Former Laker James Worthy, left, shown with Kobe Bryant during a recent media day, believes Bryant can play past his current contract. Photo credit: John McCoy / Staff Photographer
The pain Kobe Bryant has felt in his body has at times become too overwhelming. He felt a kicking sensation just moments before tearing his left Achilles tendon. He felt tension in his left leg after colliding with Memphis’ Tony Allen. He felt an ache in his right shoulder right after throwing down a one-handed dunk that morphed into a torn labrum.
Yet, Bryant has willingly completed his lengthy rehabs that has entailed taking endless ice baths, antibiotics and rest all for the sake of accomplishing two things. So Bryant can return to the basketball court and prove he can both overcome a serious injury and play at an elite level. So he can further reach his quest that has driven him for his entire 19-year NBA career.
“I know Kobe wants six championships,” former Showtime Laker James Worthy said Monday on SiriusXM NBA Radio with Brian Geltzeiler and Stacey King. “I know he wants to tie Michael [Jordan]. Kobe is looking to six.”
Hence, the $25 million question entering the Lakers’ 2015-16 season entails whether Bryant can play out the final year of his contract without suffering another major injury. Yet, Worthy hardly believes this will mark Bryant’s official farewell tour.
“It depends on his body. The body can only take so much,” Worthy said. But if he can play less minutes and take less money, I think he would play some more. I don’t see him retiring until I see it.”
The Lakers held a press conference on Wednesday to introduce new players, from left, center Roy Hibbert, guard Lou Williams and forward Brandon Bass. (Photo by Brad Graverson/staff)
A seemingly harmless question soon turned into a heavily scrutinized topic.
The Lakers’ newcomers in Roy Hibbert, Lou Williams and Brandon were all asked if Bryant touched base with them at all ever since joining the purple and gold. Hibbert shook his head ‘no.’ Williams and Bass continuously stared at Hibbert. Bass soon smiled over the awkward silence.
But instead of considering this a red flag in future team chemistry, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak represented one of many who found the incident amusing.
“It’s kind of comical and funny to be honest with you,” Kupchak said recently on SiriusXM NBA Radio with Brian Geltzeiler and Rick Mahorn. “It was a good moment in TV. They asked a question and the three players kind of looked at each other and kind of just shrugged their shoulders, ‘No.”
There have been countless free agents and draft prospects in recent seasons that mentioned in some variance of Bryant calling or texting to talk about getting ready for the upcoming season. Such examples included Dwight Howard, Carlos Boozer, Jeremy Lin, Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell. Yet, Kupchak argued “it’s not that unusual” Bryant declined to touch base with any of the team’s new arrivals.
“Kobe doesn’t call every single player we sign or trade for. I don’t even know if he’s in the country, to be honest with you,” Kupchak said, though Bryant attended FC Barcelona’s soccer practice last week in Los Angeles. “There was much made of it. But I thought it was kind of comical.”
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said on SiriusXM Radio that he hopes D’Angelo Russell/Jordan Clarkson can play together for 10-12 years. (Scott Varley/Staff Photographer)
The pinpoint passes he threw and his confident on-court presence gave D’Angelo Russell the edge over all the other draft prospects the Lakers evaluated. His prolific scoring and insatiable thirst for self-improvement ensured Jordan Clarkson a positive impression among his Lakers teammates, coaches and trainers. Combined together, it appears Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak cannot help but think about good things that will transcend into the franchise’s long-term future.
Lakers guard Lou Williams said he and Nick Young can co-exist. Photo by Brad Graverson/LANG/07/22/15
One player has taken pride in coming off the bench and scoring in bunches. Another player has felt the same. One has done it consistently enough last season to win the NBA’s sixth man of the year award. The other player failed to do it consistently enough that the Lakers could not to find any suitors to trade him.
That leads to one question that could define the Lakers’ bench identity. When Lou Williams and Nick Young are playing together, who will shoot the ball?
“Whoever has it,” Williams joked, prompting plenty of laughter on Wednesday at his introductory press conference at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo.
Yes, Williams and Young have cemented reputations as looking to score first, pass second and defend never. Before signing a three-year deal worth $21 million with the Lakers this offseason, Williams has averaged 11.9 points and 2.9 assists through his 10-year NBA career with stops in Philadelphia (2005-12), Atlanta (2012-14) and Toronto (2014-15). Young has averaged 12.3 points and 1.1 assists through his 8-year NBA career with stints in Washington (2007-12), the Clippers (2012), Philadelphia (2012-13) and the Lakers (2013-present).
Yet, Williams expressed optimism he and Young will co-exist. The Lakers plan to bring Williams off the bench as a shooting guard, while Young will play as a reserve small forward. Williams also cited his past experience teaming with other high-volume scorers, including Allen Iverson.
“I’ve played in systems with multiple guards where we had two or three guards on the court at the same time,” said Williams, who will also share scoring duties with Kobe Bryant. “The most important thing is to not pin Nick and I against each other. We’re teammates now. We both have similar games. We both like to score the basketball, that’s been one of our strong suits. That’s what we hang our hats on. But once we’re on the court, I like to play team basketball. If I’m in an iso situation, that when I try to score the ball. Other than that, I just try to make plays whether it’s for myself or my teammates.” Continue reading “Lou Williams argues he and Nick Young can co-exist” »
Center Roy Hibbert could experience a resurgence with the Lakers. (Photo by Brad Graverson/Staff)
A statue of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has sat outside Staples Center for the past three years, showing the unstoppable skyhook that both punished opponents and carried the Lakers to five NBA championships during the Showtime Era. The Lakers also retired his No. 33 jersey on March 20, 1989, a uniform the Lakers have displayed proudly both at the Forum and at Staples Center. And Abdul-Jabbar’s listing in the NBA record books has not changed, his league-leading 38,387 points staying intact ever since retiring more than 25 years ago.
Yet, there marks another symbol in which Abdul-Jabbar has cast a shadow on the Lakers’ organization. Even before he proudly held his No. 17 Lakers jersey at an introductory press conference on Wednesday, center Roy Hibbert revealed he has stepped foot on The Captain’s ship.
“Kareem reaches out to me, comes to watch my workouts and we stay in touch for the most part,” Hibbert said. “He gives me little tidbits, I worked with him a lot last year during the summer and he keeps up with me. So, he always gives me some advice, gives me some things to work on and I always ask him questions.”
The question has become customary to ask any new Lakers player considering Kobe Bryant’s lasting influence on the organization.
“Have any of you guys heard from Kobe,” a reporter asked, “and if so, what did he say?”
Usually, the players will share that Bryant texted or talked with them on the phone. Sometimes, they will divulge what insight or advice Bryant offered. But center Roy Hibbert, guard Lou Williams and forward Brandon Bass, all of whom the Lakers acquired this offseason, indicated in an introductory press conference on Wednesday they had not heard from the Lakers’ star.
Hibbert shook his head “no.” The players looked at one another. Brass smiled amid the deafening silence.
Bryant, who is entering the final year of his contract worth $25 million, has touched base with other players in the past. That included D’Angelo Russell, whom the Lakers drafted with the second overall pick. Bryant also sat in on the Lakers’ first free agency meeting with LaMarcus Aldridge.
Still, Bass mentioned earlier that his arrival with the Lakers partly hinged on Bryant,
Said Bass: “I thought it was a great opportunity to play with one of the greatest ever to ever play the game.”
Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak said on Wednesday that the Lakers may look to add another point guard and/or center. Photo by Steve McCrank/Staff Photographer
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak stood next to what represented the framework surrounding all the moves he made during free agency.
Roy Hibbert stood next to Kupchak donning his Lakers jersey at an introductory press conference on Wednesday after the Lakers acquired him from Indiana for a second-round pick. Shooting guard Lou Williams and power Brandon Bass also stood their holding their Lakers jerseys after signing here as free agents.
Add in Kobe Bryant’s expected return and the Lakers crop of young draft prospects, and it appears they have most of their roster set for the 2015-16 season. Yet, Kupchak stressed afterwards that his work is hardly finished, suggesting he would look to add either a point guard or center.
The Lakers have a flooded backcourt with D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Bryant, Williams, Nick Young and Jabari Brown. But Kupchak suggested Bryant and Young could play more at small forward instead of shooting guard. Meanwhile, Brown is expected to make the team on a non-guaranteed deal, but is only a second-year player.
Shaquille O’Neal set his opponent off into a tizzy. This time, the reasons did not involve O’Neal unleashing his unmatched strength as he powered his way inside for a devastating slam dunk. Instead, it involved an unprompted O’Neal setting off a sports debate on how the best all-time Lakers and Bulls teams would square off in a game.
O’Neal imagined the Lakers would have too much dazzling passing (Magic Johnson), too many unstoppable sky hooks (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), too much prolific scoring (Kobe Bryant and Elgin Baylor) and too much brute force (himself) for any team to stop them. Even if the Bulls fielded a lineup featuring Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Derrick Rose, Dennis Rodman and Horace Grant, O’Neal offered the outcome would prove as lopsided as a forgettable game against a lopsided opponent.
TNT analyst Kenny Smith sounded unsure how Kobe Bryant will fare next season. (Mark J. Terrill/The Associated Press)
The sunny skies and frequent laughs served as the permanent backdrop when athletes and celebrities strolled down the red carpet before the ESPY awards at the Microsoft Theater on Wednesday. But TNT analyst Kenny Smith turned serious amid a cloudy forecast regarding the Lakers’ fortunes next season.
Among the many questions surrounding the Lakers: how will Kobe Bryant play in his 20th and perhaps final NBA season?