All summer long, praise has continued to build up for the Los Angeles Lakers’ core of young players. D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, Brandon Ingram, and Larry Nance, Jr. have seemingly impressed just about everyone who’s interacted with them this offseason with their maturity and work ethic.
To be sure, some of this is because of the unconditional positive regard that’s been espoused by the team’s new coaching staff thus far. However, the more voices that chime in, the more real the compliments seem.
Luol Deng is one of the NBA’s most respected veterans, and the Lakers signed him not just for his play on the court, but also so he could aid in the development of their young core. From the sound of things, Deng hasn’t had to get on them very much so far.
"The young guys have been phenomenal, and I really mean that," Deng told assembled media after the Lakers’ last practice of training camp. "It's my 13th year, and when I came in I didn't know what to expect, but as I got to know the guys I can really say that they're really hungry. They want to get better.
"I always come early," Deng continued. "For a lot of teams that's not the case for a lot of people, and I see a lot of these young guys coming in early and working on their game. I see a lot of them staying afterward."
The Lakers’ young players have famously spent the offseason putting in extra work at the facility with trainer Tim DiFrancesco as part of the so-called "Breakfast Club," and it sounds like those habits have continued into training camp.
Los Angeles is widely projected to be one of the worst teams in the league this season, but the extra effort from the young players has Deng thinking the season won’t be without it’s positive moments as well.
"It's such a long season, there's going to be a lot of ups and downs, but I really believe that there's going to be a lot of ups [in] this coming season," Deng said.
Those ups may not result in a playoff run this year, but after three consecutive seasons in which the team set new lows in the win column, fans and the organization will take any "ups" they can get.