There’s an easy explanation: The Lakers are in lockstep on whom they want. Luke Walton is an obvious choice; the former Lakers forward has strong ties to the franchise and is fresh off the most successful fill-in head coaching stint in NBA history. Connecticut’s Kevin Ollie has been on the NBA’s radar for a few years. Spurs assistant Ettore Messina has for even longer. Jeff Van Gundy has a proven track record and the disciplined system the Lakers badly need.
October 1, 2016 | 11:08 am EDT Update
Amid a predictable fare of drills and full-court scrimmages, it quickly became clear that some players had better odds than others of landing one of those precious camp invitations. Langdon, once a first-round N.B.A. draft choice who played in the N.B.A. and in Russia, identified one candidate with a unique background: Smush Parker, a former guard with the Lakers who has spent recent years circling the globe on a basketball odyssey. “I wanted to see the world,” Parker said. Parker, 35, most recently played for teams in Tunisia and Morocco. When he renewed his passport, the government sent him one with extra pages. But he now calls Brooklyn home — “I’m a five-minute bike ride from Barclays Center,” he said — and learned of the D-League tryout from his pastor, a big fan of the Brooklyn Nets. “I’m here on his blessings,” Parker said.
Parker said he had no idea that the Nets even had a D-League affiliate until his pastor broached the subject. But he saw the tryout as an opportunity to ultimately return to the N.B.A. “I know from experience that scouts and coaches at these things don’t really care if you can score the ball,” Parker said. “Nobody here is going to be Allen Iverson. Nobody is going to be Kevin Durant. When teams bring a player up from the D-League, they want someone who can fit the system, not someone who thinks they can come out and score 40 points.”
Johnson, 29, is an imposing 6-8, 250-pound forward who has averaged 6.5 points and 3.2 rebounds over his seven year career with the Bulls, Kings, Grizzlies and Raptors. He’s also a second-degree back belt, who is 21-0 in kickboxing and 7-0 in mixed martial arts bouts, his last coming after his freshman year at Wake Forest. “There are not too many guys I run up on that I might think twice about, but he’s one of the guys,” Haslem said Friday after the Heat completed its fourth day of camp at the Atlantis Paradise Resort.
“Obviously, what he’s been able to do and the background he has, I have a lot of respect for him. I’m sure if something ever happens I’d love to have him on my side than on the other side. It’s good to have another guy that doesn’t mind to get his hands dirty at times.”
His father, Willie, a former Marine, is a seven-time world kickboxing champion and master, and his mother, Vi, is a five-time national kickboxing champ. Each of Johnson’s eight siblings are black belts of varying degrees.