Grab a seat and gather around Kobe Bryant. The Lakers’ star will answer any question posed by any of his fans in China. Really, anything.
Bryant held a fireside chat recently during his promotional Nike tour in that region, touching on everything. His mental focus. How he stays motivated. What moves he works on during the offseason. How he keeps his confidence. And, of course, how will he play in the 2013-14 season after appearing in only six games last year because of injuries to his left Achilles and left knee.
“I can say I want to be able to jump as high as I used to. I want to be as fast as I used to. But no; I don’t jump as high as I used to,” Bryant said. “That’s okay. I’m not as fast as I used to be. That’s okay, too. I’ll figure out another way to do it.”
The Lakers officially signed guard Jordan Clarkson on Monday, providing more depth to a backcourt that it hopes stays more effective and healthy than last season.
The terms of Clarkson’s contract were not immediately available, but his contract is non guaranteed since he is a second round draft pick. The Lakers became intrigued enough about Clarkson’s potential that they paid the Washington Wizards $1.8 million to secure their 46th overall draft pick in this year’s draft.
Clarkson provided early signs the Lakers made a steal in the draft after leading the team’s summer league team in scoring (15.8 points per game) and rebounds (five). Clarkson, whom the Lakers believe could play at both guard positions, also made a game-winning tipin in the team’s summer league win over Golden State. He could compete for playing time at both point guard and shooting guard amid a backcourt that features Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Jeremy Lin, Nick Young and Xavier Henry. Bryant, Young and Henry are also expected to play some minutes at the small forward spot.
Clarkson averaged 17.5 points last season with Missouri, but he shot better than 38.5 percent from the field only once in his last nine games. Yet, Clarkson showed some promise with his shooting, going 42.1 percent from the field through five games.
The Lakers currently have 13 players under contract. Per NBA rules, all teams can field up to 20 players during training camp next month, but they can field no more than 15 beginning Oct. 28 in the Lakers’ season opener against the Houston Rockets at Staples Center.
Kobe Bryant’s quest for greatness always entailed having a few indistinguishable qualities. His unmatched drive. His ultra competitiveness. His willingness and ability to overcome too many injuries to count. His pursuit in adding new wrinkles to his game.
But as Bryant suggests in the trailer for his upcoming Showtime Documentary, taking such a journey entailed many bumpy roads. The documentary will likely go into more detail on such challenges. Those could range anywhere from entering the NBA fresh out of his school, his conflicts with Shaquille O’Neal, finessing his demanding leadership style, managing how he shoots a high volume of shots without hurting the team concept and proving he can withstand a full season after playing in only six games last year because of injuries to his left Achilles tendon and left knee.
As Bryant mentions in the trailer, however, he has vowed to continue to push. It has made him the player he is today, a five-time NBA champion and fourth time all-time leading scorer. And, he believes, it will be the only formula in ensuring his last chapter of an otherwise storied career features a happy ending.
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak has an announcement to make. No, Kupchak did not just make a trade. Nor did he finalize the last signings of Byron Scott’s coaching staff.
Kupchak heeded the call from Dodgers president and chief executive Stan Kasten to join in on the ALS ice bucket challenge. In an initiative that has gone viral, the challenge entails getting drenched with a bucket of ice and raising both awareness and funds to fight amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Kupchak, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash are the main members of the Lakers that have participated in the campaign. In doing so, Kupchak passed the baton off to executive Jim Buss, actor and long-time Lakers fan Jack Nicholson and former Lakers general manager and current Golden State Warriors advisor Jerry West.
As the video above shows, Kupchak clearly looks uncomfortable with the frigid temperatures. But he enthusiastically went through the discomfort all for a good cause.
The Los Angeles Lakers introduce newest player Jeremy Lin to the gathered media at the Toyota Sports Center training facility in El Segundo, Calif., on Thursday, July 24, 2014. (Photo by Brad Graverson/The Daily Breeze)
It turns out Jeremy Lin has something in Kobe Bryant beyond playing for the same team (Lakers) or sharing the same birthday (this Saturday). By Thursday, both will have the honor in having wax figures depicting their likeness at the Maddame Tussauds, which showcases lifelike wax images of celebrities, athletes and politicians.
Bryant is already immortalized at the Los Angeles branch. On Thursday, Lin will have his unveiled at the San Francisco branch in Fisherman’s Wharf, which is fairly close to where he grew up in Palo Alto. Lin, who was born in Torrance, became the first American of Chinese or Taiwanese descent to play in the NBA. That background coupled with the so-called “Linsanity” that featured his breakout season three years ago with the New York Knicks has contributed toward Lin having a huge following in Asian countries.
The Lakers acquired Lin this summer from the Houston Rockets, who also gave up a first and second round pick to clear cap space in their unsuccessful pursuit toward Chris Bosh. Though Lin fought inconsistency last season, the Lakers found promise in his statistical output in points (12.5), shooting percentage (a career-high 44.6%) and assists (4.1). They believe such talent could provide the Lakers some reinforcements for Steve Nash, who played in only 15 games last season because of persisting back injuries.
“Lakers coach Byron Scott talks to students as he announced his participation as a mentor in Centennial High School’s Male Academy in Compton, CA. Tuesday August 19, 2014. The academy is a intervention program for the school’s ninth and tenth grade male students. Throughout the school year, Scott will visit the students to mentor as well as participate in motivational discussions. (Thomas R. Cordova-Daily Breeze/Press-Telegram)”
Pick a moment. Any moment. Kobe Bryant’s pained expressions as he endlessly sat on the sideline. The Lakers’ double-digit blowouts. The team’s training room that continuously became more crowded by the day. The fan disenchantment toward Mike D’Antoni, who elicited mixed support among his post players and role players despite fielding an injury-ravaged lineup.
Hardly, any of these images would become mistaken for such iconic Laker memories filled with championship glory. Instead, they partly explain why the Lakers finished last season with their worst record in LA. franchise history. Yet, the NBA’s Web site still compiled a list of the Lakers’ top 10 plays of the 2013-14 season, providing some rare good moments during an otherwise sour year.
You can see Nick Young making acrobatic shots. You can see Xavier Henry and Wesley Johnson shows bursts of athleticism. You can see Jodie Meeks’ prolific scoring and endless hustle that ensured a career-high in points (15.7), shooting percentage (46.3%) and minutes played (33.2). You can see Ryan Kelly becoming a pleasant surprise as a second-round rookie.
But all of those moments cannot erase the reality that the Lakers’ 2013-14 season became mostly difficult to watch. It also does not camouflage the uncertainty that awaits ahead on the Lakers’ rebuilding process.
Byron Scott stepped foot at Compton Centennial High on Tuesday, eager to stress to the 400 freshmen and sophomores the need to prioritize education than over striving to become a professional athlete. But it turns out Scott needed to provide more life lessons.
Case in point, one student asked Scott if Kobe Bryant will start this season after playing only six games last year because of overlapping injuries to his left Achilles tendon and left knee.
“Really?” Scott said in an incredulous tone. “You didn’t really ask me that question, did you? Seriously.”
But the student did. Apparently, Bryant’s five NBA championships, fourth place standing on the all-time scoring list, two-year, $48.5 million extension, and his strong relationship with Scott still put doubt on if the Lakers’ star player will actually start. But entering a season in which the Lakers are only a year removed from cementing their worst record in L.A. franchise history, Scott suggested he will face plenty of unanswered questions in training camp surrounding his depth chart.
“We got one Hall of Famer. Really, two. Steve Nash is another guy, but we have to see if Steve is going to be healthy,” Scott said, referring to Nash’s back issues that limited him last season to 15 games. “We’re obviously talking about Kobe Bryant. Other than that, all the other starting spots are up for grabs.”
The busy four months that entailed countless job interviews and subsequent waiting has since passed for Byron Scott. Ever since the Lakers named as their next head coach this weeks ago, his schedule has since accelerated into overdrive.
Scott’s itinerary has mostly entailed putting together his coaching staff. He confirmed that veteran assistant Jim Eyen and player development coach Mark Madsen will stay on his staff, but he said the rest of his assistants will be finalized “hopefully by the end of this week.”
“I want to get everybody in by next week so we can start meeting and talk about what we’re going to do in training camp,” Scott said Tuesday at Compton Centennial High, where he addressed a group of 400 freshmen and sophomores as part of the school’s male academy intervention program. “I want to get guys on the floor to show what I want to do offensively as well. I want to get on the floor. I don’t want to just write it on paper. I want guys to be on the floor so we can actually go through offensively what we’re going to do and what we’re going to do on the defensive end as well. Hopefully we’ll be in high gear.”
Scott declined to say which other candidates will join his staff. But it’s widely assumed from those in the league that his son, Thomas, will serve a role after coaching with the D-Fenders, the Lakers’ Development League affiliate. Johnny Davis and player development coach Larry Lewis are also both under contract with the Lakers.
Scott also reported talking frequently with Kobe Bryant.
“I’m anxious. I’m excited. I’m jumping up and down and waiting for this thing to get going,” Scott said. “I’m talking to Kobe every few days, how he’s working out and how the guys he’s been working out with are doing. That, to me, is exciting. He’s showing the leadership and mentorship himself in getting all the young ones with him and getting together for training camp.”
Lakers coach Byron Scott is finalizing his coaching staff. AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
There appears to be some clarity on how Byron Scott will fill out his coaching staff.
Mark Madsen is expected to stay, according to league sources, after spending the past year as a player development coach for former Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni and an associate head coach with the team’s Las Vegas Summer League team. Madsen also played a heavy role with the Lakers’ drafting efforts, attending both the NBA pre-draft combine and participating in various draft workouts. Madsen also had played nine years in the NBA and was on the Lakers’ 2001 and 2002 championship teams. It is not currently clear what Madsen’s title will be under Scott.
Scott is also expected to add veteran assistant Jim Eyen to his staff, according to league sources. Eyen has spent 23 years as an NBA assistant coach in various capacities, most recently with the Sacramento Kings (2009-2013). Such stops also included the Lakers (1989-92), Clippers (1988-89, 2003-09), Milwaukee Bucks (1992-96) and Portland Trail Blazers (1997-2001). Eyen also had scouting jobs with the New York Knicks (1996-97, 2003), was an assistant coach at University of California at Santa Barbara (1984-88) and served as a consultant for professional teams in the Netherlands, Germany and Japan. Eyen is also the son-in-law of Bill Bertka, the Lakers’ current special assistant and basketball consultant to general manager Mitch Kupchak.
ESPN Los Angeles first reported the Lakers’ likelihood to add Eyen to Scott’s staff.
Scott will likely have four people on his coaching staff. Possibilities include Lakers assistant Johnny Davis and player development coach Larry Lewis, both of whom are still under contract. It is widely expected that Scott’s son, Thomas, will join his staff after coaching with the D-Fenders, the Lakers’ Development League affiliate.