Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error EL SEGUNDO — What can Lonzo Ball do to improve his shot? If you asked 10 different people, you’re likely to get 10 different answers.But it seems Ball went in search of his own answers to that question after shooting just 36 percent from the field last year, one of the worst guard efficiencies in the league. And watching Ball lately, the powers-that-be in the Lakers’ front office seem satisfied that he’s come a long way.“Man,” said Magic Johnson, pantomiming Ball’s adjustments Thursday afternoon, “it is beautiful.”Ball’s stroke has always been unconventional, and even in recently released team footage, it’s still odd-looking: The 20-year-old holds the ball further left than most right-handed shooters, and he flicks his wrist sideways from his set hand. Trail Blazers, Grizzlies advance to NBA play-in game; Suns, Spurs see playoff dreams dashed Lakers practice early hoping to answer all questions How athletes protesting the national anthem has evolved over 17 years AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with PackersThe new motion has traces of the old motion, but cleaned up: The Lakers like that he sets more to the center than he used to, and General Manager Rob Pelinka thinks the release is a little less clunky.Pelinka, who used to have shooting contests with former Michigan teammate and 3-point ace Glen Rice, admitted he has talked to Ball a lot about shooting. But he insisted the team hasn’t pushed him to make huge changes in mechanics, only to find a more consistent, fluid stroke.“I feel like you can boil it down to release, the spin on the ball and arch,” Pelinka said. “So I had many conversations with Zo of, just get those things right where you feel fluid about it. He would take things in. The way he’s shooting the ball looks a lot more fluid now.“Before he was the No. 2 overall pick back in 2017, Ball had a transcendent one-and-done year at UCLA, during which he shot 41 percent from 3-point range. The Lakers hope he finds the touch he once had as a prospect, which could help him play more off the ball – a necessary role since he’ll be sharing the court with playmakers LeBron James and Rajon Rondo next season. Pelinka said he thinks Ball could be valuable as a catch-and-shoot player in those instances, as long as the shot continues to improve. Sign up for Home Turf and get exclusive stories every SoCal sports fan must read, sent daily. Subscribe here.It’s not the only thing Ball has worked on, of course: Johnson cited Ball’s rapt attention for film study, including a handful of sessions with Magic himself. While he spent the summer recovering from knee surgery, he was often in the team’s weight room, watching his teammates play scrimmages on the court feet away. Johnson thinks the development of other young players, especially Kyle Kuzma, could be a motivating force for Ball.Johnson, the president of basketball operations, famously said last summer he expected Ball’s jersey to hang from the rafters one day. He was more tempered Thursday when evaluating the second-year point guard, but still confident.“I am excited for Lonzo,” he said, “and he is going to be fine.”OFF-CENTERMore than a few people have noticed the Lakers seem precariously thin close to the basket.While the team’s wing options are robust, the only center with significant NBA experience on the roster is JaVale McGee, a 10-year vet who averaged less than 10 minutes per game the past two seasons for the Golden State Warriors. While Croatian big man Ivica Zubac is also a traditional center, the roster structure has fueled speculation that other forwards (including LeBron James) might play more small-ball center.Johnson and Pelinka didn’t seem to sense a weakness: In an era when the “positionless” basketball the Warriors often play is a goal for many teams, a traditional big man takes on less importance, Johnson suggested.“You know the game has gone to (smaller play),” he said. “There’s not a true center playing backup, and we’ve got one of the best going to be there.”McGee, a long-limbed shot-blocker, hasn’t averaged double-digit points since 2012. But defensively, he’s expected to make a difference, and the Lakers think he’s gained character from his runs with the Warriors.Outside of McGee, Pelinka said the front office wanted to design the roster with “thrust”: a variety of players who could attack and pounce the length of the court to pressure opponents. Just because the Lakers don’t have a ton of big man experience doesn’t mean they lack length. Pelinka also pointed out the team has seven players who are 6-foot-9 or taller (even though some of those players are guards).“As the game is moving to be more positionless, we really don’t talk about center or point guard,” he said. “It is a positionless game and we have a long roster with adequate size for sure.”ROSTER SPOT REMAINS OPENIt was notable that Pelinka said Thursday he feels the Lakers’ roster is especially deep from “one to 14.” Because there’s a 15th spot that so far is unfilled.Related Articles Lakers, Clippers schedules set for first round of NBA playoffs Trail Blazers beat Grizzlies in play-in, earn first-round series with the Lakers Expect that spot to remain empty for at least a little while longer. Even as training camp begins Tuesday, the Lakers want to keep a spot open. It could serve as spot help for a need identified in camp, Pelinka said, or if the team gets into a trade discussion, they could receive two players for one.The Lakers want to keep their options on the table.“We do want to have that flexibility, and we just want to keep it open because the team is so deep,” he said. “We don’t have any current needs right now.”
Since becoming a free agent in 2017, Kaepernick has not received a workout from any NFL team. But if Jackson had it his way, he would have brought the QB in that year.”I wanted him,” Jackson said, via the News-Herald. “It just didn’t work out. Obviously, those things do have to work from a finance, draft, whatever all that is. And that wasn’t my decision.”MORE: Team considering Kap projected to lose ‘20% of season ticket holders’ (Getty Images) Former Browns coach Hue Jackson claims he wanted to sign Colin Kaepernick when the quarterback became a free agent in 2017.Speaking with Tony Rizzo and Aaron Goldhammer on “The Really Big Show” last week, Jackson said he wanted the Browns to sign Kaepernick, but claims the final decision was out of his hands. Kaepernick started his protest in 2016 and opted out of his contract ahead of the 2017 season after the 49ers informed him they planned to cut him. Hue Jackson https://images.daznservices.com/di/library/sporting_news/d3/c3/hue-jackson-123117-getty-ftrjpg_19s0k0vl7bxo613cf6357x7u4r.jpg?t=-1369031264&w=500&quality=80Jackson went on to say he also wanted Kaepernick back when he was a rookie, and the coach was on the Raiders.”I’ve known Colin. When I was with the Raiders, we were going to draft him when I was there,” Jackson said. “So, obviously he’d been a really good player in the league. He had tremendous success. He is a guy who has stood for something. I think everybody is seeing exactly where he was coming from. I always thought Colin deserved an opportunity in this league, but he has to want to play. If he really wanted to play, I think he would have a chance again.”Jackson’s comments are interesting when you consider what he said at the time. When asked about Kaepernick in March of 2017, Jackson said the Browns hadn’t discussed the quarterback despite his own recent claims that he wanted to sign him. “We haven’t really discussed Colin,” Jackson said in 2017. “There’s other players at this point that we’ve had a lot of conversations about to see if we can put them on our team. Not saying it won’t come up later on. You have to exhaust everything. But at this point he hasn’t come up.”He also said in August of 2017 he didn’t want to see any players on his team join the protests during the national anthem saying, “I would hope that we don’t have those issues.”As for the Browns, they obviously did not sign Kaepernick ahead of the 2017 season and famously went 0-16 that year. Cleveland played DeShone Kizer, Kevin Hogan and Cody Kessler in games throughout the season at quarterback instead.