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Jeanie Buss: ‘Any free agent that would be afraid to play with Kobe Bryant is probably a loser’ http://t.co/wIqg3dGV5M
— Kurt Helin (@basketballtalk) October 23, 2014
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We may not have all of our players healthy yet and this may still be preseason, but I have to give Byron Scott kudos for getting the team to play some of the best defense Lakers fans have seen in several years. For me, it comes down to one surprising result – no more layup lanes where opposing guards drive into the paint without any resistance from their defender and with zero help defense from our front court.
While Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas still got to the rim on occasion, Lakers point guards Jeremy Lin and Ronnie Price have generally done a far superior job staying in front of their men than Kendall Marshall and the Lakers perimeter defenders did last year. Even when the opposing point guard got past Lin or Price, they had to deal with the best rim protection we have had since Andrew Bynum in Ed Davis. The last two games it seemed as if there were two Lakers protecting the rim on every shot attempt.
Now if we can get everybody healthy, including our missing 3-point shooters, I think the Lakers have a real chance to surprise everybody. I’m hoping the basketball gods are ready to give us a break and we can finally have a full season of good health. Give us that and I believe we can still make the playoffs.
BY MIKE BRESNAHAN FOR THE LA TIMES
A fan kept yelling the same thing, over and over, almost mournfully.
Bryant sat out the Lakers’ exhibition game Wednesday so he could rest.
By the end of it, though, another fan was screaming something in a more upbeat tone: “He’s only 19, baby? Nineteen!”
That would be praise for Julius Randle, who had his best exhibition game by a landslide in the Lakers’ 94-86 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers in Ontario.
Randle had 17 points, eight rebounds and a number of coast-to-coast runs with the ball.
Shades of Lamar Odom? Maybe.
Left-handed power forward? Check. Willing to push the pace off a rebound? Check. Two-time NBA champion and winner of the sixth-man-of-the-year award? Um. Well.
At the very least, the seventh pick in the draft is an entertaining quote.
“I just told my mama the other day, I said, ‘I don’t want to just be a post player,’” Randle said. “I remember I was always taller than everybody when I was younger. People used to call me, like, ‘Oh, he’s going to be the next Shaq.’ I’m like, ‘No, I don’t want to be the next Shaq. I want to be Kobe.’”
On one of his end-to-end voyages, Randle took the rebound, dribbled downcourt … kept dribbling … and finished with a layup over Portland forward Victor Claver. Another time he jumped up to steal Will Barton’s alley-oop pass, took off full speed and drew a foul as he attacked the basket at the other end.
How has Randle seemingly improved from his first several exhibitions, when he looked more tentative than anything?
“Besides the fact that we get on him every single day about the little things?” Lakers Coach Byron Scott said. “I don’t think the kid has ever really had to play hard. I know he has never had to work as hard as he’s had to this year. Each game, he seems to get a little better. Again, we all tend to forget that he’s 19 years old.”
About those little things…
“Little things, big things, everything,” Randle said, adding quickly, “Nah, I’m just messing with you.”
He made seven of 10 shots, including two long-range jumpers in the fourth quarter, one of them a bank over Thomas Robinson, who shook his head in disbelief.
Randle was shooting only 39.1% before Wednesday, his outside touch not clicking the first six exhibition games.
“I’ve worked too hard on it, put too much time in it so I’m just not going to abandon it,” he said. “If I get the same shot, I’m going to keep taking the same shot until I get extremely confident and consistent with it.”
Rookie Jordan Clarkson (strained calf) played for the first time in almost two weeks, scoring six points in 15 minutes. Jordan Hill sat out because of a strained neck.
Bryant now sitting
Bryant finished exhibition play with averages of 19 points, four assists, three rebounds and 1.7 steals in 26.7 minutes. Also of note was his low 39.6% shooting.
He will skip Friday’s finale against Sacramento in Las Vegas. The Lakers begin the regular season Tuesday against Houston.
“I just think he needs some rest. I think he’s shown me enough,” Scott said. “He understands what the goal is. And the goal is to get off to a pretty good start as far as he was [physically] concerned, build up his minutes and his endurance and everything.”
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BY KEVIN DING FOR THE BLEACHER REPORT
LOS ANGELES — His basketball legend already written in stone, Kobe Bryant‘s virtue as a man again has found itself bandied about the digital arena today the very same way as in newspapers, radio and TV 10 to 15 years prior.
Meanwhile, Bryant spends his time working out with Wesley Johnson, teaching Nick Young how to watch film and offering secret tips to Jeremy Lin, so maybe Kobe isn’t the troll scaring away potential teammates some media reports suggest.
In reality, Bryant is only doing what he has done for quite some time. He wants to win, and he’s doing what he has learned from Phil Jackson about pushing buttons as soft or hard to help guys grow immediately and give him and the Lakersa better chance.
Now comes Julius Randle, 19. He is here to build his own legacy, but how he does it will very much be a reflection on Bryant. Either he will support what Bryant forged with Pau Gasol or reinforce that Bryant sparred with Shaquille O’Neal and failed to connect with Dwight Howard.
The big relationships are make or break.
Bryant became an NBA champion in the post-Shaq era by giving his personal shooting program to Trevor Ariza (“I used it like it was the Bible,” Ariza said), mentoring Sasha Vujacic on video analysis and defensive focus and befriending and mentoring Shannon Brown.
But it was Bryant’s deep, effectual understanding with Gasol that marked that group.
And what makes a team go or stop is whether its stars are aligned or crossed.
A fair interpretation was put forth inHenry Abbott’s recent ESPN articleabout some top players, as in the case of Howard, not being excited about the idea of joining Bryant with the Lakers. There lies a fundamental risk for any star joining the Lakers of losing his precious status of “the man” because of two factors: Bryant’s control-freak tendency limits your opportunities, and you are exposed as not being up to his level of commitment and excellence.
(The thrust of the article blaming Bryant for the demise of the Lakers is way out of scale, however, and the recaps of Ramon Sessions leaving and Paul George not coming are flat-out wrong. Sessions had hoped to return to the Lakers, but they went and got Steve Nash; George has patterned his career after Bryant and reveres him.)
The Lakers need Randle to become the next face of the franchise, so integral that his personality has to be considered in the makeup of the team. Even if that ascent doesn’t fully happen alongside Bryant, it still qualifies as torch passing if Randle shows right now that he’s going for great, not good.
And if Randle shows right now that he is truly a Kobe guy, then this can become a real bridge to the Lakers’ future.
As it is with any relationship, there has to be a match.
Bryant made headlines by loudly and profanely suggesting late Sunday night that Randle would be a fool if he failed to take advantage of mentors such as himself, his own once-upon-a-time rookie mentor Byron Scott, future Hall of FamerSteve Nash and a proven veteran at Randle’s power forward position in Carlos Boozer.
“If you f–k this up,” a laughing Bryant told reporters about Randle, “you’re a really big idiot.”
As eye-catching as Bryant’s words were, the more important ones were spoken by Randle just minutes before in another corner of the Lakers’ locker room at Staples Center. Randle reflected on the advice Bryant has offered him privately—and you can decide how closely Randle was listening.
“It’s up for me to mess it up,” Randle said, keeping it PG. “Kob said, ‘You can’t mess it up—unless you want to.’ Intentionally, I can mess things up. Having a coach like Byron, learning from greats like Kob,Booz, Nash, all those guys—on top of that, playing for the Laker organization, which has had much success in the past and knows how to deal with it and knows how to prepare for it—I’m in the perfect situation.”
And speaking specifically about Bryant’s example, Randle said: “The only answer to why he’s so advanced is he’s put in the work. He’s unbelievable.”
Randle grew up in the Dallas area being a Kobe fan more than a Lakers fan. (Even when Randle posted a throwback photo of himself on Instagram with the caption, “Oh y’all didn’t know I grew up a LAKERfan?” the boyish Randle was actually wearing his white jersey backward—showcasing the No. 8 and “Bryant”—and you know what they say about playing for the name on the front of the jersey, not the back.)
Randle is most definitely on board with Bryant now, including on one fundamental principle. Bryant once shared the same suggestion with a rawBlake Griffin: If you can shoot, you should shoot.
The upshot is simple. The sooner a guy who can get to the basket with ease establishes his counterpunch, the sooner he graduates to unstoppable.
The truth is that Randle is not a polished post player, no matter how much he filled that role at Kentucky because the Wildcats offense worked best with Randle drawing multiple defenders.
Kentucky put a damper on Randle’s face-up game and nice jumper, and he has been trying to get back to that this preseason. That stuff is what blew the Lakers away in Randle’s predraftindividual workout—the quickness, finesse and shooting to go with the power.
So when a switch results in 6’6″ Utah Jazzguard Carrick Felix guarding the 6’9″ Randle on Sunday night and Randle drives into a tough leaner that misses, every Lakers assistant coach gestures to Randle with a just-shoot-it motion. Randle does a minute later, stepping confidently into an 18-footer.
After that, Randle puts the stutter-step fake drive on Jazz center Enes Kanter, shuffles slightly to his right and sinks the jumper from the right elbow. Bryant can be seen sneering on the Lakers bench at just how nasty that is. Unstoppable, even.
So, hurry up, and have Randle learn all this and join Bryant on the starting unit, right? The inverted possibilities of Bryant’s post play and Randle’s first step could be fascinating together.
Well, Lakers coaches have already seen how Randle, even when his motor is revved up, defers to Bryant and dumps the ball to him or just wants to set screens for his idol when they play together. There’s also the thorny issue of Boozer’s pride in remaining a member of the starting lineup.
When the day comes that Randle’s development might need a jump-start, perhaps starting him will be considered. General manager Mitch Kupchak made it clear just before camp, however, what it should feel like when a kid first joins the team.
“It doesn’t do any good,” Kupchak said, “to have high expectations of a player like that.”
Fair enough, yet Randle is clearly not out of his league right now. And what will he be in, say, one month, when he turns 20?
When Bryant was 20, in his third NBA season but without the physique Randle possesses, Bryant started every game for the Lakers and averaged 19.9 points on 46.5 percent shooting.
Is it possible that Randle’s mom really means it when she says her son is mature beyond his years—and perhaps he is more prepared to excel at his first job than even the Lakers brass thinks?
“I know what I can do,” Randle said.
Randle has been readying for this life longer than you know.
He was in fifth grade when he joined a select team in Dallas with elite private coaching and training—funded by a billionaire dad, Kenny Troutt, who had the kids staying at Caesars Palace in LasVegas for a tournament, according to TheDallas Morning News. They even took road trips on the Dallas Mavericks‘ and San Antonio Spurs‘ team planes.
Bryant’s unshakable belief in himself and his destiny that isn’t for everyone? Randle gets it, he really does.
The sooner Randle can prove he gets it, the sooner the stories will be about the Lakers moving forward instead of back.
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ONTARIO, Calif. – Julius Randle already feels the game slowing down after seven preseason games with the Los Angeles Lakers, and the rookie power forward demonstrated his comfort in an impressive finish to their latest preseason game.
Randle scored 11 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter, and Jeremy Lin added 13 points in the Lakers’ 94-86 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night.
Wayne Ellington and Wesley Johnson scored 11 points apiece for the Lakers (3-4), who played a solid defensive game and surged in the fourth quarter despite 18 turnovers. Los Angeles won without Kobe Bryant, who sat out to rest.
Randle grabbed eight rebounds and put on an impressive display in the final minutes, hitting mid-range jumpers and aggressively running the court. Although Bryant and coach Byron Scott are constantly critiquing the rookie, they see the results in his play.
“Every game, I feel more comfortable,” Randle said. “It’s the same looks, the same everything. I’m just knocking them down. Obviously I’m just taking advantage of opportunities.”
Randle also attempted several coast-to-coast drives, showing off the hidden ball-handling guard inside the 6-foot-9 teenager.
“I told my mom at a young age, `I don’t want to just be a post player,” he said. “I remember I was always taller than everybody when I was younger, and people were always like, `Oh, he’s going to be the next Shaq.’ And I’m like, `No, I don’t want to be the next Shaq. I want to be Kobe.”
Portland center Chris Kaman scored 10 of his 12 points in the first half against his former Lakers teammates.
With the NBA preseason firmly in its dog days, both teams rested most of their top players in front of a half-full arena in the Inland Empire an hour east of downtown Los Angeles.
The Lakers scratched Bryant and Jordan Hill for the second game of a back-to-back set. Bryant was simply resting for the first time in the preseason, but Hill has a sore left shoulder.
Damian Lillard had eight points and five turnovers while playing 17 minutes in the first half for the Blazers, who rested their other four regular starters on the second night of a back-to-back set that began in Boulder, Colorado, on Tuesday. Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum,LaMarcus Aldridge, Robin Lopez and former Lakers guard Steve Blake all sat out.
Trail Blazers: Portland hadn’t lost a preseason game to the Lakers since 1992, winning four straight. … Lillard played in his first NBA game in this building, and coach Terry Stotts debuted with the team on the same night in 2012. … Kaman wore a large bandage over three stitches on the back of his head after a collision with Timofey Mozgov‘s mouth during Portland’s win over Denver on Tuesday.
Lakers: Hill joined four Lakers teammates sidelined with injuries: Steve Nash (back), Xavier Henry (right knee), Ryan Kelly (right hamstring) and Nick Young (right thumb). The Lakers lost a league-worst 319 man-games to injuries last season. … Ed Davis blocked four shots. … Lin made six turnovers in 25 minutes.
The Blazers finish the preseason Friday at theLos Angeles Clippers, while the Lakers face theSacramento Kings in Las Vegas on Friday in their preseason finale.
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Very fulfilling game to watch, And win.
keen observer, p ang, and mud are discussing. Toggle Comments
Oh Oh, if Randle can make that outside shot, watch out league.
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Where be Lakers???
Don’t know about the rest of yuse but, I’m seeing real improvement in every aspect of the Lakers play. Kudos to Byron Scott and the players, this might not be a lost season after all.
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Davis with back to back blocks, Randle coast to coast, I’m thinking some crazy shyte right now.
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Interesting note on J-Dub. My son and I went to see the KIngs play the Pacers in an exhibition game in Evansville, Indiana and we hung around the Hotel where the team was staying (so my son could get pic and autos). We saw Chris Webber and this balded headed white guy walk out to get some food. The Beckett my son had showed Williams with long hair, I didn’t recognize him leaving, lol! I though I had messed this up for my son, but I knew they had to come back and they did from the local McDonalds and both took pics and signed for him, very nice, especially Chris!! Whew, that saved my day!
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Henry Abbott can think what he likes–but he put his opinion in 'Laker sources' mouths. I have way more than he does. Mine don't think that
— Mark Heisler (@MarkHeisler) October 22, 2014
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BY MARK MEDINA FOR INSIDE THE LAKERS
The clock is winding down. The game is on the line. And because of those two variables, every single play magnifies.
Kobe Bryant lives for those moments, cementing his 19-year NBA career that feature far too many clutch performances and game winners to count. But so does Jeremy Lin, who has admitted he cares more about finishing games than starting them.
“You just love it,” Lin said. “As a kid you always think about hitting that shot at the buzzer or making that one game-winning play. When the game is on the line, you have a chance to do that.”
The Lakers’ 114-108 preseason loss on Tuesday to the Phoenix Suns may have featured Lin’s first game back since nursing a left sprained ankle that kept him out for the previous three exhibition games. But Lin could not have provided a better audition tape on stating his case for finishing games after finishing with 15 points on 3 of 5 shooting and five assists in 23 minutes off the bench.
Most of Lin’s production happened in the fourth quarter, where he posted 11 points and two assists by driving aggressively through traffic and organizing the offense. He scored seven consecutive points for the Lakers at one point that included a 27-foot three-pointer, a finger roll and a pair of free throws. And he played all but 11 seconds in the final period before fouling out.
Lin provided the 8,037 fans at Honda Center plenty to cheer about beyond Bryant’s late-game scoring. Meanwhile, Steve Nash’s back remaining tenuous, while nine-year veteran Ronnie Price started for the fourth consecutive game. So will Lin close out games in the future?
“This was more of a chance seeing him play 20 something minutes and for Ronnie to get some rest,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said. “We’ll see how both those guys feel tomorrow.”
Lin believes he will play when the Lakers host the Portland Trail Blazers tonight in Ontario. Though the Lakers and Lin will not officially know until tip time in case of any unexpected setbacks with his ankle, Lin sure looked comfortable in his first game in the past week. Lin dressed the past even more toward the end.
Lin brought life to an offense that often became stagnant whenever Kobe Bryant wasn’t scoring. Lin set up Lakers backup center Ed Davis for a lob and an open dunk off pick-and-rolls, a staple that the two immediately established before Lin’s ankle injury. Lin ran the offense to ensure enough floor spacing that eventually helped Bryant work in isolation on the wing before making three consecutive turnaround fadeaways. Lin
“I’m a Jeremy Lin fan. I’ve been waiting for him to get back,” Price said. “He puts a lot of pressure on the defense. A lot of guys are happy that he’s back because he’s getting them open looks.”
Even for someone who commands the ball, Bryant allowed and encouraged Lin to run the offense.
“Jeremy makes a huge difference,” Bryant said. “Creating shots for others, we’ve got somebody else who can penetrate, make plays for others and put pressure on the defense. It’s a really big difference.”
Yet, Lin downplayed about whether he fulfilled that job description to state his case as the Lakers’ closer at point guard.
“It goes back to my overall mindset this whole season. I’m not trying to prove anything to any human out there,” Lin said. “I’m enjoying the game and playing for God. I’m very free mentally. I’m not even thinking about that right now.”
Instead, Lin said he is thinking about something else.
“Just trying to stay aggressive the whole game and make plays,” Lin said. “That’s how I like to play so as long as I continue to do that, I feel like over time, things will open up and the floor will open up especially as a point guard. You can’t just score all the time. It depends on what the defense is giving you.”
Whether Lin will provide that role late in games hinges on a few variables. Can Nash restore his health and maintain it? How does Lin’s ankle hold up? Will Lin’s presence remain better suited with an energetic second unit or the veteran starting lineup currently manned by nine-year pro Ronnie Price?
Meanwhile, Lin conceded the challenge in guarding Phoenix guard Isaiah Thomas, who posted 26 points on 6-of-12 shooting in 31 minutes. Lin also lamented fouling out after spending the majority of his offseason working on defensive drills.
“It’s going to be a style that refs haven’t seen me play before in terms of being more of an aggressive and attacking defender,” Lin said. “I’d rather foul out now and then slowly build a reputation as a good defender who plays a certain way.”
By that point, Lin had already ignited a crowd encouraged by his late-game heroics. He will soon find out if he will have more opportunities to close out games in similar fashion.
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