Lakers’ GM Mitch Kupchak said Kobe Bryant ‘indicated’ he plans to retire after 2015-16 season

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant will undergo surgery Wednesday for the torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder, but a timetable for his return will not be revealed until after the surgery. (Mark J. Terrill/The Associated Press)

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant will undergo surgery Wednesday for the torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder, but a timetable for his return will not be revealed until after the surgery. (Mark J. Terrill/The Associated Press)

So many unanswered questions surround Kobe Bryant, and whether he can both return and stay healthy for the 2015-16 campaign after suffering three season-ending injuries in consecutive seasons. But Bryant apparently has answered one other looming question.

His future, and whether the 2015-16 campaign will mark his last season of a 20-year career.

“He’s indicated to me this is it,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said Thursday on on “SiriusXM NBA Radio” with Rick Fox and Jared Greenberg.

Kupchak has strongly suggested this sentiment throughout the 2014-15 season, mindful that Bryant’s contract that will pay him a league-high $25 million next season will mark the final year of his contract. But after tearing the rotator cuff in his right shoulder in late January, Bryant soon said he would not know his future until the end of the 2015-16 campaign. Last summer, Bryant told some around him that he had no intentions in playing past his current contract, according to a source familiar with the discussions.

“There have been no discussions about anything going forward. I don’t think there will be,” Kupchak said. “A year from now, if there is something different to discuss, we’ll discuss it then.”
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NBA Draft: Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak doubts No. 2 pick could lead to immediate championship

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said on SiriusXM Radio that he doubts a No. 2 pick could immediately lead to an NBA championship (Scott Varley/Staff Photographer)

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said on SiriusXM Radio that he doubts a No. 2 pick could immediately lead to an NBA championship (Scott Varley/Staff Photographer)

The frustration finally ended. Two painful seasons filled with lots of injuries and lots of losses finally became a brief afterthought amid some rare good news.

The Lakers won the No. 2 pick in the NBA draft lottery this week, prompting general manager Mitch Kupchak to pop a bottle of champagne, a moment the Lakers have since posted on their Twitter account.

“I’d prefer to do the champagne thing five weeks from now and not celebrating the No. 2 pick in the draft,” Kupchak said on “SiriusXM NBA Radio” with Rick Fox and Jared Greenberg. “But we had a season that was tough. We had two seasons that were tough. So it would’ve been real difficult not to get a pick. But we got the pick.”

And now that the Lakers have the pick, how long will it take for the Lakers to start popping those champagne bottles in June?

“There’s probably nobody on a good team that can have the kind of impact that’s going to lead a team to a championship,” Kupchak said. “But any of these guys could have a big impact next season. But you’re going to have to surround them if you want to be in a championship position.”
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NBA Draft: Lakers’ No. 2 pick could end Jordan Hill’s tenure here

Eric Gay/The Associated Press

Eric Gay/The Associated Press

The result brought the Lakers so much joy and elation, the No. 2 draft pick finally bearing some good news for a proud organization that has experienced so little of it in recent seasons.

But Lakers forward Jordan Hill may not feel that way.

The Lakers initially are leaning toward drafting a big man, either Kentucky’s Karl Anthony-Towns or Duke’s Jahlil Okafor. It depends on which player will still remain available since the Lakers believe Minnesota will draft one of those two players. Should the Lakers feel the same way through workouts leading into the June 25 draft, that could mark the end of Hill’s 3 1/2 seasons wearing a purple and gold uniform.

The Lakers will have to decide whether they will exercise the $9 million team option they hold on Hill before June 30. Anthony-Towns and Okafor play the same position as Hill. They are also younger. They will also be cheaper ($5.1 million). So that might mean the Lakers will have to say goodbye to Hill.
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NBA Draft Lottery: Karl-Anthony Towns has favorable odds to be No. 1 pick

Kentucky's Karl-Anthony Towns, pictured in a game against Grand Canyon, is the expected No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft. The Lakers could draft No. 1, or slip out of the top 5, depending on Tuesday's lottery results. (AP Photo/James Crisp)

Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns, pictured in a game against Grand Canyon, is the expected No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft. The Lakers could draft No. 1, or slip out of the top 5, depending on Tuesday’s lottery results. (AP Photo/James Crisp)

The persisting question on where the Lakers will land in the NBA draft lottery has soon changed into a different one.

Who will the Lakers draft?

They have plenty of options after grabbing the second pick. But the prevailing sense is that the Lakers would choose between Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns or Duke’s Jahlil Okafor, two valued big men that would significantly bolster the Lakers’ frontline. The early verdict suggests the Lakers would end up with Okafor.

According to sports gambling Web site, Bovada, Anthony-Towns has become the heavy favorites for the Minnesota Timberwolves to select him with the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft with 1/2 odds. Meanwhile, Okafor has 7-4 odds to become the No. 1 pick, while other prospects have a combined 5-1 odds to take the top spot.

Lakers coach Byron Scott said on Tuesday in New York that he and the front office have not figured out who would become their No. 2 pick. Scott said he planned to talk with Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak on Wednesday to discuss things further. But there’s a strong indication the Lakers would prefer either of those big men, and are somewhat relieved that Minnesota could help them out in deciding between the two.

Still, it’s possible the Lakers and Timberwolves look at some other prospects too, depending on how workouts go leading into the June 25 draft. Ohio State guard D’Angelo Russell, Kentucky center Willie Cauley-Stein and Duke forward Justise Winslow represented three of the 18 prospects the Lakers interviewed last week at the pre-draft combine in Chicago. Other options could include China point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, Latvian power forward Kristaps Porzingis or Arizona forward Stanley Johnson.

RELATED:
NBA Draft Lottery: Behind the scenes look of how Lakers got No. 2 pick
NBA Draft lottery: Lakers land second overall pick in draft
NBA Draft Lottery: A look at how the process works

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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NBA Draft Lottery: A look at how the process works

Los Angeles Lakers coach Byron Scott smiles as the studio begins to fill before the NBA basketball draft lottery, Tuesday, May 19, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Los Angeles Lakers coach Byron Scott smiles as the studio begins to fill before the NBA basketball draft lottery, Tuesday, May 19, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

NEW YORK — The people shifted in their seats as each ping pong ball dropped out of the machine. Every number that they heard either increased their excitement or lifted their anxiety. Very few people spoke, at least loudly enough to hear, as they heard the results.

But the uncomfortable silence and the nervous twitches these people showed throughout this process revealed just how much remained at stake. Well before the NBA Draft Lottery took place on live television Tuesday night, a handful of team representatives, league officials, media members and an independent accounting firm watched the actual proceedings in a private room here at the New York Hilton Midtown about 90 minutes earlier.

There, all participants could not bring any electronic devices to share the news. Officials forced everyone to put their cell phones in an enclosed envelope to avoid anyone from tweeting, texting or sharing the news publicly or privately. No one could leave the room, either, so that the 14 other NBA draft representatives, including Lakers coach Byron Scott, could learn the results nearly 90 minutes later just like everyone else.

The setting already featured enough drama for the Lakers, who could have faced something just as devastating as their 21-61 record in the 2014-15 campaign in what marked the franchise’s worst record in its 67-year-old history. The Lakers also had a 17.2 percent chance of landing with the sixth or seventh pick, forcing the Lakers to trade it to Philadelphia as part of the Steve Nash deal with the Phoenix Suns in 2012. Instead, something more joyous happened for the Lakers as they landed with the No. 2 pick.

Two men sat side by side that added spice to this development. John Black, the Lakers vice president of public relations, sat on the left side of a table covered in black cloth. Brad Shron, the 76ers’ executive vice president and general counsel, sat on the right. The seating arrangement strictly spoke to the NBA standings, with the Lakers boasting the fourth-worst record and the Sixers slightly ahead with the third-worst mark at 18-64. But this coincidence produced a memorable exchange that captured the Lakers’ overall relief.

“Sorry,” Black said to Shron with a grin. “You’re not getting the pick.”

Shortly after Black breathed a sigh of relief over four ping-pong balls bouncing the Lakers’ way, the Sixers receiving a decent consolation with the third overall pick. Before all that happened, the select members in the room witnessed how the NBA draft order unfolded.
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NBA Draft: Long-time NBA scouting consultant prefers D’Angelo Russell over Emmanuel Mudiay

D'Angelo Russell

Below is the third part of a occasional series with NBA analysts providing their take on the Lakers’ needs heading into the 2015 NBA Draft on June 25. Below is a recent interview with Ryan Blake, who has been an NBA scouting consultant for over 30 years and is the President of Basketball Operations for Vantage Sports, Inc, a video analytics company.

What are your impressions of Emmanuel Mudiay? (Mudiay played overseas in China after originally committing to Southern Methodist).


Blake:
“He’s a combo guard. He can run both spots and attacks the rim. He has a lot of strength and is a crafty ball handler. He’s a good floor man as well. He’s a different type of player. I like his maturity. I think Mudiay is more of a high risk, high reward guy. But I think he’s going to be a good player. Our guys from China really really like him. But he has to prove that he’s going to be a better shooter.”

How much of this is based off of film versus what people tell you?


Blake:
“We have film of him with a company that I help run called Vantage Sports. It’s Synergy on steroids. We have a lot of advanced stats that nobody else has that help in terms of success on pick-and-rolls and percentages in that and in rebounding. We have all the video on that stuff. When we get stats and analytics, it’s automatically generated. But you want a full year of that. With those stats, it’s not just, ‘Oh, he has great stats.’ There are things that help confirm the eye test. Is he a good defender? There’s a lot of aspects in defending with closeouts and rotations and recognizing things. When it comes down to it, a lot of defense is based on knowledge and effort. A lot of things he does defensively is really really good. But he does have that handle and he does have that quickness. I think he has a maturity that is high.”

What are the risks still of drafting someone whose games aren’t readily available and without the chance to see him play in person?

Blake:
Being high-risk, high reward, sometimes you take a Brandon Jennings who left high school and went overseas to play. Regardless of what happens, when you sign that contract, he’s eligible for the draft the following year. Jennings didn’t play a lot. It’s hard to really really gauge how good a player is regardless. He didn’t play a lot in Italy. But he was a good player and had all this skill. There’s a risk that if you go overseas and you get hurt and you don’t play, you’re still going to the draft. That didn’t happen with him. But he didn’t get a lot of games in. Dante Exum, he’s a high risk. He had a lot of skills. But he spent his time working out. He didn’t spend his time playing and getting experience. What’s so important that we agree on is the learning curve. All of that makes it very difficult to gauge.”
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Lakers’ Jordan Clarkson still feels he has lots to prove after being named to NBA’s All-Rookie first team

Los Angeles Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson, right, goes up for a shot as Houston Rockets forward Donatas Motiejunas, of Lithuania, defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Los Angeles Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson, right, goes up for a shot as Houston Rockets forward Donatas Motiejunas, of Lithuania, defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Another day passed by for Jordan Clarkson where he completed a routine that defined his rookie season with the Lakers.

Clarkson worked out in the gym eager to improve his game on Monday morning only for Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak to deliver some pleasant news.

The NBA named Clarkson to its All-Rookie First team, joining Minnesota’s Andrew Wiggins, Chicago’s Nikola Mirotic, Philadelphia’s Nerlens Noel and Orland’s Elfrid Payton as determined by select NBA writers and broadcaster. Clarkson also became 11th Lakers player in the franchise’s 67-year-old history to earn a spot on the NBA’s all-rookie first team, a list that also includes Lakers coach Byron Scott, Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Elgin Baylor, Eddie Jones, Vlade Divac, Norm Nixon, Jim Price, Dick Garrett and Bill Hewitt.

That left Clarkson appreciative of the journey he traveled, morphing from the 46th pick into the Lakers’ starting point guard. It also left him determined not for him to rest on his latest milestone.

“It was a good feeling and it’s a good accomplishment. But at the same time, I have to put it behind me,” Clarkson said in a phone interview with Los Angeles News Group. “I still have a lot to prove. I have to keep working. I have a lot of things I got to get better at. I have to keep grinding. This is just the beginning.”
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Lakers’ Jordan Clarkson named to NBA’s All-Rookie First team

The Lakers’ Jordan Clarkson, who scored a game-high 26 points, goes up for a shot. matt slocum – the associated press

The Lakers’ Jordan Clarkson, who scored a game-high 26 points, goes up for a shot. matt slocum – the associated press

Within one season, Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson morphed from a second-round afterthought into one of the league’s best rookies.

Clarkson was named on Monday to the NBA’s All-Rookie First team, joining Minnesota’s Andrew Wiggins, Chicago’s Nikola Mirotic, Philadelphia’s Nerlens Noel and Orland’s Elfrid Payton as determined by select NBA writers and broadcasters (Full disclosure: I voted for all the aforementioned players). Clarkson became the 11th Lakers player to earn a spot on the NBA’s all-rookie first team, a list that also includes Lakers coach Byron Scott, Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Elgin Baylor, Eddie Jones, Vlade Divac, Norm Nixon, Jim Price, Dick Garrett and Bill Hewitt.
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Kobe Bryant’s return could take place in Hawaii

Lakers Kobe Bryant watches the game during first half action at Staples Center Sunday, March 8, 2015. ( Photo by David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News )

Lakers Kobe Bryant watches the game during first half action at Staples Center Sunday, March 8, 2015. ( Photo by David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News )

The beginning of Kobe Bryant’s quest to write his last chapter likely will not take place in the comfortable Staples Center surroundings. Or a contentious road arena.

Instead, that might happen in Hawaii where the Lakers will play at the beginning of training camp, including two exhibition games against the Utah Jazz in Honolulu on October 4 and 6. The Lakers have expected Bryant to return at some point in training camp as soon as he had surgery in late January to treat a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder that sidelined him for the rest of the 2014-15 season. Bryant averaged 22.3 points on a career-low 37.3 percent shooting through 35 games before suffering a third consecutive injury that ended his season. He has one year left on his contract worth $25 million in what will mark his 20th and perhaps final year of his NBA career.
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NBA Draft: Stanley Johnson called training with Kobe Bryant the “hardest workouts of my life”

CHICAGO — His eyes lit up as he recalled the experience, Arizona forward Stanley Johnson fondly remembering exactly what it felt like to train last summer with Lakers star Kobe Bryant.

“The hardest workouts of my life,” Johnson said here during the NBA pre-draft combine.

So even if the Lakers were not among the initial teams to interview Johnson, the former Mater Dei standout still has an early glimpse on what it be like to team with its star player.

“He’s going to be hard on me for sure,” Johnson said of Bryant. “He didn’t give me no excuses because I’m a rookie. He’s going to expect a lot out of me as a rookie. I get to compete with him the days he practices. I know I’m going to get a great leader out of him and he’s going to expect me to do well because he wants to win since it’s his last year. He wants to win and so do I.”
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