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Phil Handy talks Lakers, NBA free agency, his future and more in trip to Manila

On the first day of his summer tour in Manila, Phil Handy had a press conference where he talked about a couple of noteworthy topics surrounding the Lakers

Photo by Ian Genada

Manila, Philippines — This summer, Lakers assistant coach Phil Handy is touring around Asia, where he’s hosting several basketball camps and seminars for both professional and amateur players and coaches. His first stop is in Manila, Philippines, where the three-time champion coach will train the Converge FiberXers of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) and varsity teams from different universities around the country.

Handy began his 11-day Philippines tour on Monday, with a press conference held in Shangri-La, The Fort, Bonifacio Global City. The Lakers’ development guru addressed his contract status with the team, his thoughts on playing a big role in the development of Rui Hachimura and Austin Reaves, the upcoming NBA free agency period, and more. Here are some noteworthy storylines from Handy’s most recent press conference.

Handy isn’t leaving Laker land

Amid the hiring of former Lakers head coach Frank Vogel by the Phoenix Suns, rumors surfaced that the defensive-minded coach would poach some members from the current Lakers coaching staff. True enough, Vogel successfully recruited multiple members from his final Lakers coaching staff, specifically South Bay Lakers’ head coach Miles Simon, former assistant John Lucas III and Lakers player development coach Jon Pastorek to fill out his staff in the Valley.

Many in Laker land, particularly Lakers fans, were concerned that Handy would be next to take his talents to Phoenix. But thankfully, the veteran assistant coach dismissed those rumors in his press conference and even noted that he signed a three-year extension with the Lakers when Darvin Ham took over the helm last summer. In Handy’s own words, he said that he’s “In Laker Land, baby” for at least the next two seasons.

Handy on the growth of Rui Hachimura and Austin Reaves

Why many, particularly the Lakers and their fans, adore Handy so much is because of the success he’s contributed in developing players. His work was evident once again in how Rui Hachimura and Austin Reaves blossomed into key players for the Lakers last season.

Reaves and Hachimura, who the Lakers are reportedly bullish on bringing back this off-season, are viewed by the organization as long-term core members of the team. Their rise in being integral pieces for the Lakers wouldn’t have happened without Handy, who spoke gleefully about both his mentees on Monday:

Handy also expressed his excitement for Reaves, who is participating for Team USA in the upcoming FIBA World Tournament, which will be held in Manila from Aug. 25 to Sept. 10. Handy believes that the tournament will be a fruitful experience for the sophomore guard, who will get the opportunity to not only compete alongside some of the best young players in the NBA, but also in the international basketball scene — which the coach noted is a slightly different challenge compared to playing in the NBA.

Handy drops a hint on what to expect around the NBA this summer

When asked about his thoughts on the biggest trade splash so far this offseason — specifically the Suns acquiring the services of Bradley Beal from the Washington Wizards — Handy didn’t hesitate to admit that the Western Conference, particularly the Pacific division, just got way more challenging than it already is.

The assistant coach also added that he doesn’t expect this to be the most significant move by any team this summer, hinting that several more teams will load up their rosters via trades in the lead-up to, and during, the NBA Draft.

“Yeah, Phoenix is already a talented team. Bradley Beal is already one of the best players in the NBA so it’s going to be another tough challenge. You gotta deal with those three guys. There’s going to be a lot more moves you’re going to see across the NBA throughout the course of the summer. Trades, drafts, there’s going to be a lot more storylines.”

Phil Handy in Manila. Photo by Ian Genada

Handy reveals why Kyrie Irving was the most “fulfilling player” he’s worked with

Handy has a long list of superstars he’s worked with in his 11-year coaching career and among all of them, he singled out Kyrie Irving as one of his favorite players he’s ever worked with.

“Kyrie Irving was probably one of the most special,” Handy said. “To be able to build a relationship with him, see his game and work habits change, that was a great feeling for me. Our relationship even to this day is like family, it’s a very strong bond. To see him mature as a player from his days in Cleveland and become a championship-caliber point guard and be one of the most skilled players in basketball, it was great to work with him and build a relationship.”

Irving, who the Lakers relentlessly chased after last summer and even until the trade deadline this past season, has been a popular name and is still consistently brought up in Laker land for over two years now — particularly due to LeBron James’ reported desire to team up with his former teammate in Los Angeles.

And while the Lakers have made it clear multiple times that they intend to run it back with the same core that made it as far as the Western Conference last season, it’s still worth noting that Handy has what he described as a “very strong bond” with Irving. This obviously means little-to-nothing in terms of the Lakers’ (lack of) interest in Irving right now, but it's still worth remembering if ever the team decides to go down that path in the future once again.

Handy expects LeBron to suit up next season

Aside from addressing his status with the Lakers moving forward, Handy also believes that James, who he has now coached for seven seasons (both with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Lakers), will don the purple and gold this upcoming season.

James hinted at the possibility of retirement after the Lakers were swept by the Denver Nuggets in the Conference Finals but multiple reports since have indicated that the NBA’s all-time leading scorer will be back next season to fulfill his contract.

It sure looks like Handy, James and Anthony Davis will be part of the core that’s going to run it back next season, but the rest? We’ll know in the next coming weeks as we get deeper into free agency season.

You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani

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