Lakers: D-Fenders Vets Talk NBA Summer League, Country Music and More

The Los Angeles Lakers D-League affiliate, the D-Fenders, opened up camp last week with 17 players on the roster

It’s a new season for the D-Fenders who just cut down their roster to 14 from 17 waiving three players. The Los Angeles D-Fenders press release stated that they, “Waived forward Dii’Jon Allen-Jordan, guard Wally Ellenson and guard Jerome Seagears, it was announced today [Nov. 4th] by General Manager Nick Mazzella.”

The final roster will eventually be cut down to ten, and that means Head Coach Coby Karl will have to decide who will make the final roster. The current 14-man roster includes eight guards, four at forward and two centers.

That said, there’s a good chance that Ivica Zubac will probably join the team through the season and others at times like previous seasons. Last season, the D-Fenders saw 23 players at one time on the roster.

Three of the six returners, guard Vander Blue (left), forward Justin Harper (right) and point guard Josh Magette (center), sat down with the Lake Show Life to catch up with them and their journey through the D-Fenders to the NBA. We asked them a bunch of questions. All three of these players have played in the NBA for some amount of time and/or played in the NBA Summer League.

Last season, Vander ranked No. 2 in the D-League in average points per game at 26.2 ppg, Josh ranked No. 1 in assists at 9.2 assists per game and No. 1 with 2.2 steals per game. Justin ranked No. 4 in free throw percentage 89.1. For more information, here are their stats from last season.

Per Game Table for the D-Fenders Vander Blue, Justin Harper and Josh Magette
Player G GS MP FG FG% 3P 3P% 2P 2P% FT FT% TRB AST STL BLK PTS
Vander Blue 48 48 38.3 8.6 .440 1.9 .330 6.7 .484 7.3 .810 5.0 3.4 1.8 0.0 26.3
Justin Harper 42 26 28.9 5.6 .472 2.1 .391 3.5 .538 2.0 .891 5.7 1.6 0.7 0.7 15.3
Josh Magette 45 45 38.0 4.0 .390 1.9 .327 2.2 .469 1.6 .805 4.5 9.1 2.4 0.1 11.5
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/9/2016.

What is the difference so far from last season? Do you see anything different off the top of your head?

Josh for the group: “I would say I think we’re trying to play a little faster, a little more up-tempo. We scored a lot of points last year, but I think coach wants to even push the envelope a little more and get up and down and let us play free and let us show our best abilities to the people who are watching.”

What did you focus on in your summer workouts to get better if anything?

Vander, “I spent a lot of the summer working on ball handling and shooting, I really didn’t do much on finishing, I’m pretty solid about that. I wanted to make sure I get my shot a little better than it was last year and really work on handling the ball so I can get to better spots and get guys in a better position.”

Justin, “Me? Working better at close outs. With a lot of my shooting ability, people flying at me, being able to attack the rim off the dribble, and finishing off catching in pick and roll situations, and finishing and making reads.”

Josh, “I worked on my strength, this is the heaviest I have ever been. I then just being able to knock down open shots, I think I shot 33 or 34 from three last year.” He made a half court shot with ease at practice by the way.

Most memorable or fun Summer experience?

All three felt this could potentially be a dangerous question, so we figure they had a great summer.

Vander, “Going to China for a couple of weeks, playing out there getting that experience for a couple of weeks. That was probably the most exciting thing I did this summer.”

We had a follow-up question for Vander; we asked him if he starved or if he ate the food in China as we have heard from Metta World Peace that he didn’t necessarily like the food in China. “Nah, I starved,” said Vander with a grimace, “For real, it was bad, it was bad.”

Justin, “For me? I went to Montreal. I was able to take a trip with some friends of mine from Montreal for F1 weekend, and that was pretty cool.”

Oct 16, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Atlanta Hawks guard Josh Magette (7) shoots the ball against the Orlando Magic during the second half at Amway Center. The Hawks won 105-98. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 16, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Atlanta Hawks guard Josh Magette (7) shoots the ball against the Orlando Magic during the second half at Amway Center. The Hawks won 105-98. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Josh, “I’ll just say playing in Summer League was cool, I’ve never played in the Orlando one and played in Vegas was fun, just seeing everybody who comes into town and being out there for a couple of games was a cool experience.”

Josh played on the Nets in Vegas and on the Magic in Orlando in summer league play.

Most fun thing to do in Los Angeles  (none of these guys are native Los Angeleans, although Vander lets us know he spends a lot of time in LA)?

Vander, “I’m just appreciating just the weather, just the vibe everything’s pretty fun. I went to the Grunion run this summer, I got a chance to do that, I think that was pretty cool.”

If you don’t know, in the summer months on the coast of California, the grunion fish come to shore to lay eggs and fertilize them in droves, the waves seem to light up with them, so you go at night to watch or catch them if you have a license.

Justin, “I’m more of a low-key guy, so everything like the glitz and glamor of LA, I don’t really fall in love with it. As far as Hollywood though, I’ve been to the Walk of Fame and some of that stuff but I prefer to stay in this area, the South Bay, all the beach cities is probably my favorite part of LA.”

We wondered if Justin’s favorite beach was Manhattan, Hermosa or Redondo as we know some Lakers live on the beach in Redondo. “Probably Manhattan [Beach].”

Josh, “I would agree with Vander, I just like taking advantage of the good weather and being outside, I don’t get weather like this, year-round at home.”

Vander added that he enjoys going to Dave and Buster’s and Justin wants a Top Golf (like in Vegas) in Los Angeles, and Vander was surprised there was no Top Golf in LA. Top Golf, what are you thinking? Vander says you need three of them, and we totally agree, one is not enough for Los Angeles.

Are you going to up your social media game this season? 

T.C. Greene, the D-Fenders new PR Master, answered this hot potato, “I definitely think we are going to do more, Snapchat is probably not in the works, just simply because of the evolution of Instagram. I think you can look out for more stuff on social, it just depending on how the staff shakes out.”

If you could have an actor/actress/singer to adopt your team who would it be? The Lakers have Jack Nicholson, and the Raptors have Drake and the D-Fenders would like to have…?

Vander, “Young Thug, he can take over the squad!”

Justin, “Kevin Hart.”

Josh suggested “Will Ferrell,” and Justin thought that would be cool.

Do you Play Video games? If so which is your favorite?

BOOM! We finally asked a question where their collective eyes lit up like, ‘Finally, a question I can definitively answer.’

Vander, “Too much! I play 2K, NBA 2K.”

Justin, “All the time! My favorite game is FIFA.”

Josh, “NBA 2K.”

Favorite Restaurant?

Vander, “Maestros.”

Justin, “My favorite restaurant is Papadeaux’s [Seafood Kitchen chain] in Texas and Atlanta.”

Josh, “I like Papadeaux’s a lot, my favorite place in LA is probably…” Vander chimed in with “Johnny Rockets.” Laughter ensued until Josh continued, “There’s a little spot Bacari in Play Del Rey.” Justin now want to check out Bacari, us too!

Justin also likes “Houston’s a lot out here. RG  put us all onto Houstons last year.”  Vander said that Houstons has the best spinach artichoke dip ever.

, Who is RG? A major part of last year’s championship contender D-Fenders, he is their former teammate and now Assistant Coach for the Brooklyn Nets affiliate Long Island Nets, Ryan Gomes.

What song or artist when it comes up during warmups, gets you pumped up?

Vander, “Young Thug, ‘Turn Me up Right No,’and Dollar Sign.” The last concert he went to was Drake and Future, “It was lit, man.”

Justin, “Right now, I say either J. Cole or 21 Savage.” He was able to catch J. Cole live, he went to the 2014 Forest Hills Drive concert, but as he said, he is low key and he doesn’t really like concerts.

Josh, “Whatever dude, whatever’s on, it doesn’t take much [to get him pumped to play].”

Laughter ensued, “He knows all the words,” said Vander, “I don’t control the playlist,” said Josh. Clearly, Josh is outnumbered here, the last concert he went too was Avery Brothers at the Greek Theater, he’s into country music, but he doesn’t get to play it during practice.

Neither Vander or Justin have ever heard of the Avery Brothers, more laughter.

And lastly, we asked each of these ballers..What other things have you tried or are good at?

Vander responded first with, “I’m really good at ice hockey, I used to skate every week and I used to be a big swimmer.” Well, we learn something new every day and that was new to his teammates. They were impressed.

Josh likes to play golf and would like to be a better golfer.

Justin used to play the saxophone, but he made sure we knew he played long ago.

We hope you enjoyed getting to know these very determined and skilled basketball players. The Lake Show Life will be at their first game Friday, November 11th at the Toyota Sports Facility (The Lakers and Kings practice facility).

The D-Fenders new court venue and Lakers headquarters will not be completed until the 2018 season, so this is your chance to watch future and prior NBA players in the most intimate venue you will ever have a chance to watch a game of this caliber. They want you to come out and be entertained, and they want you to make sure Young Thug comes with you.

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