Lakers’ Julius Randle much happier without playing restrictions

Everyone moved out of Julius Randle’s way, as the Lakers forward sprinted his way up the court eager to show something he could not for eleven painful months.

The Lakers were nearing the end of a 30-minute full-court scrimmage on Wednesday here at Stan Sheriff Center when a fast-break opportunity emerged. Before the defense had any time to set up, Randle cut into the lane. His teammate, Lou Williams, made eye contact. Then, Williams lofted up an alley-oop that Randle threw down with force.

This only marked the second day of the Lakers’ training camp. But those days have meant everything to Randle, who played only 14 minutes in his NBA rookie year before fracturing his right tibia and sitting out the rest of the season. Even when he healed enough to play in Summer League two months ago, Randle averaged only 20.5 minutes per game and sat out in a back-to-back. This time, the Lakers have released Randle’s handcuffs.

“It’s been good,” Randle said, a smile forming as he said those words. “It’s been a year. It was amazing.”

It remains understandable Randle would feel that way. But it still sounded amusing. After all, Randle had just completed a 2 1/2 hour practice filled with conditioning drills, shooting exercises and scrimmaging. The Lakers would then have a two-hour evening session. Who would have thought Randle would relish such physical torture?

“Yeah, that’s true,” Randle said, “especially after last year.”
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Lakers’ Kobe Bryant completes three workouts in second day of training camp

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant wears an ice pack on his shoulder during team practice at the Stan Sheriff Center, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2015, in Honolulu. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant wears an ice pack on his shoulder during team practice at the Stan Sheriff Center, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2015, in Honolulu. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

HONOLULU — Just as nearly everyone here slept comfortably in their beds, Kobe Bryant woke up to prepare for something that has consumed him nearly his entire life.

The Lakers star trained.

He woke up at an ungodly hour for an individual workout to strengthen his body, most notably the surgically repaired right shoulder he has rehabbed in the past eight months. Bryant then arrived to practice early for an individual shooting workout to accelerate his rhythm. The Lakers’ star then participated in most of the Lakers’ 2 1/2 hour practice that started at 11 a.m, which consisted of full-court 5-on-0 and 5-on-5 drills.

“I felt pretty good,” Bryant said on Wednesday after the Lakers practiced here at Stan Sheriff Center. “I was moving well and could get the spots I wanted to and do what I wanted to on the floor.”
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Lakers’ Nick Young vows to have a turnaround season

Los Angeles Lakers Media Day in El Segundo Monday September 28, 2015. Nick Young smiles during interview. Photo By  Robert Casillas / Daily Breeze

Los Angeles Lakers Media Day in El Segundo Monday September 28, 2015. Nick Young smiles during interview.
Photo By Robert Casillas / Daily Breeze

So many things happened that made Nick Young’s normally infectious smile turn into a frown.

The Lakers finished 21-61 last season in what marked their worst record in franchise history. Young shot only 36.6 percent from the field, his worst mark in his eight-year NBA career. He missed the last two months of the season because of fractured left knee. Through it all, Young clashed with Lakers coach Byron Scott amid his role, his inconsistency, his tardiness to games and for an infamous post-game celebration. Once it all ended, the Lakers tried trading Young this summer only to find uninterested suitors.

But Young reported to the Lakers’ training camp still bearing the same smile, vowing that he will write a script that entails a happier ending.

“We all got something to prove,” Young said. “I went in my Batcave and got my mind right. I feel good. I got away from everything and got back to playing and enjoying it.”
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Lakers’ D’Angelo Russell starstruck practicing with Kobe Bryant

HONOULU — The exercised involved a simple three-man drill, but Lakers rookie guard D’Angelo Russell struggled to process it all.

The drill itself is simple and elementary for any basketball team, let alone the Lakers. But what left Russell pinching himself on his first day of Lakers’ training camp here at Stan Sheriff Center entailed who also completed the drill. His name is Kobe Bryant. He is entering his 20th and perhaps final NBA season. And when Bryant made his preseason debut here on Oct. 10, 1996, Russell had only turned 221 days old.

“It was great. You try to keep it off your mind like this guys is not right besides you,” Russell said Tuesday after the Lakers’ practiced. “That’s something you have to get past. If you want to be the best, we have to look at him as a mentor and not look at him as a fan.”

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Lakers’ Kobe Bryant, Byron Scott nostalgic about training camp in Hawaii

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant wears an ice pack on his shoulder during team practice at the Stan Sheriff Center, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2015, in Honolulu. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant wears an ice pack on his shoulder during team practice at the Stan Sheriff Center, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2015, in Honolulu. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

HONOLULU — The nostalgia struck Kobe Bryant and Byron Scott, their return trip here to Stan Sheriff Center sparking memories that seem so long ago.

Scott began his last NBA season 19 years ago at training camp here at the same time Bryant entered the league, the player-mentor relationship eventually morphing to a coach-player partnership.

“It feels beautiful,” Bryant said. “It’s the cycle nature of sports. It feels good to be in this moment.”

Scott and Bryant experienced this moment many times.

The late Lakers owner Jerry Buss began this tradition in 1988, which morphed into the Lakers going here for eight of the nine next NBA exhibition seasons. Scott appeared in five of those training camps from 1988-1990, 1992 and 1996, viewing them as a refuge from the ordinary.

“It was always great to come here to get away from Los Angeles for a little while so you concentrate and focus on the things you had to do in training camp,” Scott said. “Now you can’t go home to your wife, girlfriends and kids. You have to stay around with your teammate and get that camaraderie and togetherness that you want.”
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Lakers’ D’Angelo Russell adjusts to Byron Scott’s conditioning drills

HONOLULU — The players lined up on one side of the court, waiting for Lakers coach Byron Scott to blow his whistle to signal the beginning of yet another arduous exercise. Then it happened, the shriek of Scott’s whistle prompting all of his players to run up and down the court.

Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson finished the drills first, prompting Scott to say “the kid seems like he can run all day.” Lakers guard Kobe Bryant sat on a trainer’s table, but Scott reported Bryant “remained ahead of the pack” in conditioning drills he participated before the Lakers permitted reporters to view practice. And then there was Lakers rookie guard D’Angelo Russell, who completed the drills adequately before admitting afterwards he hardly enjoyed them.

“Running is punishment to me,” Russell said after the Lakers’ first day of training camp on Tuesday at Stan Sheriff Center. “I don’t think anyone wants to run for fun unless you’re a track star. I don’t think they enjoy it either.”
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Lakers’ Roy Hibbert hopes improved diet can help him adapt to modern NBA

Los Angeles Lakers Media Day in El Segundo Monday September 28, 2015. Roy Hibbert interview. Photo By  Robert Casillas / Daily Breeze

Los Angeles Lakers Media Day in El Segundo Monday September 28, 2015. Roy Hibbert interview.
Photo By Robert Casillas / Daily Breeze

All the numbers suggest the NBA teams should go small, the influx of speedy point guards and outside shooters forcing the game to put less of an emphasis on size and power.

But to break that trend, Lakers center Roy Hibbert wants to take advantage of another number. His weight. Hibbert spent a significant chunk of his offseason losing 15 pounds in fat, so he would no longer become seen as a plodding big man.

“With how the NBA is going, you have a lot of quick centers,” Hibbert said on Monday at the Lakers’ Media Day at their practice facility in El Segundo. “It’s changed some things up. But I feel I’m in a place where I can hold my own in the post and get up and down the court.”

One of those centers includes Golden State’s Andrew Bogut, whose contributions Hibbert believes quickly became overshadowed with the outside shooting from Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson’s emergence as well as the defense from Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green. Yet, the 7-foot Bogut still landed on the NBA’s All-Defensive Second Team and finished sixth in Defensive Player of the Year votes despite averaging a career-low 23.6 minutes per game.

“He didn’t score a lot, and he’s not the fastest guy out there. No disrespect to him,” Hibbert said of Bogut. “He was a friend of mien and I’ve known him for a while. I admire his game and how he sacrifices what he does to help his team win a championship. I don’t mind being the older guy that has to sacrifice and be the defensive anchor.”

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Lakers’ Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle provide advice handling Kobe Bryant’s expectations

Lakers forward Julius Randle holds court. Photo By Robert Casillas / Daily Breeze

Lakers forward Julius Randle holds court. Photo By Robert Casillas / Daily Breeze

After only completing a string of exhibition games, Julius Randle heard some life-altering feedback that Kobe Bryant delivered with brutal honesty.

“If you [bleep] this up, you’re a really big idiot,” Bryant told Randle.

Mere moments after stepping on the practice court, Jordan Clarkson wound up defending Bryant and soon experienced the scorn most defenders experience after the Lakers’ star scores on them.

“Don’t hurt yourself young fella,” Bryant said to Clarkson after sinking a mid-range jumper over him.

Both Randle and Clarkson still have limited perspective playing with Bryant.

Randle played only 14 minutes in the NBA season opener last year before fracturing his right tibia and missing the rest of his rookie season.Clarkson did not become the Lakers’ starting point guard until Bryant needed season-ending surgery on his right shoulder after playing 35 games. But both players offered perspective on what the Lakers’ other crop of young players will need to do to absorb Bryant’s stern leadership style.

“Leaving it all out there on the line and just play hard,” said Clarkson, who made the NBA’s All-Rookie First team after averaging 15.8 points on 45.8 percent shooting, five assists and 4.2 rebounds in 32.1 minutes through 38 games as a starter. “That’s all Coach ever asks for, to give your best effort. If you’re trying to make efforts for the team to win, and putting it all on the line, that’s where you gain your respect at all times.”
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James Worthy to help coach Lakers’ frontcourt players

Former Laker James Worthy will work with the team's frontcourt players this upcoming season. Photo credit: John McCoy / Staff Photographer

Former Laker James Worthy will work with the team’s frontcourt players this upcoming season. Photo credit: John McCoy / Staff Photographer

The man provided a commanding presence, James Worthy’s dapper suit, friendly personality and Hall of Fame resume attracting plenty of reporters, Lakers officials and players alike to chat with the former Showtime Laker.

Worthy appeared at the Lakers’ practice facility for the team’s media day on Monday as an analyst for Time Warner Cable SportsNet, but it turns out his role will become more involved for the 2015-16 season. The Lakers hired Worthy to work with Byron Scott’s coaching staff, mainly to develop the team’s core of frontcourt players in Julius Randle, Roy Hibbert, Brandon Bass, Larry Nance Jr. and Tarik Black.

The reasons appear pretty self-explanatory after Worthy won three NBA championships with the Showtime Lakers during his 12-year NBA career and being named as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA history.

“You got one of the best post players that ever played the game,” said Lakers coach Byron Scott, one of Worthy’s former teammates. “We’ll let James come in and kind of teach those guys some of the things he was able to accomplish in this league. We’re trying to take advantage of every situation that we can to make sure we give our players a chance to get even better a lot sooner.”

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Lakers’ Kobe Bryant unsure about retirement date

Kobe Bryant is swarmed Monday as he talks about the upcoming season, which is expected to be his last in a Lakers uniform. ROBERT CASILLAS — STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Kobe Bryant is swarmed Monday as he talks about the upcoming season, which is expected to be his last in a Lakers uniform. ROBERT CASILLAS — STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Everyone watched Kobe Bryant’s every movement. The Lakers’ star attracted mob-like attention as he walked around the Lakers’ practice facility to film endless promotional spots and conduct endless interviews on Monday at the team’s annual Media Day.

Each step Bryant takes on the court in the 2015-16 NBA season could cause the same frenzy. He enters his 20th NBA season that pays him $25 million, and the intrigue goes beyond whether he can stay healthy after his season ended abruptly for three consecutive years because of ailing injuries. The debate will linger on if this will mark Bryant’s last NBA season. All of which led the Lakers’ star to express uncertainty in blunt terms.

“Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t,” Bryant said. “Hell if I know. I don’t know.”

Bryant spoke those words without any hint of sarcasm or vagueness. The Lakers’ star maintained he has no idea what to expect on how well he and his teammates play, let alone whether he wants to prolong his NBA career.

The conventional wisdom suggests Bryant’s future will hinge on if he can stay healthy and how quickly the Lakers’ core of young players develop, two variables that will determine the length of the franchise’s current rebuilding project. But Bryant suggested other unforseen circumstances could emerge influence his thinking.

“Honestly, I don’t know,” Bryant said. “I’ve thought about it a little bit in terms of, what is the deciding factor? How do players actually know when it’s time to hang them up, truly? Everybody kind of gives you guys the standard cookie-cutter answers – relaxing, golfing, spending time with the family, things like that. But, really, how do you truly know? And I don’t know. I’ll have a much better answer when that time comes for me.”
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