Wesley Johnson misses practice with ankle tweak; expected to play Sunday

Los Angeles Laker Wesley Johnson grabs a rebound against the Utah Jazz first half in the NBA preseason basketball game at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. on Tuesday, October 22, 2013. (Photo by Sean Hiller/Daily News)

Los Angeles Laker Wesley Johnson grabs a rebound against the Utah Jazz first half in the NBA preseason basketball game at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. on Tuesday, October 22, 2013. (Photo by Sean Hiller/Daily News)

In addition to Kobe Bryant sitting out Saturday’s practice (rest), Wesley Johnson did not practice after tweaking his right ankle Friday. But according to the team, the small forward is expecting to suit up and play against the Kings.

Johnson played 28 minutes against Oklahoma City, putting in seven points, three rebounds and three assists. Overall, Johnson is averaging 8.8 points per game. Johnson has started all 26 games this season might be relied on more should Nick Young be suspended for his flagrant 2 foul from Friday.

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Nick Young’s status after ejection still unclear after Saturday’s practice

LakersÕ Nick Young thought he had a three point shot at the end of the third period, but it was called back during second half action at Staples Center Sunday, March 30, 2014.  Lakers defeated the Suns 115-99.  ( Photo by David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News )

LakersÕ Nick Young thought he had a three point shot at the end of the third period, but it was called back during second half action at Staples Center Sunday, March 30, 2014. Lakers defeated the Suns 115-99. ( Photo by David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News )

Coming out of the narrow loss to Oklahoma City Friday evening, the big question surrounding the Lakers was what was going to happen to Nick Young after the small forward was ejected early in the fourth quarter on a flagrant 2 foul.

The Lakers were still waiting on word from the league by the end of Saturday’s afternoon practice. But it’s not something that’s taking up too much of head coach Byron Scott’s energy. At least for the moment.

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Lakers’ Nick Young doesn’t believe he deserved ejection in 104-103 loss to Thunder

In normal circumstances, Lakers forward Nick Young treats interviews with reporters as a chance to show off his eclectic fashion tastes, tease teammates and tell jokes.

But not this time.

Young called Thunder center Steven Adams a “sneaky, dirty player” that led to an on-court altercation and an eventual ejection in the Lakers’ 104-103 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday at Staples Center. Young argued he “most definitely” did not deserve the ejection, an automatic ruling after being handed a flagrant foul type 2 with 11:24 remaining in the game.

“I feel bad about getting ejected, but I play with my heart on my sleeves and it shows out there,” said Young who had 10 points in 13 minutes off the bench. “I lost my mind a little bit, checked into the crazy house, got back out.”
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Lakers’ defend Kobe Bryant’s missed game winner in 104-103 loss to Thunder

"Thunder players celebrate after the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant missed the game winning shot as time expired during their NBA game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles Friday, December 19, 2014. The Thunder beat the Lakers 104-103. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)

“Thunder players celebrate after the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant missed the game winning shot as time expired during their NBA game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles Friday, December 19, 2014. The Thunder beat the Lakers 104-103. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)

The path outlined before Kobe Bryant paved the way for the Lakers’ star to perform an act so ordinary with implications so extraordinary.

It has cemented his legend. It has revealed his unmatched confidence. It has earned his team’s trust.

So with the Lakers needing a game-winning shot, they turned to Bryant. He caught the ball at the top of the key. Bryant drove to the left elbow using his crafty footwork to create separation. He used a series of pump fakes in hopes to throw Oklahoma City forward Andre Roberson off balance and draw a foul. Even when that did not work, Bryant saw an open 17-foot jumper that has become as customary as his “M-V-P” chants that bounce around the Staples Center walls.

But this time, Bryant did not produce a happy ending. Roberson contested the shot as well as he did on 11 of the Bryant’s 14 previous attempts. Bryant’s shot hit off the right side of the rim. He threw up his right arm and quickly tossed his shooting sleeve in disgust. And the Lakers would walk off with a 104-103 loss on Friday to the Oklahoma City Thunder that left the Lakers with so many topics to address surrounding their star.

“We got what we wanted in the end,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said. “We got a good shot and good look at it. He just missed it.”
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Lakers’ Byron Scott agrees with Mark Cuban’s call for conference realignment

"Laker coach Byron Scott applauds his players in the fourth quarter. The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Sacramento Kings 98-95 in Los Angeles, CA. December 9, 2014. (Photo by John McCoy Daily News)"

“Laker coach Byron Scott applauds his players in the fourth quarter. The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Sacramento Kings 98-95 in Los Angeles, CA. December 9, 2014. (Photo by John McCoy Daily News)”

It rarely happens, if ever. But the Lakers and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban actually agree about something.

Lakers coach Byron Scott likes Cuban’s recent proposal that the NBA should realign their conferences considering the disparity between the Eastern and Western Conference. Case in point, the Miami Heat (12-14) and Brooklyn Nets (10-14) are slated to make the playoffs as the seventh and eight seed, respectively, despite having records below .500. Meanwhile, Scott described the Western Conference as a “monster,” featuring the Golden State Warriors (22-3), Memphis Grizzlies (21-4), Portland Trail Blazers (20-6) and Houston Rockets (19-6).

“It doesn’t make sense geographically. But other than that, he has a good point,” Scott said. “There’s a few teams, us included, that would love to be in the Eastern Conference right now.”

That’s because the Lakers (8-17) currently are five games behind the New Orleans Pelicans (13-12) for the Western Conference’s eighth playoff spot. Meanwhile, the Lakers are only 2 1/2 games behind Brooklyn for what would be the Eastern Conference’s last postseason seed.

Still, Cuban told reporters earlier this season that his conference realignment proposal would entail the Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets and New Orleans Pelicans moving to the Eastern Conference. The Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers, Detroit Pistons and Milwaukee Bucks would move to the West.

The Western Conference already became more difficult after the Mavericks acquired star guard Rajon Rondo from the Boston Celtics for Brandan Wright, Jae Crowder, Jameer Nelson and draft picks.

“Rondo is one of the better point guards in this league, there’s no doubt about that,” Scott said. “From that standpoint, it makes Dallas a better team. Offensively, because of the way he can distribute that basketball and find guys and rebound the ball at that position. He’s an asset, no doubt about that. The one thing in this Western conference is that most of these point guards can score. That’s going to put pressure on him to guard. He’s been a pro for a long time and has a ring on his finger. I think he’ll be fine.”

Scott saw the move as a sign “Dallas wants to win right now,” but wondered aloud about Rondo’s future after this season. A Lakers official downplayed reports the team offered Steve Nash’s expiring $9.8 million contract and a first-round pick to Houston for Rondo. The Lakers would have enough cap space to sign him this offseason.

“At the end of the year is he still a free agent?” Scott asked, rhetorically. “It’s going to be interesting.”

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Lakers’ Bryant says he hasn’t made free-agency pitch to Durant … yet

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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Will Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant play tonight vs. Lakers?

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant will become a free agent in 2016. (Photo by Ann Heisenfelt — The Associated Press)

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant will become a free agent in 2016. (Photo by Ann Heisenfelt — The Associated Press)

Lakers coach Byron Scott said he loves Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant as a person, raving about his leadership, humble demeanor and eagerness to learn. Scott loves Durant as a player, predicting he will eventually score 30,000 career points and calling his 30-minute performance in 18 minutes of the Thunder’s win over Golden State on Thursday “MVPish.”

But Scott believes Durant should take his time recovering from a right ankle sprain that kept him sidelined for the second half against the Warriors. The reasons have nothing to do with Durant’s long-term health and everything to do with the Lakers (8-17) hosting the Thunder (12-13) on Friday at Staples Center.

“I felt bad for him,” Scott said. “But I’m hoping it swelled up on him just a tad last night and he can’t go tonight and he’ll be well by Sunday.”

The Thunder has listed Durant as day-to-day after x-rays in his right ankle turned out negative. Durant missed the first 17 games with after having surgery to treat a fracture on his right foot. But the Thunder have gone 7-1 both since Durant and former UCLA guard Russell Westbrook have returned to the lineup. Westbrook missed nearly a month because of a broken right hand.

“They’re both competitive. Russell’s competitive nature comes out a lot more. Kevin is just as competitive as anybody in this league. I think they’ve made it work,” Scott said. “Both have given a little bit of themselves. You have to if you want to be successful and want to win and you have two guys like that. Somebody has to be, both guys have to get to a point where it can’t be about me. It’s all about the team. They got to sacrifice a little bit of themselves. Both guys have done that. At times you have seen the Russell that he’s such an explosive basketball player and emotional basketball player, that sometimes I think the emotions gets the best of him at times. But I’ve told people all the time I would love to have a player like that that you try to calm down instead of pick up for every single game. He’s a guy in a game that you know will bring it every game.”

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Lakers’ Kobe Bryant says he hasn’t made free agency pitch to Kevin Durant….yet

As Kobe Bryant sits it out, Kevin Durant is stepping it up

Lakers’ Kobe Bryant the sportswriter credits high school English teacher

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’ Jordan Hill expected to start vs. Oklahoma City

"Los Angeles Lakers' Jordan Hill smiles before the Lakers' NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Karen Pulfer Focht)"

“Los Angeles Lakers’ Jordan Hill smiles before the Lakers’ NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Karen Pulfer Focht)”

Despite nursing flu symptoms for the past two days, Lakers forward Jordan Hill is expected to play in Friday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder (12-13) at Staples Center.

“If he can play, he’ll start tonight,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said following morning shootaround. “I don’t know how much he’s got. He’s at home right now in the bed. We’ll see how he looks when he gets there.”

Hill sat out for practices both on Wednesday and Thursday, and has taken antibiotics. Hill also skipped morning shootaround on Friday after visiting with Lakers’ head athletic trainer Gary Vitti. Hill has averaged 12.8 points on 48.9 percent shooting and 8.6 rebounds in 30.1 minutes per game.

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Lakers’ Bryant says he hasn’t made free-agency pitch to Durant … yet


Lakers assistant Mark Madsen fills in as healthy body for Thursday’s practice

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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TWC SportsNet panel analyzes Kobe Bryant’s play in 2014-15 season

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (24) holds up the game ball and acknowledges the crowd during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Minnesota Timberwolves after passing Michael Jordan on the NBA all-time scoring list in Minneapolis, Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (24) holds up the game ball and acknowledges the crowd during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Minnesota Timberwolves after passing Michael Jordan on the NBA all-time scoring list in Minneapolis, Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)

If you talk about the Lakers, it’s inevitable you talk about Kobe Bryant.

And when it pertains to the Lakers’ star, there’s plenty to discuss. I went on Time Warner Cable’s Access SportsNet on Thursday evening with host Chris McGee and analyst Dave Miller to talk about everything Kobe Bryant. We analyzed his productive play in the 2014-15 season. We looked at Bryant’s fight against Father Time. We dissected Bryant’s relationship with Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant. We wondered if Bryant will play beyond his contract that expires after the 2015-16 season.

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Lakers’ Bryant says he hasn’t made free-agency pitch to Durant … yet

Lakers’ Kobe Bryant finds it ‘very challenging’ to balance workload, recovery

Kobe Bryant passes Michael Jordan on NBA scoring list as Lakers beat Timberwolves

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 says he hasn’t made free agency pitch to Kevin Durant….yet

In this file photo, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (24) and Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) talks during a foul shot in the third quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, March 5, 2013. Oklahoma City won 122-105. (Sue Ogrocki/The Associated Press)

In this file photo, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (24) and Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) talks during a foul shot in the third quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, March 5, 2013. Oklahoma City won 122-105. (Sue Ogrocki/The Associated Press)

Plenty of time awaits before the 2016 offseason strikes. Plenty of circumstances could determine how the free agency sweepstakes play out.

But with Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant becoming a free agent in 2016, consider him as the Lakers’ top player they will pursue.

“That’s safe to say,” said a league source familiar with the Lakers’ thought process.

So with the Lakers having their sights on Durant in 2016, has Kobe Bryant made an early free agency pitch?

“No, I think we know each other pretty well,” Bryant said on Thursday at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo. “I don’t think it’s a discussion that you have in terms of coming here. But I think it’s more of an understanding how to play with each other.”
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Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak would consider prolonging Kobe Bryant’s contract depending on circumstances

"MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 14: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers waves to the crowd after passing Michael Jordan on the all-time scoring list with a free throw in the second quarter of the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on December 14, 2014 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)"

“MINNEAPOLIS, MN – DECEMBER 14: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers waves to the crowd after passing Michael Jordan on the all-time scoring list with a free throw in the second quarter of the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on December 14, 2014 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)”

It was a little more than a week ago when Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak offered a pretty clear signal on anyone planning to watch Kobe Bryant play in person.

“If you’re looking to buy tickets three years from now, I would buy tickets now.”
Kupchak told the Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

Kupchak has repeated different variations of that quote in subsequent interviews, including appearances on Monday with both ESPN Radio’s Colin Cowherd and SiriusXM NBA Radio with Justin Termine and former NBA coach Mike Dunleavy, Sr. But even if Kupchak maintained his belief that Bryant will retire once his $48.5 million contract ends following the 2015-16 season, Kupchak said he would consider seeing if Bryant wanted to extend his career under specific circumstances.

“If he’s playing at a high level and we were able to put our team together with some vision, in other words, have cap space to acquire players that help us going forward and help us win right away, I don’t know why we would not consider bringing Kobe back,” Kupchak told Cowherd. “I don’t think in two years, if he looks at our roster and says I can’t win with this roster, I don’t think he’s going to want to play and lose 40-50 games. If the roster is attractive and we’ve got some young players or some veteran players that he feels will allow him to wake up in the morning and say listen, I wan to go to practice and I want to play tonight, then I think that’s something he would consider.”
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