<![CDATA[NBC Southern California - Triple Threat]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbclosangeles.com/blogs/triple-threat http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC4_40x125.png NBC Southern California http://www.nbclosangeles.com en-us Sun, 25 Jan 2015 12:22:31 -0800 Sun, 25 Jan 2015 12:22:31 -0800 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Lakers Spanked in San Antonio]]> Fri, 23 Jan 2015 21:54:49 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Jordan-Clarkson-Lakers-1-23-15.jpg

The Los Angeles Lakers began a new chapter on Friday night.

With Kobe Bryant "expected" to be out for the remainder of the season, Lakers coach Byron Scott took the long-term step of starting rookie Jordan Clarkson at point guard. Friday night would be the first start in the rookie's short NBA career.

Scott did not stop there. He went with a new-look starting five of Clarkson, Wayne Ellington, Ryan Kelly, Jordan Hill and Robert Sacre. The coach has sacrificed Ed Davis, Wesley Johnson and Ryan Kelly, as Scott dug deep to make dramatic changes.

Experimenting with a new look side against the team that epitomizes continuity promised the Lakers a loss, but the vision was long term. The rookie point guard paid back his coach by making an argument for being the Lakers' best player on the night.

Clarkson would finish with 11 points, four assists and three rebounds with only one turnover in 29 minutes. For a rookie point guard playing on the road, he played with tremendous composure. Regularly, Clarkson sped by groups of retreating Spurs and did well enough to even grab a rebound and finish at the opposite end through the whistle.

"[I]'m very happy with the way Jordan played," Scott said he let Clarkson call the plays and run the offense after game on TWC Sports Net. "He was very poised and the moment wasn't too big for him."

For the 22-year-old point guard, this night had to feel like a dream transforming into reality. Clarkson was born in San Antonio and went to High School at nearby Karen Wagner School. In his first ever NBA start, Clarkson lined up on the same court as the greatest Spur of all time, Tim Duncan, and directly opposite Tony Parker, who makes his own argument for being the greatest Spurs' point guard in history.

"I really wanted to get the win, so I could have some bragging rights when I came back home," Clarkson said after the game.

Of course, the Lakers did not win, and the final score read "Spurs 99, Lakers 85."

For every coin that falls heads and faces the sunlight, the tails' side of the coin is hidden in the darkness. Scott only had enough time for two point guards on Friday night, and when the time came, the Lakers' coach went with his hard-nosed veteran over his offensively gifted 26-year-old. Ronnie Price played with the second unit, and Jeremy Lin did not get off the bench.

"I thought I'd give Ronnie more of a look tonight, and I know what Jeremy can do," Scott said when asked about choosing between the two backup point guards. "The next game, it might be different."

For Lin, he had played in every single game this season, but his streak ended at 43.

For his part, Price finished with six assists, which was a game-high. Price's production helped illustrate the difficult bind Scott was in with choosing between Price and Lin. At the moment, one would expect Scott will stay with a similar lineup, although Tarik Black's return should change up the frontcourt. Sacre expects to go to the bench when that happens.

Going back to Friday night, Nick Young also continued to regain his shooting touch, as he tied for game-high honors with 17 points. Young hit a trio of three-pointers and shot a high percentage from the field.

Next, the Lakers host the Houston Rockets, and Clarkson expects to start at Staples Center for the first time on Sunday evening.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Face Spurs in San Antonio]]> Fri, 23 Jan 2015 12:52:14 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-Spurs-preview.jpg

While rumors, reports and community discussions calling for Kobe Bryant's retirement swirl, the Los Angeles Lakers still have a season to play with or without their star player.

On Friday night, the always brutal NBA schedule requires a date with the San Antonio Spurs--the NBA's defending champions. The Spurs have won four of their last five games and three in a row at home. On the season, San Antonio is off to slower start than usual and ranks seventh in the Western Conference. With 27 wins and 17 losses in their first 44 games, the Spurs are only three losses short of the mark they set in 82 games last season. The 2013-14 Spurs finished 62-20.

Even if the Spurs have not been at their best, they should be good enough to beat the Lakers, right?

Well, back on Dec. 12, the Lakers came to San Antonio and beat the Spurs 112-110 in an overtime game. Bryant played 40 minutes that night to finish with 22 points, nine assists and five rebounds. Nick Young led the way with 29 points.

Without Bryant available, the Lakers' formula for success must include Young. The Lakers' sixth man appears to have broken his shooting slump scoring over 20 points in two of the last three games. Excluding Bryant, Young is the Lakers' leading scorer with 14.5 points per game, and the former USC Trojan also led the team in scoring when Bryant was out for the majority of the 2013-14 season.

Along with Young, power forward Jordan Hill will need to continue scoring. On the season, Hill averages 12.4 points per game, but Hill has scored in double figures in nine straight games. One of the most consistent players for the Lakers this season, Hill will likely take an even bigger bulk of the offensive load with Bryant out.

Going to San Antonio and winning would be difficult to manage for the Lakers at full strength, and without Bryant, the Lakers face a tall mountain to climb. Considering the Lakers have beaten some of the best teams in the NBA this season, nothing is impossible. It is improbable, though.

The Lakers and Spurs tip-off in San Antonio at 5:30 p.m. Pacific Time



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Kobe Bryant Named NBA All-Star Again]]> Thu, 22 Jan 2015 16:59:45 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Kobe-Bryant-All-Star-2015.jpg

Late Thursday afternoon, Kobe Bryant was officially named a starter for the Western Conference at the 2015 NBA All-Star Game. Deserving or not, fans vote for the starters, and Bryant has a strong global following that supports the star.

Seemingly, Bryant never has a dull day, and Thursday provided another glorious example of up and down day that was anything but ordinary for the 36-year-old.

As the day started, several sports and media outlets paid tribute to the anniversary of Bryant's incredible 81-point game. Nine years had passed since the second greatest individual scoring performance in an NBA game. Tributes, videos and images reminded fans of how great Bryant was in his prime.

By early afternoon, the top story had shifted. An MRI on Bryant's shoulder had returned to show a torn rotator cuff, and Bryant's season appeared to be in jeopardy. Suddenly, the 81-point man was in danger of not scoring any more points this season. He would immediately hop a flight to Los Angeles, and doctors would examine the 19-year veteran on Friday to determine whether surgery was required and how long the 36-year-old would be out. If fully torn, several reports suggested Bryant could spend four to six months on the shelf. In that scenario, Bryant's career may be in jeopardy, not only his season.

As fans over Los Angeles began to accept that Bryant may be out for the second half of the season, the NBA announced that the Lakers' star player had been selected as a starter at the All-Star Game. Bryant finished fourth in voting with 1,152,402 votes, meaning he had been selected 17 consecutive times. Bryant's only exclusion from the event came in 1997, when the 18-year-old rookie had not yet reached physical maturity or universal popularity.

Bryant's shoulder injury, however, will determine whether Bryant will be able to take part in the mid-February exhibition game, and more details on that front should emerge on Friday afternoon.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Kobe Bryant Has Torn Rotator Cuff]]> Fri, 23 Jan 2015 07:45:59 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Kobe-Bryant-torn-rotator-cuff.jpg

Waiting about for MRI results on Kobe Bryant's injured shoulder, the references to Jan. 22, 2006, were impossible to miss. On that date, Bryant scored 81 points in a once in a lifetime performance that may never be topped by another individual player.

Only Wilt Chamberlain knew the feeling of scoring more points in a single game, and Chamberlain's NBA belonged in a different era where even video evidence did not exist of the incredible 100-point game.

Nine years after 81, Bryant's status was "doubtful," as the team awaited results for a damaged right shoulder.

Being the relentless competitor that he is at 36-years young, Bryant followed up leaving Wednesday's game early by defiantly speaking about averaging 40 points per game with a torn labrum and playing NBA games back in 2004 using only one arm because he had a separated shoulder.

Still failing to completely accept his new reality, Bryant spoke with the air of a man believing anything was possible despite evidence to the contrary. He hurt himself on a dunk. No, it was not a thunder jam. Bryant simply got a step on the baseline and finished a standard two-handed dunk.

When results of the MRI became known on Thursday afternoon, the news was not good.

"Preliminary results from the MRI show a tear of the rotator cuff," the Lakers' press release stated.

The team also confirmed Bryant would fly home from San Antonio on Thursday and be examined by doctors on Friday to determine a timeline for recovery. If Bryant requires surgery, one would expect his season may be over. Somehow, this disastrously bad Lakers' season just got worse.

Bryant's injury came in his 1,500th career NBA game. One has to wonder how many more he has left in him at this point, and was that Bryant's last dunk ever?

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<![CDATA[Kobe Hurt, Lakers Lose To Pelicans]]> Wed, 21 Jan 2015 21:18:04 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-Jazz-no-Kobe-1-16-15.jpg

The Los Angeles Lakers welcomed Kobe Bryant back on Wednesday night after giving the 36-year-old nearly a full week to get his body rested, but Bryant's return did not have the desired effects.

First of all, the Lakers lost 96-80, which meant that LA had set a new season high with six losses in a row. However, the Lakers' loss to the New Orleans Pelicans hardly even mattered by the final buzzer. Bryant left the game with what appeared to be a shoulder injury.

In his first game back, Bryant's timing and understanding with teammates was a bit off, and the 19-year veteran finished with a team-high four turnovers. However, Bryant's shot was not entirely off, and he finished with 14 points on 14 shots. Only Jordan Hill's 15 points topped Bryant, and Hill attempted the same number of shots.

The Lakers would lose the game by stagnating on offense and only scoring 12 points in the fourth quarter. Most of that damage came while Bryant was on the bench, but Bryant's three minutes and 41 seconds of game play in the fourth quarter were a bizarre spectacle.

Bryant apparently signaled to the bench to come out of the game shortly after completing a dunk in the third quarter. Bryant would confirm that dunking the ball caused the discomfort with a head nod after the game. After receiving treatment on his sore shoulder on the Lakers' bench, Bryant proceeded to strap on a giant ice bag. The ice was removed shortly thereafter, and Bryant even took the opportunity to dribble balls in between timeouts to keep his shoulder loose.

He told his coaches he was fine, but after entering the game in the fourth quarter, Bryant preferred to dribble with his left arm. Then, he took a turnaround jump shot, but he only used his left arm. He made the shot, but that should have been a red flag. Still, Bryant stayed in.

Moments later, Bryant rebounded the basketball using only his left arm and dribbled up the court with that same left arm. When he attempted another left-handed jump shot, the Pelicans broke up the play. Moments later, Bryant pulled down another defensive rebound, and this time he tipped the basketball with his left hand before controlling it with his left arm.

Finally, Lakers coach Byron Scott called Wayne Ellington, and Bryant came out. He went into the locker room and began to receive treatment.

Asked about the shoulder after the game on Time Warner Cable Sports Net, Bryant sounded nonchalant about the potential injury.

"It's been bothering me for a while," Bryant said. "We make a lot of it, but the reality is I'm doing some pretty phenomenal things in 30 minutes."

Scott said Bryant would have an MRI on Thursday, and both the player and the coach agreed that it was too early to say whether he would be available on Friday night's game in San Antonio.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Forbes: Lakers Worth $2.6 Billion]]> Wed, 21 Jan 2015 17:51:28 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-Kobe-Bryant-rest.jpg

Due largely to massive television contracts along with other financial factors, NBA teams are worth more than ever. The Los Angeles Lakers, despite a few down years, still rank top of the pile according to Forbes.

According to the widely respected publication that specializes in wealth valuation, the Los Angeles Lakers have a net worth of $2.6 billion in 2015, which is a sharp 93 percent increase from only one year ago. A season ago, the Lakers were one of three NBA teams with a net worth over $1 billion. In 2015, 11 professional basketball teams have risen to the billion dollar level, and the average NBA franchise is worth $1.1 billion.

Along with having the most valuable brand in basketball, the Lakers also play the most expensive salary in the NBA. Kobe Bryant earns $23.5 million per season, and he has been the league's highest paid contract for five straight years.

According to Forbes, Bryant ranks third in the NBA in net earnings with $49.5 million for the 2014-15 season.

For the first time in a decade, Bryant is not the top earner in the NBA. The last time Bryant did not top the list was back during the 2004-05 season, when Shaquille O'Neal held the honor. In 2015, LeBron James has taken over basketball's earning crown, as the two-time NBA champion ranks at the top with an astounding $64.6 million this year. Perhaps, the added marketability and earnings help further explain why James moved back home to Cleveland.

Technically, Bryant did take a pay cut, so had he forced his way to a $30 million contract, no. 24 would still not be no. 2. Had Bryant taken a larger contract, he would still top Kevin Durant, who earned $54 million through salary and endorsements.

Durant did not even rank in to the NBA's top 10 earners until the 2011-12 season. The NBA's Most Valuable Player award apparently adds value to an NBA player's bank account, as Durant took home the highly coveted regular season award in 2014 and subsequently jumped up two spots on the Forbes list.

Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls and Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks ranked fourth and fifth on Forbes' list, hinting that big markets still matter. 

Considering the New York Knicks ranked second on Forbes' 2015 list for highest net worth, winning on the court clearly does not factor directly into net worth. The Knicks have the worst team in the NBA, and the Lakers rank fourth from the bottom. However, the LA and New York are the two biggest markets in the NBA, and so, the Lakers rank no. 1 in net worth and the Knicks rank no. 2 in valuation.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Kobe Bryant Back: Lakers at Pelicans]]> Wed, 21 Jan 2015 11:43:06 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-Pelicans_Anthony-Davis-Kobe-Bryant-2015.jpg

Kobe Bryant will start in New Orleans, Los Angeles Lakers coach Byron Scott confirmed on Wednesday morning.

Bryant last featured against LeBron James on Thursday and logged 19 points, 17 assists and six rebounds in a masterful performance. Then, he stayed home as his teammates traveled to Utah on Friday. He took another day off on Saturday. On Sunday, he came into the Lakers' practice facility for treatment but left for home before the Lakers even wrapped up their practice session. On Monday, he was not even in Phoenix, as the Lakers tumbled to a fifth straight loss.

On Tuesday, Bryant did not arrive in time to take part in the Lakers' practice in Phoenix, but he did board the team plane from Arizona to New Orleans. On Wednesday night, Bryant will play.

Without committing fully, Scott has hinted that Bryant also expects to play on Friday in San Antonio. Two office days per week has the 36-year-old on a schedule that makes most of his fans incredibly jealous. Not just that, Bryant's $23.5 million salary ranks highest in the NBA, a status Bryant has enjoyed for half a decade.

Back to the business of Lakers' basketball on a Wednesday night, the New Orleans Pelicans feature one of the most exciting young talents in the NBA. One could easily argue Anthony Davis is the single most exciting young talent in the league.

Davis missed the past three games due to a toe injury, but the 21-year-old athletically gifted forward expects to start on Wednesday night. In two games against the Lakers this season, Davis averaged 24.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 4.0 blocks and 1.0 steals. The Lakers lost both those games.

While Davis leads the Pelicans in points, rebounds, blocks and uni-brows, Jrue Holiday leads New Orleans in assists, steals and creative ways to spell names. The former UCLA Bruin averages 7.1 assists per game on the season, and he averaged 19.5 points and 6.5 assists against the Lakers in the teams' early two meetings during the 2014-15 season.

For Wednesday, however, Holiday's involvement is up in the air due to an ankle injury. The 24-year-old has missed the Pelicans' last four games with the issue. Similar to Holiday, Ronnie Price's status is also in question due to a sore elbow. If Price plays, Price will start. Carlos Boozer, who sat out Tuesday's practice with a left tricep contusion, will play.

The Pelicans and Lakers will get started in New Orleans at 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Practice in Phoenix, Kobe Not]]> Wed, 21 Jan 2015 11:42:28 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/lakers-practice-phoenix-1-20-15.jpg

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Lakers found a gym in Phoenix and held a spirited practice session.

Unfortunately, the Lakers' practice update turned into an injury update when cameras caught up with Lakers coach Byron Scott.

In no uncertain terms, Scott said he did not expect Tarik Black to be available in New Orleans on Wednesday. Although X-rays came back negative, the Lakers' rookie suffered an ankle sprain and had to be carried off the court visibly grimacing in pain. Scott said that Friday may even be a bit too early for the big man to return.

With Black out, Robert Sacre should get another crack at the rotation. Sacre, who helped carry Black off the court, has not played a single minute in any of the Lakers' last five games due to Black's emergence.

Also, Carlos Boozer did not practice on Tuesday due to a contusion in his left tricep. However, Scott sounded confident that Boozer would be available on Wednesday night in the "Big Easy."

Kobe Bryant did not practice on Tuesday because, well, he didn't arrive in time. Scott predicted that Bryant would likely find a gym in New Orleans to get his work in. The coach revealed that the plan was for Bryant to play on Wednesday against the Pelicans and on Friday against the Spurs. However, the coach cautiously refused to speak in certain terms and said Bryant's status would be reevaluated on Wednesday morning at shootaround. Officially, the team listed Bryant as questionable.

For those fans looking ahead, playing Bryant on Wednesday and Friday on the road would likely mean Bryant would not play on Sunday at Staples Center against Dwight Howard and the Houston Rockets. The two former teammates have only met once since Howard hopped a flight to Houston, and that Opening Night encounter featured elbows from Howard and Bryant calling the Rockets' center "soft."

Finally, Ronnie Price's status is also questionable for Wednesday, as the 31-year-old veteran has missed the last two games with a sore right elbow. Seeing as Scott sounded as if he was sitting Price as a precaution on Monday, one would expect the Lakers will have their starting point guard back on Wednesday night. Price did take part in practice on Tuesday but was instructed not to use his right arm.

The Lakers and Pelican will tip off at 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Suns Beat Kobe-Less Lakers 115-100]]> Mon, 19 Jan 2015 21:58:15 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-Suns-11915.jpg

Without Kobe Bryant available, the Los Angeles Lakers lost to the Phoenix Suns 115-110 on Monday night, which wasn't entirely unexpected. The Lakers, however, did not exactly roll over and play dead from the opening tip.

Jeremy Lin put together one of his best performances as a starting point guard, as the 26-year-old aggressively attacked, set up the offense and battled on the defensive end. It wasn't always pretty, though. At one point, Lin attacked the rim and felt the full force of landing on his tail bone. At another point, the point guard ran into the official, and the turnover resulted in a Suns' fast break on the other end.

Still, Lin played well on the whole and finished with 10 points and 10 assists with three steals and three turnovers.

Truthfully, the Lakers surprised viewers by finishing the first half tied with Phoenix. In the third quarter, however, turnovers reemerged as the Lakers' Achilles heel. In the first half, the Lakers committed eight turnovers. In the third quarter alone, the purple and gold gifted the Suns the basketball on seven separate occasions. By the end of the game, the Lakers had logged 23 turnovers.

At the end of three quarters, the Lakers trailed by 10 points.

In the fourth quarter, the Lakers would fall down big time. The difference in class began to show, and the Suns suddenly took a 19-point advantage with 6:31 to play in the game. Thanks largely to a late rally fueled by Nick Young, the Lakers cut the lead to only six points with 2:59 to play.

Young had been quiet for most of the night, but the 29-year-old streaky shooter notched 16 points in the final period to finish with a team-high 24 points.

In the final three minutes, the Suns outplayed the Lakers with Goran Dragic leading the way. Dragic finished with 24 points, five assists and nine rebounds in another well-balanced performance. Along with Dragic, Isaiah Thomas poured in 24 points, swiped five steals and dished four assists off the bench.

The Lakers fell to 12-30 on the season, and the Suns improved to 25-18. Next, the Lakers practice on Phoenix on Tuesday and play the New Orleans Pelicans in Louisiana on Wednesday.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Kobe Bryant Sitting Vs. Suns]]> Mon, 19 Jan 2015 14:20:39 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-Suns-Jeremy-Lin.jpg

After missing a nationally televised Christmas Day game against former teammate Pau Gasol and the Chicago Bulls, one found it difficult to be surprised that Kobe Bryant would miss a Martin Luther King Jr. Day game against the Phoenix Suns.

Monday night's game will be nationally televised, and Bryant will not be on the court.

Despite not traveling with the Lakers to Utah and having three full off days, Lakers coach Byron Scott announced that Bryant would not be playing in Phoenix. For the conspiracy theorists who think Scott is attempting to "tank," the Lakers lost three times to Phoenix this season with Bryant playing, so even having no. 24 on the court would not exactly promise victory.

In addition, Scott confirmed his thoughts from Sunday to sit starting point guard Ronnie Price, who is dealing with a sore right elbow. Considered one of the toughest guys on the team, Price also has a broken nose. The veteran point guard has only missed three games this season, and one of those games was due to a suspension.

The Lakers have lost every game Price has missed. The Lakers have lost five of the seven games Bryant has missed.

With Price out, Jeremy Lin will get another opportunity to shake off a lackluster first half of the season.

Through 41 games, Lin is averaging 10.6 points, 4.4 assists, 2.7 rebounds and 2.3 turnovers in 25.8 minutes per game. In the three games Price has missed, Lin is averaging 11.0 points, 3.3 assists, 2.7 rebounds and 3.0 turnovers in 31.3 minutes per game. Most recently, Lin finished with six points, three turnovers, three assists and two rebounds in a loss to Utah on Friday.

Based on the three-game sample size, Lin is averaging significantly more minutes without Price in the lineup, but the 26-year-old has seen a drop in assists and an increase in turnovers. Lin also has a marginal increase in points, while his rebounds have remained steady. Everything considered, Lin has not made the most of his opportunities with the Lakers this season.

On Monday night, Lin will get yet another chance to impress for the Lakers on the national stage. The Lakers and Sun tip-off at 7:00 p.m. Pacific Time.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers at Suns on MLK Day]]> Mon, 19 Jan 2015 02:49:42 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-Suns-1-19-15.jpg

On Monday night, the Los Angeles Lakers face the Phoenix Suns for the fourth and final time during the 2014-15 season. The Lakers have lost all three previous meetings due largely  to Phoenix's three point guards.

Isaiah Thomas, Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe have propelling the Suns to a 24-18 start to the season, which is currently good enough for eighth place in the Western Conference. With the Lakers on a four-game losing streak and losers in six of the last seven contests, Monday night's game looks like trouble.

Creating even more problems for LA, Kobe Bryant's status for the game remains in question. Added to that, Lakers starting point guard Ronnie Price sat out the Lakers' loss in Utah due to a sore elbow, and Lakers coach Byron Scott said on Sunday that he was leaning towards sitting the veteran point guard on Monday.

At Sunday's practice, Scott made sure not to reveal whether Bryant would play against the Suns, but the 36-year-old veteran did not practice with the team. The 19-year-veteran came to the practice facility to get treatment before hopping the flight to Phoenix with his teammates. Regardless of whether or not he plays on Monday, Bryant expects to travel to New Orleans and San Antonio with the team later this week.

If both Bryant and Price sit, the Lakers would again look to Wayne Ellington and Jeremy Lin to take over starting backcourt duties. Ellington made four of six shots when he stepped in against the Utah Jazz on Friday, but Lin struggled to only six points on 3-10 shooting from the field. For the Lakers to have any chance against the Suns, Ellington and Lin will likely need to combine for more than the 15 points and less than the five turnovers the deputizing backcourt managed in Salt Lake City.

One of the only positives to come out of the trip to Utah was Nick Young's regained shooting confidence. Young scored 23 points, which including the 29-year-old making all 13 of his free throws.

On the flip side, turnovers in the loss to Utah caused major concern. The Lakers committed 21 turnovers against the Jazz, and a repeat performance against a speedy Suns team that punishes teams in transition would not help the Lakers' cause.

Bryant's involvement remains in doubt, but the Lakers and Suns will tip at 7:00 p.m. Pacific Time.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Kobe Bryant "Doubtful" For Monday ]]> Sat, 17 Jan 2015 13:39:39 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-Suns-Kobe-Bryant-doubtful.jpg

Kobe Bryant sat out Friday night's game against the Utah Jazz, and the Lakers sans no. 24 showed exactly how poorly they can play.

With the starting backcourt on the shelf, the Lakers lost 94-85 to the fifth-worst team in the NBA. Overall, the Lakers have lost four games in a row and six of their last seven. Halfway through the season, the Lakers have 12 wins and 29 losses.

As a team, the Lakers finished with only seven assists and committed 21 turnovers. Worth remembering, Bryant notched 17 assists on his own in Thursday night's loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Not only Bryant, the Lakers also played without starting point guard Ronnie Price on Friday, as Price could not shake off a sore right elbow.

One of the few bright spots in the loss proved to be the reemergence of Nick Young as an offensive weapon, rather than a liability. Breaking his shooting slump, Young finished with 23 points, which was his second highest tally of the season. In particular, the 29-year-old forced his way to the free throw line and converted all 13 of his foul shots against the Jazz.

The foul line is a special spot for the Lakers' sixth man, and Young currently ranks second in the NBA with 92.3 percent from the charity stripe.

Following the loss, the Lakers boarded a flight back to Los Angeles and slept in their respective homes. Lakers coach Byron Scott gave his team Saturday off following a back-to-back, but the team will practice on Sunday before boarding a flight to Phoenix.

The Lakers' official game notes listed both Bryant and Price as "doubtful" for Monday's game in Phoenix, but Sunday's practice should provide more of a gauge on where both Bryant and Price stand.

The upcoming schedule calls for the Lakers to play in Phoenix on Monday before traveling to New Orleans to face the Pelicans on Wednesday. LA will end its four-game road trip with a showdown in San Antonio on Friday.

Upon returning to LA, the Lakers will host Dwight Howard and the Houston Rockets on Sunday, Jan. 25. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers at Jazz: Preview]]> Fri, 16 Jan 2015 15:52:25 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-Jazz-no-Kobe-1-16-15.jpg

Without Kobe Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers head to Utah on the second night of a back-to-back.

Gordon Hayward and the Utah Jazz have lost three games in a row and have the fifth worst record in the NBA. The Lakers, incidentally, have the fourth worst record in the NBA, and so, Friday evening's game in Salt Lake City carries greater meaning in the context of the 2015 NBA Draft.

Hayward leads the Jazz with 18.9 points per game, and fourth year forward Derrick Favors leads the team with 8.6 rebounds per game. With Kobe Bryant staying home to rest, the Lakers will have their hands full in terms of creating offense.

In particular, the Lakers need greater contributions from Nick Young. Since the start of 2015, Young is shooting a dismal 27.6 percent from the field and 20.5 percent from three-point land. To provide context, Young shot 40.3 percent from the field and 46.4 percent from three-point land in December.

While Young has struggled, teammate Jordan Hill has come to life on the offensive end. Over his past six games, Hill is averaging 15.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. In Thursday's loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Hill finished with 20 points and six rebounds. The Lakers will hope Hill can continue to provide an offensive spark.

With Bryant out, however, the Lakers will roll out a new lineup. Wayne Ellington expects to start in place of the 36-year-old, and Ellington should be fresh considering he has not seen a single second on the court over the past two games. Ellington is a shooter, so Lakers coach Byron Scott will hope to receive offensive production from the 27-year-old out of the University of North Carolina.

Another source of offensive production is backup point guard Jeremy Lin. After an inconsistent first couple month of the season, Lin is averaging 12.4 points per game in January. More impressively, the 26-year-old is shooting 49.3 percent from the field and 47.4 percent from beyond the three point arc. With Bryant out, Lin should see more minutes on the court.

Without Bryant, the 12-28 Lakers and 13-26 Jazz tip at 6:00 p.m. Pacific Time.

Notes: Ronnie Price has been struggling with an elbow issue, and the Lakers' starting point guard was listed as "probable" on the team's official game notes. Hill also has a sore right knee, but he is expected to play.

Update: Price will miss Friday's game due to the sore elbow.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Kobe Talks Zen, Resting and Shaq]]> Fri, 16 Jan 2015 12:44:25 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-Jazz-no-Kobe-1-16-15.jpg After a career night, Kobe Bryant answered questions about possibly sitting for the remainder of the season, his desire to play and more. On Jan. 15, 2015

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Bryant and James Spectacular, as Cavs Beat Lakers]]> Fri, 16 Jan 2015 05:58:30 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-Cavs-Kobe-LeBron-1-15-15.jpg

On Thursday night at Staples Center, Kobe Bryant tied a career-high in assists and LeBron James took over in the second half as the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Los Angeles Lakers 109-102.

Bryant started the game actively looking to set up teammates and scored 10 points and delivered eight assists in the first 12 minutes. Prior to the game, Lakers coach Byron Scott stated that his 36-year-old veteran would be limited to a maximum of 32 minutes, and the coach stuck with his guidelines even when the crowd began chanting "We want Kobe" in the fourth quarter, when James took over and the game started to slip away.

"Yea, I heard the fans [chant] 'We want Kobe' with about eight minutes left," Scott said after the game. "I wanted to say, 'I want him too,' but I'm not going to do it."

In terms of the two superstars, Bryant dominated the first half, and James won the second half. Consequently, the Lakers led at halftime, and the Cavs led at the final buzzer.

In 17 high-quality first-half minutes, Bryant made five of nine shots for 12 points and dished out 10 assists. At that point, statisticians began digging through the record books and noted that Bryant's career-high in the passing category came way back in 2002, when he played against an old great by the name of Michael Jordan. That night, Bryant notched 15 assists. This night, he would set his career-high at 17 assists.

"When it comes to assists, it's really the other guys that make you look good," Bryant said after the game, recalling former teammate Shaquille O'Neal yelling "make me look good" when the big man passed the ball.

On Thursday night, Bryant faced James in a classic matchup that even featured the 36-year-old Laker guarding the 30-year-old Cavalier one-on-one in the final two minutes of the game. Bryant won one duel, and James won another. Ultimately, both put on memorable performances.

In the 20th episode of the "Kobe versus LeBron" series, James scored 23 points in the second half en route to his 14th victory in the head-to-head matchup. By the time the final buzzer rang out, James finished with 36 points, five rebounds and five assists. Bryant's 19 points, 17 assists and five rebounds hardly paled in comparison.

"This is different for me because I'm used to being hated," Bryant said after the game. "You go up against somebody and they give you a hug."

Bryant added with a smile, "It's a different feeling, but I'm really appreciative of it. It feels good. Getting a hug feels good."

"It's always fun and a pleasure," James said about playing against Bryant. "You don't have many guys that come through the sport like Kobe [Bryant]."

Quote of the night: "If I can't (compete at an elite level) I'll call it quits. I'm not going to have you guys see me out there looking like sh%$. You guys (media) kill me enough as it is." - Kobe Bryant

Notes: Jordan Hill finished with 20 points, regularly receiving passes from Bryant. Bryant said the concept of being shut down would be difficult to go along with, but if management decided the time was right, he would adhere to their wishes. Bryant will sit out the Lakers' trip to Utah on Friday night. He said he would watch the game with his family. Nick Young continued to struggle from the field missing nine of 13 shots. Young's free throw streak of 31 stright free throws also came to an end.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers v. Cavs: Shootaround Report]]> Thu, 15 Jan 2015 13:27:55 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/LeBron-James-Kobe-Byrant.jpg

In years past, LeBron James versus Kobe Bryant meant the two best players in the NBA going toe to toe.

On Thursday, both Bryant and James have only just returned from extended time away. Bryant sat six of the last 12 games in an attempt to regain control of his fatigued body. James missed eight of the last night nine games with knee and back issues.

On his return, James immediately returned to his throne as the best player on the court with 33 points, seven rebounds and five assists in 37 minutes. But, the Cleveland Cavaliers lost that game.

In fact, the Cavs' super team has lost nine of its last 10 games, including a defeat at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers. Suddenly, the Lakers' seven losses in their last 10 games don't look all that bad.

Hosting James and the struggling Cavaliers on Thursday night at Staples Center, LA had a few injury doubts. In a loss to the Miami Heat on Tuesday, Ronnie Price tweaked his elbow and Jordan Hill hyperextended his knee. Neither player practiced on Wednesday, but on Thursday morning, Lakers coach Byron Scott announced that both players would start.

Scott also confirmed that Bryant would start, so the Lakers will have their first-choice starting lineup on the court against the Cavs.

While Bryant and James dominate headlines, Kevin Love's return to LA also brings with it significant interest. The former UCLA Bruin has been linked with the Lakers constantly over the past few years, and fans of the purple and gold continue to hope for Cleveland to continue flailing. The hope would be that Love copies Dwight Howard's model and leaves a drama-filled failed super team and comes to LA for a shorter contract and slightly less money.

While Love coming to LA may not be likely, fans at Staples Center on Thursday night will no doubt show the rangy forward plenty of love with the hopes to draw him back to LA.

Love, James and Bryant will all start when the Lakers and Cavaliers tip off at 7:30 p.m. Pacific Time.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Practice Report: Jan. 14, 2015]]> Thu, 15 Jan 2015 12:05:36 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-practice-12-31-2014.JPG

The Los Angeles Lakers met on Wednesday, and yes, Kobe Bryant was in the building.

As usual, the majority of Lakers coach Byron Scott's time with the press involved talking about the plan to preserve Bryant. The 36-year-old shot a lowly 3-19 from the field in an ugly game against the Miami Heat on Tuesday, but the coach said he would not yet consider shutting down the 19-year veteran.

"As of right now, [Bryant] will play tomorrow [against Cleveland]," Scott said after practice wrapped up.

"[Bryant] wants to play if we're losing or winning. He wants to play. He wants to be a part of that," Scott said when explaining how difficult it was for the superstar to sit down and allow his coach to make the decisions.

The coach said the challenge of keeping Bryant in rhythm while harnessing the player's competitive fire had been tough for both the player and the coach.

"Kobe is definitely our leader," Lakers center Jordan Hill said on Wednesday.

Hill, who hyperextended his left knee during Tuesday's loss to the Miami Heat, spoke with reporters and offered a positive face on an injury that looked bad at first glance. Hill said the training staff seemed relieved that nothing worse had happened, and he felt the same way.

"It was [scary]," Hill said on Wednesday.

The Lakers' big man said he felt soreness in the back of his knee, but he still hoped to play on Thursday.

In the locker room, Hill is one of Nick Young's closest teammates, and so, the Lakers' big man offered insight into Young's recent scoring slump.

"[Young]'s definitely a player we need. He knows that," Hill said.

Hill said he had noticed that Young was a little down and said that the recent shooting slump had affected the shooting guard's game. In particular, Hill thought Young had started to settle for open shots and facilitating rather than aggressively creating his own shots in his trademark fashion.

At practice, Young held open a copy of Sports Illustrated with a two-page spread featuring the title: "Swagg P."

"I needed this. This is nice. I needed something to get my swag back," Young said smiling with the magazine in hand. "Like I said, I'm a star in the making. I still believe that. I've had a couple bad days, but I'm going to be all right."

Young added, "The photos is dope [sic]. I needed to see myself looking good again. Like I always say, 'You look good, you play good.' I've been looking ugly."

Notes: Ronnie Price had an MRI on his elbow and also got hit in the face.

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<![CDATA[Lakers Can't Stand the Heat]]> Wed, 14 Jan 2015 00:34:51 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-lose-Heat-Kobe-Bryant-1-13-15.jpg

"I think once I look at the tape, I'll say 'let's throw this one away,'" Los Angeles Lakers coach Byron Scott said about Tuesday's ugly 78-75 loss to the Miami Heat.

"I'll have a bottle of vodka with me probably when I'm doing it, but I'll be OK," he added.

Tuesday night at Staples Center featured ugly basketball that the Lakers' coach could barely comprehend. He said he was joking about the bottle of vodka, but no one would fault him even if he was telling the truth.

The Lakers started the game missing their first 10 shots and failing to score until the game was seven minutes and 37 seconds old. The Heat had already built an 18-point lead by then, as the Lakers committed turnovers, missed shots and played all around bad basketball.

Kobe Bryant made his return to the Lakers after missing three of the last four games in an attempt to refresh his tired, aged body. As has been the case countless times in the past, the Lakers looked to no. 24 when they needed a basket, and he delivered. This time, sadly, the stakes were much lower. The Lakers had not managed a single point in over seven and a half minutes of play, so the "Black Mamba" hit an 18-foot jump shot to get the Lakers on the board.

As the game progressed, the Lakers cut the Heat's lead to only 10 points by the end of the first quarter. The difference would stay at 10 points going into the halftime break. Incredibly, Miami entered the break with 38 points in the paint and six made free throws for 44 total points. That meant the Heat had not made a single shot away from the basket.

The Lakers made adjustments to protect the paint, but the cold shooting would not subside in the second half. Instead, it would spread, as the Heat found more resistance close to the basket in the second half and failed to find any touch from distance.

At one point, the Lakers and Heat had missed 29 of 33 shots from 3-point land. That amounted to 12.1 percent, and another reason for Scott to take a sip from a bottle of liquor. 

"It was ugly. It really was--on both ends offensively for both teams," Scott said afterwards. "To have an opportunity at the end was a miracle."

Somehow, the Lakers did have a chance late in the game. Despite trailing for the entire game, Bryant's corner 3-pointer with 31.3 seconds remaining brought LA to within three points. After a robust defensive possession that included a blocked shot by Wesley Johnson, Bryant launched a three-point shot to tie the game at the final buzzer.

The shot didn't fall, the Lakers lost and Scott poured himself another glass.

Notes: Bryant scored 12 points on 3-19 shooting from the field, but the 36-year-old did have seven assists and six rebounds. The Heat and Lakers combined to miss 108 out of 170 shots. Despite the misses, no player finished with 10 rebounds. Jordan Hill hyper-extended his left knee and will be evaluated on Wednesday. Hill had started every game for the Lakers this season. The Lakers fell to 12-27 on the season.



Photo Credit: Getty Images 2015]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Versus Heat: Preview]]> Tue, 13 Jan 2015 02:51:54 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-Heat-Kobe-Wade.jpg

Six days following his last appearance, Kobe Bryant expects to be back playing for the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night at Staples Center.

Nearly a week after losing to the Clippers by 25 points, Bryant and the Lakers welcome a Miami Heat team fresh off its own 14-point victory over those same Clippers. Dwayne Wade and the Heat have won two of their last three games. Still, Miami has lost five of its last seven games and has a 16-21 record on the season.

In the Eastern Conference, a losing record is good enough for Miami to be seventh and involved in the playoff picture.

In the Western Conference, the Lakers' dismal 12-26 record offers no illusions of playing past April 15th. The talent evaluation segment of the season is generally reserved for after February's All-Star break, but the Lakers have seemingly been neck deep in that process for the majority of the season. A cocktail of injuries and losing have forced the Lakers into that process, and yes, Bryant's "rest" qualifies as an injury.

On Tuesday, however, the Lakers will have a fully healthy squad. Okay, so Steve Nash (back) and Julius Randle (leg and ankle) are out, but they’re not coming back for the remainder of the season. For the 2014-15 Lakers, Tuesday is as healthy as this team has looked, and keep in mind that the Lakers will feature two mask-wearing starters recovering from broken noses.

To start out 2015, the Lakers have won two of six games since the start of the New Year. Newcomer Tarik Black has been a standout and earned valuable minutes off the bench. In his last two games, the undrafted rookie is 7-7 from the field and averaging 10.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game.

Another player giving the Lakers life in the New Year is Jeremy Lin, who appears to be finally adjusting to his role off the bench. Lin is averaging 13.8 points and 3.5 assists in 24.0 minutes per game in 2015. Also, Lin is shooting 48.3 percent from the field and 50.0 percent from behind the three-point line in the New Year. The point guard's 2.3 turnovers per game in January are still a concern, but overall, Lin has been a far more consistent weapon off the Lakers' bench since the clock struck 2015.

For the starters, Jordan Hill has recently regained form. The Lakers' center is averaging 15.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per game over his past four games. Hill has been shooting 58.7 percent from the field over the past four games, and his long-range jump shot has been on target of late.

With Bryant back, the Lakers will hope to continue building off recent improvements on both sides of the basketball. Along with balancing the offense, the Lakers have also held three of their last five opponents under 100 points. Not coincidentally, the Lakers won two of the three games when they restricted their opponents to a low total.

The Lakers and Heat tip-off at 7:30 p.m. Pacific Time.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Byron Scott Explains His Kobe Bryant Plan]]> Mon, 12 Jan 2015 16:27:19 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Kobe-Bryant-Byron-Scott_1-12-15.jpg

After Kobe Bryant sat out three of the past four games, LA Lakers coach Byron Scott confirmed that his 36-year-old superstar participated in Monday's practice and would be penciled in for Tuesday's game against the Miami Heat.

"[Bryant] practiced today, said he felt good," Scott said early Monday afternoon. "It's going to be game-by-game, so right now we'll pencil him in for tomorrow."

Scott said Bryant came in, took part in drills with the team and got up a significant number of shots. The malleable plan in place called for Bryant to play on Tuesday, come back to the facility and get shots up on Wednesday, play on Thursday against the Cleveland Cavaliers and sit out at Utah on Friday, which was the second night of a back-to-back.

The Lakers' coach admitted that he had internally struggled with mistakes he had made in managing his 36-year-old superstar.

"You try to move away from it and forget about it, but it's very hard to do when you have a guy that you care about so much," Scott dug into his mental anguish over the issue. "You think you kind of messed up, which I do, because I think I played him too much early."

Scott continued by diving into the alternative universe before returning to reality: "If I would have stuck to the 32 minutes or 33 at the most, [Bryant] might have been able to play more of these games that he missed. But, you know what, I realize it. You have to move on from it, learn from your mistakes and move forward."

Scott talked about the statistical data that pointed to Bryant's staggering drop in efficiency after crossing the 32-minute mark. For the coach, the refined approach involved keeping his antique roadster humming at a stable speed rather than revving the engine too often, if at all.

"I want [Bryant's] body to be back to where he was before we started training camp because he felt great and was healthy," Scott explained why he had decreed extra rest than what would normally be required.

Scott continued, "At his age right now, he's probably going to have a little bit more of his share of aches and pains, and I think I added to that, so right now, what I can do is give him a little bit more rest when I can to benefit him in the long run."

Pressed on how he can avoid a repeat of the early season mistakes that forced Bryant into the trainers' room for a prolonged period, Scott's evolved approach centered on being cautious and conservative.

"I think I'm being pretty conservative right now, being honest with you," the Lakers' coach started out. "The only way it's working is Kobe is fine with it. He understands that this is all for the long run. He's allowing me to say, 'Hey, I'm proud of you and I know you want to play, but I don't think tonight's a good night.' And again, that falls on me."

Scott may be a fallible figure easy to point a finger at, but based on the fact that Bryant practiced for over an hour on Monday and looks set to start playing again on Tuesday, the coach may simply have taken longer than most to understand the delicate nature of his decisions.

At least, Scott sounds like he finally understands that Bryant is human--not a young one, at that. 

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<![CDATA[Scott Takes Blame for Bryant's Absence]]> Mon, 12 Jan 2015 07:09:54 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-Kobe-Bryant-Byron-Scott.jpg

Sitting Kobe Bryant out for the sixth time in 11 games, Byron Scott came prepared to stand in front of a bus on Sunday night. The Lakers never expected to beat the Portland Trail Blazers, but Bryant sitting out for the third time in four games required answers.

The white beams of the pregame press conference served as the fast approaching headlights of the bus, but this particular deer understood this world well. Scott played under bright lights as a player, and he'd answered tough questions about bad teams as a coach. However, Sunday night present the 53-year-old with something new.

Under his discretion, Scott had again benched Bryant because his body still required rest after the coach had worked the 19-year veteran into the ground over the first 27 games of the season. Over that stretch, Bryant averaged 35.9 minutes per game and averaged running 2.3 miles per game. At the time, Bryant had run the most distance on the Lakers and ranked 15th in the NBA in total distance covered.

"I didn't take in serious consideration [Bryant] almost missing a whole year and getting back and playing," Scott took responsibility. "I should have figured out that it would have taken a little time, but watching his workouts and watching what great shape he was in, I think I got a little too confident…expecting that he could handle those minutes."

Scott had looked at the 36-year-old Bryant and believed the legend of the unbreakable warrior. Watching the flashes of speed, the competitive fire of a champion and the confidence of a one of a kind superstar, Scott quickly forgot about the Achilles injury and the fracture in his knee.

"I was wrong," Scott said. "[Bryant]'s minute number was totally better than what I thought."

At best, playing a 36-year-old for 36 minutes per game was reckless. Considering Bryant's recent injuries and the level of energy he expends on the court, Scott's actions should have been illegal. Hopefully, those actions did not cause significant irreversible damage. No one wants to see Bryant go out like Steve Nash.

"[Bryant]'s a basketball player who's played a lot of years, so I have to be a little concerned about that," Scott added. "That's the reason I've taken such a precautionary measure as far as not allowing him to play so many games. I want him to be right not only for the rest of this season but next season, as well."

The coach admitted that he had ignored his star player's earlier suggestions of cutting minutes and treating Bryant's return with greater caution. Sadly, this situation likely could have been fully avoided.

The coach did not know how far back he'd set his superstar in terms of playing consecutive games and being able to sustain a consistent level of play, but Scott sounded like he had finally grasped the proper gravity of his position. Bryant trusted his coach--especially this coach--to make the proper decisions.

"[Bryant is] leaving it up to me, so I'm just trying to, I guess, make up for all the minutes I played him early," Scott laughed. "I wish I'd kept him minutes at 30, 32 minutes. Back-to-back games: I wish I'd probably just sat him down."

Scott had accepted fault and now, he needed to look ahead.

"It's our first time together," Scott said. "[Bryant] trusted me, and playing those minutes and not complaining one bit, which is, you know Kobe."

Yes, we know. Bryant's legend of mentally overcoming physical pains had grown so grand that China seemed all too natural a fit for the sports star. Then, hearing him openly admit fatigue felt about as foreign as a bowl of chow mein in Mexico.

Without fully committing, Scott all but tossed out the idea that Bryant would ever play another back-to-back. In terms of shutting down Bryant for the season, Scott said that subject had not yet crossed his mind, but he'd potentially entertain discussing it with the player after the NBA's All-Star break in February.

Of course, the night ended with the Lakers losing to the Blazers. Bryant came to Staples Center, but he did not appear on the team bench. Likely, he was in the trainers' room receiving treatment. As Bryant watched his Lakers suffer their 26th defeat in 38 games, Bryant likely figured out that the Lakers needed to win 19 straight games in order to squeeze into the final Western Conference playoff position.

Less than halfway through his penultimate NBA season, Bryant goal became crystal clear on Sunday night: find the formula to keep himself healthy for one last season in 2015-16.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[No Kobe, Lakers Beat by Blazers]]> Sun, 11 Jan 2015 23:47:23 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-Blazers-no-Kobe.jpg

"He's going to get better—that's the scary part," Los Angeles Lakers point guard Ronnie Price said about Damian Lillard after Sunday's 106-94 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center.

Price finished with a career-high 12 assists, but the veteran point guard sounded more focused on Lillard than himself, and he wasn't alone.

Giving the Lakers a strong sense of déjà vu, Lillard took over a game that was competitive for three quarters and left no doubt by the final buzzer. In Portland on Monday, Lillard outscored the Lakers 16-11 in the final 5:55 to hand the shorthanded Lakers a tough road loss. Six days later in LA, the Blazers' point guard scored 17 points in the final period, including an emphatic dunk that sent a clear message of superiority.

"He went up and just kept going," teammate LaMarcus Aldridge said about Lillard's emphatic dunk after the game. "The guy he dunked on asked why the ref called it so late, and I said, 'because he was mesmerized by the way he had dunked it.'"

The Lakers trailed the Blazers by only three points after three quarters. After four quarters, the Lakers lost by 12, and Lillard's ferocious finishing down the stretch had everyone talking after the game.

"He's just a hell of a player--that's what I saw," Lakers coach Byron Scott said about Lillard after the game. "He's pretty damn good."

The 24-year-old finished with 34 points and seven assists, and one had the feeling he would only get better if the game continued for another quarter or two.

"Basketball-wise, I haven't seen anything that he can't do," Scott added. "Point guard-wise, he's in that class of top point guards in the league in my opinion."

For the Lakers, Sunday also marked the return of Wesley Johnson from two games out due to a strained hip flexor. In his first game back, Johnson finished as the team's top scorer and shot 50 percent from the field. In all, Johnson had a good night. However, Johnson's 17 points matched what Lillard put up in the final period alone, which helped illustrate the talent gap between one of the NBA's elite players and the current Lakers' roster.

Kobe Bryant, who most still consider to be a top level player, sat out his second consecutive game as the Lakers attempt to rest their 36-year-old super star with the hopes of preserving him for the remainder of this season and all of next season. Bryant also sat out the 98-94 loss in Portland on Monday and the 101-84 victory against Orlando on Friday.

In all, Bryant has missed six of the Lakers' last 11 games.

Quote of the night
"He's fun to watch. I wanted to get some popcorn and just have a seat." - LaMarcus Aldridge on teammate Damian Lillard

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<![CDATA[Lakers: Advanced Statistics ]]> Sun, 11 Jan 2015 15:27:41 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-Kobe-Bryant-rest.jpg

The statistics tab on NBA.com offers a considerable database with reliable statistics, so every now and again, we like to poke our heads in to take a look. Here's a look at a list of interesting advanced statistics:

Distance statistics strike us as some of the most fascinating available stats. Surprisingly, Kobe Bryant still leads the Lakers with 71.1 miles traveled on the court this season despite sitting out five games to rest. Jordan Hill (69.5 miles) and Jeremy Lin (68.4 miles) rank second and third, respectively, but both have appeared in all 37 games for the Lakers.

Again, no surprise that Bryant averages the most touches per game on the team at 67.0. However, those folks who believe Bryant overly dominates the ball would be surprised to learn that Bryant ranks close to 40th in the NBA in that metric. Michael Carter-Williams, Kemba Walker, Chris Paul, John Wall and Rajon Rondo are the top five in the NBA in touches, and all five of those players average more than 90 touches per game.

Lin ranks second on the team in that category with 57.8 touches per game. Through 37 games, Lin's 2,140 total touches trail Bryant's total touches of 2,144 this season by the slimmest of margins.

Nick Young, who averages 29.2 touches per game ranks second in the NBA in points per touch at 0.495 (minimum 10 games). Minnesota's Shabazz Muhammad and Golden State's Klay Thompson sandwich Young in that category.

Rookie Jordan Clarkson has the highest offensive rating at 106. This means that the Lakers average 106 points per 100 possessions the rookie plays on the court. Defensively, Ryan Kelly has the best rating at 92.7, which means the Lakers only give up 92.7 points per 100 possessions Kelly spends on the court. Kelly also has the best net rating at 12.6, but nine Lakers have negative net ratings.

Ronnie Price's absence for the fourth quarter in Portland and the full 48 minutes against the Clippers highlighted how much the Lakers rely on their starting point guard. Lakers coach Byron Scott has referred to Price as the "head of the snake" in multiple contexts. Price leads the Lakers with an assists-to-turnover ratio of 3.2, which ranks 20th in the NBA. Price also ranks 12th in the NBA in the assist ratio metric, which measures the number of assists a player averages per 100 possessions. To provide context, Price slots in behind Ty Lawson and ahead of John Wall.

For a look at some of the traditional stats analysis of the Kobe-less Lakers, check out the latest Inside the Numbers analysis.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Inside the Numbers - Kobe-Less Edition]]> Sun, 11 Jan 2015 11:06:22 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-kings-12-21-2014.jpg

The Los Angeles Lakers won a game without Kobe Bryant on Friday, and so, this look inside the numbers focuses on Lakers not named "Kobe Bryant."  Bryant's involvement on Sunday against the Portland Trail Blazers remains in doubt after he sat Friday's win over Orlando. If you’re new to this, we identify a number and explain its significance. So, let’s get on with it:

45 - The 2014-15 LA Lakers have played 37 games out of an 82-game schedule. Sadly, the team has only managed 12 wins and currently holds the fourth worst record in the NBA. With a 32.4 percent winning percentage, the Lakers are on pace for 26.6 wins. The 2013-14 Lakers won 27 games, and that stands as the worst season in Lakers' history since the team departed from Minneapolis. If this season goes down as one of the worst in franchise history, which is more likely than not, fans can take solace in the fact that it’s nearly halfway over--45 percent finished, to be exact.

3.0 - Bryant leads the team with 23.0 points per game, but that average expects to drop as Bryant adjusts his game. As his points drop further, the Lakers will look to get added production from their other offensive weapons. In the starting lineup, Jordan Hill is the only other player averaging double figures. Hill's set mini-hop shot from 15 to 20 feet has the Lakers' center averaging 12.0 points per game, which is on pace to be a career high. Along with the offensive expansion, Hill is averaging a team-high eight rebounds per game. Hill's specialty has seemingly always been offensive rebounding, and the 27-year-old ranks in the top 15 in the NBA with 3.0 offensive rebounds per game.

38.2 - The Lakers' bench features a trio of offensive talents: Carlos Boozer, Jeremy Lin and Nick Young.

Boozer's rainbow fadeaway jump shots may not be as pretty as or as famous as Bryant's baseline fadeaway jump shot, but the forward has been incredibly effective off the bench. Excluding Tarik Black (75.0 percent) due to a small sample size, only Ed Davis (61.1 percent) is shooting a better percentage than Boozer's 52.5 percent.

Lin's numbers differ greatly home versus away. Although he is averaging 10.9 points per game, Lin's 18 appearances wearing gold or white jerseys have featured the backup point guard shooting 10 percent better than on the road. At home, Lin averages 13.0 points compared to 8.9 pointer per game on the road.

Young, a.k.a."Swaggy P," would be the Lakers' third musketeer off the bench. The Lakers' fashion obsessed joker in the locker room averages 14.4 points per game, which is second only to the Black Mamba. Altogether, Lin, Young and Boozer combine for 38.2 points per game off the pine.

The Lakers and the Blazers will tip at 6:30 p.m. Pacific Time.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Rookie Tarik Black on Being a Laker]]> Fri, 09 Jan 2015 23:34:27 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/TarikBlackLakersMagic_1200x675_382666307919.jpg LA Lakers rookie Tarik Black spoke to the media after an impressive win over the Orlando Magic on Friday night at Staples Center (Jan. 9, 2015)]]> <![CDATA[No Kobe, Lakers Still Beat The Magic]]> Fri, 09 Jan 2015 23:37:51 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-Tarik-Practice-introduced.JPG

Without Kobe Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Orlando Magic 101-84 in a game neither team benefited from winning.

With both teams near the bottom of the league, the victory left the Lakers level with the Magic in the standings and only half a game behind Detroit in the wins column. Still holding onto the fourth worst record in the NBA, the Lakers benefit from finishing in the bottom five. If the Lakers do not earn a top-five draft pick at season's end, the Phoenix Suns will take over the Lakers' pick as part of the Steve Nash trade.

Speaking of Nash, he was recently impersonating Spiderman in Argentina.

 

 

Gracias @bocajrsoficial. La bombanera! Un sueño!

Una foto publicada por stephennash (@stephennash) el

 

Back to Friday night at Staples Center, the Lakers responded positively to Bryant sitting out due to rest. Previously, the Lakers were 1-3 without their star player, but the team had played well in a tough loss to the Portland Trail Blazers only four days earlier. The official announcement that no. 24 would miss his fifth game of the season came less than two hours before tip-off. Guard Nick Young claimed not to know that Bryant was out when he arrived at the arena.

Once the ball went up, the Lakers got off to a fast start and quickly led by double digits before ending the quarter with a nine-point lead. Offensive balance became easy to identify early in the game, as seven different players had at least one bucket after 12 minutes.

In the second quarter, the Lakers continued to spread the scoring around, and nine of the 10 Lakers who got onto the court had at least one point. Wayne Ellington, who started in place of Bryant at shooting guard, finished the half 0-5 from the field.

After the intermission, Ellington would hit his first two shots, and the Lakers' attacking balance would continue into the second half. Tarik Black, who recently joined the Lakers, would be the last available Laker to hit the court. Almost immediately, Black also got on the board.

However, the lack of continuity kept the home team from gaining a comfortable cushion, and the Magic drew to within six points after three quarters.

In the final period, Black found his groove. In his first 11 minutes the rookie score 13 points and pulled down seven rebounds. Along with Carlos Boozer, Black led the Lakers' bench on a run that would put the game away. With four minutes to play, the Lakers suddenly led by 17 points.

The remainder of the game served as a showcase of Black's talents. He blocked shots, pulled down rebounds, made free throws and did about everything else to make the crowd "ooh" and "aah." Black would finish with 14 points and 9 rebounds in 17 minutes.

Notes: Jeremy Lin finished with 18 points, which was a game-high. Six different Lakers scored in double figures. The Lakers out-rebounded the Magic 60-36. Everyone won tacos.

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<![CDATA[LA Lakers Versus Orlando Magic]]> Fri, 09 Jan 2015 14:24:51 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-Magic-1-9-2015.jpg

The Los Angeles Lakers take on the Orlando Magic on Friday night at Staples Center.

At 13-25, Orlando is a direct competitor in the NBA Draft lottery chase. At the moment, the Lakers (11-25) possess the fourth worst record in the league, but Orlando is fifth on that list. Tobias Harris leads the Magic with 18.1 points per game, but Nikola Vucevic is close behind with 18.0 points per game.

Along with Harris and Vucevic, the Magic’s third key player is second-year shooting guard Victor Oladipo. Oladipo averaged 13.8 points, 4.1 assists and 4.1 rebounds in his rookie season, and his sophomore season has not shown much different. Oladipo enters Friday's game averaging 14.9 points, 3.9 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game. The 22-year-old has made a dramatic jump in field goal percentage from 41.9 percent his rookie season to 45.9 percent his sophomore season.

On Friday morning, Lakers coach Byron Scott said he was uncertain of his starting lineup with Wesley Johnson out. The coach is likely to stick with Wayne Ellington in the starting five, but Ryan Kelly is an option if the coach decides to go big.

Whether at shooting guard or small forward, Kobe Bryant will start for the Lakers. However, Bryant skipped practice on Thursday and did not come in for shootaround on Friday. Nick Young also sat out Thursday's practice, so his status was listed as "day-to-day" entering Friday.  

"[Young] came out and he ran around the court at full speed, and I told him, 'I guess your knee is fine,'" Lakers coach Byron Scott said Friday morning after team shootaround. "So I assume that he's playing."

Although Young could be a potential starter, the Lakers have thus far preferred to keep the eccentric shooting guard as an energetic scorer off the bench.

One certain change for the Lakers will be the return of Ronnie Price to the starting lineup. Price missed Wednesday's blowout loss to the Clippers due to a flu that included a 103-degree fever. Price also received 11 stitches for his broken nose in his last outing, so the 31-year-old expects to wear a mask for protection.

Price played with the Magic a season ago, and the veteran point guard mentored Oladipo in his rookie season.

"Oladipo was my rookie last year," Price said after Thursday's practice. "[Oladipo is] a very good guy and an even better basketball player. He's been playing great this year. I keep in touch with him."

The Lakers and Magic tip off at 7:30 p.m. Pacific Time.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Practice Report: Jan 8]]> Thu, 08 Jan 2015 16:02:17 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-Nick-Young-Stats.jpg

The Los Angeles Lakers got back to work on Thursday following an embarrassing defeat to the Los Angeles Clippers.

"We'll see how they respond tomorrow," Lakers coach Byron Scott said. "That's the biggest thing is how they respond--not necessarily how they respond in practice--but how they respond for the next game. After you get your brains beat out physically, where a team just dominates you, it's always interesting to see how you react the next game."

The Lakers trailed by as many as 43 points on Wednesday, and Scott repeatedly referred to his team as "soft" after the contest.

"It's almost like walking up to another man and slapping him," Scott said when asked about how insulting it was to be called "soft" as a basketball player. "I was looking at a team that was just having a good time at our expense, and we had nobody out there to do anything about it."

Scott said Ronnie Price's absence due to the flu hurt the team tremendously. Scott said, "[Price] is really the guy that dictates how we play defensively."

Luckily for the Lakers, Price returned to practice on Thursday and appeared in line to play on Friday. However, the point guard will need to wear a mask to protect his nose.

"I hate it. I hate this thing. It's the worst," Price couldn't contain his animosity toward the mask. "It protects me, but it's not very comfortable from a point guard standpoint when you got this thing sitting right here on your face, but I got to get used to it."

Price said he kept the mask on during the whole practice to grow accustomed to the feeling, but he was hopeful that his time with the mask would be short-lived. With regards to sitting out, Price made it clear that a 103-degree fever had forced the point guard to miss Wednesday's game. He would not be missing any time due to the broken nose or the 11 stitches that came with it.

Although Price completed practice, Nick Young sat out the session with a sore knee. Young said he slipped, fell and hurt his knee in the second quarter of Wednesday's game. He considered his status to be day-to-day, but the shooting guard was hopeful of playing Friday night against the Orlando Magic at Staples Center.

Ever the optimist, even Young had a difficult time not sounding down when talking about the recent defeat. "Embarrassing" was the word Young used to describe the loss to the Clippers.

Young added, "We can't continue to hang our heads." 

Note: Kobe Bryant did not practice (rest)



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA["Soft" Lakers Ripped Apart by Clippers]]> Thu, 08 Jan 2015 16:20:26 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-lose-to-Clippers.jpg

On Wednesday night at Staples Center, the Los Angeles Lakers trailed by as many as 43 points before falling 114-89 to the Los Angeles Clippers.

Entering the game, Lakers coach Byron Scott stated multiple times that the Clippers and Lakers were not rivals, and the evidence over 48 minutes only further proved that point. The Lakers could not compete with the Clippers, as the purple and gold suffered their ninth loss in the last 10 meetings between the two LA teams.

"They're just better," Kobe Bryant said after the loss. "[They] just got better players that come at you in waves. [They are] just deeper. They have got a lot better shooters on the floor, and we're short-handed. We miss Ronnie (Price). We miss Wes (Johnson). We miss that length. We miss that speed."

Since returning from three games on the sidelines, Bryant was averaging 12.3 shots, 8.5 rebounds and 8.0 assists. On Wednesday, Bryant took 12 shots, pulled down eight rebounds and handed off seven assists. However, he just didn't look right, and finishing with six turnovers and only four points provided evidence of that fact.

"It's just a little rust," Scott said. "I'm not worried about Kobe."

The Clippers scored 70 points in the first half and finished with 114 for the game. Chris Paul led the way with 24 points and 11 assists, but all five Clippers' starters scored in double figures. The Lakers trailed by 22 points at the half, and the Lakers' coach was not happy with what he had seen.

"We were soft," Scott said after the game. "I don't consider [the Clippers] a physical basketball team, but they came out punched us, and we were soft."

Scott said that missing Price hurt because he is one of the toughest guys on the team. Price missed the fourth quarter against Portland on Monday after breaking his nose and receiving 11 stitches. Along with the stitches, Price also had the flu, so he was unable to play.

The Lakers' coach was fuming from his ears, and his disappointment and frustration manifested itself in the form of short answers and repeated use of the word "soft." In all, the coach repeated the word "soft" five times when describing his team after the game.

What was Scott's message to his team? "I told them to man up, basically."

Notes: Tarik Black made his Lakers' debut and finished with five points--1 point more than Bryant. Johnson missed his second straight game with a strained right hip flexor. Rookie Jordan Clarkson set a new career-high with 14 points on 6-10 shooting and also tied career-highs with two assists and four rebounds.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[A New-Look Old Kobe Bryant]]> Wed, 07 Jan 2015 14:38:02 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/160*123/Kobe-Bryant-1-7-15.jpg

Entering Wednesday's local rivalry game against the Los Angeles Clippers, the older Kobe Bryant looks like a new player. Since returning to the Los Angeles Lakers from his three-game rest due to fatigue, an evolved Bryant is averaging 17.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, 8.0 assists and 1.75 steals per game. That's right, the new-old Bryant averages more rebounds than Blake Griffin. Granted, it is a small sample size, but Bryant's elevation in efficiency and decease in shot attempts is impossible to ignore.

Bryant is averaging only 12.3 shots per game since returning, but he's shooting 46.9 percent from the field. With his minutes trimmed, Bryant's legs appear to have enough pop to drain three-pointers again. He's shooting 53.3 percent from beyond the arc.

His turnovers over the four-game stretch seem high at 4.5 per game, but that number is skewed by a nine-turnover game Bryant threw out. Along with his nine turnovers, though, he also notched a triple-double, and the Lakers won that game against the Denver. So, his turnovers have not been the issue of late.

In his last two outings, the 36-year-old combo guard has only received four total demerits for coughing up the ball. Bryant resembles the player some thought he would be before the season: creating for teammates and shooting fadeaways. However, that description sells him short. As Bryant's numbers correctly suggest, he's doing a little bit of everything.

Like never before, Bryant is relying on teammates, and his teammates have responded positively. Even late in games, Bryant has given up the ball and trusted his teammates to make shots, make free throws and more importantly, miss shots and miss free throws.

Notes: Ronnie Price, who broke his nose and received 11 stitches on Monday, also came down with the flu on Wednesday. Price's status for Wednesday's game against the Clippers is in doubt, and Jeremy Lin would move into the starting lineup. Lin's offense would be welcome, but Price’s defense on Chris Paul would be sorely missed if the 31-year-old is unable to go for the Lakers. Price missed the entire fourth quarter against the Portland Trail Blazers, and Blazers point guard Damian Lillard scored 16 points in the final six minutes of that game. Wesley Johnson also remains sidelined with a strained right hip flexor.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers at Clippers: Preview]]> Wed, 07 Jan 2015 06:00:49 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-Clippers-Kobe-Bryant-Chris-Paul+%282%29.jpg

The City of Los Angeles has no professional football team, but it does have two basketball teams: the Lakers and the Clippers.

For an eternity, the Clippers succeeded in being as bad as the Lakers were good. While the purple and gold were counting championship rings, the red, white and blue were counting lottery balls. For as long as the Buss family owned the Lakers, that's how the story went.

One moment would change all that forever: the Chris Paul trade.

It happened, but then, it didn't.

"We have to move on," Lakers President Jeanie Buss said about the vetoed Paul trade in a Tuesday appearance on ESPN Radio's Mason and Ireland show.

The Lakers had CP3, and Dwight Howard would be the final piece. Howard still came, of course, but Steve Nash was no Paul. Heck, Nash wasn't even Nash. Instead, the Clippers landed Paul, and one of their lottery balls had finally panned out and looked like a franchise player.

Blake Griffin scored 39 points, pulled down seven rebounds and handed out four assists in a 118-111 Clippers' victory on the Lakers' home court when these two teams last met. A little over two months later, Griffin is averaging 22.5 points, 7.7 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game.

Since returning from three games out due to fatigue and old age, an evolving 36-year-old Kobe Bryant constantly lives under triple-double watch averaging 17.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, 8.0 assists and 1.75 steals per game. For everyone overwhelmed by those stats, Bryant has been passing almost as well as Chris Paul, 9.5 assists per game, and pulling down more rebounds than Griffin, 7.7 rebounds per game.

On Wednesday, the Lakers "travel" to face the Clippers as downtown LA promises a festive feel in the warm winter weather of the South land. Both teams will dress in their home lockers. Fans will fill LA Live. Local celebrities and media will rush to the event, but in this case, the local celebrities are world famous superstars.

These teams last met on Halloween night, and that game came down to Bryant missing a 17-foot shot that would have given the Lakers the lead with 27 seconds left in the game. Instead, the Lakers played the free throw game and inevitably lost 118-111.

That night, Bryant played 35 minutes and finished with 21 points, seven assists and four rebounds. On Wednesday night, the 36-year-old will likely stay around the 32 to 33 minutes Lakers coach Byron Scott has targeted. The lower minutes are designed specifically to give Bryant a higher probability of making that late-game 17-foot shot this time around.

Since running himself into the ground and reemerging as a point guard rather than a shooting guard, Bryant has the Lakers playing team basketball on the offensive end, and that energy is also transferring over to the defensive side of the ball.

Entering Wednesday's cross-town rivalry game, the Lakers have held their opponents under 100 points in consecutive games. That's a first for the 2014-15 Lakers, who give up 108.1 points per game on average.

The Clippers have won eight of the last nine head-to-head meetings, so the Lakers would probably prefer not to call this a rivalry game seeing as the purple and gold have not been at all competitive recently. Famously, Scott's first rivalry game at the helm featured the coach saying the Lakers did not consider the Clippers to be rivals because the only rivalry that mattered had to do with championship banners.

All the same, the most painfully one-sided of these non-rivalry games was a 48-point demolition the Clippers handed out on the Lakers' home court back in March of 2014.

The Lakers' lone victory over the past two seasons came on Opening Night of the 2013-14 NBA season. Bryant's Achilles was still recovering back then, and Xavier Henry led an energetic bench attack that hit the Clippers with a surprise knockout punch.

Ranked fourth from the bottom in the NBA, the Lakers have not had a season worth remembering. In a similar sense, the Clippers remain in the playoff picture, but the first 35 games have not gone as planned for Clippers coach Doc Rivers. The Clippers' winning percentage is down from a season ago, and the top seed in the conference already appears out of reach.

The Golden State Warriors hold that top spot in the NBA, and surprisingly, one of the Lakers' 11 wins came against the league's best team. Continuing with that thought, the Lakers have beaten five of the top 11 teams in the NBA. Seemingly, the tougher opposition brings out the best in these Lakers.

Case in point, the Lakers nearly pulled off a shock victory in Portland on Monday night despite missing two starters for the entire game and losing a third starter to a broken nose before the fourth quarter started. Somehow, the Lakers still hung around until the final minute against the second best team in the conference.

Had Bryant been available down the stretch, the Lakers probably manage to hold on in Portland. Instead, Bryant stayed home to rest for Wednesday's rivalry game. At 7:30 p.m. Pacific Time, a well-rested Bryant will lead the Lakers against the Clippers at Staples Center. And yes, it is a rivalry game.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Julius Randle Has Surgery on Foot]]> Tue, 06 Jan 2015 12:01:27 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-rookie-julius-Randle.jpg

Since Los Angeles Lakers rookie Julius Randle was already expected to miss the season with a broken leg, the player and the team decided to operate on the 20-year-old's right foot on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, the Lakers reported Randle underwent successful surgery to replace a screw in the fifth metatarsal of his right foot. The surgery was performed by Dr. David Thordarson of the Cedars-Sinai Orthopaedic Center.

Randle, who suffered his leg break on opening night, originally had the screw inserted into his foot back in high school. Concerns over the screw helped explain why the kid dropped to seventh in the 2014 NBA Draft, where the Lakers happily scooped him up.

Upon being drafted, the Lakers send Randle to see specialists who determined that no further surgery was required on his foot. However, with the rookie already out for the season, the Lakers and the player agreed to replace the screw that had initially caused concern.

Randle had only recently ditched his crutches and appeared to be walking fine with no assistance. Surgery on his foot will likely put an end to that, and one cannot help but wonder why the player and the team did not opt to perform this surgery earlier.

Regardless, the Lakers announced Randle expects to make a full recovery, and he expects to be a prominent figure at the Lakers' training camp and off-season workouts. Randle's participation in the NBA Summer League, where he stood out as a top talent, remains unclear.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lillard Gets 39, Lakers Lose 98-94]]> Tue, 06 Jan 2015 00:48:13 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Damian-Lillard-Lakers-Blazers.jpg

The shorthanded Los Angeles Lakers provided Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers an unlikely scare on Monday night, but the Blazers' point guard would ultimately strike fear into the Lakers' defense before time expired.

Lillard finished with 39 points to beat LA 98-94 in Portland, and the Blazers' point guard was sensational in scoring 16 points in the final six minutes of the game.

For the first three quarters, the Lakers fought hard and played with tremendous fight on both ends of the court. Playing on the second night of a back to back without Kobe Bryant (rest) and Wesley Johnson (strained right hip flexor), the Lakers entered the Moda Center in Portland as long shots to do anything but lose big.

Ryan Kelly and Wayne Ellington replaced Johnson and Bryant in the starting lineup, as Lakers coach Byron Scott opted to leave the Nick Young with the second unit. The coach's gamble worked in large part because forward Jordan Hill had his shooting shoes on early. Hill made his first four shots and tabbed 12 points and five rebounds in the first half.

Ronnie Price added seven points and five assists at the intermission and played a large role in setting up the Lakers' offense and guarding Lillard on the opposite end. Unfortunately, Price caught an elbow at the end of the third quarter and had to leave the game. Price likely broke his nose and received eleven stitches in the while his team slugged out the final quarter.

Through three quarters, the Lakers led by three points and managed to hold Portland to 39.7 percent shooting. Price had 11 points and eight assists when he exited the game, but his importance on the defensive end and setting up the offense could not be fully understood until late in the game.

"That hurt us big time. Ronnie was playing well for us," Scott said after the game. "[Price] will probably have to wear a mask. Broken, fractured or whatever the case may be, but I think he'll be okay for Wednesday."

To start the final quarter, the Lakers continued to attack and built up a 7-point lead with 5:55 to play in the ball game. From that point forward, Lillard outscored the Lakers 16-11.

"[Lillard] was making shots. He was getting to everywhere he wanted to get to on the court," Lakers coach Byron Scott sounded slightly helpless after the game. "You got to give him a lot of credit. He's a great point guard."

The Lakers' best point guard defender was in the locker room getting stitched up, Lillard sped by defenders. Along with Lillard heating up, the Lakers went cold as the offense stagnated. Were it not for free throws, the Lakers would have struggled to keep up with Lillard's lethal efficiency.

"We just went cold the last two and half [to] three minutes of the game on the offensive end [and] couldn't make a shot," Scott said. "But [I'm] real happy with the way we battled."

The Lakers did not simply wilt away, however. After falling behind by four points with 2:33 to play, the Lakers fought back to take a one-point lead with 43.3 seconds remaining on the clock. After Lillard scored a bucket and hit a couple free throws, the Lakers held the ball with 18.9 seconds to play trailing by three points.

Lin created separation on a step-back three-pointer, but his balance did not allow him to get enough of his legs under the shot. He came up short and fired up an air ball.

"I thought [Lin] had a decent look at it," Scott said afterward. "Unfortunately it was an air ball, but I thought he had a decent look at it."

Overall, the Lakers put together a positive performance despite being down two starters and losing a third starter for the fourth quarter.

Despite the loss and the air ball, Lin said, "I honestly believe we're headed in the right direction."

Notes: Price will see a nose doctor on Tuesday, but the point guard sounded opposed to wearing a mask for Wednesday's game against the LA Clippers. Bryant also expects to return for Wednesday's game. Wesley Johnson may be back in about a week rather than the original several weeks initially feared.
All quotes courtesy of Time Warner Cable Sportsnet.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Alina Kupchak Passes Away]]> Mon, 05 Jan 2015 18:37:00 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/205*120/Ed-Davis-Lakers-7-23-15.jpg

"Alina Claire Kupchak, daughter of Lakers General Manager Mitch and his wife Claire, passed away this morning at the age of 15 after a lengthy illness," a stunning press release arrived via the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday afternoon.

The family thanked fans for their support and asked for privacy in this trying time.

"We're all hurt," Lakers coach Byron Scott commented on the sad new on Time Warner Cable Sportsnet ahead of Monday's game. "As a parent, all of us who have kids, especially all of us fathers who have daughters, I can't imagine being here and my daughter is not here."

Scott said he sat down with his coaches in the morning, and silence dominated the conversation. The coach also sent a text message the G.M. to support him, but he did not expect a reply.

"That's not the way it's supposed to happen," Scott added.

The family did not specify the illness that took the teenager's life, but the overpowering nature of the tragedy could not be dulled by holding back details.

Kupchak has been with the Lakers since 1981, when Earvin "Magic" Johnson told Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss that he would like to Kupchak more than any other player. Following his retirement in 1986, Kupchak joined the front office and served as an assists to General Manager Jerry West.

In 2000, Kupchak took over the position of General Manager, where he has served for the past 14 years.



Photo Credit: Shahan Ahmed]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Travel Without Kobe Bryant, Wes Johnson]]> Mon, 05 Jan 2015 10:13:37 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Kobe-Bryant-Lakers-1-5-15.jpg

In lieu of playing his third game in four nights, Kobe Bryant will stay home on Monday night.

Bryant will watch his shorthanded Los Angeles Lakers play against the Portland Trailblazers from afar, Lakers coach Byron Scott revealed on Sunday evening. Portland is the second best team in the NBA based on record, and the Lakers will be without their best player.

Wayne Ellington will start in place of Bryant, but the Lakers are -- and this may sound familiar -- in the midst of an injury crisis.

Also staying home in LA, Wesley Johnson sustained a strained right hip flexor injury in the Lakers' victory over the Indiana Pacers and did not play in the second half of the game. Considering the Lakers do not have a natural small forward available, Nick Young would appear to be the most likely option.

"I would love to be a starter," Young said when asked about it after the game.

Moments later, Young reverted to the language of swag that archeologists will one day study and attempt to decipher: "I'm a prophet of swag. I'm here to deliver what all of ya'll can't handle."

What the Lakers would gladly handle is another night like the one Young put up on Sunday. Young scored 22 points in 29 minutes and also performed on the defensive end against a hot shooter in C.J. Miles.

Miles had 17 points in the first half, but Young's defense in the second half held the Pacers' guard to only 19 points for the game. The Lakers' coach credited Young for being the key in stopping Miles.

If not Young, the Lakers may look to start Ryan Kelly and bring Young in slightly earlier than usual. Of course, there is a possibility that everything will fall apart early because Portland is not an easy place to play. Since Nov. 16, when he suffered a tear in his hamstring, Kelly has only played 22 minutes.

Asked about starting Kelly, Lakers coach Byron Scott would not say more than it being a possibility. Kelly is naturally a power forward, so playing as a small forward would be a challenge. That being said, Kelly did play major minutes at small forward late in Sunday’s win over the Pacers.

If the Lakers can get five to six minutes out of Kelly to start each half, Young could potentially continue in the role that the coach prefers for him under normal circumstances. Regardless of who starts, Young and Kelly will both play significant minutes in Portland.

"Hey, whatever I need to do," Kelly laughed when told the coach mentioned him as a possible starter.

"Obviously, I got size and length," Kelly thought about playing small forward. "I'm pretty good at knowing how much distance I got to keep based on the person. It's new. It's different because I haven't played [small forward] in this offense. So, I've got to pick my spots offensively, but I think I can hold my own defensively. That's something I worked on [over the summer]--my movement and my lateral quickness."

Regardless of who starts, the Lakers are staring up at a mountain when they take on the team with the second best record in the NBA on Monday night.

The Lakers and Trailblazers tip-off at 7:00 p.m. Pacific Time.



Photo Credit: Getty Images 2015]]>
<![CDATA[Kobe Bryant Hits Winner Over Pacers]]> Mon, 05 Jan 2015 07:04:35 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-beat-Pacers_Kobe-Bryant.jpg

On Sunday night, the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Indiana Pacers 88-87 after Kobe Bryant hit the game-winning shot with 12.4 seconds to play in the game.

Bryant would finish with 20 points, six rebounds, six assists and three steals in another efficient performance that saw the Lakers' superstar shoot 50 percent from the field.

From the opening tip, Bryant looked focused. He made four of six shots and finished the first quarter with nine points, three rebounds, two steals and one assist. Unfortunately, Bryant did not have much help early, as his Lakers' teammates came out cold. With the exception of forward Ed Davis, Bryant's teammates made only one of 11 shots in the opening 12 minutes.

The Lakers trailed by 13 points after one quarter, and that lead would carry throughout most of the second period. In the second quarter, the Lakers' bench helped keep the Pacers within reach, and Nick Young's three-pointer at the halftime buzzer helped the Lakers from entering the locker room down double digits.

"The shot Nick Young had at the buzzer going into halftime was big for us," Lakers forward Ed Davis said after the game. "We needed that momentum."

Young scored 12 points in the quarter and finished with a game-high 22 points. For the Pacers, guard C.J. Miles was particularly lethal in the first half, scoring 17 points before the intermission. 

After the break, the Lakers looked like a new team.

Despite the cold start from his teammates, Bryant continued to trust the team and pass the ball. In the second and third quarters, Bryant only attempted four shots. Instead, the aging and evolving guard continued to find teammates.

Despite the Lakers out-shooting the Pacers 44.8 percent to 36.4 percent in the third quarter, Indiana carried a six-point lead into the final 12 minutes. The visitors were able to hang onto their lead due to a healthy advantage on the offensive glass. On the night, the visiting Pacers out-rebounded the Lakers 16-5 on offensive rebounds, and those extra chances led to a 26-2 advantage on second chance points.

In the fourth and final quarter, the Lakers stuck with a bench unit that looked to be gaining traction. With the Lakers' bench displaying good energy at the tail end of the third quarter, Lakers coach Byron Scott kept Jeremy Lin, Carlos Boozer and Young in for nearly all of the final quarter.

Young guarded Miles and muzzled the Pacers' shooter. Miles would only score two points in the second half and only one point in the final quarter.

"[Young] did a heck of a job on C.J. Miles in the second half," Scott said after the game. "Nick guarded him 90 percent of the time in the second half, so he did a great job."

Along with the aforementioned three bench contributors, Ryan Kelly played small forward during the fourth quarter in only his second game back from injury. With Wesley Johnson not returning from halftime due to a strained right hip flexor, the Lakers tried a square peg in a round hole, and for one night, it somehow fit.

When the game was on the line, however, Bryant came in and did his thing. Just as he had scored nine points in the opening quarter, Bryant hit the Pacers for another nine points in the fourth quarter. His final basket came with 12.4 seconds to play to give the Lakers an 88-87 lead.

The Pacers could not get their act together on the final shot, and the buzzer sounded to 18,997 fans standing and applauding. The streamers dropped from the rafters, and fans in attendance heard those strangely unfamiliar yet sweet words: "Everybody gets tacos!"

Notes: Boozer pushed Roy Hibbert during the fourth quarter, and after a review, Boozer was handed a flagrant foul. Scott and Bryant were both critical of the NBA's current definition of a flagrant foul after the game. Scott went as far as to call college basketball a more physical form of the game. Johnson will have an MRI on Monday, so he will not travel with the team. The Lakers will be short two starters against Portland on Monday night: Bryant and Johnson. Scott said Bryant would stay home to rest, as flying the 36-year-old up to Portland for the second night of a back-to-back did not make much sense. The coach pointed out that the Lakers play three games in four days. The Lakers “travel” to play the LA Clippers on Wednesday.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Welcome Pacers on Sunday]]> Sun, 04 Jan 2015 12:53:44 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-Pacers-1-4-15.jpg

On Sunday evening, the Los Angeles Lakers host the Indiana Pacers at Staples Center.

The Pacers have won five of their last seven games, putting them only one game out of the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. Back when the Lakers traveled to Indianapolis on Dec. 15, the Pacers dominated the Lakers to snap an eight-game losing streak, so Sunday offers the Lakers a chance at revenge.

One major reason the Lakers lost that mid-December game was poor offensive efficiency. The Lakers shot 33 percent as a team, and the pre-rest Kobe Bryant went 8-26 from the field. A couple games later, he grabbed a seat due to fatigue.

Since returning to the floor, a new-look Bryant has increased his efficiency and decreased his shot attempts. The 36-year-old has played a vital role for the Lakers' offense for nearly two decades, but his role appears to have shifted from shot-taker to shot-creator. Bryant is averaging 8.7 assists, 9.3 rebounds to go along with only 11.7 shots per game.

Even with Bryant shifting priorities and the Lakers playing better team ball recently, LA has lost two of its last three games. On the season, the Lakers have lost 23 of their first 33 games. Entering Sunday’s contest, LA has the fifth worst record in the NBA, and the schedule doesn't offer any gifts in the near future.

Following Sunday's game against the Pacers, the Lakers will immediately head to the airport and hop on a flight to Portland for a game against the Trailblazers, who have the second best record in the NBA, on Monday night. On Wednesday, the Lakers wear visitor uniforms in their home building, as the LA Clippers paint their colors on the Staples Center floor.

Even if making the playoffs seems less likely by the game, Sunday night is important for the Lakers. A victory to reward Bryant for continuing to pass would help keep the star from returning to being a volume scorer.

The Lakers and Pacers tip-off at 6:30 p.m. Pacific Time.

Notes: Pacers point guard Rodney Stuckey finished with 20 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists when these two teams last met. C.J. Miles is averaging 23.5 points over the past two games, both of which were wins. The Pacers’ roster features nine players who average double figures in scoring. George Hill leads Indiana with 14.2 points per game.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Kobe Bryant Talks Drastic Change After Loss]]> Sat, 03 Jan 2015 07:42:46 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-lose-to-Pelicans_12-7-14.jpg

The Los Angeles Lakers lost at the buzzer to the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night at Staples Center.

With only 0.6 seconds on the clock, Kobe Bryant caught an in-bounds pass and managed to get off a potential game-tying shot. The shot went slightly long, hit the back iron and bounced up with one last chance of going in. It didn't, and the Lakers lost 109-106.

Narrowly losing to a team that ranks third in the Western Conference hardly qualifies as an embarrassment.

Despite missing the shot at the buzzer, Bryant was phenomenal on Friday night in a way not normally attributed to the career-long high-volume scorer. The 19-year veteran only attempted one shot in the first quarter. By halftime, the 36-year-old had one more assist, five, than shot attempts. After three quarters, Bryant was already flirting with a second consecutive triple-double, sitting on 12 points, six assists and six rebounds. At the final buzzer, Bryant finished with only 15 points, but his nine rebounds and eight assists were both team-highs.

NBCLA.com caught up with the Lakers' superstar shortly after the loss and asked him about the noticeable adjustment to his game recently. Most notably, Bryant's assists had dramatically increased and his shot attempts had been cut in half since returning from three games out due to fatigue.

"Teams double me all over the floor," Bryant explained. "It's not like I'm passing up shots. I don't have them because [defenses] stack up and trap. Back in my younger days, I could go through that stuff and have 30 or 40 points. Now, my body can't take it, so I'll dominate the game a different way."

On Friday night, Bryant dominated the game in a different way. To be honest, he dominated the game in several different ways than have been associated with the polarizing player. On the night, only Marc Gasol pulled down more rebounds, 10, and only Mike Conley handed out more assists, nine. Added to all of that, Bryant only committed two turnovers.

 

 

Perhaps, the most interesting aspect of Bryant's game was his performance in the fourth quarter. Bryant hit a 26-foot three-pointer with 24.2 seconds to play. That was only the Black Mamba's second shot attempt of the quarter. After confusion related to fouling Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley, the Lakers held the ball with 11.7 seconds to play.

Holding the ball with a dozen seconds to play and trailing by two points, Bryant would be expected to shoot 10 out of 10 times. Instead, he drew the defense and found Ed Davis under the basket. If that play was properly completed, Bryant would have finished the fourth quarter with more assists than shot attempts.

Instead, Davis was hit hard above the shoulders, and the foul generated a debate of the flagrant variety. After a review, the officials deemed the foul to be common. Davis made the first but missed the game-tying second free throw.

That free throw miss directly led to Bryant's third and final shot of the fourth quarter: the desperation three-pointer at the buzzer.

With his feet drenching in a bucket of ice, Bryant spoke with reporters long after the TV cameras had moved away from his locker. He did not look tired. He did not sound spiteful. He was not bitter, guarded or short with his answers.

"We played hard," Bryant said. "We played well. It's just a learning process."

Forced to sit down due to fatigue after 27 games of trying to be the guy and carry the load, Bryant had started to acknowledge his physical limitations and implement a preservation strategy.

"I don't know if my body can take it," Bryant said when asked about shooting 20-plus times per game.

Prior to sitting down, Bryant was averaging 22.4 shots per game. In one of the toughest nights of his career, a miserably fatigued Bryant shot the ball 30 times against the Sacramento Kings. Less than two weeks later, Bryant's reality had shifted drastically. Even 20 shots seemed like an unsustainable challenge.

In the three games since coming back from his time off, Bryant's field goal attempts have dropped to 11.6 per game. To go along with the drop in shot attempts, his efficiency dug out of the basement and exploded through the roof. Bryant shot 45.7 percent from the field, which slightly improved Bryant's season average to 37.7 percent.

NBCLA.com asked Bryant if the time off helped grow greater awareness of his limitations.

"Yea, I had a chance to really evaluate my game," Bryant responded enthusiastically.

Despite strong performances from Davis and Jeremy Lin that deserved recognition, Bryant's game management stood out because of who he was and what it meant. He may not win a championship this season, but Bryant can win over hearts and minds if he continues to play in this manner.

Maybe, he can even win over a couple free agents.

Notes: Jeremy Lin finished with 20 points and made nine of the 14 shots he attempted. With Lin playing well through the first three quarters, Lakers coach Byron Scott left the backup point guard in to finish the game. Down the stretch, the 26-year-old made crucial plays that gave the Lakers a chance to pull off an unlikely win. Lin's 20 points tied for game-high honors with teammate Davis. Davis made seven of nine shots in his first game wearing a protective mask. Davis broke his nose in Denver on Tuesday night. Davis' 20 points were a season-high. Also, the forward made six of eight free throws, but his final miss may have ended up costing the game.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Ryan Kelly Back for Lakers]]> Fri, 02 Jan 2015 14:51:52 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/LakersRyanKellyreturns_1200x675_379423299889.jpg At Friday morning's shootaround, Ryan Kelly confirmed he would start 2015 healthy after missing all but three games of the 2014-15 season due to injury.]]> <![CDATA[Lakers Host Grizzlies to Start 2015]]> Fri, 02 Jan 2015 14:52:58 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-Rockets-Kobe-Bryant_11-19-14.jpg

After losing only four of their first 21 games, the Memphis Grizzlies have dropped four of their last six heading into their matchup with the Lakers Friday.

Still, the Grizzlies are a solid team led by the most dynamic center in the NBA. Marc Gasol anchors the defense, creates the offense and stretches the floor. His skill set is stunning. Blasphemous as it may be to say this, the younger Gasol may outdo his older brother if he continues on his current trajectory.

The last time these two teams met, the Grizzlies won 99-93 on the strength of 19 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, two steals and three blocks from Gasol.

Normally, Zach Randolph adds to the Lakers' headaches down low, but the meaty power forward has missed five games due to a knee issue. His involvement on Friday night is doubtful at best. After losing their first three games without Randolph, the Grizzlies adjusted by winning in Miami and beating the NBA champion San Antonio Spurs.

While most teams struggle against the Grizzlies, the Lakers have looked surprisingly strong against one of the favorites to make it out of the Western Conference. In both defeats, the Lakers were within striking distance down the stretch but came up short.

This time around, the Lakers appear to be addressing their late game short comings by lowering Kobe Bryant's minutes. The 36-year-old averaged 37 minutes in those earlier two meetings. This time around, no. 24 is being limited to between 32 and 33 minutes.

After recording a triple-double in Tuesday's win over the Denver Nuggets, Bryant skipped Wednesday's practice to stay home and rest. On Thursday, he came to the Lakers' facility to take a few shots and get treatment. On Friday morning, Bryant again came in to get a few shots up.

Rested or not, Bryant spoke about evolving and accepting the idea of adjusting his game to match his physical limitations. In that triple-double game, Bryant's shot attempts, 11, matched his assists, also 11. In Sunday's loss to the Phoenix Suns, Bryant finished with 10 shot attempts and seven assists. If this trend continues, the twilight of Bryant's career may feature no. 24 being defined as a play maker rather than a shot taker.

Another developing positive byproduct of the passing Bryant is the offensive balance. In both games since Bryant returned from a three-game rest, the Lakers have finished with different eight players attempting at least six shots. Not only does sharing the ball make for happy teammates; it also makes for entertaining team basketball.

Led by Gasol and Mike Conley, the Grizzlies understand team basketball. Memphis ranks in the top 10 in the NBA in assists per game with 22.7 dimes per contest.

The Lakers and Grizzlies may not be close in the standings, but these teams match up well, so this should be a close game at Staples Center. Tip off is at 7:30 p.m. Pactific Time.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Jeremy Lin Not Off to Consistent Start]]> Fri, 02 Jan 2015 09:36:58 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Jeremy-Lin-Lakers-1-2-15.JPG

It's a new year, but will we see a new Jeremy Lin in 2015?

At the Los Angeles Lakers' first practice of the New Year, Byron Scott assessed what he had seen out of the point guard since moving him to the bench 12 games earlier.

"A lot of inconsistency," Scott said without hesitation. "That's the biggest thing. Some games [Lin]'s really good, and some games he's not."

Over those 12 games, Lin is averaging 7.6 points, 4.4 assists and 2.7 rebounds in 21.6 minutes per game. In seven of those 12 games, Lin shot under 35 percent from the field.

"It's just trying to find a consistent effort from [Lin], consistent play from him, and I think he's still kind of searching at times," Scott sounded slightly confused. "But I think at times, which is kind of amazing to me, he'll have one real good game, and the next game, it'll seem like he doesn't have his confidence. I don't know where that's coming from."

Looking at Lin's last two games, one could easily see the coach's point. Against the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday, the backup point guard hit eight of 11 shots and scored 19 points. Two days later, Lin was invisible and missed five of six shots against the Denver Nuggets.

"[Lin] just needs to find that consistency to come off the bench and provide what I think he can provide and what I know he knows he can provide a lot more than he's been doing," the coach hoped Lin could yet transform into a reliable bench player.

Through 32 games, Lin's time with the Lakers has lacked the zip fans had hoped for. For the first 20 games of the season, Lin started every game and earned the opportunity to shine. With the team losing 15 of those 20 games, changes forced Lin to the bench. Now, it appears that Lin's move to the bench has not yet yielded the desired results.

Whether the lack of consistency derives from confidence, comfort or confusion on the court, the reality is that "Linsanity" starts 2015 failing to fulfill the expectation of being a consistent bench player.



Photo Credit: Shahan Ahmed]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Practice: Ryan Kelly Ready]]> Fri, 02 Jan 2015 08:10:00 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-practice-new-year.JPG

Coming off the floor after the Los Angeles Lakers' New Year's Day practice, Ryan Kelly sounded excited: "New Year, new me!"

Kelly has only been able to appear in three games through the first 32 games of the season. For the Lakers' 33rd game, which takes place at Staples Center on Friday, the 23-year-old forward expects to be available.

"I went through all of practice today," Kelly said on Thursday. "I felt good, so I think I'll be available to play [on Friday]."

The former Duke Blue Devil said that he did have any problems or feel any limitations after completing three practices. For Kelly, completing the weave passing drill was the final step to completing his recovery.

"[Kelly] was scared of one drill because he got hurt in that drill last time, the weave, and I told him 'you got to conquer your fears,'" Lakers coach Byron Scott said after practice. "He went through the weave and was happy afterwards and then went through the five-on-five, so yea, he's available tomorrow."

Scott said that he likes the way Kelly plays on both ends, and the forward should expect to get on the court on Friday.

"I know I can find minutes for Ryan because I like the way Ryan plays," Scott added. "He gives us something that we don't have. He's a stretch four, very intelligent basketball player. I know I'll find minutes for him."

"I play the same way no matter what. I play the right way and I try to compete," Kelly added. "You can count on those two things from me."

Scott said that he also liked what he had seen from the newest Laker, Tarik Black, over two days of practice. The Lakers' coach said that he was less certain about Black seeing the floor on Friday, but the 23-year-old center made a strong impression in the two practice sessions.

Notes: Scott said Kobe Bryant came in to get shots up and receive treatment. He did not practice. The plan is for Bryant to do the same on Friday morning, and the 36-year-old expects to start on Friday night. In his last outing, Bryant logged a triple-double

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<![CDATA[Lakers Practice Report]]> Wed, 31 Dec 2014 19:42:52 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-practice-Tarik-Black-12-31-2014.JPG

On New Year's Eve, Los Angeles Lakers coach Byron Scott called his team in for an early afternoon practice following a promising win in Denver on Tuesday night.

Two reasons to hold this practice were Ryan Kelly and Tarik Black. Kelly has struggled to only take part in three games this season due to unrelenting hamstring issues. The second-year power forward now appears to be on the brink of returning, and the Lakers are hopeful that he will be available for the remainder of the season.

On Wednesday, Kelly went through practice and suffered no setbacks. The plan is to have Kelly practice on Thursday, take part in shoot-around on Friday morning and be available on Friday night against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Along with testing Kelly, the team is working hard to integrate their newest member of the squad. Black was acquired off waivers and went through his first practice on Wednesday. Although the center dressed against the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night, he was unable to get into the game. 

"It was great," Black said after his first practice. "It felt good to get there on the floor with the team."

Black said the crash course was going well and that he was growing comfortable with the offense, terminology and play calling. After the others wrapped up, Scott and his assistants spent extra time with the new addition running through sets. And yes, Scott was stroking shots during the walk-through with the new player.

"He was knocking it down, especially yesterday at shoot-around," Black said about his coach.

If all goes according to plan, Scott will have 13 players to choose from going into Friday's game against the Memphis Grizzlies.

On the subject of the Grizzlies, former Memphis forward Ed Davis suffered a broken nose during the fourth quarter of the Lakers' win in Denver. Davis was at practice with a giant bandage on his face.
"I'm going to try to practice in a mask tomorrow and in the game on Friday," Davis said. "But if I miss a couple shots, I'm going to take it off."

Shooting 63 percent on the season, Davis doesn't miss often and leads the team in field goal percentage. 



Photo Credit: Shahan Ahmed]]>
<![CDATA[Kobe Goes For Triple-Double in Denver]]> Tue, 30 Dec 2014 21:24:55 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-Kobe-Bryant-triple-double_12-30-14.jpg

On Tuesday night, the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Denver Nuggets 111-103 with 36-year-old Kobe Bryant recording his second triple-double of the season.

From the way he started the game, Bryant offered good value to do something special. In his first shift, which lasted nine minutes and 11 seconds, Bryant made all three of his shots for eight points. With the Nuggets double teaming the Lakers' superstar, he began making defense-splitting passes. With his precise passing, Bryant got teammates involved early and recorded four assists before grabbing his first rest of the evening.

"I've got to evolve," Bryant explained after the game on TWC SportsNet. "I've got to evolve and focus more on all-around stuff and setting up guys. I just don't have the legs to be in aggressive mode to score the ball for 48 minutes or whatever the case may be. So, I just got to make adjustments and perfect another area."

The third greatest scorer in NBA history changed his focus, and finally, he sounded like he had accepted that he could not solely carry a team on his back by shooting the basketball. Bryant also raised his hands and verbally accepted the idea of not playing beyond 30 to 32 minutes per night.

Back in the first quarter, Bryant also hit the boards. With the Lakers worried about Denver's offensive rebounding entering the game, Bryant also had four rebounds in the first quarter--all on the defensive end.

After one quarter, Bryant recording a triple-double seemed likely. After the first half, the Lakers winning also seemed to be in the cards. LA took its largest halftime lead of the season into the locker room: 62-46.

After the break, the visitors continued to push the notion that the final result was not in doubt. At one point, the Lakers led the Nuggets by 23 points. However, that would quickly change.

Early in the fourth quarter, the Lakers' second unit struggled to hit shots, and a 23-point game was suddenly a two possession game with 7:30 to play. Turnovers hurt the Lakers, as the Nuggets took advantage of the Lakers' weakness by outscoring the Lakers 32-11 in points off turnovers.

With the game on the line and Nick Young having a quiet night on the court, Bryant earned trips to the foul line and scored nine valuable points in the final seven minutes of a game that was a couple more turnovers away from being a forgettable loss.

"The defenses are loading up (on me)," Bryant said after the game. "I've just got to make the easy play. I had turnovers there I'm not happy about--just some miscommunication between us and some timing that we'll work out. But, overall, it's good to get a road win."

Bryant had nine turnovers to go along with 23 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds. He only attempted 11 shots. Even with the turnovers, Bryant and the Lakers played well. Tuesday night was the Lakers' first win against the Nuggets since Nov. 30, 2012.

Notes: The Lakers hit 14 three-pointers on the night, which was a season high. The team shot 56 percent from beyond the arc, continuing the Lakers' recent hot trend from downtown.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Try to Stop Ty Lawson in Denver]]> Tue, 30 Dec 2014 05:25:44 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-at-nuggets-2014.jpg

The Los Angeles Lakers take on the Denver Nuggets a mile above sea level on Tuesday evening.

Kobe Bryant is expected to play, and the 2014-15 Lakers' progression is predicated on Bryant's ability to stay productive on the court. The 36-year-old recently sat out three games due to fatigue. In his first game back, Bryant took a step back down the stretch, and no, he was not pouting.

In a close game in the fourth quarter, Bryant passed the ball to Nick Young repeatedly. Young came through more often than not, as the Lakers would ultimately lose due to rebounding and defense more than an inability to score points at the end of games.

"Kobe's been one of my favorite players since I was growing up," Young said on Sunday night. "To have him talking to me and telling me to come get the ball when he's out there, that's all time confidence."

Hoping to build off a balanced scoring attack, the Lakers face a Nuggets team that is only four games ahead of the purple and gold in the standings. Brian Shaw's Nuggets look headed for another year out of the postseason with 13 wins and 18 losses on the season. In the thin air of Denver, though, the Nuggets still maintain a winning record of 9-7.

Point guard Ty Lawson has started 30 of the Nuggets' 31 games and leads the hosts in minutes, points, assists and steals. The pacey point guard has a habit of ripping the Lakers apart. When the Nuggets came to Staples Center in November, Lawson scored 18 points and delivered 16 assists. The entire Lakers' team combined for 15 assists on that night. As most would guess, the Nuggets won that game.

In fact, the Nuggets have won their last seven meetings against the Lakers with Lawson averaging a double-double during the streak: 21.0 points and 12.0 assists.

Along with Lawson, the Nuggets feature Wilson Chandler and former UCLA Bruin Aaron Afflalo. The pair of wing players combines for 28.9 points and 9.6 rebounds per game.

Beyond the shooters, the Lakers struggled harnessing the height of Timofey Mosgov last time out. The Nuggets' center used his length to finish with 13 points and 13 rebounds in the last meeting. Mosgov's work on the boards helped the Nuggets to a healthy edge on the offensive boards. Coming off a game where the Lakers could not pull down a defensive rebound with the game on the line, keeping Mosgov off the glass will be a key to Tuesday's game.

Containing Lawson is obviously another key, but the Lakers have changed starting lineups since the last time these teams met. Moving Ronnie Price into the first unit was designed to help defend opposing point guards like Lawson. Stopping Lawson may not be an option, but Price will be asked to slow down the Nuggets' speedy point guard.

The Lakers and Nuggets will tip off at 6 p.m. Pacific Time.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Practice Report: Dec. 29, 2014]]> Mon, 29 Dec 2014 14:05:19 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-Tarik-Practice-introduced.JPG

A day after a difficult defeat to the Phoenix Suns, the Los Angeles Lakers reconvened at their facility for a practice session that did not involve Kobe Bryant.

Lakers coach Byron Scott sounded hopeful that his team was making strides defensively, but he admitted that talent was a factor. Injuries also obviously played a part, but the Lakers appeared close to jumping over that hurdle.

Ryan Kelly was able to go through a full practice, but Scott confirmed that Kelly would not play against the Denver Nuggets.

"[I'm] real happy with what he's able to do today," Scott said about Kelly. "We would like to get two more practices in, which is Wednesday and Thursday, and if those two go well along with shootaround tomorrow, then I would say Friday would be a day that he can definitely play."

Apart from Kelly and the long-term injuries to Steve Nash and Julius Randle, the Lakers have a fully healthy squad. Xavier Henry was on that list until Sunday, when the Lakers announced Henry had been waived to make space for center Tarik Black, who had been claimed off waivers.

Henry was at the Lakers' facility after practice let out, and he stopped by to talk to have a casual conversation with a couple reporters on the way out. Henry's replacement on the roster, Black, arrived shortly after practice let out, and the Los Angeles media was present to witness the player meet his coaches for the first time.

After the formalities, Black spoke with said media about the whirlwind that had brought him to Los Angeles.

"A whole array of greatness just surrounds this place," Black said about the honor of playing for the Lakers’ organization.

"What I base my game upon is defense,” the 23-year-old hit the right notes. "Defense wins championships. I know it's cliché, but it's true. What bad defensive team has ever won a championship?"

Black added, "That's my thing. I just want to come out here and be a defensive presence for the team and just give it some toughness and hopefully that can give us win."

The undrafted rookie sounded grateful for being in the NBA and being part of the Lakers. Black called playing with Bryant a "blessing" and touched on how impressed he was with Carlos Boozer when he saw the Lakers' power forward play on opening night.

Black also confirmed that he was 6-foot 9-inches in shoes, so his official height was off by a couple inches. However, the center said he had a 7-foot wing span, which certainly was an asset.

"I want my name to be written on these walls in some way, some shape form or fashion," Black added.

The rookie will be with the team in Denver, but he is not likely to get onto the court on Tuesday night, as he has not yet practiced with the team.

Notes:

Black said his favorite player growing up was Amar'e Stoudemire. Black said he loved Stoudemire’s attitude. The rookie pointed out that Stoudemire would block, rebound, dunk or do anything that was needed of him. Black called it Stoudemire's "beast mentality." 



Photo Credit: Shahan Ahmed]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Lose to Suns, Kobe Back]]> Mon, 29 Dec 2014 01:21:06 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-Suns-Kobe-Bryant-12-28.jpg

The Los Angeles Lakers fell to the Phoenix Suns 116-107 on Sunday evening in a game that celebrated the return of Kobe Bryant following three games out due to fatigue.

How did he do?

In 32 minutes, Bryant put in 10 points, passed off seven assists and pulled down eight rebounds. He only took 10 shots and made four of them. He committed five turnovers, but two steals helped balance that number slightly. Overall, Bryant did not overwhelm, but he also did not blow the game in the dying moment, which had been a recurring theme this season.

"I'm just trying to be more patient," Bryant said after the game. "The defense is loading up on me completely, and there's not much that I can do without forcing it."

Down the stretch, Bryant shared the basketball and allowed his teammates to take, make and miss the big shots. To put that into numbers, Bryant attempted only one shot in nearly seven minutes on the floor during the fourth quarter. Instead, he looked to Nick Young, Wesley Johnson and Jeremy Lin late in the game.

If this game was only about making shots, the Lakers would have likely won, as they scored 26 points in the final 12 minutes. However, defense is half the game, and the Lakers failed to control the Suns' offense. Giving up 116 points was proof of that.

"[We] just couldn't get stops," Lakers coach Byron Scott lamented after the game. "When we got a stop, they got the offensive rebound."

The Lakers lost the battle of the boards handily. Phoenix pulled down twice as many offensive rebounds as LA, and the Suns out-rebounded the Lakers 45 to 35 overall. Along with battling on the boards, Phoenix's three point guards did damage. Isaiah Thomas, Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe combined for 61 points and consistently got into the painted area.

"All three of those guys are exceptional with the ball, creating shots for themselves, and they can create shots for their teammates," Scott said about the Suns' point guards. "It's tough to match up with them when they have all three of those guys in."

Were it not for the long ball, the Lakers would not have been close.

On the night, the Lakers shot 60.0 percent from behind the arc. Young started the game making his first four shots--all three-pointers. Johnson, Lin, Bryant and Ronnie Price combined for another eight makes to tie a season-high 12 three-pointers for the Lakers.

Lin had, arguably, his best game of the season with 19 points on 8-11 shooting. The backup point guard played all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter and made four of five shots down the stretch. Lin's lone miss, however, came at a bad time. Lin's three-point shot went in and out with about a minute and a half left to play. Had the shot dropped, the Lakers would have tied the game.

Instead, the ball popped out, and the Suns went down to the other end, used up clock, got an offensive rebound and scored a basket to make it a five-point lead with 49 seconds to play.

On the whole, Lin had a good game and led the team in scoring in the fourth quarter with nine points. He finished only two points shy of his season high.

"I can definitely build on this," Lin said afterward. "Tonight was definitely a big step in the right direction, but when you talk about reaching my full potential, there's still more that I can do."

In his first game back, Bryant did not announce his return by jacking up shots and ignoring teammates. He allowed his teammates to showcase their shot-making ability. In that sense, Bryant didn't forcibly lose the game for the Lakers down the stretch, but the Lakers' team did lose on the night.

"Kobe [Bryant] came back," Young said after the game."We all needed that. He was sharing the ball tonight."

With the loss, the Lakers fell to 9-22 on the season and next play in Denver on Tuesday night.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Waive Henry, Sign Tarik Black]]> Mon, 29 Dec 2014 02:17:23 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lakers-sign-Tarik-Black.jpg

On Sunday, the Los Angeles Lakers announced that they had been awarded center Tarik Black on a waiver claim. To fit the center on the roster, the team waived Xavier Henry.

At his best, Henry was an explosive guard capable of attacking the rim. However, he had been unable to shake off injuries and return to full health before suffering a ruptured Achilles during practice.

After battling injuries at the tail-end of the 2013-14 season, Henry never quite got into a rhythm with the 2014-15 edition of the purple and gold. He appeared in only nine games and averaged only 9.6 minutes. Before he was able to fully find his feet, the Achilles gave way during a practice, and Henry's season was over.

Black provides the Lakers with another big body to add to a front court. The Lakers currently start Ed Davis and Jordan Hill with Carlos Boozer and Robert Sacre adding depth off the bench. Lakers coach Byron Scott confirmed Black was not with the team prior to Sunday night's loss to the Phoenix Suns at Staples Center.

As an undrafted rookie, Black averaged 4.2 points and 5.1 rebounds in 15.7 minutes per game with the Houston Rockets. The Rockets released Black after adding Josh Smith to the team recently. Black played a season-high 35 minutes against the Lakers back on Nov. 19 because Dwight Howard was out injured.

In that appearance, the center pulled down nine rebounds and scored five points.

Coach Scott hoped adding another big man would create more competition on the practice court--something the coach welcomed. Black expects to join the team in Denver on Tuesday night, but he likely will not become appear in a game until he has completed a few practices.

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<![CDATA[Lakers: Kobe Bryant's Season So Far]]> Sun, 28 Dec 2014 13:15:53 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Kobe-Bryant-Lakers-fatigue.jpg

After three games out to rest, the Los Angeles Lakers get Kobe Bryant back on Sunday night against the Phoenix Suns.

Through playing the season's first 27 games, Bryant provided a significant sample size of what he could offer the Lakers in both a positive and negative way. Sadly, the final memory is often the lasting memory due to its proximity in time, not necessarily its pregnancy in meaning.

For Bryant, the final painful games before he sat down due to physical exhaustion quickly cloaked the successful preseason and early start to the season he miraculously made following two serious injuries.

Sacramento was a sad sight, but Bryant didn't start the season like that.

By the time the month of November wrapped up, the Lakers had completed 17 games, and Bryant had played all of them. He was averaging 26.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.9 assists in 35.9 minutes per game after over a month of shouldering the team. No 36-year-old should be averaging 36 minutes per game, let alone one in his 19th season as a professional.

As bad as nine turnovers looked in Sacramento, Bryant’s 31 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds in 42 minutes against Toronto on Nov. 30 cannot be denied. Toronto was the best team in the Eastern Conference, and Bryant carved them apart in an overtime thriller.

With his triple double against Toronto, Bryant wrapped up November shooting 39.2 percent on the season. Fatigue was already a factor, and Bryant soon began his trend of admitting he was tired after games.

Carrying the momentum from the win against the Raptors, the Lakers had won five of their last eight games by the time December was two weeks old. On Dec. 14, Bryant passed Michael Jordan on the all-time scoring list in a victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Related or not, Bryant lost his legs immediately after he passed Jordan.

Between the win in Toronto and passing Jordan in Minnesota, Bryant averaged 22.4 points, 5.7 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game. The effects of the fatigue were beginning to show, however, as Bryant's turnovers had increased from 2.9 per game to 4.3 per game. Over that seven-game stretch, the tired legs led to Bryant shooting 36.9 percent from the field.

In the next three games, the wheels fell off but the horses kept running. As Bryant dragged his carcass across the floor, his body looked beaten. Air balls became part of his game, and he shot 26.8 percent from the field. Turnovers were as common as fadeaways. It was a sad sight to see.
Heavy legs clearly affected his jump shot, and Bryant's three-point shooting missed the mark. The career 33.3 percent three-point shooter is shooting 27.4 percent from distance this season.

"Just like I said to the people that think we're better off without him, they’re a bunch of idiots," Lakers coach Byron Scott told reporters on TWC Sportnet after the loss in Dallas. "If our players think we're better without him, I think these three games proved that we do need him on the floor."

Arguing whether the Lakers are better without their superstar is a slight bit silly. There isn't much of an argument if the guy is committing nine turnovers and missing 22 of 30 shots, as he did when he put on the last straw in Sacramento. Against Toronto, though, Bryant was good enough to start on the All-Star team, which Bryant appears in line to do after the first round of fan voting.

Whereas Bryant shot 40 percent or better from the field eight times in his first 17 games, the 36-year-old only went over the 40 percent mark twice in those final 10 games before grabbing a rest.

Fatigue is the factor that determines whether the Lakers are better with or without Bryant. There is no clear answer, but the solution surely doesn't involve playing a visibly fatigued 36-year-old for upwards of 40 minutes.

Apologies if this reality has not yet set in, but there is nothing the Lakers are playing for that warrants playing Bryant even 35 minutes in another game this season. If anyone needs a reminder of what the NBA does to a worn down body, please think back to Steve Nash's time in purple and gold. No one wants that next season.

At one point over the past couple weeks, Bryant was asked about being the last guy left from the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers most recent NBA Finals. Bryant responded by pointing out he's the last in all types of ways, i.e. he's the last guy from his draft class, too.

The response was not Bryant bragging. He seemed to be reminding folks of his basketball mortality. For a guy who made a career of being first to records, the twilight of his career is being defined by being the last guy sitting at the table in a crowded restaurant.

With Bryant returning from his rest on Sunday night, those minutes need to drop or Bryant won't be sitting at the table much longer. 



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