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Larry Nance, Jr. says the young Lakers need to develop to attract free agents

The sophomore forward says he's working on his three-point shot and is focused on improving for next season.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

"Development" is a word constantly thrown around as a goal for young players, but it's so broad as to nearly be meaningless. Develop what? Better defensive instincts? A more well-rounded post game? Learn to pass out of a double-team?

In the case of Los Angeles Lakers sophomore forward Larry Nance, Jr., the offseason development goals are pretty simple: space the floor.

"If I can just continue to take that 15-footer, and this summer we're even kinda stretching it out to the three a little bit, with confidence, that's going to be huge for not only my game, but the whole team's offense," Nance Jr. told Andy and Brian Kamenetzky of ESPN during an appearance on their Land O' Lakers podcast on Wednesday.

However, just because Nance, Jr. says he wants to take his game behind the three-point line doesn't mean he sees himself as the elusive "three-and-D" player for the Lakers going forward.

"I don't want to be in that role," Nance, Jr. said after a brief pause to consider his words. "Now if that's what's called upon, yeah I'll do it, but I would say I want to be limited to just the three-point line, because that's not where my strengths lie. I'm an around the basket explosive athlete, so that's where I want to be."

Several players learned just how explosive the Wyoming product was the hard way last season, and he says he just wants to make sure he's not moving away from the paint permanently.

"Just [enough] to make sure if I'm out there [at the three-point line] you have to respect it," said Nance, Jr. "That's more so where my plans lie."

Improving individually as a shooter isn't the only part of Nance Jr.'s plan to improve the Lakers. The rest of the team's young core has to continue to develop, not only so they can improve the team on their own, but also to attract free agents.

"Us four, us five guys are going to really need to have good chemistry in order to turn this thing around and attract some big names,"  said Nance, Jr. He understands those big names would be taking a leap of faith in joining a rebuilding Lakers squad, and that it's up to the team's young core to make that proverbial gap seem less precarious.

"Just kind of put yourself in those shoes. You're leaving a team because they're not in contention to win [a championship], so why would you go to a different team that doesn't have the pieces that you can build around to get to that point?" said Nance, Jr. "So we as a younger group have to show 'hey we're working, we're getting better, and sooner rather than later we're going to be ready to compete.'"

To help the Lakers young team get ready to compete at that level, Nance, Jr. said he's in favor of the team adding a few veteran presences to compensate for the loss of Kobe Bryant and other older free agents like Metta World Peace, Roy Hibbert, and Brandon Bass, all of whom may not be back next season.

"I think I might have learned more from playing in the second unit with Brandon Bass than I did from anybody else this year," Nance, Jr. said when asked to explain why veterans were so valuable for a young team. "He's just a pro, in every sense of the word, he's just a pro. He carries himself the right way, knows how to handle postgame interviews.

"He's just really diligent with his work and stuff like that. To see somebody that's been so successful in the league do all the stuff, and you're younger than him, it's just kind of like 'I'd better whip it into shape,' because if he's 29, and I'm 22, why shouldn't I be doing that too?"

No matter how many veteran habits the young Lakers picked up from veterans like Bass or even Bryant himself, no one player's development or addition to the team this offseason is going to be able to replace the hole left by the loss of the Lakers' franchise player for the majority of the last 20 seasons.

Bryant being a shell of himself, but trying to score like he hadn't left his prime, was the two-ton charging elephant at the center of the Lakers' struggles last season, but while Bryant couldn't approximate his old production, neither can anyone else the team adds or develops. Nance, Jr. says the team's young core knows they will have to work together as a group to get the team back to the level the franchise and their fans expect.

"There's not many Kobe's that can almost pull a franchise on his back singlehandedly, and we knew it was going to take a group effortt," said Nance, Jr. "None of us are Kobe Bryant, there's never going to be another Kobe Bryant."

The Lakers can only hope their group of young players and whatever free agents they acquire can work as hard as him to develop and, just maybe, return the team to the level contention they enjoyed in Bryant's prime.

All quotes transcribed via the Land O' Lakers podcast. You can follow this author on Twitter at @hmfaigen.

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