The last time Reggie Bush suited up for the Trojans was in the 2006 Rose Bowl.You wouldn’t have known it at Saturday’s practice, which featured the first intrasquad scrimmage of the spring.Young stunner · Early enrollee freshman running back Dillon Baxter finished his first USC scrimmage with 94 rushing yards on just nine carries, including one rush of 50 yards. – Geo Tu | Daily Trojan Freshman running back Dillon Baxter put on his best Bush impression during the scrimmage, dazzling the crowd with ankle-breaking cuts and a pair of long runs. Baxter finished with 94 yards on just nine carries, including a 50-yard touchdown run that left several defenders on their backsides.“I thought [Baxter] was phenomenal,” USC coach Lane Kiffin said. “His scoring run looked like Reggie Bush’s against Fresno State in 2005. It didn’t matter who was in front of him, nobody could stop him.”His teammates were just as impressed by his touchdown run. Baxter emerged from a pile near the right sideline and wove around defenders on his way to the end zone.“Dillon definitely did some crazy stuff today,” redshirt junior running back Marc Tyler said. “It was fun out there watching him. He did some crazy, stupid stuff today, like a damn videogame.”Baxter is just one of the running backs looking to work their way into the rotation this spring. Senior Allen Bradford is the leading returning rusher for USC and should be a workhorse for the Trojans. Bradford, who rushed for 668 yards and eight touchdowns last season, carried the ball a team-high 10 times during the scrimmage for 27 yards.“Whatever coach Kiffin gives me I’m going to take by the reins and do the best I can,” Bradford said.Part of his responsibilities this season will be mentoring the younger players. Bradford said he has been sharing a simple message with them this spring.“Go out there and do the little stuff right,” he said. “It’s the little stuff that counts. You can’t look for the big plays every time you get the ball. The big plays are going to come.”The big plays certainly came on Saturday for Baxter, who had a slow start to spring practice. He ripped off another long run later in the scrimmage that had defenders turned in circles. Now that the freshman — who enrolled in school early so he could take part in spring practice — is getting comfortable, more big plays like the two he had on Saturday could be on the way.Another running back trying to make an impression on the new coaching staff is Tyler. A top prospect coming out of high school, injuries held Tyler back in his first two seasons. He wants to focus this year on staying healthy.“The past years I’ve been getting hurt, and that’s really hurt my chances of playing and getting in there,” Tyler said. “If I stay healthy, anything can happen.”If Tyler can avoid the injuries that have plagued him thus far, he and Bradford should give the Trojans a formidable one-two punch. And if Baxter and speedy sophomore Curtis McNeal can give USC a pair of home run threats the team could have a running attack not unlike the old backfield tandem of Bush and LenDale White.A number of other USC players turned in standout performances on Saturday. Sophomore quarterback Matt Barkley and senior receiver Ronald Johnson connected for a pair of touchdowns, including a 70-yard strike, and junior defensive tackle Da’John Harris recorded five tackles and returned a stripped ball 52 yards.
Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with Packers“The way Julius was rolling to the basket in the fourth quarter (on Sunday),” Walton said, “I’d like to get them some minutes together. You could go down the line. … I’d like to keep Brook and Lonzo in together.”The problem with achieving all of those wishes should by now be obvious.“A lot of those guys are overlapping positions,” Walton lamented, “and we’re not going to play Lonzo 48 minutes.”Corey Brewer has often compared playing with Ball to his days alongside Andre Miller in Denver and Jason Kidd in Dallas.“He makes the game easier for you,” Brewer said. “When you’ve got a guy like that who’s going to get you the ball in the right spots, the game comes easy so you want to play with him.” LOS ANGELES — The close bond shared by Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball is on display during pregame banter in front of their side-by-side lockers and half-court shooting contests at practice. They live only a mile apart in Marina del Rey, though Kuzma joked Wednesday that the pair had not yet carpooled to practice.“He don’t want to pick me up,” Kuzma said. “He usually has a full car at practice. Brings the entourage.”As Kuzma teased, Ball rolled his eyes.The pair’s chemistry is reflected on the floor, as well. Coach Luke Walton said before the Lakers’ game against Washington that he is searching for opportunities to pair the pals on the floor more often. Although, the more he looked at that, he realized that was true of everyone. Kuzma said he and Ball click so well on the floor because they are both comfortable playing fast.“He likes to push the pace on offense in transition,” Kuzma said. “I’m usually one of the first ones down the floor, (it leads to) just easy baskets like that. We’ve had good chemistry since summer league, just playing with each other.”The 27th pick in June’s draft, acquired along with Brook Lopez in the D’Angelo Russell deal, Kuzma has looked comfortable regardless of who he shares the floor with. In his first three games, he averaged 14.7 points while shooting 60.7 percent from the floor.In some ways, he has been surprised by his own NBA success, saying it has been “easier than what I thought, yes, but at the same time it’s hard, too.”“I’m a pretty smart basketball player,” said Kuzma, who played three years of college at Utah. “I pick up on things easily, but you’re still playing against the best players in the world and you have to guard those guys.”THE RETURN OF BRYANTThe Lakers on Wednesday assigned rookie Thomas Bryant to their G-League affiliate, the South Bay Lakers. A few hours later, they called him back.Expect that to happen frequently this season, as the team tries to get the center from the University of Indiana practice time in the NBA Gatorade League and with Walton’s Lakers.“The G-League is great for this reason,” Walton said. “He has been great in practice. He brings energy. He’s a good young player. But we’ve got three games in four nights. And again next week. There’s just not a ton of practice time.”Walton said Bryant, who has not appeared in a regular-season game, needs to be playing every day. On Wednesday, he participated in morning shootaround with the Lakers, practiced with the South Bay affiliate, and was back for tipoff against the Wizards.“It’s just getting those guys as much development as possible because there’s not minutes in the rotation for them,” Walton said. “It allows them to keep growing as players.”
Coach Luke Walton said he felt it was the first time in the preseason that he thought the team played with both the pace and the control he’s seeking – and it’s not coincidental that it happened in Ball’s first game back. Having two true point guards with Ball and Rajon Rondo seemed to stabilize a second unit that has played without cohesion in the preseason.“Tonight, it was definitely better than it was a few games ago,” he said. “We still had a couple possessions where that ball was flying up the court with zero dribbles, and that’s who we want to be.”Ball said it took him some time to catch his breath in the first quarter, but others said they didn’t see as many signs that he was laboring. While he hasn’t dunked much in practice, Kyle Kuzma said, he’s seen signs that Ball’s offseason conditioning has helped him a lot.“I don’t know how he does it,” Kuzma said. “He’s always been that way, and I think the weight room helped him gain more athleticism in the offseason. You can kind of see it in how fast he runs up and down the floor.”Wednesday night was also interesting for a twist in the closely watched position battle between Ball and Rondo: They played together. With both on the floor, the Lakers were able to push the throttle in transition (they totaled 38 fast-break points in the game to Golden State’s 17).While neither made a 3-point shot – which is a potential flaw in the lineup – Walton said he liked the look and the flexibility it gives the Lakers in specific quick half-court actions. Ball said he was also comfortable sharing the floor with him.“You got two point guards on the court at once: push me to the two, I can guard twos,” Ball said. “I don’t think that is a problem, and I did it at UCLA so not a big deal.”FREE-THROW TURNSTYLEWhat popped off of Brandon Ingram’s stat sheet on Wednesday wasn’t his 26 points, but how he got them: He was 15 for 17 from the free-throw line.It was a part of a night in which the Lakers shot a whopping 46 free throws (making 38), with Walton admitting, “it’s a lot – I’ll leave it at that.” But the Lakers have hoped to see more free throws in general from Ingram, who averaged just under five attempts per game last year.“Being a great scorer in this league, you’ve got to be a pretty good free-throw shooter and you’ve got to get to the line a lot,” Walton said. “We’re encouraging (Ingram) to be aggressive but we also need him to continue to move the ball when the defense has done a good job of loading up, but when he gets to the line like that he’s a very good player.”HART BACK IN ACTIONSecond-year guard Josh Hart didn’t score a point against the Warriors on Wednesday night, but he did play for just over 10 minutes. While a hamstring tweak kept him out of some practices early in the week, he went through shootaround Wednesday morning before playing one stint in the first half.“He wanted to go back in, said he didn’t feel anything,” Walton said. “But I agreed with him before the game I was gonna give him one long run and that was it.”Related Articles Lakers, Clippers schedules set for first round of NBA playoffs Trail Blazers, Grizzlies advance to NBA play-in game; Suns, Spurs see playoff dreams dashed LAS VEGAS — For all the hand-wringing about Lonzo Ball’s knee, it seemed to be in good shape as the 20-year-old-point guard cruised through the air a few feet above the court on Wednesday night.He was in his first game back since offseason surgery that the Lakers had been incredibly cautious about rushing him back from. He was playing with a few teammates he had never shared the floor with before, including the very man who was sending him an alley-oop, LeBron James.But to Ball, crushing that second-quarter dunk off James’ pass was the most normal thing in the world as he enters his second season with the Lakers – and perhaps served as a reminder that this is his natural role.“That was my first time playing on his team,” he said. “But that is my play. We run it all the time, and he threw it up there for me.” AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with Packers How athletes protesting the national anthem has evolved over 17 years It wasn’t all easy for Ball, who started his preseason debut against the Golden State Warriors with a pair of turnovers and an airball. But with seven points, two assists and four steals, Ball also helped define what his role will be on this year’s Lakers, even if it won’t be the one he got last year when he was handed the keys after being drafted.When Ball was on the floor, the Lakers outscored the Warriors by eight. The game also saw the Lakers notch 28 assists against just 19 turnovers while ripping 13 steals off the Warriors. Lakers practice early hoping to answer all questions Trail Blazers beat Grizzlies in play-in, earn first-round series with the Lakers Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error