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D-Fenders lose, but Black shows how he could help Lakers

Checking in on the two currently in the D-League, plus an update on the progress of Robert Upshaw.

Los Angeles Lakers' frontcourt reserves Tarik Black and Ryan Kelly were assigned to the team's D-League affiliate, the Los Angeles D-Fenders, last Friday. The two played well in their first game with the D-Fenders, with Black going 17 points and 12 rebounds and Kelly pumping in an efficient 28 points with 12 rebounds of his own.

The two assignees did not fare quite as well in their second outing of their current D-League stint. Kelly scored 23 points, but needed 20 shots to do so, and struggled late in the game with the referees swallowing their whistles when the Duke product tried to draw fouls.

Black managed another double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds on 6-12 shooting to go with his two blocked shots, but missed a layup with 6.7 seconds remaining in the game after an offensive rebound that would have pulled the D-Fenders within 2 points. Instead the team was forced to foul and lost to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers 125-119.

Black still managed to show on a couple possessions where he could have value for the Lakers as a backup, mostly as a pick and roll big:

Black slipped that pick, but it still illustrates his nose for going to the rim and the ability to catch and finish in traffic. The Lakers' bigs this season, with the exception of Robert Sacre, have mostly "popped" out of ball screens rather than cutting to the basket as Black does here. This is an element that could help D'Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson by forcing defenders to make a decision of whether to give the Lakers' young guards extra space to stop Black's roll, or to risk them finding Black for a dunk or layup if he goes to the rim unimpeded.

Black also showed off his nose for the ball on the offensive glass:

And his ability to protect the rim:

After watching him the last two games, Black appears healthy, dispelling an ankle injury as a reason for him not to play for the Lakers. He is younger and offers more potential upside than Sacre, and should be given the latter's spot in the rotation sooner rather than later.

Undrafted free-agent Robert Upshaw also posted nearly a double double in his 11 minutes with 9 points and 8 rebounds. Upshaw shot 3-8 from the field and also blocked a shot, but still has a long way to go conditioning wise, and the D-League's lightning quick pace of play does the lumbering 7-footer no favors. Slow, baby steps of improvement remain the name of the game for the raw 21-year old.

Here are full highlight's of Black and Kelly's performances:

Stay tuned to Silver Screen and Roll for continuing updates on the Lakers' stints with the D-Fenders. All stats per dleague.nba.com