tension, free agency pitches and more from Lakers exit interviews

first_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Lakers practice early hoping to answer all questions ISAAC BONGA, on being around Magic Johnson for the last year:“It was, first of all, just like crazy seeing a person like that being around you all the time. Obviously growing up, I was really watching video of him because the idea of a tall point guard who could pass and do all those things. So just the idea of being in that environment was crazy to me and special to me. So I really enjoyed it until like the last second. So it was really great.”JEMERRIO JONES, on playing against playoff teams toward the end of the season:“It felt good, really though, because I got to hold some elite people on the run. So I got to hold some of the players I play with on 2K (video game). So I got to play against them in real life, so it really did feel good for sure. Yessir.” How athletes protesting the national anthem has evolved over 17 years EL SEGUNDO — None of the top power brokers in the Lakers organization spoke to the media Wednesday as the team filed its way out of the training facility.That doesn’t mean nothing interesting was said: Lakers players talked about their health, the problems from the season, their reactions to Magic Johnson’s resignation, their trust in the coaching staff and much, much more.In all, 16 Lakers players addressed the media over a roughly three-hour span on Wednesday. Here’s an interesting quote from each person who took the podium:KENTAVIOUS CALDWELL-POPE, on how the locker room reacted to trade rumors Trail Blazers beat Grizzlies in play-in, earn first-round series with the Lakers center_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with Packers“It affected us a lot. The locker room once the trade talk was there, the locker room changed. Everybody was pretty much worried about that – especially guys that haven’t been through it. They were worried where they were going to end up. How they were going to do it. How it was going to mentally affect them. But, yeah, it actually affected the locker room a lot.”BRANDON INGRAM, if he ever thought he wouldn’t return from his blood clot:“No, I don’t think I ever did. Sometimes I might have thought of different things. But I always take things to the extreme. I always take things to the extreme when I’m thinking things. I’ve been through a lot of things in my life where I wasn’t, I didn’t feel like it was the end of everything that I put in, all the work that I put in every single day that I came here. I didn’t think, when they said I had a blood clot, that it was the end. I knew I had to continue fighting. I just felt like I was glad for the results.”LONZO BALL, on if he’s found he needs to distance himself from his family:“I wouldn’t say that. I was with them my whole life, I just think certain decisions will be made, it might be me saying one thing, somebody else saying another thing, but at the end of the day if I think it’s best for me, just go with that. And you know nothing’s perfect, like I said. There’s going to be arguments, going to be standstills, but close families always come back together.” Lakers, Clippers schedules set for first round of NBA playoffs JAVALE MCGEE, on playing for the Lakers in the spotlight:“As an NBA player, or as me, I don’t really look at pressure like that. I don’t look at, I don’t want to go to L.A. because it’s too much spotlight, like that. That don’t make no sense to me. I never was that person. Like that’s what it’s for. You come to L.A., you’re gonna get all the attention, bad or good, but you gonna get the attention when it’s good, so that’s all that really matters. Keep playing your game, doing what you do. I don’t feel like this year, I was like hiding or like, ‘Oh no, we’re losing, the fans are gonna beat me up,’ or something like that. It’s not like that. It’s all love in L.A. The fans are great. They see you out there, working your butt off and even though you’re losing, they still support you. So the whole thing behind people saying, ‘it’s a hard market to play in, it’s a lot of pressure,’ I don’t believe in the pressure thing.“There’s opportunities on and off the court here. We had the most TV games out of anybody, and they were coming from a losing season, or we were coming from a losing season. That’s just showing you how much spotlight and how much opportunity there is being with the Lakers if you’re winning or losing. It’s just opportunity out of anything. Anyone who wouldn’t want to take advantage of that opportunity just because their fear of the spotlight is childish.”KYLE KUZMA, on locker room chemistry:“I believe that so many times in sports and basketball, you always preach family. Everybody is a family. At the end of the day, you go into an arena, it’s 15 to 17 of you guys versus 20,000 people. And in a regular household family, things get tight and things are all positive, things are all negative sometimes. That’s just how a family is. So, everybody on this roster is very cool with each other. Hung out and as the season progressed, guys got closer, obviously. Bringing so many new guys in at once and having a new team and having a (collaboration) of older guys that have families and have their lives figured out, but then you have a lot of young guys. You’re going to have that disconnect sometimes but, I can’t say enough positive things about everybody in that locker room.”TYSON CHANDLER, on what was missing from the team:“It was injuries and then the trade rumor. I wouldn’t be honest if I was sitting up here not saying the same, it was one of the huge factors in the season. The injuries were tough for us because we were already a young unit. I mean we had a couple of guys that were not young but we were a young unit at the core. Having those injuries and not being able to get used to one another I think really affected us. Guys are still trying to get used to me, I am still trying to get used to ’Bron and ’Zo and some of the playmakers, ’Do, on the team. And that kinda can spread around as far as guys trying to get used to each other. And then, first time young guys like that had to endure trade rumors, it was the first time their name came up.“And I remember that when I was young, when I was in Chicago and the first time I got traded, it was a shock to me. It was unexpected. Didn’t know how to deal with it. I remember I cried. Because it was the first time I had been rejected in my career. You know, when you are young and like myself, a lot of these guys, you’ve always been number one. Everybody always wants you. And then for the first time in your career, somebody’s going, ‘Eh, you don’t quite make the cut.’ So it takes a toll mentally but it is a part of our business so it is going to happen no matter where you’re at. And that is one thing that has to happen to you and then you got to get over it. and just for us, it just so happens to be this year with young guys … so it took a bit of a toll. That and having a lot of injuries. Because even without that, having injuries would have been tough but all those things make it a little more difficult to come back from.”RAJON RONDO, how he wants this Lakers team to be remembered:“Just a group of guys that stuck together. Every night it may have looked like we were on the same page but for the most part, we grew. Kind of crazy, chemistry doesn’t come overnight and to put this type of group of men together in a short period of time due to injuries, missing certain flights and you can’t build that camaraderie as a team as you would like to. Believe it or not, the last couple weeks we’ve been on the road every road game or road trip we’ve been to dinner every city. Play a little bit of cards all the time throughout the road trip. So our bond got completely stronger, it’s kind of crazy how it happened at the end of the year versus beginning.“Because like I said the personalities didn’t – guys were kind of shy and I kind of take some of the responsibility as far as getting us to do more certain things together in the beginning. But like I said, Rome wasn’t built in a day, it’s kind of hard to continue to try to build teams. … And that’s not just here. It’s the NBA in general, a lot of teams, you put guys together for one year and expect greatness. It takes time. That’s why Golden State is where they are. Their key guys (have been) together and you build that chemistry and just build that chemistry. But most teams don’t keep teams together, and that’s why you don’t have success as the old teams do, the San Antonios and the teams back in the day.”JOSH HART, on how the coaching staff performed:“They were professionals. They came into work every day, no matter what criticism they were under, no matter what scrutiny they were under, they came in, watched hours of film, whether it was on us or other teams, next opponents. They did everything right, I’ll say that. Obviously, it was frustrating, the injuries, the inability to have a consistent lineup was frustrating and hard for them. But at the end of the day, they were professionals who came to work every day with a smile. They did their job to the best of their ability, whether that was watching film, whether that was coaching us. And they did a good job.“Like I said, this season, if we were healthy, we would’ve been good. And four or five freak accidents didn’t happen, we would’ve been good. We would’ve been in the playoffs, we would be playing. There should be no knock on the coaches, no knock on the training staff. Injuries is part of basketball, and we’re the professionals who go about it and made the best of what we have.”ALEX CARUSO, on becoming a fan favorite:“It’s been fun just to start because I love playing basketball. Playing basketball and competing, and hearing the crowd cheer and being excited, that brings passion for me. I really love that part of the game. So the way I play is kind of infectious. Fans tend to kind of just gravitate towards it, they’ve done it my whole career. Just the way I kind of sacrifice my body and play really hard, show emotion. So I think Lakers fans are very intuitive when it comes to the game of basketball. They know what good basketball is, they’ve seen it for decades. I think they just appreciated that. And I just went out there and was myself. I didn’t do anything special. I didn’t cater to any particular tweet or any fan yelling at me before the game, telling me to go for 60 or something like that. I just played as hard as I could, and every time in my basketball career, people seem to gravitate toward that.”REGGIE BULLOCK, on struggling to fit into the team:“I would probably say it was tough knowing exact spacing, knowing exactly my role. I knew my role coming here would be to play on both ends of the court, but just having a chemistry with other players out there, knowing where I would be, to knowing where they would be at. That was the toughest transition, but I feel like I picked it up pretty well. I was inserted into the starting lineup, just played hard at both ends of the floor. I showed it at times. Obviously the season didn’t go the way we wanted it to go, and obviously I knew I could’ve shot the ball a lot better. I know those two things and go into the offseason prepared to play a lot better next season. Add to my game.”LANCE STEPHENSON, on how the “Meme Team” will be judged:“It’s going to be hard. The season was rough, and it wasn’t much success. I know everyone liked the little meme team, but I felt like we were a great group. We had fun. We learned a lot from each other. That’s about it.”MIKE MUSCALA, on the Lakers’ potential pitch to free agents this summer:“I don’t know. It’s not my job to pitch, so I don’t know. But for me, I really enjoyed the organization here, my teammates. I really enjoyed playing for Coach Walton. He’s a really great guy. He knows his stuff. And as a Minnesota boy, the weather was great, too.”MOE WAGNER, on what he’s learned about his game:“I think it’s kind of cool for a rookie to kind of understand what’s your niche in the league. Obviously making shots will be a big thing for me. And then playing off of that, whether that is finding the other big men or finding another shooter, penetrating the paint. Those things are gonna come once the game slows down for me. Yeah, I kinda realized what the NBA is gonna be like for me, and I’m going to need to work on that.”JOHNATHAN WILLIAMS, on the changes in the locker room from early on to late in the season:“I think it’s pretty much the same. All the players continued to play hard, especially me, Alex and (Jemerrio Jones), we just wanted to go out there and have fun. I mean, we’re playing for the best organization in the world in my opinion, and playing with the purple and gold in Staples Center was just a huge blessing for me. So we didn’t worry about the playoffs, we didn’t worry about what was going on in the media, we just worried about playing hard for each other. We did it in the G League. We just wanted to continue to do that at the next level.”Related Articles Trail Blazers, Grizzlies advance to NBA play-in game; Suns, Spurs see playoff dreams dashed last_img

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