Teammates confident in Kobe Bryant before LA Lakers training camp

The Lakers’ Kobe Bryant didn’t practice Tuesday in Phoenix and may not play in today’s game in New Orleans to preserve his 36-year-old body. Hans Gutknecht ‑ Staff Photographer

The Lakers’ Kobe Bryant was cleared for practice earlier this month after tearing his rotator cuff in January. Hans Gutknecht ‑ Staff Photographer

Lakers rookie Larry Nance Jr. called Kobe Bryant’s mere presence in the room at the Lakers’ media day on Monday “electrifying.”

Bryant commanded the attention of a gym’s worth of reporters, and the 37-year-old was a primary topic of conversation in interviews with other Lakers players as well as he prepares for his 20th NBA season.

Bryant was cleared for practice earlier this month after suffering a right shoulder injury in January. His teammates haven’t seen him in action on the court yet, but they expressed nothing by confidence in Bryant.

“It’s Kobe,” center Tarik Black said. “You know he’s been in the gym. He’s put up a million shots. He’s probably in better shape than even myself. He’s probably going to be able to outrun me because that’s Kobe and that’s what he does.”
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Julius Randle faces no restrictions entering training camp

A string of misfortune quickly followed Lakers forward Julius Randle, his rookie season cut abruptly after fracturing his right leg only 14 minutes in his first NBA game. Hence, Randle sounded in high spirits knowing he enters training camp beginning Tuesday in Honolulu fully recovered from a surgically repaired right leg and right feet.

But does that mean Randle has heard definitively the Lakers won’t place any restrictions on him? Randle suddenly turned serious at the question.

“No,” Randle said, before motioning his head toward the office of the Lakers’ head athletic trainer. “Ask Gary Vitti.”

It remains understandable why Randle feels uneasy about the Lakers’ plans. They limited him to no more than 30 minutes per game and sat him out on back-to-back contests in Summer League play. But Randle does not need to worry. The Lakers do not plan to place any restrictions on him in training camp.

“I feel amazing. I feel 100 times better than I did last year,” Randle said, referring to him losing about 20 pounds after becoming more disciplined with his diet. “I’m not getting tired. I’m more explosive. I feel strong. I can recover a lot better, too. I’m not as sore and tired. I feel amazing.”

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Lakers’ Kobe Bryant feels uncertain about 2015-16 season

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant expressed uncertainty about the 2015-16 season. Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant expressed uncertainty about the 2015-16 season. Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)

The Lakers’ star walked through the practice court with the usual bluster. Kobe Bryant also met the usual fanfare with cameras and reporters shouting questions and latching on to every word.

But underneath Bryant’s outward confidence and the attention surrounding him during the Lakers’ media day, the Lakers’ start conceded uncertainty on several fronts.

It started with how the Lakers will fare entering the 2015-16 season with a roster headlined by the 37-year-old Bryant, seven-year forward Roy Hibbert and a crop of young players in D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson.

“Not sure,” Bryant said on Monday at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo. “I think the guys have all worked hard this summer I’ve worked hard this summer. But It’s a big question mark. We have a lot of young guys. It’s a good mix – we have some veterans as well. But guys have never played together before, so it remains to be seen.”

The uncertainty continued with how Bryant will have to adjust his role after nursing three season-ending injuries in consecutive seasons.

“It’s hard; I don’t know what to expect,” Bryant said. “My philosophy has always been, whatever you are asked to do, try to be the best at doing it. Whatever the role, you’ve got to figure it out. Whatever it is, try to do it to the best of your ability.”

The uncertainty lingered on whether Bryant’s 20th NBA season that will pay him $25 million will also mark his last one.

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

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Lakers’ Mitch Kupchak defends Nick Young’s personality

LA Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak gives pre-season media interview at Laker's Training Facility in El Segundo. Photos by Brad Graverson/LANG/09-24-15

LA Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak gives pre-season media interview at Laker’s Training Facility in El Segundo. Photos by Brad Graverson/LANG/09-24-15

As he continuously took shots that did not go in the basket, Lakers forward Nick Young upset coach Byron Scott in other ways.

Scott became frustrated that Young did not improve his passing or defense to compensate for his inconsistent shooting. Scott then became irked with Young’s frequent tardiness to games that he often fined him. Scott also chastised Young for interrupting Jeremy Lin’s post-game interview following a win against the Celtics, something Young had frequently done earlier in the season.

Yet, Lakers’ general manager Mitch Kupchak dismissed any notion that the Lakers’ concerns about him partly reflect his “Swaggy P” persona. Instead, Kupchak argued it all traces back to Young averaging 13.4 points on a career-low 36.6 percent shooting before missing the last 27 games because of a fractured left knee.

“He doesn’t have to change his personality,” Kupchak said. “That’s not what this is about. This is about doing what the coach wants you to do on the court. And he knows that. I don’t want to make a bigger deal about this than it really is.”
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Lakers’ Mitch Kupchak reiterates support for Byron Scott

LA Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak gives pre-season media interview at Laker's Training Facility in El Segundo. Photos by Brad Graverson/LANG/09-24-15

LA Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak gives pre-season media interview at Laker’s Training Facility in El Segundo. Photos by Brad Graverson/LANG/09-24-15

The story has often rolled off the tip of Byron Scott’s tongue. Sometimes it has become as frequent as when the Lakers’ coach reflects on his “Showtime Days,” expresses admiration for Kobe Bryant or calls on his team to provide a better effort.

But amid the Lakers’ struggles his first year as the team’s head coach, Scott often preached patience. He then repeated what Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak and executive Jim Buss said during last year’s coaching interviews. Then, Scott has often reported that Kupchak and Buss both asked for and promised patience for a possible rebuilding process. There remains no indication the Lakers feel otherwise about Scott, who has three years left on his contract.

“I thought he was great last year,” Kupchak said on Thursday, mindful the team’s 21-61 record coincided with the Lakers missing an NBA-record 324 games because of injuries. “Under really tough circumstances, I thought he kept the group together in the locker room, on the bus, on the plane and on the court They played hard every game. They had a bunch of injuries. I don’t know if that would have changed our record much anyway. But that can really demoralize a coach and a staff. But he had them working hard every game. They played hard every game and every practice was organized. He was always upbeat. I never sensed a down moment. When he went home at night, it had to hurt. But I thought he did a great job.”
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Lakers’ Mitch Kupchak believes Roy Hibbert could have long-term future here

LA Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak gives pre-season media interview at Laker's Training Facility in El Segundo. Photos by Brad Graverson/LANG/09-24-15

LA Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak gives pre-season media interview at Laker’s Training Facility in El Segundo. Photos by Brad Graverson/LANG/09-24-15

A blank slate awaits the Lakers as they eagerly try to erase the stench from last season’s mess.

Then, the Lakers won 21 games in what marked the franchise’s worst record in its 67-year-old history partly for reasons ranging from injuries, lack of talent and a debilitating Western Conference.

A blank slate also awaits Roy Hibbert as he eagerly tries to forget about last season’s nightmare. Hibbert, a former two-time NBA All-Star, quickly became trade bait amid the Indiana Pacers’ quest to go smaller and faster. So much that the Pacers traded Hibbert to the Lakers last July for only a second-round pick, a move that cleared Hibbert’s $15.5 million salary.

Can the Lakers and Hibbert write their come-back story together? Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak thinks so.

“I’m hoping he can back to where he was two or three years ago,” Kupchak said on Thursday at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo. “That’s my hope. He has great size and he has great length. His wingspan approaches 7’8. He has great length. He’s on the last year of a deal and I know he wants to play well. That’s not to say that he didn’t play hard the last two or three years. I think he just needed a change of scenery.”

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Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak said Kobe Bryant’s workload not yet finalized

His presence immediately became noticeable. Kobe Bryant’s arrival at the Lakers’ practice facility earlier this week prompted younger teammates to stop their workouts immediately and greet the Lakers’ star.

So did Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak, who described Bryant “in great shape and great spirits” after spending the past eight months rehabbing his surgically repaired right shoulder, an injury that sidelined him last season for all but 35 games. Since then, Bryant has recovered enough to complete all basketball-related drills.

“He looks great,” Kupchak said on Thursday at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo. “He assured me he’s working out every day. Over the years, we’ve gotten to he point where he takes care of himself and when he comes to camp, he’ll be ready. But as far as what level of play and how many minutes and how will he play on the team remains to be seen.”
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Lakers plan to sign deal with Metta World Peace

In a time of uncertainty surrounding the length of their rebuilding efforts, the Lakers have leaned on a familiar and comforting name.

They plan to bring back Metta World Peace, who plans to sign with the Lakers on Thursday to a one-year deal for the 2015-16 season, according to a league source familiar with the situation. World Peace plans to take a physical on Friday to finalize the deal. Assuming no complications, World Peace will join the Lakers for their training camp in Hawaii.

World Peace helped the Lakers win the 2010 NBA championship during his four seasons here (2009-13) and adds depth to the team’s small forward position.

The Lakers would not comment on World Peace’s arrival. At a press conference at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo, general manager Mitch Kupchak only said it is a “possibility” World Peace would join the team.

But World Peace has worked out regularly at the Lakers’ practice facility since July, which have included physical one-on-one matches with Julius Randle.

“It’s great to have him go against Julius,” Kupchak said of World Peace. “Watching those two guys practice, it’s almost comical what they do to each other. I’m not sure who gets the better of it. I would be surprised if either player admitted to any player they hurt more after practice and they did before practice. I could see Julius going home and getting in the tub. But I could see Metta going home and getting in the tub too. But you wouldn’t know because they wouldn’t tell you. They’re both mega competitors.”
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Five things to watch in Brandon Bass’ 2015-16 season

Lakers coach Byron Scott has said Brandon Bass and Julius Randle will compete for the starting power forward spot. Photo by Brad Graverson/LANG Staff Photographer.

Lakers coach Byron Scott has said Brandon Bass and Julius Randle will compete for the starting power forward spot. Photo by Brad Graverson/LANG Staff Photographer.

Below is the sixth in a series looking at five things surrounding each notable player on the Lakers’ roster for the 2014-15 season. This post focuses on Lakers forward Brandon Bass.

1. Will Bass become the Lakers’ starting power forward?

The Lakers might consider Julius Randle a key ingredient of their long-term future. But Lakers coach Byron Scott does not intend to hand him the keys to the Ferrari just yet. Scott has said that Bass and Randle for compete for minutes at the starting power forward spot. Though Scott hopes that Randle wins the competition, Scott’s preference stems from hoping Randle expedites his development than showing any favoritism. Besides, the Lakers will handle Randle cautiously if he has any setbacks after missing nearly all of his rookie season after fracturing the right tibia in his right leg in the team’s season opener.

Throughout his 10-year NBA career, Bass has experienced both starting and coming off the bench. After spending his first five NBA seasons as a reserve, Bass spent one season in Orlando and five seasons in Boston playing both roles. The Lakers expect him to be dependable in the rotation after averaging 9.1 points and 4.7 rebounds through his entire career. But it’s not necessarily a good thing if Bass starts for the Lakers. That means Randle is either behind on his development and/or nursing some lingering affects from his surgically repaired right leg.
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Metta World Peace intrigued with Julius Randle’s potential

Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace

Below is a Q&A with former Lakers forward Metta World Peace, who offered insight on Julius Randle’s potential after training with him this past summer at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo.

What are your impressions of Julius’ development?

World Peace: “I think he’s definitely physical. I want to continue to teach him on how to use his body positioning. Right now, I think he’s quick and he’s physical. But he has to continue to learn the angles on the court that’s going to benefit him right now. There’s times he can do certain things. I’m trying to help him and continue to talk to him about how to play off the ball. I’m trying to talk to him about playing on and off the ball.

The Lakers have been great. I’m home a lot with my children. I like to stay around the game and I like to teach. The Lakers and coach [Byron] Scott have been letting me come around and just talk. I like to talk. They’ve been letting me talk to Julius and help out. It’s really been fulfilling to me to have the opportunity.”

When did you start working out at the Lakers’ practice facility?

World Peace: “I started maybe a month and a half ago. I forget when. I got with Julius a little bit and talked with him a little bit. Now I just watch him play a lot. I see how he is evolving. I see how he is learning little things that will make the Lakers better. If he can continue to learn the little things, you’ll see the Lakers in the playoffs.”

Playoffs? Really?


World Peace:
“Absolutely. If he and a couple of other players continue to learn the little things, this year people will be surprised and they say, ‘Wow, the Lakers are in the playoffs at a pretty decent seed.’ But it’s going to take hard work and intelligence.”
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