Lakers offer sympathy, humor for D’Angelo Russell taking shot to groin from LeBron James’ pass

CLEVELAND — The bullet pass went straight toward the most sensitive spot in D’Angelo Russell’s body. It left the Lakers’ rookie point guard falling over and balled up in pain.

Russell lay motionless on the floor after Cleveland forward LeBron James accidentally humbled him in the most embarrassing way imaginable in the third quarter of the Lakers’ 120-111 loss to the Cavaliers on Wednesday at Quicken Loans Arena. Russell eventually stood up. He then winced some more. Russell then played the rest of the game.

“I’m all right,” Russell said nearly an hour later. “It was unexpected. I know if I expected it, it would’ve hurt more than it did. It was tough. Every guy knows the feeling.”

But Russell also offered a different feeling. He admitted he had watched the replay and laughed over the sequence. So much that Russell smiled when he compared the incident toward what a referee experienced in the movie, “The Longest Yard.”

“Laugh about it now,” Russell said. “Then two months from now, somebody else will have something to laugh about.”
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Lakers’ Byron Scott considered Kyrie Irving more mature than D’Angelo Russell as a rookie

Even if he is not starting, Lakers rookie point guard D'Angelo Russell said that Byron Scott allows him to play through his mistakes. Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles News Group

Even if he is not starting, Lakers rookie point guard D’Angelo Russell said that Byron Scott allows him to play through his mistakes. Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles News Group

CLEVELAND — The nostalgia swept over Lakers coach Byron Scott as he reflected on coaching Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving during his first two NBA seasons.

“I thought he was the most talented point guard I had,” Scott said. “He didn’t have any weaknesses offensively.”

The realism hit Scott as he evaluated Lakers point guard D’Angelo Russell with 30 games left in his rookie season.

“He still has a whole lot to room to learn about this league and about playing that position,” Scott said. “But the thing I like about him is he’s willing to learn and willing to accept the criticism to try to get better.”

When the Lakers (11-43) visit the Cleveland Cavaliers (37-14) on Wednesday at Quicken Loans Arena, Irving and Russell will symbolize how both evolved both as a player and how they have viewed playing under Scott.

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Cleveland’s Tyronn Lue recalls how Kobe Bryant wanted to fight him

Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant grimaces against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first half of a NBA basketball game at Staples Center on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2015 in Los Angeles.   (Photo by Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News)

Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant grimaces against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first half of a NBA basketball game at Staples Center on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2015 in Los Angeles.
(Photo by Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News)

CLEVELAND — His life seemingly flashed before Tyronn Lue’s eyes, all because he managed to do something few have ever pulled off. Lue blocked Kobe Bryant’s shot.

In his second NBA season with the Lakers (1999-2000), Lue played in a five-on-five scrimmage that in most circumstances would have suggested Bryant would pull off an endless highlight reel. Lue played on the reserve unit with Devean George, Brian Shaw, Mark Madsen and Slava Medvedenko. Bryant represented the starters that also included Shaquille O’Neal and Derek Fisher.

But as Bryant drove baseline for a layup, Lue recalled cutting from the elbow down toward the paint to block his dunk attempt against the glass. George then made a layup to seal the win. Shaw then teased Bryant for Lue’s scrimmage-defining block.

“He went crazy. Kobe wanted to fight me at first,” said Lue, who is now the Cleveland Cavaliers coach. “He wanted to play one-on-one after practice. He said, ‘We’re going to play one-on-one, me and you.’ I said, ‘No, I’m not playing you one-on-one.’ He was so mad. Then after that, every day we stepped onto the court and he just went after me every single day. It was crazy.”

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Lakers’ Kobe Bryant against abolishing ‘Hack-a-Shaq’ rule

Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant shoots a free-throw against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the second half of a NBA basketball game at Staples Center on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2015 in Los Angeles.  Los Angeles Lakers won 119-115. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News)

Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant shoots a free-throw against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the second half of a NBA basketball game at Staples Center on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2015 in Los Angeles. Los Angeles Lakers won 119-115.
(Photo by Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News)

INDIANAPOLIS — The issue often made Kobe Bryant upset, as the Lakers’ guard saw his star teammate struggle with something so basic.

Former Lakers center Shaquille O’Neal rarely could make a shot at the free-throw line. The same frustration emerged for Bryant when Dwight Howard struggled with the same job description during their lone season together with the Lakers three years ago.

But even if his former centers’ struggles cost the Lakers some games, Bryant strongly argued against NBA commissioner Adam Silver abolishing the so-called “Hack a Shaq” tactic. That entails intentionally fouling poor free-throw shooters to send them to the foul line.

“That sets a horrible example for the kids, honestly,” Bryant said. “You can’t protect guys because they can shoot free throws. They’re getting paid a lot of damn money to make a free throw, dude. I think it sets a bad precedent. I wouldn’t change it.”

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Indiana’s Jordan Hill appreciated Kobe Bryant’s chirping

Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant prior to a NBA basketball game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Staples Center on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2015 in Los Angeles.   (Photo by Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News)

Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant prior to a NBA basketball game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Staples Center on
Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2015 in Los Angeles.
(Photo by Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News)

INDIANAPOLIS — The chirping constantly flooded Jordan Hill’s ears as he went up and down the court. He could hear Kobe Bryant yelling in practice and during games about anything imaginable.

He would bark out instructions to teammates. He would pull teammates to the side and point out various tactics. He would talk trash to opponents. He would do the same thing to teammates in practice.

All of which Hill said he loved during his 3 1/2 seasons with the Lakers before signing with the Indiana Pacers this offseason as a free agent.

“He’s bringing out the best out of his teammates and he wants the best out of his team,” Hill told Los Angeles News Group. “He’s a winner. You have to be prepared for it. Not a lot of people can handle it. But he deserves everything he gets.”
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Lakers’ Byron Scott surprised about Derek Fisher’s firing with Knicks

Lakers head coach Byron Scott, left, looks on against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first half of a NBA basketball game at Staples Center on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2015 in Los Angeles.   (Photo by Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News)

Lakers head coach Byron Scott, left, looks on against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first half of a NBA basketball game at Staples Center on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2015 in Los Angeles.
(Photo by Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News)

INDIANAPOLIS — The news struck Byron Scott in multiple ways. The Lakers’ coach sounded incredulous over the Knicks firing Derek Fisher as head coach, both out of respect for the coaching field and because they played one season together nearly 20 years ago with the Lakers.

“I just shook my head,” Scott said. “I’ve been in this business a long time. Nothing really surprises me. But was I a little surprised by that? Yeah.”

Fisher finished with a 40-96 record in what marked the worst finish in franchise history. Fisher’s time with the Knicks also became marred amid Memphis forward and former Lakers forward Matt Barnes having a physical confrontation with after Fisher had visited Barnes’ estranged wife, Gloria Govan.

Yet, Scott did not anticipate the Knicks (23-31) would make a change considering they trail only 2 1/2 games for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

“I thought New York was doing pretty well,” Scott said. “They’re still in the hunt. I was surprised.”

Scott also suspected Fisher would have more time considering the relationship he had with Knicks president Phil Jackson. With Fisher playing on Jackson’s five NBA championship teams with the Lakers, Jackson then hired Fisher to a five-year, $20-plus million deal in June 2014 shortly after retiring from a 18-year NBA career.

“I don’t know who made the decision or what,” said Scott, mindful that Knicks owner Jim Dolan may have had some influence. “But that makes it surprising.”

Former Lakers forward Kurt Rambis will coach the Knicks as an interim basis. He won four championships with the Showtime Lakers, served as interim coach (1999) and spent various seasons as an assistant.

It remains to be seen what’s in store for Fisher. The Lakers already remain committed toward retaining Scott through at least the 2015-16 season and plan on evaluating him this offseason. Before the Lakers eventually chose Scott to become their head coach, the Lakers did not interview or express any interest in Fisher amid his lack of head-coaching experience. Fisher played for the Lakers in two separate stints (1996-2004, 2007-2012) before the Lakers traded him and a first-round pick to Houston for Jordan Hill.

“Every situation is different,” Scott said on coaching firings. “It really depends on what the GM and owners want. Some are unrealistic in some instances. I have no clue, to be honest with you about what most teams want. Fisher is a prime example. This business is very, very hard to deal with a times. But you have to deal with it. This is the chosen profession for us. You’re going to deal with sometimes getting fired unexpected and sometimes it’s warranted. You just have to deal with it.”


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Follow L.A. Daily News beat Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mark.medina@langnews.com

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Q&A: Former Spurs’ Bruce Bowen recalls defending Kobe Bryant

SAN ANTONIO – Below is a Q&A with an interview with former San Antonio Spurs forward and ESPN NBA analyst Bruce Bowen on defending Kobe Bryant during countless Spurs-Lakers regular-season and playoff matchups. While Bryant averaged 28.6 points on 46.8 percent shooting against Bowen in 22 playoff games, Bowen held Bryant to 26.3 points per game average on a 42.6 percent clip through 32 regular-season contests.

What memories jump out to you in defending Kobe Bryant?


Bowen:
“I think obviously he’s one of the best players at that position besides MJ [Michael Jordan]. The biggest thing for me, I knew Kobe was a due diligent person. His basketball IQ surpassed some of the others I competed against. The most critical aspect of Kobe’s game for me was his mental focus. It was comparable to mine about not allowing things to get to the point where you lose focus off of what’s at hand. I can tell you different guys at different moments where they lost focus. For the most part, he understood how important that focus was. Because of that, it wasn’t about the physical aspect. It was about the mental aspect as well. It was a chess game.

What moves are going to be made if this happens? If he didn’t start off well, I knew he was going to drive the ball. I knew he wanted to get comfortable shots in comfortable spots. That’s where it may be happening where you have to work harder. In the process of me trying to work harder, that’s where everything kind of seems to build up even more so as far as ‘Okay he’s not doing so well. I know at any moment he’s going to go off. All he needs is a layup.’ I always said that. It bothered me when Pop [Spurs coach Gregg Popovich] took me out of the game and then I would see him get a layup. My thoughts are ‘I’m not going to shut him out, but at least let’s keep it going where he might question things to the point to where now I have an opportunity.'”
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Lakers’ Byron Scott says he has a “playful relationship” with D’Angelo Russell

Los Angeles Lakers guard D'Angelo Russell (1) drives to the basket against Minnesota Timberwolves in the first half of a NBA basketball game at Staples Center on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2015 in Los Angeles.   (Photo by Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News)

Los Angeles Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell (1) drives to the basket against Minnesota Timberwolves in the first half of a NBA basketball game at Staples Center on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2015 in Los Angeles.
(Photo by Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News)

SAN ANTONIO — The tone sounded honest and reflective as Lakers coach Byron Scott sat along the scorer’s table at AT&T Center analyzing D’Angelo Russell’s growth.

The Lakers’ rookie point guard has experienced quite a whirlwind this season amid hype as the team’s No. 2 draft pick, losing his starting position and sitting out frequently during the closing minutes. Russell has also experienced steady improvement with his aggressiveness, offensive command, post play and outside shot.

“I thought he’d probably be a little bit further,” Scott said following morning shootaround at AT&T Center, where the Lakers (11-41) will play the San Antonio Spurs (41-8) on Saturday. “But being at 19 years old, I always take that into consideration. Every time I chastise him about something or get mad at him about something, I go back that he’s 19.”

Russell heard those words nearby as he completed a shooting routine behind the 3-point line. In between shot attempts, Russell made a series of goofy facial expressions toward Scott. The Lakers’ head coach noticed and laughed.

“See what I mean?” Scott said, chuckling. “I have to remind myself of that that he’s still a kid and still learning an still figuring out what this league is all about.”

A humorous and honest dialogue then took place that captured what Scott described as a “playful relationship with Russell.” Scott also added he often tells Russell in a teasing manner, “You’re 19 but sometimes I think you’re 14. You’re 19, but today you’re 22 or 23.”
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Lakers’ Jordan Clarkson to compete in All-Stars skills challenge

The Lakers’ Jordan Clarkson #6 during their NBA preseason game against the Trail Blazers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Monday, October 19, 2015.(Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)

The Lakers’ Jordan Clarkson #6 during their NBA preseason game against the Trail Blazers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Monday, October 19, 2015.(Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)

NEW ORLEANS — The steady progression Jordan Clarkson experienced took another turn, both in responsibilities and accolades.

The Lakers’ second-year guard will compete in NBA’s All-Star skills challenge in Toronto on Feb. 13 at Air Canada Centre. Clarkson will join DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings), Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans), Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors), Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota Timberwolves), Isaiah Thomas (Boston Celtics), C.J. McCollum (Portland Trail Blazers) and Patrick Beverley (Houston Rockets).

The NBA described the competition as a “three-round, obstacle-course competition that tests dribbling, passing agility and three-point-shooting skills. Clarkson will have already played on Friday in NBA’s rookie-sophomore game with Lakers rookie point guard D’Angelo Russell. Clarkson Clarkson will also judge the NBA Development League’s dunk contest, along with Seth Curry (Kings) and Patrick Patterson (Toronto Raptors).

“That’s good. You still want to have an eye on getting into the big contest,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said of Clarkson. “Him being there around so many great players hopefully gives him admiration to want to get better next year to be an All-Star one of these days.”

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Vintage Kobe Bryant draws rave reviews from Byron Scott

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mark.medina@langnews.com

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Lakers’ Byron Scott recalls night Kobe Bryant injured right shoulder vs. New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS — This city has since conjured up more memories for Lakers coach Byron Scott beyond the tasty seafood, the festive jazz music, his initial success with this franchise and his unceremonious firing.

With Kobe Bryant playing when the Lakers (10-41) visit the New Orleans Pelicans (18-30) tonight at Smoothie King Center, Scott also remembers vividly Bryant tore the rotator cuff in his right shoulder here about a year ago. But before realizing Bryant would need season-ending surgery, he tried to play through it. On Jan. 21, 2015, Bryant drove past Pelicans forward Dante Cunningham along the baseline and finished with a dunk. Bryant soon grabbed his right shoulder and believed he just suffered a stinger.

“You all right?” Scott recalled asking Bryant after morning shootaround on Thursday.

“My shoulder is a little messed up, but I have my left hand,” Scott remembered Bryant saying. “I have another hand. With how tough he is, he said I’m good.”

But Scott then reported Lakers trainer Gary Vitti quickly said, “No, get him out.” So Bryant sat with 4:15 remaining in the third quarter to ice his shoulder. After both Bryant and the Lakers sensed improvement, Bryant reentered the game with five minutes left in the fourth quarter. But Bryant discovered he could not use his right shoulder.

“His thing was, ‘It’s hurt, but I got another [shoulder],'” Scott reported Bryant thinking. ‘”I’m okay.'”

So Bryant used his left hand the rest of the game. He dribbled only using that left hand. He converted on a left-handed turnaround jumper. Bryant then made a left-handed hook shot. But Bryant airballed his second left hook attempt. Vitti then went to Scott on the sideline.

“We have to get you out,” Scott recalled telling Bryant.

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