LA Confidential: The Training Camp
- By Jron Magcale, Day 1, 2024
LOS ANGELES - The Fireballs came prepared with the training camp as everybody put in work and made their marks to solidify their positions in the lineup. The training camp which was held at UCLA Health Training Center in El Segundo, CA. The camp was fluid as coaches assigned the players individual training camp focuses as well as team focuses to see it the players would fit in the system and get familiar. Coach Alton Wilkes debut head coaching job is off to a bright start as he was seen very active and been talking to the media about the progress and development of the team in training camp "For a completely new team, I am surprised that we have a fluid training camp. We have a lot of young players in this team, the most actually since I came aboard as an assistant to coach O, so I was expecting at least some growing pains but it was honestly seamless, they knew the workouts, drills and the system and we didn't have a lot of problems. Individually, they all were focused on getting better and we assigned areas of their game that they needed to focus on the duration of the training camp and they just went on and did strides with regards with their progress." Coach Wilkes said about the team.
Here is the complete training camp report according to the team scouts and coaches that was summarized by The Scoop's Lesane Wainwright:
Chris LaCruz - The focus for LaCruz was in 2 areas of his game and that is his defense and outside shooting and like last season, he improved on both. His outside shooting was an area of his focus that looked good, finding his spots and using it with his devastating ball handling, his defense overall improved as well as his commitment in the perimeter, using his size and his quickness to get some steals and read the passing lanes.
TEAM ROLE: As usual, LaCruz will be the starter and will get the majority of minutes at the point guard spot. The system in Los Angeles is designed for him and will be the vital part of the Fireballs Run and Gun offense.
Ortay Defoe - For Defoe his focus was pretty much the same with LaCruz as he focuses on his outside shooting and defense. The 27 year old flashy PG isn't really known to be an outside shooter throughout his career but he can knock them down when he needs to, so he focused on being able to be a consistent option when his name is called. He is also worked on his defense a little but his main focus was being a good outside shooter.
TEAM ROLE: There was a little position battle coming in as to who will be LaCruz backup but after the camp, Defoe showed that his experience is enough to get the minutes for the #1 backup position at the point.
Jabari El-Amin - The youngest Fireball at just 19 years old. The kid worked on the same areas that LaCruz and Defoe focused on and he improved on both. He balanced the workload for both his outside shooting and defense and had improvements on both. The kid is similar to Defoe skill-wise and player-type-wise which will be beneficial long term for him.
TEAM ROLE: El-Amin lost the position battle as he showed that he is still raw and the experience of Defoe ultimately was the advantage. Good news for El-Amin is that MVP Chris LaCruz has decided to take him under his wing and learn from him, which means that El-Amin is at least part of the long term plans of the team.
Jamaine Curry - His focus was always going to be with his defense focus because of his size. His perimeter defense is already good enough (career average of 1.8 spg) but he has improved his blocking and overall defense. He also focuses on his outside shooting as he will take a lot of it in the LA's Run and Gun system. He is known to do his scoring damage attacking, outside shots and pull up long range J's, so the focus is to make his outside shot more lethal this coming season.
TEAM ROLE: Like LaCruz, he will be locked on the starting shooting guard position and will take most of the shooting guard minutes. The Run and Gun system of the Fireballs is based on him and LaCruz working well together in transition and sets.
Tremaine Miles - The 2nd oldest player in the Fireballs at only 31 years of age. Miles did ok in his individual focus of defense and rebounding but only marginal at best. He did showed he regressed as he isn't the same player he was 3 seasons ago. He did showed he still has what it takes.
TEAM ROLE: He was pushed out of the rotation and mainly will have a smaller role in the team than previously anticipated but he will still be part of the 12-man team as reported by the staff.
Jerrell Newman - Focused on defense and the coaches loved what they saw on him, the 21-year old who had great size for a guard (6'10", 7'2" reach) is learning to use his physical tools in the defensive end which is a great sign. He also worked on his rebounding because despite his size and athleticism he has trouble getting rebounds. He did improved on it but only marginal what impresses the staff was he did bulk up his skinny frame from just 201 he added 12 lbs which will help him as he move on.
TEAM ROLE: Right now, he is a candidate for IR (Injured/Reserve) list as the team still want to see him improve and develop more but sources says that they like what they see in the kid and might get his chance as the season progresses.
Cortez Ellison - Of all the wings in the Fireballs team, Tez Ellison improved the most. The flamboyant wing out of USC feels at home in LA as he was looking much improved and comfortable in the system. Aside setting trends with his workout get up working out with jogger pants 1 day and then super short shorts the next, he seems like he's been with the team for a while gelling with staff and players alike. He focused on his rebounding to get his game more well-rounded and his offense as well especially his outside shot which will be a key ingredient on his role with the team.
TEAM ROLE: He will step right into the shoes of former Fireballs wings iMac and Coleman as the designated wing shooter. Throughout the years the wing is the secondary scorer in the Run & Gun system on LA, so that is the expected role of Ellison moving forward.
Quinn "Ziggy" Dziagwa - The Fireballs drafted Ziggy hoping for him to be a 3&D guy and that is the focus that the staff worked him on. His work ethic was great and that resulted to solid improvement especially his perimeter defense. Another focus is getting him to bulk more, he worked out twice a day and gained about 3 lbs of muscle, it will still be an area that the team will focus on with Ziggy as his career moves forward.
TEAM ROLE: The team was impressed with his development and was awarded as the 1st wing off the bench which will be good for his overall development, his length and specific set of skills was an advantage over the other wings jocking for position.
Sidney Cavenell - Before the camp, Cavanell suffered an injury and didn't participate as much the oldest Fireball in the lineup however watched a lot of film and focused on learning more about the offense. Even before the camp, Cavenell has been showing signs of regression as he isn't as explosive as he once were.
TEAM ROLE: Cavanell's injury attributed for him being out of the rotation at the start of the season. But his experience and offensive skill is still something the team can rely when needed.
Randall "Doze" Dozier - Doze focused on specific areas of his game outside shooting and rebounding but on this training camp he improved a lot. Overall he took the leap and it showed during the workouts. His endurance improved, outside shot improved and basically improved almost all areas of his game. He looks like he'll contributed significantly this season. He also added 9 lbs of muscle (224 lbs too 233 lbs) and looks like stronger from the scrimmages. Consistency is something that he will need to work on but other than that, Doze is primed for a solid season.
TEAM ROLE: Starting PF will be his this coming season. GM Jron was high on him and was trying to acquire him ever since Carroll left. He sees the same skill-set with Doze and with patience and development Doze can even progress into something better.
Anthony Egekeze - The focus on Egekeze is his offense, never known to be a factor in offense the staff decided to put his focus on the offensive end of the basketball and have him watch film about the offense and his role while also committing drills that will improve his shot around the basket. It worked as he showed improvements on those area.
TEAM ROLE: Because of his size and skill set, he may have a hard time cracking the rotation, he was signed to give depth the PF position but with the emergence of some of the frontcourt players that the team signed/acquired it will be a challenge for Egekeze to get minutes.
Corey Anderton - The 24-years old was focused on rebounding and defense, although the team did see some improvement at the rebounding aspect of his game, his defense didn't move a needle in development. His rebounding skills showed some marginal improvement, especially in positioning and boxing out.
TEAM ROLE: Like his 'Jacks teammate Jerrelle Newman, he likely to see his name on the IR list as right now, he has no role that he can fit in the roster. The team is also not entirely sure if he will be part of the plans long term.
James Spencer - The focus on Spencer is his fitness, having a history of being injury prone the team made sure that his strength and conditioning will be up par for the wear and tear of the coming season. It paid off as he improved not only his endurance and defense but also his overall game. He seems passive on improving and being a key contributor in LA. He studied the team's defensive sets well and worked on it hard. His improvement in training camp is vital to the team's success this upcoming season.
TEAM ROLE: Will man the starting center position in LA. He will reportedly get more minutes than he ever had with Atlanta which means he is a vital cog in LA's system. The prized acquisition this offseason will have a big role in LA's big hopes this season.
Rahmond "T-Rex" Thompson - T-Rex worked on getting his post scoring to another level, that was his focus. He looked good as he also watch films with regards his role in the system. T-Rex worked hard and the team hopes it carries over in the regular season. Like Doze, T-Rex gained weight to be able to be more effective inside, already a strong presence due to his power he added 11 lbs from 227 lbs to 238 lbs that will significantly be an asset for him.
TEAM ROLE: T-Rex is looking to be the team's 6th man as the staff wanted to allocate T-Rex enough minutes to showcase his talent, the athletic power frontcourt man looks to prove what he can do. After an impressive training camp he will look to get minutes at both the C and PF position.
Ivan "Vujo" Vujosevic - The team basically focused on Vujo's scoring inside and close to the basket, already a proven defender with athleticism, Vujo sees quality improvement around the basket in terms of scoring. He was also tasked at rebounding drills, overall improvement was evident as he was one of the biggest surprises in the camp.
TEAM ROLE: The team was thoroughly impressed with Vujo that he will reportedly get minutes at both C and PF positions and pushed Egekeze out of the rotation. His size and athleticism was intriguing enough that the coaching staff, went on and find him minutes.
One of the last signings for the Fireballs last free agency and looking like a bargain at the veteran minimum. The athletic defender