Lakers believe they can meld new offensive set with Kobe Bryant’s presence

Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (24) points after hitting a three point shot against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the second half of a NBA basketball game at Staples Center on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2015 in Los Angeles.  Los Angeles Lakers won 119-115. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News)

Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (24) points after hitting a three point shot against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the second half of a NBA basketball game at Staples Center on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2015 in Los Angeles. Los Angeles Lakers won 119-115.
(Photo by Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News)

It has taken about four days of practice for the Lakers to report feeling comfortable with a new offensive set that puts an added emphasis on floor spacing and ball movement. It apparently has taken Kobe Bryant only a few moments before mastering it without even practicing it.

“I told him a little bit and he was like, ‘Yeah I got it,'” Lakers coach Byron Scott said, smiling. “I wasn’t surprised. I knew he would. It’s not a big deal.”

The Lakers (11-49) also enter Tuesday’s game against the Brooklyn Nets (17-42) at Staples Center insisting it is not a big deal on how they will continue blending this new offensive sit with Bryant’s presence amid his expected return after nursing soreness in his right shoulder. As Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson mused, “He’s a basketball genius and will figure it out in two seconds.”

But when accounting for Bryant’s presence and the Lakers’ tendency to defer to their star player, how do the Lakers find the balance between adhering to the offensive principles while maximizing Bryant’s scoring abilities?

“I don’t think it’ll be a problem,” Lakers forward Julius Randle said. “We’ll create spacing and move the ball. It’ll help us operate and make plays for each other and for ourselves.”
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Byron Scott plans to keep Kobe Bryant’s minutes the same, while maximizing rest

Lakers coach Byron Scott credited rest for Kobe Bryant trying to get through the season (Photo by Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News)

Lakers coach Byron Scott credited rest for Kobe Bryant trying to get through the season
(Photo by Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News)

Among all the things that will bring a smile to Byron Scott’s face, no amount of rare victories or youth development will make the Lakers coach feel as elated as what could happen nearly two months from now.

Then, Kobe Bryant will play in his final game in the Lakers’ season-finale against the Utah Jazz on April 13 at Staples Center. Then, Scott outlined one very specific wish that goes beyond Bryant having a vintage performance or leading his team to a win.

“The last home game here, I want him to be able to walk off the court,” Scott said after practice on Monday at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo. “That’s the main thing I want to accomplish this season.”

So to do that, Scott will continue a season-long strategy in which Bryant will miss shootarounds and practices, which also included Monday’s session. Bryant could miss any of the Lakers’ 22 remaining games. But Scott expects Bryant will play when the Lakers (11-49) have a back-to-back slate on Tuesday against the Brooklyn Nets (17-42) at Staples Center and on Wednesday in Denver (23-36). During that time, Scott plans to play Bryant around 27 or 28 minutes, slightly under his season average of 29.2 minutes per game.

Though Bryant has missed 11 games this season amid varying injuries to his back, right Achilles and right shoulder, Scott pinpointed one specific area on how the Lakers’ 37-year-old star has avoided suffering a season-ending injury. That marked a stark contrast in recent seasons for Bryant, who tore his left Achilles tendon (April 2013), fractured his left knee (Dec. 2013) and tore the rotator cuff in his right shoulder (Jan. 2015).

“Lots of rest and not taxing his body,” Scott said. “He’s at this point in his career where I feel he doesn’t need to practice. He knows about basketball as well as all of our guys put together.”
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Stubhub addresses ticket snub with Lakers fan

Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant waves to the crowd after receiving his Al-Star jersey prior to a NBA basketball game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Staples Center on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2015 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News)

Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant waves to the crowd after receiving his Al-Star jersey prior to a NBA basketball game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Staples Center on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2015 in Los Angeles.
(Photo by Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News)

The e-mail left a Lakers fan feeling more varying emotions than when he will witness Kobe Bryant’s final game in person.

Jesse Sandler, a 32-year-old clinical social worker from Santa Monica, bought four tickets for $925 tickets for the Lakers’ season finale on April 13 versus Utah at Staples Center eight days before Bryant’s retirement announcement. But shortly after purchasing those tickets through Stubhub, the ticket resell website told Sandler that the seller “incorrectly” listed the tickets for sale. Stubhub added that tickets in a similar location near the basket by Utah’s bench would cost $6,000.

“I was shocked. Then I went to angry,” Sandler said in an interview with Los Angeles News Group as part of a larger story regarding Bryant’s internal pressure to play because of his high-paying customers. “Then I called them and had to jump through a bunch of hoops. During that process, I was exasperated.”

But now? Sandler reported feeling “elated.” After sharing his story on The Lead Sports website, Tickets for Less offered four tickets in a similar location. Although Stubhub offered both a refund and two credits worth $100 and $1,000 for other purchases, Sandler declined “out of principle” and chose Tickets for Less’ proposal. Since then, Sandler donated those tickets to After School All-Stars, while Budweiser will grant Sandler and his friends access to the game.

“Stubhubs’ offer to me at first was, ‘We handled your case wrong. We want to make sure you get to the game,'” Sandler said. “I’m not sure I completely believe they handled it wrong. I talked to them 10 times with 10 different people. They had an opportunity to make it right. They had plenty of opportunities.”

Los Angeles News Group also granted Stubhub an opportunity to explain what happened on their end. Below is a Q&A with Stubhub spokesman Cameron Papp about an incident that prompted the ticket resell website to tweet, “”We shot an airball.”

Why did the incident with Jesse Sandler get to the point to where it did?

Papp: “Frankly it was a mistake and it shouldn’t have happened that way. As a marketplace, Stubhub takes pride on how we handle these situations. This is frankly a mistake. We hold our sellers to a much higher standard than this. Frankly, it was market manipulation by this certain seller. The thing is that it’s not something that we weren’t prepared for or something we had seen in the past. There was a similar situation with Derek Jeter where he announced his retirement. There were tickets going around for $25-$30 normally. Then after Jeter announced, they shot up to $300 or $400 per ticket for a baseball. There wasn’t just one seller. There were a few sellers that tried to manipulate the market and cancel the order and sell the tickets for a higher price. We penalized every single seller and we fulfilled the original buyer’s word. That’s what should’ve happened this time. It was a failure of communication on our part to be more prepared for this type of situation and be ready to fulfill any orders and penalize any sellers for market manipulation.”
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Byron Scott: “Good chance” Kobe Bryant returns in back-to-back slate

Lakers coach Byron Scott said there's "a good chance" Kobe Bryant will play on Tuesday vs. Brooklyn and on Wednesday in Denver. (photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles News Group)

Lakers coach Byron Scott said there’s “a good chance” Kobe Bryant will play on Tuesday vs. Brooklyn and on Wednesday in Denver. (photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles News Group)

The constant pain has often led Kobe Bryant to both joke and lament to Lakers coach Byron Scott about an uncomfortable reality.

“‘I’m old right now,'” Scott recalled Bryant telling him. “‘Every now and then I’ll wake up and something is hurting. I know the feeling. I’m a lot older than him and I know the feeling.”

That pain took on a new turn for Bryant, who missed Friday’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies at Staples Center. Yet, Scott still believed there marked a “good chance” for Bryant to return in the Lakers’ back-to-back this week, both on Tuesday against Brooklyn at Staples Center and on Wednesday in Denver.

Nonetheless, the Lakers have not formally decided considering Bryant was at the team’s facility during practices on Saturday and Sunday. Scott believed Bryant will report to the facility on Monday for treatment, though that was not concrete.

Bryant has missed a combined 11 games this season amid overlapping injuries to his back, right Achilles and right shoulder. But lately, Scott said Bryant’s shoulder “bothers him every now and then.” Since announcing his retirement announcement in late November, Bryant has played 14 out of 21 games at Staples Center and appeared in 23 out of 24 road games.

Bryant has more flexibility to miss any of the next 13 games at Staples Center. But he will also make final stops in Denver (Wednesday), Phoenix (March 23) and Utah (March 28).

“Does he want to play every game? Absolutely,” Scott said. “But he knows he can’t play every game.”

RELATED:

Lakers’ Kobe Bryant feels fan pressure to play in every game

Lakers’ Byron Scott likes D’Angelo Russell’s progression, but is it enough to become a leader?

Memphis’ Vince Carter served as source of motivation for Lakers’ Kobe Bryant

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

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Lakers’ Byron Scott chalks D’Angelo Russell’s improvement to confidence, work ethic

Lakers guard D'Angelo Russell believes he has improved better because of a bigger leash. Lakers coach Byron Scott believes Russell has just played better. (photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles News Group)

Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell believes he has improved better because of a bigger leash. Lakers coach Byron Scott believes Russell has just played better. (photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles News Group)

The sample size filled with stronger production and increased minutes in a starting role made Lakers rookie point guard D’Angelo Russell credit something that he believes went beyond his control.

“I have more freedom and a longer leash to mess up,” Russell said. “Earlier in the year, it was like, no leash.”

The Lakers (11-49) enter Tuesday’s game against the Brooklyn Nets (17-42) at Staples Center with Russell averaging 17 points on 50 percent shooting and 5.25 assists in 31.5 minutes since becoming a starter. That marks a sharp contrast from his season averages of 12.3 points on 41.8 percent shooting and 3.5 assists in 27.3 minutes per contest.

Yet, Lakers coach Byron Scott argued on Sunday that Russell’s improved numbers and increased playing time only happened because he played better.

“I don’t think I loosened it up. He’s just getting more comfortable in his role,” Scott said. “I don’t feel it was that tight in the first place.”
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Lakers’ experience change in leadership, offense in loss to Grizzlies

Memphis Grizzlies forward Lance Stephenson, right, shoots as Lakers forward Brandon Bass defends Friday night. Mark J. Terrill – The Associated Press

Memphis Grizzlies forward Lance Stephenson, right, shoots as Lakers forward Brandon Bass defends Friday night. Mark J. Terrill – The Associated Press

The sequences seemed so monotonous as the Lakers hosted an open layup line and 3-point shooting contest anytime the Memphis Grizzlies wanted. The anxiety reached fever pitch with scattered boos, an audible expletive a fan yelled near press row and an exasperated Mitch Kupchak overseeing the wreckage.

All of which looked awfully familiar as the Lakers suffered a 122-95 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday at Staples Center. The Lakers (11-49) lost their eighth straight game and became two defeats away from setting the franchise record once again for consecutive losses (10), something they already set in the 1993-94 season and tied in January.

But there marked two distinguishable differences.

The first change became apparent before the game even started. Kobe Bryant sat out for the first time in 11 games because of increased soreness in his right shoulder, creating what Lakers coach Byron Scott described as “a lack of leadership.”

“Everybody is holding their head down when things aren’t going right,” Scott said. “Most of it is when we’re missing shots.When we miss shots we let that affect us on the other end.”

The second change came to light in the locker room. Scott installed a new offensive scheme during Thursday’s practice, a tactic that became surprising for two reasons. The Lakers had exactly one day to master new concepts. The changes happened with 22 games remaining.

“Coach was demanding we run it. It was tough,” Lakers rookie point guard D’Angelo Russell said. “We didn’t run it against a defense. We talked about it and then played with it. I feel like it’s a great offense, but it was thrown at us late.”
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Lakers’ Kobe Bryant to miss Friday’s game vs. Memphis with sore right shoulder

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant will miss Friday's game vs Memphis at Staples Center because of a sore right shoulder. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant will miss Friday’s game vs Memphis at Staples Center because of a sore right shoulder. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)

The video tributes and standing ovations have played like a continuous loop. Kobe Bryant has greeted each opposing venue with warmth and nostalgia after they once welcomed him with boos and jeers.

But after the Lakers took a three-game trip all with stops Bryant visited for the last time, that farewell tour will not extend back to Los Angeles for at least one night. Bryant will sit out when the Lakers (11-48) host the Memphis Grizzlies (33-23) on Friday at Staples Center because of soreness in his right shoulder.

“It might have been one of those days where he slept wrong and woke up and it was a little sore,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said.

Scott reported the Lakers did not become aware of Bryant’s increased pain in his surgically repaired shoulder until he alerted head athletic trainer Gary Vitti at about 2 p.m. on Friday. But Bryant’s absence coincides with the Lakers having a heavy homestand in the next month, which may or may not be related.

Bryant will have four days to recover before the Lakers next play against Brooklyn on Tuesday at Staples Center.

“The next couple of days, it’s just about getting that thing as manageable as possible hopefully where he feels no pain,” Scott said. “He does a real good job of taking acre of himself. That’s nothing we worry about it, and when he says he’s ready, he’s ready.”

Bryant also does not have the guilt of missing one of the next 13 games at Staples Center this month as he would with final stops in Denver (March 2), Phoenix (March 23) and Utah (March 28).

“It all depends on how he feels,” Scott said. “I know his obligation to the fans here at home and to the fans on the road that are going to see him for the very last time. We still have a bunch of home games left. I do kind of look at it where he might take a couple of those games off.”

Bryant has missed 11 games this season with an equal mix of both games at home (six) and on the road (five), though that also included a designated away game against the Clippers at Staples Center. Bryant also missed three consecutive home games in January because of soreness in his right shoulder before returning on Jan 7 at Sacramento.

Lakers rookie forward Anthony Brown will start in Bryant’s place. Though Brown missed five of the last six games after spraining his right ankle, Brown has started in eight of the 11 games Bryant missed and averaged 4.6 points on 27.1 percent shooting in 28.6 minutes during that stretch.

RELATED:

Memphis’ Vince Carter served as source of motivation for Lakers’ Kobe Bryant

Byron Scott wants Lakers to be ‘very serious’ during home stretch

Lakers’ Kobe Bryant amused over becoming NBA’s ‘voice of reason’

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

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Lakers’ Kobe Bryant embracing farewell tour

Charla Lofton leaves her seat to kiss the Lakers' Kobe Bryant during the final seconds of Wednesday's game in Memphis. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

Charla Lofton leaves her seat to kiss the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant during the final seconds of Wednesday’s game in Memphis. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The endless praise went against Kobe Bryant’s thirst for confrontation in heated competition. The smiles and friendly exchanges contradicted Bryant’s rough exterior. The lavish gifts seemed too sentimental for a player who entered every game seeking to destroy the opposition.

But despite his initial urges to avoid having a farewell tour during his last NBA season, Bryant decided otherwise. Nearly three months ago, he publicly announced his plans to retire following the 2015-16 campaign. Opposing team venues have featured endless video tributes and standing ovations. Games at Staples Center are just as festive and nostalgic. And Bryant has soaked in the atmosphere. He has become friendly with coaches, teammates, opponents and reporters alike that he encounters during his last stops.

“It’s fun. I’ve been enjoying it,” Bryant said before the Lakers’ loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday at FedEx Forum. “It’s been great to go from city to city and say thank you to all the fans and be able to fulfill that in return. It’s been good. It makes me feel thankful to be able to have this and to be able to feel like the work I’ve done is appreciated. Hopefully the fans can feel how thankful I am for them as well.”
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Lakers’ Byron Scott downplays NBA lottery implications

Lakers coach Byron Scott downplayed NBA lottery implications. HANS GUTKNECHT — STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Lakers coach Byron Scott downplayed NBA lottery implications. HANS GUTKNECHT — STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

MEMPHIS — The question initially disturbed Lakers coach Byron Scott. So much that he professed he did not want to answer it.

With the Lakers (11-47) entering Wednesday’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies (32-23) at Fedex Forum with the NBA’s second-worst record, how much has Scott thought about helping the Lakers’ odd to retain their top-3 protected pick?

After some prodding, Scott sounded eager to answer.

“You can’t try to lose basketball games,” Scott said. “That’s a bad way to present to our team that we’re trying to lose so we can protect the top three pick. That’s a bad omen to me. We didn’t try to do that last year.”

Then, the Lakers went 21-61 and finished with the NBA’s fourth-worst record and would have owed their pick to Philadelphia if it landed in the top five. But the Lakers then moved up two slots in the lottery to land the No. 2 pick, which was used to select point guard D’Angelo Russell. At the time, Scott argued the Lakers became fortunate partly because of the karma stemmed from his players still competing throughout the entire season.

“It sets a bad precedent to me, especially to this organization and people who have been in this organization for a long time,” Scott said. “We’ve never been like that and never will be. I never even behind closed doors tell my players, tell my coaches, tell the trainers or anybody that we’re trying to lose games on purpose to protect the pick. That’s not my nature.”

The Lakers have lost games, anyway, perhaps making this a moot point. But with the Lakers undecided if they will fulfill his four-year contract worth $17 million after this season, Scott spent the beginning of the season relying on Kobe Bryant and a veteran-laden roster while featuring D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle off the bench. Scott gradually increased their workload once he believed they earned their time and the record worsened.

“We’re going to go out and still try to win every game to the best of our ability,” Scott said. “Now are we going to do that? Probably not. But we’ll at least give it our best shot. I’m not coaching looking at the clock thinking, ‘If they could just turn it over a few more times and miss a few more shots, this game is in the bag as far as a loss is concerned.’ That’s not me. As a competitor, when the game is being played, I’m trying to win period. I don’t look at our players and tell them to lose games on purpose. I’m trying to win every game and build something with the young guys that we have here.”

RELATED:

Lakers’ Larry Nance Jr. available to play vs. Memphis

How will Lakers’ D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle & Jordan Clarkson develop together?

Lakers’ Kobe Bryant amused over becoming NBA’s ‘voice of reason’

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

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Lakers’ Larry Nance Jr. available to play vs. Memphis

Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr will be available to play vs. Memphis after nursing soreness in his right knee. ( Photo by David Crane/Los Angeles News Group )

Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr will be available to play vs. Memphis after nursing soreness in his right knee. ( Photo by David Crane/Los Angeles News Group )

MEMPHIS — The two men that will determine Larry Nance Jr.’s workload watched attentively from the sideline as the Lakers’ rookie forward hoisted jumpers. Lakers coach Byron Scott and trainer Gary Vitti then consulted with Nance about his sore right knee and determined he will be available to play tonight against the Memphis Grizzlies at FedEx Forum.

But Nance will play only limited minutes and his workload could quickly change depending on what happens with an injury that kept him out of 10 games in the past month.

“Nobody in this league feels 100 percent,” Scott said before his official diagnosis. “Everybody has some bumps and bruises. He’s no different But with his age and the career we have ahead of him, we’re going to be cautious.”
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