Wednesday, October 22, 2014
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LakerNation

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“He is arguably the greatest player in the history of the Lakers’ franchise. He is also destroying it from within.”

It is simple. It is to the point. It is wrong.

On Monday, ESPN published an article online from writer Henry Abbott, who takes aim at Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant for being the sole reason the franchise has fallen off the last few seasons.

Let me be clear, when I say wrong, I do not mean the article is full of baseless information. In fact, there are stories in it that would not surprise me to be true. More times than not, Kobe has not exactly been the ideal teammate that players gravitate to nor will he ever pretend to lower expectations for his teammates causing tension along the way. This has been the narrative attributed to Kobe over his entire career. It is nothing new.

Where Abbott is wrong is letting his feelings towards Kobe get in the way of his job as journalist and writer. Instead his personal vendetta turned his opinion article into an unnecessary hack job of one man’s character.

I am not exactly sure when or where Abbott’s animosity towards Kobe began, but it is no secret Abbott is not a Lakers/Kobe guy and it is safe to assume the two do not exchange greeting cards during the holidays. Abbott has written many pieces over the past few years criticizing the shooting guard and it seems to only get more frequent with every passing season. Again, this is nothing new.

The main issue with Abbott’s article is it is completely one-sided. He knew exactly what direction he wanted to go in and used as much negative, second-hand information in his story to add “credibility” to his opinion. I am not sure what happened to the days of credible sources in journalism and it is clear Abbott is not sure either.

Here is a list of Abbott’s sources of information: “Rival GM”, “One long-time agent”, “Another agent with Lakers clients”, “An agent with numerous stars”, “An agent who once had a FA decline a Lakers offer”, “Front office executive from a rival team who knows everyone involved”, “Sources told ESPN Insider Chris Broussard”, “One Lakers source”, “One source in the Lakers circle”, “Source”, “Source with knowledge of the negotiations”, “One rival front office executive”, “Another NBA executive”, “Source close to Lakers decision makers”, “Sources”, and finally a “Lakers insider”.

Abbott’s attempt at bringing up different situations to tear down Kobe is weak at best. There are many different sides of a story and Abbott was motivated to find the side that went against Kobe, while ignoring every other side out there, even if it was reported by the network he is associated with.

It would not be any fun for him if he had to report a positive story Kobe. Kobe is arguably the most unpopular popular player in sports history and as a result a negative story on him will garner more clicks to meet that monthly quota.

Let’s take a look at some of the examples Abbott lays out in his article and put them up to the source test:

Dwight Howard leaving Lakers because of Kobe? Or was Howard upset at how he was treated in LA and wanted to be the man immediately?

To start off, let’s play the unnamed source game: “According to sources with knowledge of the situation, part of the discussion between Howard and Kupchak centered around Howard’s frustration with D’Antoni — particularly how the center felt marginalized as the coach looked to Bryant and Steve Nash for leadership and suggestions and discounted Howard’s voice.” - Dave McMenamin, ESPN

Now let’s go with named sources…

Steve Nash: “Dwight had some issues with the season,” Nash said. “I think it kind of basically goes with what he said to the media that he never quite felt embraced in L.A. He never quite felt supported. That’s basically it.” - Dave McMenamin, ESPN

Phil Jackson: And Kobe made a moving speech during the pitch, promising to teach Dwight the secret of winning championships that he’d learned from the best in the game.

If the meeting had ended there, it might have worked. But after the presentation, Dwight asked Kobe what he was planning to do after he recovered from his Achilles injury. Was this going to be his last year? “No,” replied Kobe. “I’m planning to be around for three or four more years.”

At that point, according to others in the room, Dwight’s eyes went blank and he drifted away. In his mind, the game was over. - New York Daily News

Dwight Howard himself: “A lot of people say, ‘Well, if you would’ve waited a couple years, then this could’ve been yours (with the Lakers),’ And I’m like, ‘In a couple years, I’m 30,’” Howard said. “I don’t want to wait. I’ve been in the league 10 years. I don’t want to wait for things to happen. I want to be aggressive, to make things happen. And I’m looking at all these young guys who are just ready, and they’re missing one piece. And I’m like, ‘I could be that piece, and I don’t want to miss my chance.” – Sam Amick, USA Today

How about Ramon Sessions leaving the Lakers because of Kobe?

“Sessions has been somewhat evasive as to why, but he has been quoted as saying it was “definitely different” playing with Bryant. Internally, the Lakers were rattled by his departure and came to believe that Kobe was the key. It meant little as a transaction but everything as a sign of how players with options view this team.” – Abbott

Ramon Sessions in 2012, on why he left the Lakers: “It was one of those situations I looked at like, ‘If I do come back what if they trade me?’ ” Sessions said. “There were talks about getting Deron. They always wanted the bigger-named guy. What if I get traded to a team and it’s my contract year? It was one of those things that I can’t say if I opted in, [Nash] wouldn’t have come. They still might have tried to get him. You just never know.” - Yahoo! Sports

Paul George staying with Indiana because of Kobe? 

“Paul George, Angelino through and through, had once been the team’s safest choice. But sources say one reason the two-way star had re-signed with the Pacers in the fall of 2013 instead was that he was turned off by the thought that Bryant would police his efforts.” – Abbott

Paul George response on Twitter:

Kobe must be so influential to the point that a player from another team, who in fact idolized Kobe growing up, evening wearing his number in college and in the NBA, was scared off by playing with him that he was forced to sign a 5-year, $91.57M contract.

And finally Jim Buss, who apparently hates Kobe in a Lakers uniform:

The view in the Lakers’ front office is that any real rebuild will have to wait until after Bryant’s retirement. “This has finally come home,” says a Lakers insider. “Major players don’t want to play with Kobe, and Jimmy is waiting for him to leave. – Abbott

Buss really wanted to Kobe to leave to the point where he gave the veteran a 2-year, $48.5M extension as he recovered from an Achilles heel injury that sometimes ends the careers of athletes. The logical thing would have been for Buss to tell Kobe they were moving forward with the future if he really wanted him to leave. The injury gave him the perfect opportunity to get rid of Kobe. Then again, that is the logical thing to do.

Now I understand unnamed sources are what drives sports stories and the media, but Kobe has been in the league 19 years and you’re telling me Abbott was unable to reach out to any of his ex-teammates? You know players that actually PLAYED with him. Why not ask Pau Gasol why it was so difficult to leave LA for Chicago this past summer? What about Derek Fisher? Rick Fox? Lamar Odom? How about current teammates like Steve Nash?

Or what about Shaquille O’Neal who has been completely open about his relationship with Kobe in the past? Much was made about Kobe running the center out of LA but even Shaq was candid in his reasons:

“It was a money situation, I was getting older,” he continued. “They wanted me to take less money. I wasn’t going to do that, so they traded me to Miami.”

On his relationship with Kobe on the court:

“We didn’t have a bad relationship, because we won three out of four championships,” O’Neal said. “That’s not a bad relationship at all.”

While Abbott was tracking down his anonymous sources, it is hard to believe he could not contact players that would be willing to go on record for his article. Whether the opinion of those teammates would be good or bad, it would provide the piece with far more credibility.  In addition, some of the sources were that of rival teams and agents, who have much to gain from trashing Kobe for individual, client, and franchise gain. As for “sources” inside the Lakers organization, it would be surprising to see if these sources are in fact as close to the situation as portrayed by Abbott.

Is Kobe going to win the award for best teammate? No. Is Kobe difficult to play with? He is. Does Kobe demand the same type of passion and commitment from teammates that he demands from himself? You bet. Certain players can play with Kobe, some cannot and that is what it comes down to.

When it comes to the big name free agents, let’s not ignore the fact the Lakers are consistently over the salary cap and this past off-season was the first time since the 90′s the team had a chance to add large contracts. LeBron James was always going back home to Cleveland and while Carmelo Anthony was intrigued by the Lakers, it was difficult for him to say no to Phil Jackson and $124M. Don’t see how Kobe played a part in either of those situations.

The Lakers being at the bottom of the league at the moment is not about one player. It is about a wide-array of things that Abbott fails to mention.

After the league vetoed the Lakers acquisition of Chris Paul, that can be seen as a good starting point as to when the purple and gold empire began to fall. A Paul trade would have been a precursor to another move that would have brought together Kobe, Paul, and Howard to form one of the more intriguing threesomes in NBA history. It was a typical Lakers plan that would have resulted in yet another dynasty… but it did not happen for “basketball reasons”.

That is no Lakers bias either from my end, it’s a shared sentiment from other reporters such as Eric Pincus:

Instead the Lakers went to plan B, which included trading an unhappy Lamar Odom for a draft pick, sending a bunch of draft picks to the Suns for Steve Nash and still being able to bring Howard in from the Magic.

From there, coaching issues with Mike Brown and Mike D’Antoni, terrible luck on the injury front, and lack of resources to trade for players (you know the thing the Lakers always have done to bring in talent, not in free agency) to compete in the Western Conference, have all played more of a role to the decline of the Lakers than Kobe has.

To place the blame on one player for the fall of a franchise is irresponsible. It is even more irresponsible to try and pass off an article as “opinion” with “facts” while your sources all hide behind anonymity.

While Abbott can attempt to blame Kobe for the fall of the Lakers, this is a prime example of a problem within media today. More than that, this piece just goes on to further the fall of respectable, honest journalism.

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Photo Credit | Getty Images

Laker Nation!

Basketball is back. Training camp is in full swing. Practice highlights exploding online.

Laker legends current and old are working hard. Coach Scott instills a culture from center court as his soldiers sprint past him. Kobe Bryant showing the young fellas that he still has some Mamba left in him.mitchk1.jpg

But the 2014-15 season is not about the product currently on the court. Look up in the owners’ box and the general manager’s office to find the important action this year.

There are no championship expectations for this group of Lakers. Hell, the playoffs seem like a long shot.

It’s easy to talk yourself into this Lakers team. Kobe’s back! Lin is a good player! Julius Randle, the future! Carlos Boozer has had a productive career! Coach Scott has to make this team better on defense!

But any optimism crumbles under further examination. Kobe may be back, but he’s 36, and hasn’t played consistent basketball in 18 months. Even if he is at the peak of his powers, is his supporting cast better than the one that won 45 games in 2007 under coach Phil Jackson? Kobe dropped 35 a game that year, and had a player better than any current Laker (Lamar Odom). Plus, the 45 wins they managed would not make the playoffs out west this season.

Lin is a nice point guard, but look up in the standings and see Tony Parker, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook…even Mike Conley and Eric Bledsoe. He’s not the elite talent that the Lakers need to reach the top. Randle looks good, but he’s still a rookie, and will take a few years to become reliable through the grind of an entire NBA season. Boozer was not good last year in Chicago. Even if he bounces back to his peak, he’s no Dirk or Tim Duncan. Zach Randolph, Anthony Davis, and LaMarcus Aldridge have his number too, all standing between the Lakers and the Finals. Going down the roster, the Lakers will be the lesser talented team most nights on the floor. That’s not a recipe for a deep playoff run. Coach Scott is a bright spot, but even he acknowledged it might be rough going this year.

So how should we, as fans experience this season? Should we numb ourselves and find a (deserving) scapegoat like last year?

Enjoy the high moments, relish our last few glimpses at 24, and our first few at Julius Randle?

We have to acknowledge that this team does not have a realistic shot at a title this year, but Laker Nation, we do not have to accept it.

Voice your displeasure when OKC comes to town and smacks us up. Or when Kevin Love, whom many Lakers fans wanted to see play here, comes to town flanking LeBron in Cleveland.

The goal is still to win the championship. We can’t win it this year, people will say, so find a new goal, a new way to value this season.

They are wrong. This season is a failure, just as last season was, and the one before that.

Do not accept a mediocre product. We struck out this summer, just as we did last summer. That does not make it ok. We don’t need to change our perception or expectations for the Lakers.

Photo Credit: Andrew D. Bernstien, NBA Getty Images
Photo Credit: Andrew D. Bernstien, NBA Getty Images

Luckily, our front office hasn’t. Mitch Kupchak declared, “our expectations are to win a

championship. The expectations outside of this room might not be the same,” just last week. However, the failure of this season is still a repercussion of poor moves made over the last few years. They have their eye on the prize, and we cannot let them get complacent. Continue to demand excellence from the Lakers. Championship or bust. Every year. Even the busts.

We have to endure it, but not accept it.

There is hope. The front office has flexibility moving forward, and their words and actions reflect those of an organization pursuing championships, not mediocrity. That’s why we don’t see Luol Deng, or Trevor Ariza in the purple in gold, though they would have made the immediate team better.

B-Scott is the right guy. The team is not spinning its wheels in second round purgatory. We got a top draft pick this summer, and the organization is not pleased with the prospect of continuing to slide. It will not feel like it this year, but we are on the way up again.

But monitor the situation, Laker Nation. Climbing to the top of the mountain is tough, and sometimes even a great organization needs a kick in the butt to make that final push (i.e. the 2005 season ticket holders demanding Phil Jackson’s return).

Suffer this season, Laker Nation, but be ready.

Endure the taunts of the fans of 29 other teams. They will tell you “Stop complaining. Our team hasn’t won in like 25 years. It’s ok for you to go a few years without winning a championship.”

No, it is not.

Every year lakers-bannersthe Lakers don’t win the championship sucks. Do not numb the pain by succumbing to their way of thinking. Do not lower your expectations, or alter your definition of success to align it with the reality of this moment.

Supporting the Lakers through thick and thin does not mean blindly cheering for a subpar product. It means encouraging the pursuit of greatness. Of dynasties. Of the type of sustained excellence that the Lakers organization has always pursued. Sometimes it means being entitled, demanding excellence, and not being satisfied with simply above average. Sometimes it means booing at a home game, or calling for the firing of a poor coach. Sometimes it means being called “fair weather” by fanbases that don’t understand, that scream their lungs out for teams that miss the playoffs for decades, while their owners pocket the profits of loss.

The Lakers are still pursuing excellence. From the Buss family on down, the organization is pointed in the right direction.

But this year is going to hurt. It’s a failure. Acknowledge it, but do not accept it. Stay vigilant.

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Photo Credit to FoxSports.com

The injury bug that caused Lakers players to miss a league-high 319 games due to injury cannot seem to go away.

The Lakers reported on Friday that guard Nick Young will be out for 6-8 weeks after sustaining a torn ligament on his right thumb.  The play occurred when Young attempted to steal the ball from Kobe Bryant during a scrimmage earlier in the day.

This is a rough start to the Lakers’ season preparations.  Also lost was Ryan Kelly, who is dealing with a hamstring injury.

With Young out, the team loses their primary scorer off the bench.  On the other hand, this is a strong chance for the other players to step into that role.  All eyes will be on Wayne Ellington, Ronnie Price, and Jordan Clarkson as primary candidates to fill the void.

Young is scheduled to have surgery on Monday.

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Image: J. Alexander Diaz/Lakers.com

It remains to be seen if the Lakers will be a playoff contender this season, but if anything, it will surely be the best conditioned team in the league if day one of training camp is any indication.

On Tuesday, the Lakers held its first practice of the new season, getting a fresh start under new head coach Byron Scott, who gave the team a taste of what to expect under his watch.

“I want to be a great conditioned team. That’s the bottom line,” said Scott. “The thing that I told our guys, ‘We’re going to lose some games this year, but it’s not going to be because the other team is in better shape.”

Running was undoubtedly the word of the day as players went through conditioning drills throughout practice and finishing the day running suicides, leaving players, both veterans and rookies, bent over at the waist trying to catch their breath. At the very end, Nick Young tiredly took a seat under the basket, eventually asking rookie Jordan Clarkson to help him to his feet.

Kobe Bryant made his much anticipated return to the court, participating in an official practice for the first time since last December. According to Scott, Kobe went through three quarters of the practice before being asked to shut it down, despite Kobe’s wishes of wanting to continue.

“He wanted to go more, but right now it’s just a progression of going a little bit a day,” said Scott.

Despite Kobe sitting out the final 30 to 40 minutes of practice, the 36-year old admitted the running was more than he had experienced in his career.

“It’s probably the most running I’ve ever done in an NBA practice,” said Kobe. “Actually it is, for sure. I’ve never run this much.”

The good news for Lakers fans is despite the extra work, Kobe said he felt like himself and that the injuries are in the past. He understands that at an older age, he must monitor his activity level more closely in practice, in order to “have something left in the tank every single day.”

Defense was another focal point on the first day, which should not come as a surprise as Scott made it known in interviews that Lakers basketball must start on that end of the floor. The conditioning and defense are things that go hand in hand, according to Kobe.

“Running and conditioning, that’s the biggest part,” said Kobe. “Everybody wants to play defense, but when you’re not conditioned to play defense, you go back to your natural instinct which is to play offense first.”

On Wednesday, the Lakers will begin two-a-days which will include a scrimmage with game officials. Both Kobe and Steve Nash are expected to practice in the morning session, but not later in the day. Scott said Kobe would play in all eight preseason games, to get rid of the rust after playing in only six games last season.

The first preseason game will be Tuesday Oct. 6 in San Diego at Valley View Casino Center when they take on the Denver Nuggets.

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Getty Images

Selected 46th overall in the NBA Draft, Jordan Clarkson went from relative unknown to promising prospect in a matter of four months. As the rookie guard enters his first NBA season with the Lakers, he will now try and prove his worth as a productive NBA player.

During the Las Vegas Summer League, Clarkson posted averages of 15.8 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 1.2 assists, turning some heads considering he was a second round pick. Despite his impressive summer campaign, the guard out of Missouri says his expectations have not changed.

“Really no change for me,” said Clarkson. “Just trying to bring what I brought to the summer league to the regular season but there has not really been a change.”

In college, Clarkson was known for using his athleticism to get to the rim, an ability he has shown during the summer league as well as in workouts with his teammates. At 6-foot-5, he is considered a combo guard by scouts, but Clarkson says he is simply a “playmaker” and wants to make plays for his teammates while also scoring the ball.

Although he knows what type of player he is, Clarkson noted he wants to become a more complete player by defending positions one through three and knows in what areas he aims to improve in.

“Continuing making shots, showing my intensity on the defensive end, and really just getting better at playing the point position, making the right plays.”

Being drafted by the purple and gold, a unique opportunity presents itself for Clarkson who will have the chance to learn from veteran teammates such as Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, both of whom he has had a chance to play against in workouts. When asked what is the most important thing he can do playing alongside them, a student of the game attitude came out.

“Ask questions,” said the 22-year old. “They are two of the best, future hall of famers. Just try to pick their brains and learn as much as I can during this whole season.”

Asked how Kobe looked in 5-on-5 action, who Clarkson had the assignment of guarding in their first encounter on the court, much like the other reports about Kobe’s health Clarkson’s review was positive.

“Kobe has looked amazing,” said Clarkson. “I feel bad for anyone that gets in his way. He’s nasty, he’s real. He is one of the toughest competitors I have seen so it will be good to be around that every day.”

Clarkson also went on to say that he has had time to workout with Nash on the court and in the gym, saying Nash “really got after it” and has looked like himself pre-nerve issues.

With Nash, Jeremy Lin, and Ronnie Price at the point guard position, Clarkson could be in line for some meaningful minutes this season. As practice kicks off on Tuesday, Clarkson will get the chance to earn those minutes. What he will do during the regular remains to be seen, but with his attitude, Clarkson will be a player that is very easy for the fans to root for.

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At 36 years old and coming off two major injuries, the consensus is Kobe Bryant will no longer play at an elite level when he makes his return to the court this season.

But this is Kobe Bryant we are talking about.

Never lacking motivation, Kobe has enough to prove to himself as he enters the first of his possible final two years of his career. With decline in his athleticism (age and injuries will do that), the evolution of Kobe’s game will be something to behold. A master of his craft and a student of the game, there is little doubt that he can adjust at this stage of his career.

From the 18-year old rookie, to the 27-year old who averaged 35.4 points per game, all the way to the 34-year old who put his body though hell just for his team to make the playoffs, Kobe learned to modify his game at different stages of his career. Only this time it is one last adjustment as he enters the final stage of his career.

What do I expect from Kobe? Efficiency. Kobe will continue to have the ability to score from anywhere on the floor, but will be more methodical in picking his spots to be successful. With the Lakers lacking size in the paint, expect to see Kobe frequently in the triple threat position in the post. Footwork will allow him to find success despite diminishing quickness but most importantly, his IQ will give him the advantage over most players in the league, young and old.

The days of big minutes for Kobe are over and rightfully so. After averaging 38 minutes under Mike D’Antoni and Mike Brown, expect the numbers to stay around 32 minutes with Byron Scott at the helm. Kobe’s recent low mark came in 2010-2011 at 33.9 minutes a game, when Phil Jackson was coach. Before that, Kobe had not averaged less than 35 minutes since he was 19 years old (averaged 26 minutes during the 1997-1998 season).

In a few months, Kobe will be in New York and starting for the Western Conference All-Stars. More than that, he will have earned it with his play. Health permitting, I have little trouble seeing Kobe average 24 points this season.

More than anything, the return of Kobe will produce much needed energy for the franchise and its fans. Watching the team go 27-55 was difficult to watch, but not being to observe Kobe on the court added to it. As we enter the final seasons of his career, we must not take for granted every single game he plays in and appreciate the moments he provides for Laker Nation.

The hope of a sixth championship title is there and while many will question how realistic that is, Kobe will not sell himself short of playing only to make the playoffs. Nor will Kobe set low standards for his play that so many have already done.

Kobe is ready for the final chapter in his career. Others may be trying to close the book, but he is surely only beginning to write his ending.

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AP Photo/Chris Szagola

With training camp a week away, the Lakers continued to add depth to its roster with the signing of Wayne Ellington, the team announced Monday afternoon.

Ellington, played last season for the Dallas Mavericks, shooting career-highs from the field (.437) and three-point range (.424).

The former North Carolina Tar Heel was drafted 28th overall by the Timberwolves in 2009. After three seasons in Minnesota, Ellington made stops in Cleveland, Memphis, and finally Dallas.  With career averages of 6.4 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.0 assists, Ellington provides flexibility at a position that features Kobe Bryant, Nick Young, and Xavier Henry.

The addition of Ellington puts the roster at 14.  The team can take a maximum of 15 players once the season begins at the end of October. With one last roster spot available, depth at center and point guard are two positions of need but the Lakers could also choose to stay with 14, leaving room to sign a player during the season.

 

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Photo Credit | Getty Images

On his recent Nike tour in China, Kobe Bryant sat down with a group of young basketball players and answered questions posed to him on a wide range of topics including his focus and motivation, as well as how he will perform upon returning from injury this upcoming season.

Kobe is coming off a season in which he played just six games after returning from an Achilles injury in the 2012-2013 season.  He returned in December but suffered a fracture of the lateral tibial plateau in his left knee causing the veteran to eventually shut down for the rest of the season.

As a result of those two injuries and age (turned 36 on August 23), much has been made as to how effective Kobe will be once he takes the floor this fall.  It is no secret to Kobe that his athleticism has been in decline over the last few years, but feels that will not hinder him on the court.

“I can say I want to be able to jump as high as I used to. I want to be as fast as I used to. But no; I don’t jump as high as I used to,” Kobe said. “That’s okay. I’m not as fast as I used to be. That’s okay, too. I’ll figure out another way to do it.”

While the athleticism of the 1997 Slam Dunk Contest champion is not what it once was, the skill and intelligence of the shooting guard remains.  A master of his craft, Kobe has continued to evolve his game with age, something he has done since entering the league.

“I do the moves over and over,” Kobe said. “Especially in my younger days, I didn’t really focus on trying to get my feet faster. I focused on the moves. Whether it was a fadeaway, or whether it was a crossover, I did the move over and over and over. Then, I got faster at doing moves. My feet got faster at doing the moves. When you have repetition with what it is you’re trying to do, you inevitably get better and faster at that. The most important thing in basketball isn’t speed anyway. It’s not speed. It’s skill.”

In a recent interview with Sports On Earth, general manager Mitch Kupchak gave some positive returns on how the guard has looked in workouts, which should provide Lakers fans with a sense of hope and excitement.

“My window overlooks the court, and he comes in to work out from time to time,” Kupchak said. “You would not know he’s in his mid-30s. You wouldn’t know he hurt his knee and had a torn Achilles. There’s no limp. He’s got a hop in his step. He’s working hard.”

Below is the video of the question and answer session with Kobe:

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(Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)

Byron Scott’s hiring as Lakers head coach is not only a homecoming for the franchise he once played for, but also for the city he grew up in and is already doing his part to give back to the community.

On Tuesday, Scott announced his role as a mentor at Centennial High School’s Male Academy, an intervention program for the school’s ninth and tenth grade students. During the school year, Scott will be part of the program to mentor the young men while also taking part in motivational discussions.

Scott attended Morningside High School in Inglewood, which is six miles away from Centennial in Compton.

In his introduction at the high school, Scott’s main focus was to tell the students to focus on their education more so than athletic aspirations.

Lakers reporter Mike Trudell said Scott asked how many students believed they would become professional athletes, with many hands going up.

“You have a better opportunity to be the next (President) Obama than the next LeBron,” said Scott.

The response was not in any way to discourage the students from chasing their dreams, but to drive home the point that getting their degree and education is essential.

The press conference did not come without basketball as students were able to ask questions of their own and Scott was asked by a student as to who would be starting for him once the season came around, which resulted in an interesting response from the new head coach.

“Other than Kobe, it’s up for grabs.”

It is no surprise that Kobe is penciled in as a starter, but with acquisitions such as Carlos Boozer and Jeremy Lin, to say every position other than shooting guard is open was not the answer some would expect. Although it could very well mean Scott is promoting competition as training camp opens in the coming weeks, giving legitimate shots for players like lottery pick Julius Randle to prove their worth.

As Scott begins his new tenure as head coach for the purple and gold, it is great to see him going back to his roots and giving back to the city he loves by putting effort into making a difference in the lives of the younger generation.

In the past four years, the Male Academy at Centennial High School has helped students improve attendance rates, disciplinary issues and academic performance. It is also credited for increasing graduation rates by 10 percent. The previous mentor was former NFL quarterback Vince Evans, who graduated from USC, and played for the Chicago Bears as well as the Los Angeles Raiders.

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Image Credit: Juan Ocampo

It may have been months in the making but the Lakers officially introduced Byron Scott as its new head coach at the team’s practice facility in El Segundo on Tuesday.

“The one thing I will say is that this has been a dream of mine for so long,” said Scott, who enjoyed 11 seasons with the purple and gold. “It’s a dream come true to be here sitting and talking to you guys today and be introduced as the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers.”

Since Mike D’Antoni’s resignation in April, the discussion as to who would be the next coach always circled back to Scott, who served as an analyst on Time Warner Cable SportsNet this past year.

After uncertainty the past three years with D’Antoni and Mike Brown, the hiring of Scott looks to bring stability to a franchise that desperately needs it. While stability is needed, the expectations remain the same, something that Scott made sure to acknowledge in his opening statements.

“This organization is all about championships. Period. We don’t look at Western Conference finals, Western Conference championships,” said Scott. “We look at championships.”

The press conference got off to a memorable start as Scott’s former teammates, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Jamaal Wilkes came to support their friend.

“This is a great day for all former Lakers as well as Laker fans all over the world,” said Magic. “We’re just excited for what Byron will bring to the table and get back to playing Laker basketball… Again, congratulations to the Laker organization. You chose the right guy.”

One of the other selling points other than Scott’s history with the franchise is that of his relationship with Kobe Bryant, who had issues with his two previous head coaches.

“Great relationship. I mean we get a long extremely well. We talk a lot. We text each other a lot during the season and obviously during the off-season,” said Scott, who was Kobe’s mentor during his rookie season in 1996. “I’m looking forward to coaching Kobe. I know his drive, and I know his will and determination. I think we’re on the same page as far as how we think about this game and how it should be played.”

While this is Scott’s ‘dream job’, many do not consider the roster as currently constructed a playoff team, but the new head coach is happy with his upcoming collection of players.

“I just was looking at all the moves that Jim [Buss] and Mitch [Kupchak] were making. When we talked, they would ask me my opinion, and I would give it to them. And like I said, I think they did a great job of putting this roster together,” said Scott.

“I’m excited to work with these guys on the floor too, and I think you’re going to have a few of these guys on this roster that have a chip on their shoulder, which to me is a very good thing, and you have a lot of people real down on us right now, and I think that’s something that can drive us going through the season.”

As the Lakers now move forward, trying to establish an identity for the years to come, it will be a challenge for Scott but for someone that understands expectations of the franchise and its fans; he is definitely the right choice at the moment for this team.  But what can the fans expect out the Lakers led by Scott?

“Play hard every single night, and we’ll come ready to defend.”

And after last season’s 27-55 performance, even that small promise from Scott is the step in the right direction.

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Image: Andrew D. Bernstein | Getty Images

While some believe Carlos Boozer is better suited to come off the bench for the Los Angeles Lakers, the 12-year veteran fully intends to start when next season begins.

“Absolutely,” said Boozer, in response to being asked if he thinks he will be a starter in Los Angeles at his introductory press conference Friday.

The Lakers acquired Boozer late last week, submitting the winning bid, $3.251 million, for the power forward after the Chicago Bulls used the amnesty clause.  Chicago will be responsible for paying Boozer the remaining $13.55 million on his contract that expires at the end of next season.

General Manager Mitch Kupchak said he was surprised the team was able to pick up Boozer in the bidding process.

“Unexpectedly for us, our bid was the highest bid and we were awarded Carlos,” said Kupchak. “Not for a second did we think he would be available to us.

With a front court consisting of Jordan Hill, Robert Sacre, Ryan Kelly, Ed Davis, and Julius Randle, Boozer joins a rotation as the player with the most NBA experience, which surely will be crucial when it comes to playing time.

Boozer mentioned that he has spoken multiple times to his new teammate Kobe Bryant, who played together on All-Star teams and in the 2008 Summer Olympics on the “Redeem Team”.

“Come ready. Come ready to lead. Come ready to surprise some people,” said Boozer of Kobe’s message to him.

There are concerns whether Boozer will be able to produce at a high-level. Defensively, there is not much to expect from him, but offensively he will surely help fill a void left by the departing Pau Gasol, who joined the Bulls this offseason.

The 32-year old said he continues to work hard everyday, noting he was in the gym when he found out the news of the Lakers acquiring him and while he was excited, he continued to work out for two more hours.

He will turn 33-years old in November but feels he still has a lot to offer to the Lakers and the NBA.

“My body feels great,” said Boozer. “I don’t know how long I’m going to play, maybe four or five, six more years, maybe seven.”

Boozer has been a solid contributor over his 12-year NBA career, averaging 16.6 points and 9.8 rebounds a game. His best years came in Utah where he averaged 19.3 points and 10.5 rebounds over six seasons.

In 2010, Boozer agreed to a five-year deal with the Chicago Bulls as a free agent but did not perform as well as in previous years, averaging 15.5 points and 7.1 rebounds in the last four seasons. His contract was always in question and the Bulls attempted to move him in recent seasons but with no success.

Boozer was drafted out of Duke in 2002 as a second round pick, 35th overall, by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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VIDEO: Carlos Boozer scores 19 points and grabs 12 rebounds in 101-92 victory over the Phoenix Suns

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Image: Andrew D. Bernstein | Getty Images

Welcomed by a large media contingent, Jeremy Lin was officially introduced as a Los Angeles Laker on Thursday at the team’s practice facility in El Segundo.

“Really excited to be part of this organization,” said Lin. “Obviously for me it’s a new start, a fresh start.  I’m excited to be back in the state of California.  It’s definitely good to be back.”

With Lin comes expectations and hype thanks to his rise to stardom in New York in 2011 when ‘Linsanity’ was born.  While fans and media may expect a similar performance here in Los Angeles, the 25-year old point guard let it be known that he is not attempting to put on a Hollywood sequel.

“I’m not trying to relive that banner season and I think that’s been a big weight off my shoulder. I’m not trying to recreate a ‘Linsanity,’ ” said Lin, who grew up in nearby Torrance. “I’m not trying to be that phenomenon that happened in New York. I just want to be myself more than ever.”

While Lin does not expect ‘Linsanity’ to return, he ironically is going back to No. 17, the number he wore with the Knicks when his career took off.  He wore No. 7 with the Warriors and Rockets.

As with New York, playing for the Lakers comes pressures of performing at a high-level on a national stage, but Lin says he does not feel any added pressure upon his arrival in Los Angeles.

“I feel the least amount of pressure on my shoulders now than I ever had,” said Lin, who averaged 12.5 points and 4.1 assists last season in Houston. “I try to make sure the circumstances don’t dictate the pressure I feel.”

While Lin may not feel pressure now, it could very well be a different story come training camp and the regular season.  In recent seasons, the point guard position has been somewhat of a problem for the Lakers.  The team hoped that Steve Nash could add a different dynamic to the team but unfortunately injuries have derailed those hopes and now Lin has a chance to take ahold of the starting position moving forward.

Lin brings along career averages of 11.9 points and 4.8 assists, but has shown stretches of brilliance and playing at an elite level that could translate even more so in the bright lights of Los Angeles.  While his stint in Houston was not favorable due in large part to James Harden handling the ball and running the offense, it is important to look back at what Lin did in New York when given the opportunities.

In 2011, the Lakers entered Madison Square Garden for its first look at Lin and the point guard decided to have himself career game, scoring 38 points while dishing out seven assists in a 92-85 victory, out dueling Kobe Bryant (34 points and 10 rebounds), who said he had no idea who the point guard was before the matchup, but did later question how NBA personnel missed a talent like Lin.

“The biggest thing to me is how everybody missed it,” Bryant said before the 2011 All-Star Game. “They all would be fired if I was owning a team. I hear this stuff, ‘It came out of nowhere.’ I think it’s a load of [garbage]. You can’t play that well and just come out of nowhere. There has to be something there and everybody missed it. So heads would roll [if I was owner].”

For the Lakers and its fans, there will be zero complains if ‘Linsanity’ is recreated, but Lin made it clear he is looking to create a new chapter with the purple and gold instead of hanging onto past success.

“I’m not trying to be a player from the past,” Lin said. “I’m trying to make history again.”

And with a historic franchise like the Lakers, the stage is set for him to do just that.

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20

July 11, 2014

 

  • Jeremy Lin: The Lakers/Rockets agreed to a trade that sends Lin to the purple and gold along with a 2015 first round pick.  The Lakers send no salary back to the Rockets as Houston prepares to offer Chris Bosh a max contract.
  •  Pau Gasol: The Lakers are open to a S&T deal if Gasol decides to pursue another career opportunity elsewhere (via Mark Medina – LA Daily News)

 

July 10, 2014

 

  • Steve Blake: Reached agreement on a two-year, $4 million contract with the Portland Trail Blazers (via Adrian Wojnarowski – Yahoo! Sports)
  • Pau Gasol: Met with GM Mitch Kupchak at the Lakers practice facility on Wednesday night (via Marc Spears – Yahoo! Sports)
  • Kent Bazemore: Lakers called Kent Bazemore again on Wednesday to reiterate that the team would like to re-sign him (via Michael Scotto – Sheridan Hoops)

 

July 9, 2014

 

  • Kobe Bryant: While not a free agent, Kobe at his basketball camp in Santa Barbara spoke to the media before it got started.  Couple things to note, endorsed Byron Scott as the next head coach of the Lakers and mentioned that the Buss family has a solid plan they want “to put a contender on the floor next year… “they’re going for it.” Also said there is a plan B in place if Melo does not sign with the Lakers.
  • Carmelo Anthony: Barring a ‘last minute change of heart’, Anthony will reportedly re-sign with the Knicks and will announce his decision on Thursday, according to a source close to the forward.  Other sources, including his agent Leon Rose, all denied that a decision was made (via Frank Isola – NY Daily News)
  • Isaiah Thomas: “I’m just waiting to see how it goes and waiting for Carmelo to decide. His decision just opens it up for me.” (via Eli Friedman – ThunderousIntentions/OKC Blog)

July 7, 2014

 

  • LeBron James: It is said that LeBron’s decision will come down to the Miami Heat or Cleveland Cavaliers (via Adrian Wojnarowski – Yahoo! Sports)
  • Jordan Crawford: The guard is receiving interest from the Lakers,  Bulls, Mavs, Knicks, and Nets (via Marc Spears – Yahoo! Sports)
  • Pau Gasol: The Thunder, once considered a front-runner, feel like Gasol is now a long shot. The center met with OKC coach Scott Brooks on Monday.  The Lakers, Spurs, and Bulls are all interested.  It is reported that Gasol has concerns about leaving a ‘culturally diverse’ city like Los Angeles and asked Brooks about the quality of life in Oklahoma City (via Dave McMenamin – ESPN)

July 6, 2014

 

  • Image: Andrew D. Bernstein | Getty Images
    Image: Andrew D. Bernstein | Getty Images

    Carmelo Anthony: There is a “rising sense around the league” that Melo will choose between the Lakers and the Knicks (via Marc Stein – ESPN) UPDATE: “After contemplating his options this weekend, free agent Carmelo Anthony’s decision isn’t expected to linger late into the week, a source said” (via Marc Spears – Yahoo! Sports)

  • Jordan Farmar: The point guard agreed to a 2yr/$4.2M deal with the Clippers (via Brad Turner – LA Times)
  • Isaiah Thomas: The Lakers are a “real possibility for Thomas.  While the Heat are also pursuing the point guard, the Lakers have the money to get a deal done.  As with everything else, nothing will happen until decisions from Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James are made (via Jared Zwerling – Bleacher Report/NBA TV)

 

July 5, 2014

Carmelo Anthony
Image: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke
  • LeBron James: The Lakers met with LeBron James’ agent Rich Paul on Friday, and the four-time MVP is giving similar consideration to what the Lakers have to offer, according to sources. (via Ramona Shelburne / Chris Broussard)
  • Carmelo Anthony: The one stumbling block is that Anthony is holding out hope that good friend LeBron James can find the two a place where the money is good and they can run together. (via NY Daily News)
    The Lakers’ pitch — of teaming Anthony with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and prized rookie Julius Randle on a team with no long-term salary obligations — made what one source described as a “strong impression” on Anthony. (via Ramona Shelburne / Chris Broussard)
    The Lakers made a MAJOR impact on Melo this week. It is now a legit three-way battle between Los Angeles, Chicago and New York to land him. As one source in process says of Lakers bid, “They can promise max money (4 years, $97M) without any roster moves needing to be made.” (via Bill Simmons / Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Pau Gasol: Gasol has emerged as a key selling point for the Lakers. While the Spaniard has been listening to pitches from championship contenders who lack much financial flexibility, such as Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Miami and Chicago, sources believe he would quickly re-sign with the Lakers if they are able to land Anthony or James. (via Ramona Shelburne / Chris Broussard)

July 4, 2014

  • LeBron James: Lakers met with LeBron James’s agent, Rich Paul, Friday in Cleveland. (via David Aldridge)

July 3, 2014

  • LeBron James: GM Mitch Kupchak is on a plane to Cleveland to meet with Rich Paul, agent for James.  They will reportedly meet Friday. (via Ramona Shelburne – ESPN) MORE: Lakers said they didn’t have meeting set up with LeBron James’ agent but Kupchak + Lakers biz VP Tim Harris are in CLE. Kupchak and Harris flew to CLE on a private jet immediately after meeting with Carmelo in Los Angeles this afternoon. (via Mike Bresnahan – LA Times)
  • Carmelo Anthony: The Lakers are scheduled to meet with Melo this afternoon and it is reported that Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher have flown into Los Angeles to meet with the forward later this evening.  Dave McMenamin of ESPN reports that Laker legend James Worthy will be involved in the meeting. UPDATE: Lakers have offered a 4-yr/$97M deal to Melo (the maximum salary)
  • Pau Gasol: Carmelo Anthony reportedly wants to sell Gasol on playing in New York together.  The center continues to get interest from teams and could be a priority for teams that miss out on Melo and LeBron.
  • Chris Kaman: The center signed a 2yr/$10M deal with the Portland Trailblazers
  • Jordan Farmar: Clippers are interested in the point guard and it could be a fit after Darren Collison left to sign a deal with the Sacramento Kings.
  • Isaiah Thomas: The Sacramento Kings signed Darren Collison to a 3-yr/$16M deal which could mean the end for Thomas in Sacramento. The Lakers have expressed interest in the point guard. UPDATE: Thomas’ preferred destinations in order are: Lakers, Heat, and Pistons.

 

July 2, 2014

 

  • Photo Credit: Getty Images
    Photo Credit: Getty Images

    Pau Gasol: The San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder have emerged as serious suitors for the center.  OKC’s Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook spoke directly to Gasol in LA today and the Thunder are considered a “frontrunner” (via Ramona Shelburne – ESPN)

  • Greg Monroe: If the Lakers are unable to re-sign Pau Gasol, it has Monroe on its list of potential replacements. Signing the center could be tough since he is a restricted free agent (via Brian Windhorst on SportsCenter)
  • Jordan Farmar, Xavier Henry, Wesley Johnson, and Chris Kaman: All players’ agents were contacted by general manager Mitch Kupchak about a potential return to the Lakers (via Dave McMenamin – ESPN)
  • Kyle Lowry:  The Lakers are among the bidders for the point guard who is mulling over an offer to stay with the Toronto Raptors (via Brian Windhorst – ESPN) UPDATE: Lowry has agreed to a 4yr/$48 million deal to stay with the Toronto Raptors (via Adrian Wojnarowski – Yahoo! Sports)
  •  Carmelo Anthony: UPDATE (2:30 pm) - The Lakers are ‘laser-focused’ on its Thursday meeting with Melo.  They’re making other calls, but all other business is conditional on that
    (via Ramona Shelburne – ESPN)
  • Lance Stephenson: The Lakers reached out to Stephenson’s agent to express interest in the guard. The Pacers offered Stephenson 5-yrs/$44M but the offer was not accepted (via Chris Broussard – ESPN)

 

July 1, 2014

 

  • Kyle Lowry:  The Lakers are among the bidders for the point guard who is mulling over an offer to stay with the Toronto Raptors (via Brian Windhorst – ESPN)
  • Josh McRoberts: The Lakers have shown interest in McRoberts who played for the team during the 2011-2012 season (via Jeff Goodman – ESPN)
  •  Pau Gasol: The Lakers placed a call to Gasol to express interest in bringing him back (via Ramona Shelburne – ESPN) — UPDATE (5:25 pm): Gasol met with Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak on Tuesday and the meeting lasted a “few hours” (via Dave McMenamin)
  • Jodie MeeksThe Lakers reached out to Meeks to show its interest in bringing the guard back (via Mark Medina – LA Daily News) UPDATE: Meeks and the Detroit Pistons have agreed to a 3yr/$19 million deal (via Adrian Wojnarowski – Yahoo! Sports)
  • Image: Robert Mayer | US Presswire
    Image: Robert Mayer | US Presswire

    LeBron James: The Lakers placed a call to Rich Paul, the agent for LeBron (via Ramona Shelburne – ESPN)

  • Carmelo Anthony: The Lakers secured a meeting with Anthony that will take place on Thursday (via Ramona Shelburne – ESPN)
  • Chris Bosh: The Lakers have expressed interest in the power forward (via Chris Broussard – ESPN)
  • Chandler Parsons: The Lakers expressed interest in the small forward (via Jeff Goodman – ESPN)
  • Trevor Ariza: The Lakers are on the list of Ariza’s potential destinations (via Dave McMenamin – ESPN)
  • Luol Deng: The Lakers have shown interest in Deng (via Alex Kennedy – Basketball Insiders)
  • Nick Young: The Lakers contacted Young’s representatives to express its interest in bringing him back (via Mike Bresnahan – LA Times)
  • Jordan Hill: The Lakers expressed interest in bringing Hill back (via Adrian Wojnarowski -Yahoo! Sports)
  • Isaiah Thomas: The Lakers were one of the teams to contact Thomas’ agent to express interest in the point guard (via Alex Kennedy – Basketball Insiders)
  • Caron Butler: The Lakers have expressed interest in the veteran forward (via David Aldridge – NBA.com)
  • Kent Bazemore: The Lakers reached out to the guard to express interest in bringing him back (via Michael Scotto – Sheridan Hoops)

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Photo courtesy of Lakers.com

There is something to be said about being a Los Angeles Laker and if Monday’s introductory press conference was any indication, the attitude and confidence of Julius Randle will bode well in Los Angeles.

Sporting a purple-tie and bright smile, Randle was formerly introduced as the newest Laker at its practice facility in El Segundo as he was presented his new #30 jersey and spoke to the Los Angeles media.

“I’m truly blessed to be in a great organization, the greatest organization in the NBA,” said Randle. “Such an amazing opportunity for my family and I.  I couldn’t be more happy to be in the city of Los Angeles.”

Every season, prospects are considered NBA ready in large part to their basketball skills, but having an NBA ready personality is just as important to succeed on and off the court.

That was evident in his response when asked if he could start right away on a ‘wide open roster’ as the season rolls around in October.

Randle is currently one of five players who are expected to make the team. That includes Kobe Bryant, Robert Sacre, Steve Nash, and second round draft pick Jordan Clarkson.  With starting positions up for grabs, Randle does not expect to be handed anything just because he is a rare Lakers lottery pick.

“As far as the starting thing, that is something you have to earn,” said Randle, who averaged 15.0 points and 10.4 rebounds in his freshman year at the University of Kentucky. “I think I can come in and contribute right away, it’s just all going to depend on my work ethic, willing to put in the time into the gym and I think the results will show if I do that.”

After being selected at No. 7 by the Lakers in the 2014, Randle noted that teams would ‘regret’ passing on him.  When asked what motivates him, it is not the naysayers but instead an attitude that fans will surely respect.

“First off to win, I hate to lose. I think that’s one of my biggest motivations,” said Randle. “Me wanting to be the best, reach my full potential, I definitely push myself in that way.”

Growing up a Laker fan, Randle is familiar with the expectations and demands of the fans and franchise.  Coming from a historic basketball program with high expectations like at Kentucky, Randle will be no stranger to a transition where wins and losses are magnified by the fans.

“They love the Lakers and they expect nothing less but championships.”

There are some players that join the Lakers for a season or two and then there are those are simply Lakers at heart.  For Randle, his attitude embodies what the franchise is about, a rare quality in players today.

If anything else, Randle earned many new fans with all the right answers on Monday.  For the new kid on the block, his introduction in Los Angeles was a success and if that is any indication, the Lakers and its fans should be very happy and optimistic about what lies ahead.

 

 

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