Kobe Bryant celebrates his 35th birthday

Today marks a day where Kobe Bryant deserves the right not to think about basketball or worry about the rehab surrounding his left torn Achilles tendon.

But considering his insatiable competitiveness, it shouldn’t be surprising if Bryant’s sticking to his usual routine on Friday in what marks his 35th birthday. After all, that unyielding competitiveness marks one of the many traits that led a certain teammate to make this evaluation on Twitter.

 

Bryant’s body of work speaks for itself, what with the five NBA championships, two Finals MVPs, one regular-season MVP, four All-Star game MVPs and a fourthh-place spot on the league’s all-time scoring list. But he hardly considers himself done. Bryant seems determined not only to overcome his torn left Achilles tendon and return to the court. He appears motivated in using that obstacle both to shatter his already impressive play and possibly play past his expiring $30.5 million contract following this season.

Hence, don’t be surprised if Bryant refuses to eat birthday cake or party on his special day. It’s very likely he’ll spend his time ensuring that he remains a special player.

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

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Lakers showcase “Hollywood Nights’ black jersey

It remains to be seen how the Lakers will look on the basketball court this season. But whether they overachieve or continue the path toward mediocrity, the Lakers will at least look good in their uniforms. The Lakers will don a new black alternative uniform for certain games this season, as shown via Instagram on the Lakers’ Twitter account.

The black uniform, dubbed “Hollywood Nights” features a black jersey and the Lakers’ traditional purple and gold as trimming. As previously reported, the Lakers will also wear white short-sleeve jerseys at select games during the 2013-14 season. One of those games is expected to be the Lakers’ Christmas Day game against the Miami Heat.

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

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Steve Blake part of NBAPA executive committee

As he heads into the final contract of his season with the Lakers, Steve Blake will try to show his value beyond staying healthy and living up to Mike D’Antoni’s belief that he’s an ideal fit for his system.

He’ll also be part of the NBAPA executive committee as vice president.

 

Meanwhile, the players union met in Las Vegas and voted Clippers star Chris Paul as president to replace former Lakers guard Derek Fisher, whose term expired. Free agent Roger Mason was named vice president, while Blake joins Charlotte Bobcats forward Anthony Tolliver as the two new vice presidents. The NBAPA is still looking to replace former executive director Billy Hunter.

Blake has had heavy involvement with the NBA’s players union already. He’s served as the player’s union representative during his three years with the Lakers, including during the 2011 NBA lockout.

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

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Kobe Bryant’s “True Genius” video captures unyielding drive

Every time he has the ball in his hands, Kobe Bryant seeks to accomplish a few things. He looks to score. He looks to dominate. He looks to carve up a defense no matter how many schemes or people are thrown at him. He looks to add another moment to his legend.

Bryant sure has plenty of those. His 81-point game seven years ago against the Toronto Raptors. His 61-point game four years ago against the New York Knicks that set a Madison Square Garden record. His four consecutive games six years ago when he scored at least 50 points. His various game winners. All done with a jaw strut and a glare that’s become as customary to Lakers fans as it is for Jack Nicholson to sit courtside for nearly every game. Add it all up and you have Bryant with five NBA championships and a fourth-place ranking on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.

As the “True Genius” video designed by YouTube user Sandr0nba shows, seeing Bryant’s highlight reel sparks a mind-numbing experience. Yes, everyone has seen Bryant make these shots countless times. But watching them on a loop only expands the amazement that Bryant’s able to achieve the miraculous in so many games in so many different circumstances again and again and again.

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

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Jordan Hill vows outside shooting won’t compromise rest of his game

Anytime Jordan Hill has stepped foot in a gym near his Atlanta residence this summer, the visual images starkly contrast with what made him a pleasant surprise for the Lakers through the past two seasons.

Instead of perfecting his post moves, Hill takes at least 1,000 jump shots per day. Instead of performing Mikan drills close to the basket, Hill often participates in shooting contests with reserve shooting guard Jodie Meeks. Instead of honing in on his rebounding, Hill’s paying extra attention to the ball handling.

All that work led Hill making one unexpected evaluation surrounding his outside shooting stroke.

“I have a lot more confidence,” Hill said in a phone interview with this newspaper. “I feel I’m a good shooter now.”

As Hill enters the 2013-14 season as a key reserve and even a possible starter, how he finds that balance between expanding his game and playing to his strengths could play a huge part in dictating his success or failure.

Before suffering a torn labrum in his left hip that required surgery and kept him out for 53 games last season, Hill became a focal part of the Lakers’ bench namely by providing endless energy on defense, rebounding and hustle plays. Such a staple earned him a role in his first season with the Lakers two years ago after they initially considered him nothing more than a throw-in to allow them to trade Derek Fisher to the Houston Rockets both to save salary and trim their backcourt. Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni sat Hill for three consecutive games last December, bringing a familiar reminder how he played a similarly limited role under him during his rookie season four years ago with the New York Knicks.

Hill eventually earned playing time by sticking to his strengths on defense, rebounding and energy. The Lakers expect Hill to have a strong role this season, too. But it came with a caveat. Hill said both D’Antoni and Kobe Bryant in separate instances instructed him this offseason to work on his mid-range jumper.

How does Hill prevent his increased outside shooting from diluting the qualities that earned him such a prominent role on the Lakers’ bench in the first place?

“I’m still going to do what I’m going to do,” said Hill, who averaged a career-high 6.7 points and career-high 5.7 rebounds in 15.8 minutes last season through 29 regular-season games. “Provide energy, play defense, rebound. That’s my game. That’s not going to change. I just want to be able to have more options and have something that the team can rely on. It’s all about just trying to expand my game.”

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Ronny Turiaf tries to surpass Kobe Bryant by jumping over ‘truck’

No one’s ever going to mistake the disparate talent levels between Kobe Bryant and Ronny Turiaf on the basketball court.

Bryant has cemented himself as one of the greatest Lakers ever. Turiaf has cemented himself as the consummate glue guy and positive locker room presence, including four seasons with the Lakers (2005-08).

But as far as jumping ability, Turiaf set out to prove that he’s better than Bryant. Five years after Bryant leaping over a speeding Ashton Martin to promote his Nike’s Hyperdunk shoe, Turiaf attempted to top that by leaping over a monster truck.

Well, kind of.
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Kobe Bryant attends Drew League championship game

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant talks with Drew League public address announcer Public address announcer George Preciado prior Tuesday prior to the league's championship game. (Via Nike's Twitter account)

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant talks with Drew League public address announcer Public address announcer George Preciado prior Tuesday prior to the league’s championship game between Hank’s Blazers and Kings of L.A. (Via Nike’s Twitter account)

Kobe Bryant didn’t hit a game-winning shot. He didn’t play on the basketball court, since, you know, that surgically repaired left Achilles tendon won’t let him. But the mere sight of Bryant walking into the King-Drew Magnet school gymnasium during the Drew League’s championship game Tuesday yielded more attention that what happened on the court (here’s the brief video via Instagram).

It appeared Bryant’s arrival at the Drew League went unannounced, much like the same way his camp and league officials handled his appearance two years ago in an exhibition game. Fans were then treated to a vintage Bryant performance where he scored 47 points and made a game-winning jumper against James Harden.

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

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Lakers to wear short-sleeve jerseys at select games next season

The Lakers plan to wear short-sleeve jerseys at select games during the 2013-14 season, according to a team spokesman.

The Lakers’ short-sleeve jerseys will be white and will be unveiled at some point in the near future, according to the source. The jerseys, designed by adidas, are 26 percent lighter than the traditional NBA jersey, according to an ESPN report. Though the uniforms appear tighter, adidas has said the uniform doesn’t compromise a players’ shot and allows a full range of motion.

It’s not clear the origin of the Lakers’ decision to wear these jerseys. But their latest fashion choice coincides with other NBA teams opting to wear short-sleeve jerseys next season, including the Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns. The Warriors had also worn the jerseys for three games last season.
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Paul Pierce hopes to outlast Kobe Bryant, among other NBA veterans

Plenty of things appear to motivate Paul Pierce these days.

Lifting the Brooklyn Nets to an NBA championship after the Inglewood native infuriated plenty of Laker fans during his 15-years with the Boston Celtics. Adapting to a new city. And apparently staying in the NBA past one certain Lakers superstar.

“My goal is to outlast [Tim] Duncan, Kobe [Bryant], Dirk [Nowitzki], and KG, this is what’s left of that generation,” Paul recently told The Boston Globe. “I’m looking at all of them. We all are kind of in the same boat where [retirement] can happen in the next year or two. Vince [Carter] is in there. He’s still playing. They still look strong, so I want to continue to look strong.”

It’s safe to presume Bryant feels the same way.

He had hinted last year that he would retire once his contract expires following this season, which will pay him a league-leading $30.5 million. But ever since suffering a season-ending torn left Achilles tendon April 12 against the Golden State Warriors, Bryant has changed his sentiment. He told Lakers.com in June that he could play at “least another three years,” a variable former Lakers forward Metta World Peace believed contributed to Dwight Howard leaving for the Houston Rockets.

Nonetheless, Bryant and the Lakers haven’t started negotiating yet considering it remains to be seen how he will look once he fully rehabs from his injury, let alone return to the court. Because of the harsher tax penalties and limited moves teams can make for spending over the threshold, it’s likely Bryant would have to take a paycut. Though it remains unclear to what degree he would so for the sake of helping the Lakers have more financial resources to land top players.

Still, Bryant told comedian Jimmy Kimmel last week at the Nokia Theatre that he wants to be a Laker for life, presumably as long as his body allows him. And at that time, Bryant and Pierce will then discover which one outlasts the other.

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

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Stephon Marbury tabs Kobe Bryant as the NBA’s best player

Father Time keeps knocking on the door, but Kobe Bryant tells him to go away. He’s two years removed from playing with a surgically repaired knee, but an innovative procedure in Germany allowed Bryant to discover the Fountain of Youth. He’s currently rehabbing his surgically repaired left Achilles tendon, but it’s possible Bryant could suit up for the Lakers opening night Oct. 29 against the Clippers at Staples Center.

That uncompromising mindset enabled Bryant last season to average 27.3 points per game, third best in the NBA. And it’s enough for Stephon Marbury to proclaim one thing about Bryant even to this day.

“I consider him to be the best basketball player in the NBA,” Marbury told reporters to China where he’s playing. “I think LeBron James is amazing. He’s an amazing athlete. But as a basketball player, Kobe has had the foundation from the beginning. LeBron James is a freak of nature. There’s not too many guys who are 6’8″, 240 pounds and can run and jump and pass the ball like he does. But Kobe is a better all around basketball player.”
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