Lakers’ D’Angelo Russell stars in new Gatorade commercial



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Lakers’ Brandon Ingram partners with DonJoy Performance

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mmedina@scng.com. Subscribe to the “We Want Tacos” podcast on iTunes.

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Lakers’ Brandon Ingram partners with DonJoy Performance

The Lakers’ Brandon Ingram (14) shoots during their game against the Bucks at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Friday, March 17, 2017. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

The bucket list seems endless, as Lakers forward Brandon Ingram strives to improve this offseason by bulking up in muscle, playing in Summer League and working out with Kobe Bryant.

Ingram also added another item on that to-do list. He partnered with DonJoy Performance, which calls itself the “leading creator of innovative sports bracing technology” through products that help with injury prevention, protection, pain and performance.

“Injuries are a part of basketball, no matter what level you’re at,” Ingram said in a statement. “I want to make sure I have a long-standing, successful career, and DonJoy Performance products will play a key role in ensuring that I stay healthy and in the game.’
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Kobe Bryant performs poetry slam on “Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon”

The man cemented his legacy with five NBA championships, 33,643 points and overcoming too many injuries to count. But as Kobe Bryant embarks in his first year of retirement, it appears the Lakers’ star has become an expert at something else.

Storytelling.

He has done that with the launching of his own company, Kobe Inc. He released an animated short, Dear Basketball, that made its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival this past weekend in New York City. And has shown in the video above, Bryant appeared on the “Jimmy Fallon Show” on Monday performing a poetry slam about Family Matters’ Steve Urkel.

Did Bryant do that?
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Lakers’ GM Rob Pelinka considers Ivica Zubac “one of the pillars for the future”

Los Angeles Lakers new General Manager Rob Pelinka. El Segundo, CA 3/10/2017. Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News (SCNG)

As the Lakers strive to extend their season past April for the first time in five years, newly hired general manager Rob Pelinka will listen to all trade proposals. That does not mean he will accept just any deal, though.

Pelinka reiterated on an appearance on 710 ESPN’s “Mason and Ireland” on Monday that he likes the Lakers’ young core that features D’Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr. and Ivica Zubac. He also offered glowing reviews on Zubac after last year’s No. 32 pick out of Croatia emerged as the team’s starting center to close out the season.

“He’s a very very promising player and had incredibly strong minutes for us, especially in the second half of the year. Really, he is someone we consider to be one of the pillars for the future,” Pelinkla said. “But I think when you’re talking about a 19 or 20-year-old in the league, there’s always that kind of balancing act of not overexposing a player and doing too much that you have negative returns on it. With young players, that’s what we’ll have always have to be mindful of.”
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Magic Johnson to be NBA draft lottery representative

Magic Johnson will be the Lakers’ NBA draft representative on May 16. Photo by ED CRISOSTOMO, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER/SCNG

After once guiding the Showtime Lakers with five NBA championships through clutch shots and passes, Magic Johnson will try to help restore the franchise back to contention in another way.

Johnson will serve as the Lakers’ representative on stage for the NBA draft lottery on May 16 in New York City. Meanwhile, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka will be represent the Lakers in the drawing room. Then, the Lakers (26-56) will find out if their season that ended with a missed postseason appearance for the fourth consecutive year in a consolation prize. The Lakers must land a top-three pick, or else they will owe it to Philadelphia as part of the Steve Nash trade with Phoenix five years ago.

The Lakers finished with the NBA’s third-worst record, giving them an 46.9 percent chance of their draft pick to stay within the top three. They also have an 15.6 percent chance at landing the No. 1 selection. Had the Lakers had the second-worst record, they would have had a 55.8 percent chance of keeping the pick and 19.9 percent odds of getting the No. 1 pick.
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Why Kobe Bryant doesn’t miss basketball

Almost from the day he was born, Kobe Bryant became addicted to an round and leather ball.

“I couldn’t put the basketball down,” Bryant recalled in an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “When my parents brought me a brand new basketball, I found myself laying in bed and shooting with it. I was kind of laying there and shooting it. Then I’d fall asleep with it. Then I’d get up in the morning and play again. I just could not stop.”

After cementing a storied 20-year NBA career that spanned five NBA championships and a third-place ranking on the league’s all-time scoring list, Bryant has.

He is more than a year removed from his 60-point game in his career-finale. He has spearheaded his company, Kobe, Inc., which specializes in digital storytelling. He attended the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City this weekend, which hosted the premiere of his short film, “Dear Basketball.”

So with Bryant devoting an animated short explaining his love for that orange ball, does he miss holding it and shooting it?

“No, I don’t,” Bryant said. “It’s crazy because I started playing when I was two. After playing for 20 years in the league, what I have now is everything that I’ve learned from the game, I carry with me to this day. So the game has never truly left me. Physically, yes. But emotionally and the things that are right, all stem from the game. It’s still a part of me.”
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Magic Johnson admitted conflicted feelings about Lakers’ late-season winning streak

The disappointed look on Magic Johnson’s face may have shown his true feelings. So did the moment when Johnson snapped his fingers in frustration.

As much as the Lakers are defined by winning, did he have conflicted feelings when they ended the season winning five of their last six games? After all, that gave the Lakers (26-56) the NBA’s third-worst record, a note that may hurt their NBA lottery chances on May 16.

“I was saying, ‘Oh it’s good, but damn we’re winning,'” Johnson said laughing on ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live.’

The Lakers have a 46.9 percent chance of keeping their-top three protected pick otherwise owed to Philadelphia as part of the Steve Nash deal five years ago. The Lakers also have a 15.6 percent chance of jumping up to No. 1. Had the Lakers finished with the NBA’s second-worst record, though, they would have had a 55.8 percent chance of keeping the pick and 19.9 percent odds of going No. 1.

But Johnson then turned serious in between his chuckles.

“I wanted us to taste winning,” Johnson said. “We’ve been losing for four years. I wanted the guys to experience what it felt like to win. We’re going to carry that into next season. We have a young team. They were feeling good about winning.”

In order to win, the Lakers will also have to wrestle with another variable. To what extent do they retain their young core while pursuing to upgrade their roster? Johnson may have tipped his hand on Indiana forward Paul George. The Lakers will have to weigh the value between trading for him now at the expense of some young assets versus waiting to sign him next summer as a free agent without any assurances.

Johnson cannot speak about other players specifically because of NBA tampering rules. But he all but confirmed George is a target, revealing how he might interact with him should they run into each other incidentally.

“We’re going to say hi because we know each other. I just can’t say, ‘I want you to come to the Lakers’ even thought I’m be winking,” Johnson said, smiling.

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Lakers’ Larry Nance Jr. aspires to be defensive player of the year candidate

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mmedina@scng.com. Subscribe to the “We Want Tacos” podcast on iTunes.

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Why Luol Deng hopes to play at 4 if he remains with Lakers

Lakers forward Luol Deng hopes to play at the “4” if he remains with the Lakers next season. Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News (SCNG)

As he struggled excelling with a new role, a new system and teammates, Lakers forward Luol Deng understood the critical questions that it sparked.

In his 12th NBA season, why did Deng post career-lows in points (7.6) and shooting percentage (38.7) in his first year with the Lakers? In what has become one of the most criticized free-agency moves last summer, why did the Lakers sign Deng to a four-year, $72 million deal? In what will be one of the Lakers’ most pressing offseason questions, will they find a way to deal Deng’s contract or can he find a way to provide more value on his return?

Because of those issues, Deng sounded aware he faces an uncertain future. Deng basically received that message when he spoke with Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka at his exit meeting.

“They’re going to do what’s best for the team,” Deng said. “I respect that a lot. If I’m the GM, I would say the same thing to the players.”

But since Deng is a player and not a GM, he offered his own message about his role should he remain with the Lakers.

“In terms of my future,” Deng said, “I would like to play at the 4 more.”
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Lakers’ David Nwaba believes he’s “ahead of schedule” in landing on an NBA roster

Los Angeles Lakers guard David Nwaba #10 dunks the ball while New Orleans Pelicans center Alexis Ajinca #42 can only look on. The Los Angeles Lakers played the New Orleans Pelicans at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. 4/11/2017 Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News (SCNG)

EL SEGUNDO — The premise sounded absurd to Lakers guard David Nwaba, the idea that his life story through his first 24 years would provide enough interesting material for a movie.

Nwaba starred at University High of Los Angeles. But he received no scholarship offers. He transferred from Hawaii Pacific to Santa Monica College to Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, and led the Mustangs to their first ever NCAA tournament. But Nwaba went undrafted. He joined the Lakers’ Development League affiliate, the D-Fenders, wondering if he would ever fulfill his dream in playing in the NBA. But less than a season answer, Nwaba’s dream came true by playing for his hometown team after growing up idolizing Kobe Bryant.

Nwaba even had a crazed Lakers fan that sat behind the basket on the side of the Lakers’ bench and frequently called for him to play. The fan also shouted his name incorrectly as “Nwamamba.” An amused Nwaba heard him and wondered, “I wasn’t sure why he was chanting.”

Still, Nwaba contended “the story doesn’t seem too special” to warrant a script distributed in Hollywood. But he obviously considers the journey traveled special. After all, Nwaba believes he is “ahead of schedule” in his hope to crack an NBA roster.

“Initially just being in the D-League, the plan was just to make a summer league roster next year,” Nwaba said. “I’m just pacing myself toward making summer league roster. I didn’t know how likely it would be to get a call up.”

The Lakers called Nwaba up for a 10-day contract shortly after negotiating a buyout for veteran guard Jose Calderon following the Feb. 23 trade deadline. With the Lakers bound for a failed postseason stint for the fourth consecutive season, they wanted to evaluate a young, emerging player. With the Lakers eventually ranking nearly last in every defensive category, the Lakers wanted a player that could improve those numbers.

The Lakers saw enough to offer Nwaba a second 10-day contract. They also saw enough to sign Nwaba for the remainder of the 2016-17 season and a team option for next season. During that time, Nwaba averaged 6.0 points on 58 percent shooting and 3.2 rebounds in 19.9 minutes through 20 appearances and two starts.

“I’m just happy they gave me the opportunity and having the NBA experience,” Nwaba said. “I know what to look forward to and what I need to do in order to play with the best of them. I’m excited about the offseason and ready to put in a lot of work.”
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Lakers’ Larry Nance Jr. aspires to be defensive player of the year candidate

The Lakers’ Larry Nance Jr. (7) dunks the ball during their game against the Bucks at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Friday, March 17, 2017. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

EL SEGUNDO — As Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka outlined the “pursuit of excellence,” Lakers reserve Larry Nance Jr. spent his exit meeting coming up with a litany of items he wants to check off his bucket list.

That includes addressing an issue the Lakers have strongly lacked in recent seasons with either Mike D’Antoni (2012-14), Byron Scott (2014-16) or Luke Walton (present) patrolling the sideline.

“Whether it’s next year or the year after or the year after that, I want to be a guy that is in the defensive player of the year discussions,” Nance said. “I think I have the ability.”

The Lakers recently have not had the ability to excel defensively. Last season, the Lakers ranked 28th out of 30 NBA teams in points allowed (111.5), 30th in defensive field-goal percentage (48.3) and 30th in fast-break points allowed (16.2). According to NBA.com, Nance ranks 160th out of 482 players in defensive efficiency while allowing opponents to shoot 46.6 percent from the field.

Still, Nance said the Lakers’ front office considered his off-ball defense “an area of strength.” To improve his on-ball defense, Nance plans to do a few things. He will study tape of Golden State’s Draymond Green and San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard. Nance will also train this offseason with his father, Larry Nance, who had a 13-year NBA career with the Phoenix Suns (1981-88) and Cleveland Cavaliers (1988-1994).

“I kind of got the sense that if you’re not all in, this might not be the place for you,” Nance said of his exit meeting last week with the Lakers’ front office. “I’m super excited. I know I can’t wait to work.”

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