alik Monk, Kendrick Nunn provide youthful injection to veteran Lakers in the preseason opener.
The fact that a handful of young Lakers stole the show for the purple and gold on Sunday afternoon is a sweet bit of irony.
On a night when so many of the veteran Lakers‘ seasons were delayed,
it was three of the team’s younger players who shone brightest,
none more so than Malik Monk. Monk took a chance by joining the Lakers and competing for a starting spot in a crowded roster, coming off a career year in Charlotte.
However, the 23-year-old took an early lead in the competition by scoring a team-high 15 points in 21 minutes, albeit on a night when the Lakers were defeated 123-97 by the Nets in their preseason opener.
The outcome is never a concern in the preseason, with the process being the main focus,
and Monk made a statement in that regard.
“We’re still surprised we got him, to be honest,” Anthony Davis said of Monk.
“He’s a beast of a player. You saw what he did the minute he took the field.
At all three levels, he can score the ball, play hard, and make the correct reads.
This year, he’ll be a lot of fun to have.”
In the second quarter, Monk scored 10 of his 15 points.
More specifically, they all came in the span of fewer than three minutes as the young guard showcased why he has been given the nickname “Microwave” by his teammates already this season.
He wasn’t the only young Laker who stood out on the night,
as Kendrick Nunn scored all nine of his points in the second quarter.
In the period, the two combined for 24 of the team’s 30 points,
each making a strong case to fill the final two spots in the starting lineup.
“Those guys are in the mix,” head coach Frank Vogel said of the pair.
“We’re really high on both those guys you mentioned.
Malik and Kendrick both had strong nights out of the gate and I thought Wayne (Ellington) played well as well. Those guys are going to have big opportunities to earn big minutes and be a big part of what we’re doing.”
Even if his 3-of-11 shooting performance wasn’t the prettiest, Talen Horton-Tucker had a few bright moments on the night.
Horton-Tucker, one of only three returning players from last season’s squad,
finished with 10 points, four rebounds,
and three assists in 26 minutes of action, with his biggest highlight being a thunderous dunk down the middle of the lane.
However, Horton-Tucker was a member of the Lakers‘ rotation last season and has postseason experience in his short career.
After years of competing for lottery selections rather than playoff berths, a move to the west coast required a mental shift for Monk.
Monk, on the other hand, has tackled the issue with a desire to learn as well as a desire to compete.
Monk said, “It’s certainly altered.” “Because they know everything, I have to be much more locked in.
LeBron can give you a 10-minute period and not miss a play, so that’s how tuned in I have to be with these guys and training camp. They’ve been assisting us.
They’ve been very helpful, as I previously said. I also ask a lot of questions.
“Actually, since I’m young and they’ve been in the league for a while, all of the players are like big brothers to me. They just take me in and educate me as much as they can in a single day.
They’ll teach me more tomorrow, and they’ll teach me, even more, the next day. Everyone is welcoming me with wide arms.”
Monk has taken in the knowledge and put it to use on the court,
making an impact on Vogel and center Dwight Howard even before the game on Sunday, with both praising his Saturday practice performance.
On Sunday, he showed the world what his teammates had seen,
following Vogel’s suggestion to just be himself instead of trying to be someone the Lakers don’t need.
“We had a few players out, so it’ll be a bit different when they come back,” Monk said, “but everything played out just how (Vogel) predicted.” “It’s just me going in and being myself.
” It is not necessary to fill in a box. Simply put, I’m going to go out there and be myself.”
If Sunday was any indication, the Lakers would be satisfied with just being themselves.
Sunday showed, maybe more significantly for the Lakers as a whole,
that they may not be completely dependent on their seasoned veterans this season as well.
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