The two young Lakers players gushed about Kobe Bryant offering various tips that he noticed through 20 years of NBA experience.
Once second-year forward Julius Randle missed a 3-pointer that cemented a Lakers’ 92-90 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday at Staples Center, Bryant immediately went up to him and offered encouraging words.
“He was saying it was a good look,” Randle said. “It’s unfortunate that it didn’t go in.”
With the Lakers and Mavericks tied, 90-90, with 13.5 seconds remaining, rookie point guard D’Angelo Russell reported Bryant asking him on the sideline how the Mavericks would run their final play. Russell outlined two scenarios. Either Dallas would run a high-ball screen to force a switch while Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki had an open look at the elbow. Or Dallas would set a baseline screen so Nowitzki had an open look in that area. Shortly before Nowkitzki nailed a contested 14-foot pull-up jumper to give Dallas a 92-90 lead with 2.1 seconds left, Russell and Bryant shared a moment.
“He looked at me,” Russell said. “We made good eye contact and called it.”
But neither Russell nor Randle sounded sentimental about Bryant critiquing the team following Saturday’s loss in Portland. Then, multiple sources said Bryant angrily addressed his teammates for two minutes. Bryant also singled out Russell and Randle in front of teammates.
What did Russell take away from that treatment?
“No comment,” Russell said.
Bryant had critiqued his teammates for various reasons. The Lakers had lost their sixth consecutive game. The Lakers did not follow the game plan to trap Portland guards Damian Lillard (36 points) and CJ McCollum (28 points). Bryant also became irritated with his teammates’ overall attitude, which included some smiling after the loss. Although Bryant singled Russell and Randle out by name amid his team-wide criticism, Randle suggested the critiques should not have applied to him.
“I didn’t take anything away from it,” Randle said. “I compete. I work hard. I have a lot of heart. Guys just get frustrated.”