NBA

Three things Lakers need to be successful in 2019-20

By Sports Desk June 22, 2019

The Los Angeles Lakers are gearing up for a championship run in the NBA.

The Lakers have already reportedly traded Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and three first-round picks to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for Anthony Davis, but there is still work to be done.

Los Angeles are trying to free up enough cap space for a third max player. However, there are other problems that need to be addressed.

Here are three things the Lakers need in 2019:

 

A quality starting point guard

The NBA is a point guard's league.

The last six NBA Finals have been won by teams with All-Star point guards, and the Western Conference is stacked with talent at the position. Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook and Damian Lillard come to mind, but the Lakers did not have a floor general close to their calibre in 2018-19.

After Los Angeles had a spat with Houston last season, Rajon Rondo served a suspension and was demoted to a reserve role behind Ball. But neither Ball nor Rondo were really given the opportunity to be a true point guard because of the Lakers' brand of position-less basketball. Ball-handling responsibilities were split between them, Kyle Kuzma, Ingram and LeBron James, who led the team in assists per game (8.3).

But now Ingram and Ball have been dealt to New Orleans. If the Lakers are able to acquire an established point guard who can be ball dominant, score, and initiate the offense in the second unit — as we all know everything will likely run through James when it comes to the starters — they could take a huge step forward.

Los Angeles have been linked to Paul, D'Angelo Russell and Kyrie Irving this offseason and have not had an All-Star Point guard since Nick Van Exel in 1997-98.

Outside shooting

The Lakers flat out were not good at shooting the basketball last season.

Los Angeles ranked 29th in three-point shooting percentage in 2018-19 at 33.3 per cent and not one starter converted more than 35 per cent of their chances from beyond the arc.

James already draws a ridiculous amount of attention on drives, and the addition of Davis will only increase the frequency of double teams in the painted area. If neither of these Lakers stars can kick the ball out to reliable snipers, their gravity will be wasted.

There are quite a few three-and-D players hitting the market who could help Los Angeles with this deficiency.

Some essence of a bench

There are a lot of question marks on the Lakers' roster for 2019-20 and they need to sort things out.

Los Angeles signed Rondo, Lance Stephenson and JaVale McGee to one-year deals last offseason and none of them appear to be locks to return. Then there's Tyson Chandler, who is also entering unrestricted free agency.

When the Lakers traded away a large chunk of the young core, they thinned out their already questionable depth. Los Angeles' bench for next season would likely consist of Isaac Bonga, Alex Caruso, Moritz Wagner, Johnathan Williams and Jemerrio Jones were it to be finalised today. To call that personnel shaky would be an understatement, but the Lakers are also reportedly trying to move their contracts in a salary dumping effort.

James, Davis and Kuzma are a solid front line, but this Lakers team would probably fall apart if either of their All-Stars misses extended time in 2019-20 like they did last year. Los Angeles might be the betting favourites to win the NBA Finals in 2020, but their roster's construction will definitely need some adjustments to make that goal a reality.

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  • The Open 2019: Lowry's triumph continues run of Irish major success The Open 2019: Lowry's triumph continues run of Irish major success

    On The Open's first visit to Northern Ireland since 1951, Shane Lowry became the latest in a string of Irish golfers who have enjoyed recent success in a major championship.

    Lowry's stunning six-shot triumph at Royal Portrush on Sunday represented the 10th major victory by a player from either Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland in the last 12 years.

    The new Open champion, who hails from County Westmeath in the Republic, follows in the footsteps of Padraig Harrington, the winner of The Open in 2007 and 2008 and also the US PGA Championship victor in the second of those seasons.

    Northern Ireland, meanwhile, has had three major champions in the past decade, with Rory McIlroy winning four titles and triumphs also coming the way of Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke.

    Since the start of 2007, the year Harrington first tasted Open glory, only the United States - with half of the 52 titles since then - can boast more major wins than either Northern Ireland or the Republic, and Lowry denied America a clean sweep in 2019.

    We look at how many major winners have come from each country in that period.

     

    Major wins by country since 2007:

    26 - UNITED STATES - Brooks Koepka (4), Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth (both 3), Zach Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson (all 2), Lucas Glover, Stewart Cink, Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson, Jason Dufner, Dustin Johnson, Jimmy Walker, Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed, Gary Woodland.

    6 - NORTHERN IRELAND - Rory McIlroy (4), Graeme McDowell, Darren Clarke.

    4 - REPUBLIC OF IRELAND - Padraig Harrington (3), Shane Lowry; SOUTH AFRICA - Trevor Immelman, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Ernie Els.

    2 - ARGENTINA - Angel Cabrera (2); GERMANY - Martin Kaymer (2); ENGLAND - Justin Rose, Danny Willett, AUSTRALIA - Adam Scott, Jason Day.

    1 - SOUTH KOREA - Y.E. Yang; SWEDEN - Henrik Stenson; SPAIN - Sergio Garcia; ITALY - Francesco Molinari.

  • The Open Daily Diary: Celebrations, sombre reflections and rain... so much rain The Open Daily Diary: Celebrations, sombre reflections and rain... so much rain

    The 148th Open Championship came to its rain-drenched climax on Sunday as Shane Lowry claimed the Claret Jug.

    It concluded a wonderful week at Royal Portrush and Lowry's victory thwarted an American clean sweep of the majors.

    That an Irishman triumphed on the island of Ireland certainly raised the noise levels on the Dunluce Links.

    And while the final-day field battled the elements, Omnisport's reporters on the ground were attempting to stay dry and pick out a few unseen tidbits for the last instalment of The Open Daily Diary.

    TWO GOING ON 30

    After Lowry prevailed, he hugged runner-up Tommy Fleetwood, but that wasn't the most heart-warming sight on the final green.

    That came when Lowry's two-year-old daughter came onto the putting surface and was swept up in her father's arms.

    It is a scene Lowry hopes to repeat as he expects to be making many more Open Championship visits with his little girl in tow.

    "Look, I'm going to be coming back on another 27 Opens to play," he said. "She's going to be nearly 30 when I play my last one."

    MIND THE ROPE, LADS

    There's a wonderful vantage point midway down the first, where you are pretty much in the landing zone, can see the players hit off the tee and watch them on the greens.

    One of our reporters was stationed here early on Sunday to take in some of the morning starters, and as ever there was an enthusiastic group creeping ever forward to try to get the best view possible.

    "Lads, this is the second time - stay behind the white line," one steward warned as the group took the ropes a few feet inside the out of bounds line."

    "Sorry mate, we did help you find those two balls, though," one replied.

    "That's true... fair deal." Compromise is lovely.

    YOUR WORK HERE IS DONE

    There's an odd experience to be had on the final day of an Open if you choose to walk a few holes in reverse order once the final group has passed through.

    Wandering from the third back towards the media centre, having caught Lowry and Fleetwood card a par and a bogey respectively, you see the holes where the work is done for the week.

    The second and first, their fairways still lined with boundary ropes, lay dormant, with no spectators at their side. The tee boxes waiting patiently for players who will not arrive.

    This Omnisport reporter found it a little bit emotional, but was stirred from his sombre reflections by a huge roar from down on the fourth green. A birdie for Lowry! And another hole had served its purpose.

    MEDIA LEAKS IN THE MIXED ZONE

    Omnisport covered all parts of The Open at Royal Portrush, including the mixed zone where players chat to reporters after a round.

    The heavy rain was causing particular concern for our man on the ground in the interview area when water started to make an unwelcome appearance inside the tent.

    Clearly he needed to adopt the spirit of those hardy souls in the Fan Village who saw the saturated ground as a prime spot for a bit of diving, with several of them sliding face down across the floor.

  • Shane Lowry's glorious Portrush triumph lays Oakmont demons to rest Shane Lowry's glorious Portrush triumph lays Oakmont demons to rest

    One word was prevalent ever since Shane Lowry surged into contention at The Open this weekend. Oakmont.

    "Oakmont was so long ago and I was a lot younger," Lowry said after moving into a co-share of the lead on Friday.

    "I feel like if I get the opportunity this week I'll be better. It definitely won't affect me, what happened in Oakmont."

    Amid the chanting, raucous cheers and sheer euphoria that greeted Lowry walking off the 18th green at the conclusion of the greatest round of his life at Royal Portrush on Saturday, there was an unsettling sense of deja vu due to his four-stroke advantage.

    Three years ago, Lowry held the same lead going into the final 18 holes of the U.S. Open. He had one hand on the trophy, a major breakthrough in his grasp.

    Yet in golf things are never that simple and that fateful Sunday just outside of Pittsburgh was dragged back to the fore for Lowry this week.

    The pressure of holding a significant lead in a major for the first time was evident. Lowry never recovered from a difficult start at Oakmont and struggled to a six-over 76, eventually finishing three shots adrift of Dustin Johnson – who himself had to endure a nervy penalty-shot controversy to win what is to date his only victory in one of golf's big four.

    However, at Portrush, Lowry only fleetingly betrayed his insistence that no mental scars remained from the most painful of experiences. A wayward drive down the first and an approach into the greenside bunker leading to an opening bogey would surely have had his heart rate skyrocketing.

    Lowry is a different man to three years ago, though. He has a young daughter, Iris. His priorities and perspective have changed.

    "If I'm sitting here this time tomorrow evening it will be one of the biggest things that ever happened to me, there's no denying that," Lowry commented in a news conference on Saturday.

    "But I just felt at the time in Oakmont my golf meant a lot more to me back then than it does now. I'm not saying that it doesn't mean everything, it's my career. But I've got certain things in my life that make it different. I've got family now. No matter what, my family will be waiting for me."

    It has been a long journey back to this point. After missing the cut at last year's Open, for the fourth time in succession, Lowry slumped to a ranking of 92nd. 

    Following the first round at Carnoustie 12 months ago, there was a pretty blunt declaration from Lowry.

    "I'm not enjoying my golf at the minute, and my golf is not really enjoying me and that's the way it is, and it's hard to take," he said.

    There was a recognition change was needed. Lowry split with long-time caddie Dermot Byrne in September and there has been a huge upturn in fortunes with new man on the bag Brian 'Bo' Martin, who grew up around two hours away from Portrush in Ardglass.

    Victory at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in January, after which an emotional Lowry spoke about a "tough couple of years on the golf course", preceded top-10s at the RBC Heritage, US PGA Championship and Canadian Open.

    "With Bo I find I play golf now like there's no consequences, you know what I mean? You need to hit shots like there's no consequence," explained Lowry.

    "What's the worst thing that can happen? If I swing the club here and hit the ball, no matter where it goes, what is the worst thing that can happen to you? That's kind of the mindset he brings into it. That's when I play my best. That's the way I am. I think we gel together nicely that way.

    "I think as a golfer you have such a long career, well, hopefully you have such a long career, I've been [a professional for] 10 years now and it's just a rollercoaster.

    "I think the reason I'm so good mentally now is I feel like I know how to take the downs."

    There was no bigger down in Lowry's career than Oakmont three years ago. Now, standing a Champion Golfer after an astounding six-shot victory, there is no greater high.

    That it should happen at Portrush, an Irishman winning on Irish soil, makes it only more special.

    It was for so long unthinkable the tournament could be held here as the days of the Northern Ireland conflict, a period of history known as The Troubles, devastatingly split the country.

    But this is a different time and there was a wonderful buzz around Portrush as home hero Rory McIlroy prepared to begin the week as one of the favourites for glory.

    McIlroy, of course, did not even make the weekend and it was instead left to Lowry, from County Offaly in the Republic of Ireland, to slip under the radar and earn the acclaim of an adoring crowd.

    He will, at some point after what will no doubt be a hefty celebration, go to bed with the Claret Jug, fresh in the knowledge the demons of Oakmont have been truly banished.

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