Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash admire Grant Hill’s longevity

Father Time tells them to stop. Yet, they keep going.

Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Grant Hill have all reached a crossroads in their own way, wondering how to walk the tight rope in maintaining longevity while ensuring their engine doesn’t fall apart. Hill, the Clippers forward who turned 40 on Oct. 5, jokes he’s “just faking it till I make it.” But if that were truly the case, he’d have fooled plenty right now.

“There’s a certain mutual respect that goes along with that,” Bryant said regarding Grant, the 18-year veteran. “I know what goes into the preparation and the daily grind of doing the things that are boring, stretching, icing and therapy and all of these other stuff. The fact he’s been able to do it at that level for long periods of time is remarkable.”

That’s why Bryant relishes matching up against Grant. Even if Bryant averaged 38.66 points last season against Phoenix with mostly Hill guarding him, NBA StatsCube shows a huge difference in Bryant’s shooting percentage per 36 minutes when Hill’s on the court (47%) and on the bench (80%). In other words, Bryant relishes scoring at such a prolific rate when he’s challenged along the way from a contemporary.

Remember, Hill entered the league in the 1994-95 season with the Detroit Pistons touted as the next Michael Jordan. He appeared in FILA and Sprite Commercials. Hill displayed an array of athleticism and versatility as he averaged 21.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6.2 assists through his first six seasons. . He handled the hype with a dignity that still remains noticeable to this day.

That nearly came crashing down when he had ankle and hernia injuries that sidelined him for significant time in four seasons with Orlando. But Hill keeps fighting through it. he underwent successful surgery on his right knee last season and reportedly underwent a similar platelet enrichment procedure on his knee that Bryant had last summer. Hill’s sat out the last two weeks during the Clippers’ preseason to rest his sore knees. The Daily News’ Ellliott Teaford reported Hill has worked out in a pool in order to avoid the stress of running and jumping.

“The main thing is the mindset that I’m not going to accept I’m older and I can’t do things,” Hill said. “I’m not going to accept that. You know there are certain things you can’t do. But there are still certain things you can.”

Hill then pointed to his head.

“It starts up here,” he said.

As a result, Hill has averaged 12.07 points per game through five seasons with Phoenix.

“That’s incredible to have the toughness and ability to keep going,” Nash said of Hill. “He’s still a terrific player. I think that gets lost sometimes in the fact that everyone says he’s nearly 40. But he’s still a terrific player.”

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Lakers nonchalant about NBA GM poll picking Heat as title favorites

Should league executives have it right, the Lakers will be taking their talents to South Beach. But, according to the NBA’s general manager preseason survey, the Lakers won’t return to L.A. ready to march down in another championship parade.

According to the poll, 70% of the general managers that responded predicted the Miami Heat will repeat as NBA champions. Only 23.3% believe the Lakers will win their 17th NBA title, tying the Boston Celtics.

But as the Lakers can attest from experience, they’re well aware that championships aren’t won on preseason polls or preseason games.

“The same GM’s picked Jordan at No. 3,” Lakers forward Metta World Peace said sheepishly . “They passed on him on the first pick. So we’ll see.”

World Peace is correct. In the 1984 NBA Draft, the Portland Trail Blazers selected Sam Bowie with their No. 2 pick, allowing the Chicago Bulls to grab Jordan, who then led the team to six NBA titles. Still, this same survey touted World Peace as the second toughest NBA player behind Kobe Bryant.

Obviously, the Lakers hold NBA championships as the purple and gold standard. But this year’s results still show a marked improvement from last season. The majority (60%) believe the Lakers will return to the NBA FInals after falling in the Western Conference semifinals in two consecutive seasons. Last year, only 17.9% of the general managers believed the Lakers would win the Western Conference.

The changed sentiment obviously reflects the Lakers’ offseason moves. They acquired an elite center (Dwight Howard), elite point guard (Steve Nash), secondary scoring (Antawn Jamison) and 3-point shooting (Jodie Meeks). The Lakers also retained promising bench pieces (Jordan Hill, Devin Ebanks, Darius Morris). Oh yeah, the Lakers made all these moves while still keeping Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and World Peace together.

Still, the Lakers vowed neither to care much about their improved Western Conference standing or take offense to falling short in the NBA Finals.

“It’s something you have to earn,” Gasol said. “It’s not something you can trust or rely on at all. We have a long year ahead of us. The season is about to start and we want to get ourselves ready for it. So we need to get guys healthy and play together every day in every game. That will be nice so we can build on getting to our goal. That’s not just getting to the Finals.”

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Metta World Peace says he won’t wear tape on finger in Lakers-Clippers game

Long after practice ended on Tuesday, Lakers forward Metta World Peace kept shooting jumpers. He usually keeps this habit both on the good and bad shooting streaks. But there was something different about his routine this time around.

World Peace was wearing purple-colored tape around his middle finger of his right hand. The Lakers training staff wrapped that around World Peace as a precautionary measure after he dislocated the finger during the team’s pre-season loss Sunday to the Sacramento Kings. But Laker fans shouldn’t expect World Peace to see his bandaged digit when the team plays the Clippers Wednesday in a preseason game.

“I’m not playing with it,” World Peace said Tuesday after practice at the Lakers’ facility in El Segundo. “Some injuries heal in a day or a week. But this will be off by tomorrow.”

In the Lakers’ 99-92 preseason loss Sunday to the Sacramento Kings, World Peace hurt his finger after swiping the ball away from Kings center DeMarcus Cousins as he drove the lane less than three minutes remaining. World Peace played through the injury and got his finger taped afterwards.

Still, Lakers Coach Mike Brown admitted feeling queasy after seeing World Peace’s damaged digit. Not the Lakers forward, who’s used to play with dings, cuts and scrapes all over his body.

Whatever. You play. It’s all about basketball. It’s not about being hurt or anything else. When you’re out there on the court, you’re not thinking about any ankle twist or elbow sprain. You’re just thinking about playing basketball and doing your job.

That’s why World Peace said the extra padding did nothing to affect his marksmanship or force him to change his shooting stroke. He also said he refused to wear a splint to support the finger for one simple reason.

Said World Peace: “That’s for punks man.”

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Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard might miss preseason game vs. Clippers

The Lakers haven’t fretted too much about their 0-6 preseason record, even if it marks their worst start since keeping official stats since 1982.

But they now do have cause for concern. Both Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard might miss the Lakers’ preseason game Wednesday vs the Clippers because of respective right foot and back injuries.

Bryant sat out of Tuesday’s practice, marking his second consecutive practice he missed because of a bruised and sore right foot that he described as “pretty sore” and characterized the pain level as “pretty high.” When asked if Bryant would play, he said “probably not.” Bryant provided the same answer in regards to if it was a regular season game.

“It’s probably a good thing. It’ll slow me down a little bit,” said Bryant, who’s averaged 20.4 points on 50% shooting in 26.8 minutes. “I’ve been going full bore pretty much every day. It’s probably a good thing.”

Meanwhile, Howard played in only the limited portions of Tuesday’s practice that involved no contact. A Lakers spokesman said Howard’s absence was just “precautionary” after reporting soreness from his surgically repaired back after making his debut in the team’s preseason loss Sunday against Sacramento.

Still, Lakers Coach Mike Brown said “there is a chance he may not” play against the Clippers. Howard didn’t talk to reporters Tuesday, but he described his body as “pretty sore” following Monday’s session.

Second-round draft pick Robert Sacre, who started for five games during Howard’s absence, would start at center. Brown said he’s leaning toward starting sharpshooter Jodie Meeks, though he said he’d choose between Meeks and Devin Ebanks. And Brown said it’s possible reserve forward Jordan Hill will play Wednesday after recovering from a herniated disk.

“We have to keep playing,” Brown said. “That’s why we have a team. It’s great from the standpoint that other guys will have an opportunity to step up and try to produce. We don’t want to rush anybody back from any injury at all.”

Brown, normally long-winded albeit tight-lipped, even sounded concerned about Bryant’s health.

“I don’t know how serious it is,” Brown said. “When it comes to Kobe sitting out, it’s got to be bothering him.”

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Kobe Bryant misses second consecutive practice

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant missed his second consecutive practice because of a bruised and sore right foot.

The Lakers are listing Bryant as day-to-day, making it unclear whether he will play in the team’s preseason game Wednesday against the Clippers. Bryant originally injured his foot during a collision in the third quarter of the Lakers’ 99-92 preseason loss Sunday to the Sacramento Kings.

The Lakers also limited center Dwight Howard in Tuesday’s practice out of “precautionary” measures regarding his surgically repaired back. Howard didn’t play in the team’s full-court scrimmage and half-court drills open to the media. Howard said after Monday’s practice that his entire body felt “pretty sore” after making his Laker debut Sunday against Sacramento.

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Kobe Bryant missed Monday’s practice with foot injury

The Lakers are continuing to feel the linger affects of an aging roster.

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant missed Monday’s practice because of a strained and right bruised foot, stemmed from getting kicked in that area during the third quarter of the Lakers’ 99-92 preseason loss Sunday to the Sacramento Kings. The Lakers have listed him as day-to-day, meaning Bryant could still play in the team’s preseason game Wednesday against the Clippers at Staples Center.

Bryant had also nursed other injuries this season, including a sore right foot that kept him out for a double session as well as punctured right shoulder that sidelined him during the Lakers’ second preseason loss against Portland in Ontario.

The Lakers monitored more injuries. Lakers forward Metta World Peace practiced wearing a split to nurse his dislocated middle finger. Lakers guard Steve Nash described his turned right ankle as a “little sore,” though he still practiced. And Lakers forward Jordan Hill is listed day-to-day as he’s rehabbing from a herniated disk.

Lakers Coach Mike Brown expressed little concern about such injuries, most notably Bryant’s. Brown said he saw Bryant during a timeout take his right shoe off so he could receive treatment from team physical therapist Judy Seto. But Brown said he thought nothing of it.

“He’s a tough son of a gun,” Brown said of Bryant. “I didn’t ask [about the injury]. I was just coaching because nobody was telling me anything. I don’t know if she was retaping his ankle. But he laced his shoe up and went out on the floor.”

World Peace hurt his finger after swiping the ball away from Kings center DeMarcus Cousins as he drove the lane less than three minutes remaining in the game. World Peace played through the injury and got his finger taped afterwards. Brown found it hard to evaluate him because the Lakers’ practice on Monday didn’t include any contact drills. But Brown remained impressed how World Peace absorbed the pain.

“He’s tough too,” Brown said. “I’d be out for about six months. First of all, when I first looked at my hand, I would’ve passed out.”

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Lakers prank Dwight Howard

Just as the Lakers appeared to jet out of the entrance tunnel, they stopped.

Well, except Dwight Howard.

The Lakers center made his debut at Staples Center by, well, storming onto the court by himself. The entire team waited several seconds before following Howard.

“That was supposed to be something for rookies,” Howard said after the Lakers’ 99-92 preseason loss Sunday to the Sacramento Kings. “They got me.”

They sure did.

Lakers forward Pau Gasol waited nearly a full 10 seconds before finally catching up to Howard. By the time everyone reached the court, Gasol laughed with Howard near the scorer’s table.

So whose idea was it to play a prank on Howard?

” I don’t know,” Lakers guard Bryant said. “It wasn’t mine. I don’t play those games … I didn’t know that was going to happen. They didn’t tell me that.”

But Bryant seemed cool with it. After all, it turned out that little prank provide a good ice breaker for Howard, who admitted feeling nervous appearing in his first game since having back surgery six months ago.

More importantly, Howard followed suit by posting 19-points on eight-of-12 shooting, 12 rebounds and four blocks in 33 minutes.

“He was aggressive running the floor,” Gasol joked regarding Howard’s player entrance.
“He got out really hard and was excited to get out there. Steve [Nash] held me back. I was the second guy. He held me back and let me get out there first. It worked. I didn’t expect it.”

That’s because of one simple reason.

“It was on the spot,” Nash said. “We have that kind of spontaneity in this locker room.”

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Metta World Peace has finger injury, Steve Nash turns ankle

Lakers forward Metta World Peace and Lakers guard Steve Nash both experienced injury scares during the team’s 99-92 preseason loss Sunday to the Sacramento Kings at Staples Center.

World Peace dislocated the middle finger of his right hand, while Nash turned his right ankle.

Fortunately for the Lakers, neither are expected to miss any games. But it provides a visual reminder that the Lakers’ star-studded albeit aging lineup have to closely monitor their health.

World Peace hurt his finger after swiping the ball away from Kings center DeMarcus Cousins as he drove the lane less than three minutes remaining in the game. World Peace played through the injury and got his finger taped afterwards.

Meanwhile, Nash collided with Sacramento guard Isiah Thomas late in the third quarter. He briefly exited the game to have Lakers trainer Gary Vitti tape his ankle. Nash returned shortly afterwards.

“It really hurt at first, but it’s just sore now,” Nash said. “I don’t think I’ll miss any games.”

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Dwight Howard has impressive debut in Lakers’ preseason loss to Kings

After six months of back rehab and endless questioning about his return, Dwight Howard could finally smile.

He could finally play. He could finally experience what it’s like to play with a Hall-of-Fame supporting cast against an actual opponent. He could finally make his debut in what the Lakers hope marks the beginning of a long-term relationship that consists of multiple championships and another retired jersey in the Staples Center rafters.

Howard’s 19-point performance on eight-of-12 shooting, 12 rebounds and four blocks in 33 minutes wasn’t enough to stop the Lakers’ pre-season struggles. Their 99-92 SPACE loss Sunday to the Sacramento Kings before 18,997 at Staples Center worsened the Lakers’ preseason record to 0-6, their worst start since the team officially kept preseason statistics since 1982. They also committed 22 turnovers.

But Howard provided examples on why the organization felt giddy after acquiring him this offseason from the Orlando Magic in a blockbuster four-team, 12-player trade.

“I’m so thankful to be back on the court after coming off a serious surgery,” Howard said. “I’m going to make the best of it.”

Howard didn’t waste time. In his first two minutes on the floor, Howard set up Kobe Bryant for a three-pointer. Soon after, Howard scored off an alley-oop lob from Pau Gasol.

Howard’s mere presence suddenly inspired the Lakers to play team basketball (22 assists on 33 field goals). He opened up plenty of open looks for his entire supporting cast, including Bryant (21 points on six-of-12 shooting), Gasol (14 points on five-of-eight shooting) and World Peace (14 points on five-of-11 shooting). Howard suddenly closed the gaps the Lakers left on defense, holding Sacramento to a 40.7% clip.

“He looked normal to me in terms of how he was running and his stamina,” Bryant said of Howard. “He looked great.”

That’s why Lakers Coach Mike Brown said beforehand he wouldn’t hold any minute restrictions on Howard. Brown also said that, barring any setbacks, Howard will play in the Lakers’ last two preseason games Wednesday against the Clippers at Staples Center and Thursday against the Kings in San Diego. Since Oct 10, Howard has participated in full-court five-on-five contact drills and hasn’t reported any setbacks

But Brown had good reason not to heap lofty expectations on Howard, even if he’s considered the NBA’s best center. Howard hasn’t played in a game for over six months. He also admitted feeling nervous and “shedding a few tears” before the Lakers introduced him to the starting lineup. Before the game, he wore headphones as he sat by his locker room stall.

“I was a little emotional because I haven’t been on the court in a while,” Howard said. “I just thank God that I came back as fast as I did. I didn’t know what to expect. It was a very humbling experience.”

The Lakers made sure of it as they forced Howard to take the court first. Howard also flashed a wide smile as he high-fived all of his teammates before taking the court.

“When we went out, I grabbed Pau and held him back,” Nash said. “It was on the spot. We have that kind of spontaneity in this locker room.”

Not everything with Howard’s debut went perfectly.

Bryant missed two consecutive three-pointers on the last two possessions of game. The Lakers’ reserves also delivered little, getting outscored 57-18, before Brown put his starters in for the final 7:18. Even regular court-side celebrities Jack Nicholson and Denzel Washington weren’t in attendance.

As for Howard, there were a few blemishes too. He committed five turnovers. Howard went only three-of-eight from the free-throw line, bringing reminders of another Lakers’ center in Shaquille O’Neal. Kings forward Thomas Robinson dunked over Howard on one play that he predicted will end up on SportsCenter.

“I was a little rusty,” Howard said. “On the offensive end, I’m just trying to get my timing back. On the defensive end, I’m just trying to be there for my teammates. I think we’re going to be a good team this year.”

That could predicate on health, and the Lakers offered a few scares in that area.

World Peace suffered a a dislocated middle finger on his right hand, though he’s not expected to miss any games. Nash also clutched his right ankle on a play with 7:42 left in the third quarter. He soon stood up, though.

“It really hurt at first, but it’s just sore now,” Nash said. “I don’t think I’ll miss any games.”

Still, nothing soured Howard’s enthusiasm on his return. He still just seemed giddy over Lakers trainer Gary Vitti, whom Howard dubbed as “Father,” clearing him to play.

“I was just happy. Me and Father sat down and we had our confession session in the back,” Howard said with a smile. “I said, ‘Father, I’m looking pretty good. What do you think about tonight?’ He said, “Son, you’ll be great. Go out there and play.’”

Others encouraged Howard, too.

Lakers assistant coach Darvin Ham jokingly encouraged Howard to dunk as hard as he could. He followed suit, such as when he threw down Nash’s alley-oop lob that gave the Lakers a 90-89 lead with 2:15 remaining.

As Howard entered the players’ tunnel before the game, Laker fans greeted him with “Welcome to L.A.!” chants. The cheers lasted the entire game.

“I was just happy being on the court,” Howard said. “I never thought this would happen being here in L.A.”

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Lakers leads Kings, 57-46, at halftime

It didn’t take long for Dwight Howard to make an impact with the Lakers.

In the first few minutes, he set up Kobe Bryant for a three-pointer. Howard threw down an alley-oop dunk from Pau Gasol. Howard’s mere presence suddenly opened up for the floor for everyone, including Bryant (13 points on four-of-six shooting), Gasol (six points on two-of-three shooting), World Peace (nine points on three-of-six shooting) and Steve Nash (six points on two-of-two shooting). Once the first half ended, Howard finished with eight points on three-of-four shooting, five rebounds, three blocks and two assists.

But Howard also encountered some rustiness.

He committed two turnovers. Howard went only two-of-seven from the free-throw line. At times, Howard showed signs of fatigue in his first basketball game since having back surgery in April.

Still, Howard provided plenty of signs suggesting he’s well on his way to becoming an unstoppable center again.

Howard threw down a lob from Bryant. He suddenly made it easy for the Lakers’ to play defense. Howard provided a putback despite fighting through a double team and falling to the floor.

Bryant ended the first half with a game-winner, per usual. But it looked obvious Howard’s arrival showed how much easier it will be for the Lakers’ stars to score.

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