Lakers’ Byron Scott to be NBA Draft lottery representative

"Lakers head coach Byron Scott talks about the upcoming NBA season at the Lakers training faciltiy in El Segundo, CA on Tuesday, September 9, 2014. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze) "

“Lakers head coach Byron Scott talks about the upcoming NBA season at the Lakers training faciltiy in El Segundo, CA on Tuesday, September 9, 2014. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze) “

After coaching the Lakers’ worst team in franchise history, Byron Scott hopes he can bring better luck during a significant moment in the team’s rebuilding process.

Scott will serve as the Lakers’ NBA Draft representative on May 19 in New York City. Then, the Lakers (21-61) will find out if their season ravaged by injuries and an unproven roster will result in a consolation prize. The Lakers must land a top-five pick, or else they will owe it to Philadelphia as part of the Steve Nash trade with Phoenix three years ago.

The Lakers finished with the NBA’s fourth-worst record, giving them an 82.8 percent chance of their draft pick to stay within the top five. They also have an 11.9 percent chance at landing the No. 1 selection. But the Lakers also have a 17.2 percent chance at falling either sixth or seventh, which the Lakers cannot keep.

After last week’s exit meetings, Scott downplayed whether he felt nervous about the Lakers’ chances considering they collected a combined four wins against Minnesota (16-66) and Philadelphia (18-64).

“No,” Scott said. “None.”

The Lakers sent Scott’s former Showtime teammate James Worthy to last year’s draft lottery, aware of the symbolism that he represented the Lakers’ last No. 1 pick in 1982. Although the Lakers landed that draft pick because of a trade, the move still helped the Lakers win three NBA championships in the Showtime Era.

Worthy attended last year’s lottery and brought with him bobbleheads featuring iconic figures of the Lakers, including their late owner (Jerry Buss) and the late famed announcer (Chick Hearn). Though they symbolized a period when the Lakers won the majority of their 16 NBA championships, the Lakers landed with only the seventh overall pick. They used that to select Kentucky forward Julius Randle, who played only one regular-season game before suffering a season-ending injury to his right leg.

Although they remain encouraged with Randle’s recovery and potential, the Lakers hope for better fortunes this year in both draft order and health. Scott said last week he may bring his grandaughter to help boost the Lakers’ odds. But after coaching the Cleveland Cavaliers when they landed the No. 1 pick in 2011 for Kyrie Irving, Scott joked the Lakers should send the son of Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert. He became the franchise’s good-luck charm after landing three No. 1 picks in the past four years.

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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’ Ryan Kelly believes he overworked himself last offseason

Photo: Keith Birmingham Pasadena Star-News

Photo: Keith Birmingham Pasadena Star-News

The goals stay plastered on his mirror, the pieces of paper inscribing everything that Ryan Kelly hopes to accomplish.

There are plenty, considering Kelly ended his 2014-15 season with the Lakers weathering frustration for many reasons. The Lakers (21-61) cemented their worst record in the franchise’s 67-year-old history. Kelly averaged 6.4 points on only 33.7 percent shooting, admittedly struggling at the small forward spot after spending his entire collegiate career at Duke and his rookie season with the Lakers assuming the so-called stretch four spot.

So Kelly plans to spend plenty of his offseason with a to-do list that will stay fixated on his mirror. He will tweak the arc of his to ensure a quicker release. He will work on ball handling drills. He will try to add more strength to his 6’11,” 230-pound frame. But the Lakers’ second-year forward has written a new goal, aware he will try to achieve all these tasks while somehow reducing his workload. All because he believes that endless training contributed to overlapping hamstring injuries that sidelined him for 30 games in the 2014-15 season.

“I was probably overworking myself leading up to training camp,” Kelly said after last week’s exit meetings. “I was working out in three different locations every day and driving between them up to an hour just because I wanted to be as ready as I could be. That was my first offseason really as a NBA player. I think, especially leading up to camp, I did a little too much. I obviously wasn’t training in the best position possible where I must have been off in some way. Once training camp rolled around, it put me over the edge if you will.”

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Lakers unsure if they will exercise Jordan Hill’s team option

The Lakers' Jordan Hill is probable for Thursday's game against the Cleveland Cavaliers after hyperextending his knee Tuesday against Miami. (Photo by Michael Owen Baker/L.A. Daily News)

The Lakers’ Jordan Hill is probable for Thursday’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers after hyperextending his knee Tuesday against Miami. (Photo by Michael Owen Baker/L.A. Daily News)

The energy Jordan Hill displayed with his rebounding and putbacks left Byron Scott giddy, the former Time Warner Cable SportsNet analyst believing Hill could consistently produce double doubles if only granted more consistent minutes and featured in a more deliberate offense.

Once he became the Lakers’ coach this past season, Scott afforded Hill those opportunities. But despite Hill posting career-highs in points (12), rebounds (7.9), starts (57) and minutes (26.8) in the Lakers’ 21-61 2014-15 season, his exit interview last week featured Scott focusing more on what Hill lacked.

“He was disappointed he didn’t see that energy,” Hill said. “That’s something else I need to work on.”

That marks one of many reasons why the Lakers feel unsure if they will exercise his $9 million team option before June 30. Just like how it has become with any player on their roster, the Lakers are placing more priority on the NBA Draft on June 25 and the marquee stars once free agency begins on July 1.

“It’s going to be a big offseason for the Lakers,” Hill said. “It’s up in the air right now. They don’t know what’s going to happen. I have to stay positive and hope everything will fall into plan.”
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Lakers have mixed feelings about retaining Wesley Johnson

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)

The unsolved mysteries that the Lakers have tackled these days seem plenty.

There marks the 82.8 percent chance the Lakers land in the top five of the NBA draft lottery, though a slim albeit significant 17.2 percent change still lingers they have to trade the pick to Philadelphia as part of the Steve Nash deal. The Lakers remain hopeful Kobe Bryant can return from his third consecutive season-ending injury, though uncertainty awaits if he can survive an 82-game season in his 20th NBA year. The Lakers also have plenty of cap space to pursue marquee free agents, though the nine vacant roster spots could lead to a lack of clarity on the team’s identity. Of course, questions persists on how quickly the Lakers can rebuild after ending the 2014-15 season with a 21-61 record, the team’s worst mark in the franchise’s 67-year-old history.

Then there marks another riddle that the Lakers have spent the past two years trying to solve. What can they expect from Wesley Johnson? As he has posted career-highs in points in consecutive seasons and impressed the Lakers with his seemingly infinite athleticism, will Johnson morph into the consistent wing scorer and lockdown defender that some on the staff liken to Michael Cooper? Or will Johnson’s inconsistency continue to follow him as it has done for most of his five-year NBA career?

“There might be a time where we have to say, ‘This is exactly who the guy is,'” Lakers coach Byron Scott said earlier in the 2014-15 season. But Scott then added, “I don’t know if that time is now,” recalling that former Lakers general manager Jerry West noted that most NBA players hit their peak between 28 and 32 years old. Johnson will turn 28 on July 11.

“If that’s the case,” Scott said, “he probably has another year of hitting that plateau of playing even better than he’s been playing.”

All of which leaves the Lakers with mixed feelings on whether they want to retain Johnson once he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
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Ex-Laker Kareem Abdul-Jabbar undergoes coronary bypass surgery

NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar speaks to students at Branciforte Middle School in Santa Cruz about his new book, 'Stealing the Game,' written for pre-teen kids. (Photo by Dan Coyro/Santa Cruz Sentinel)

NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar speaks to students at Branciforte Middle School in Santa Cruz about his new book, ‘Stealing the Game,’ written for pre-teen kids. (Photo by Dan Coyro/Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Former Lakers and UCLA center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar underwent quadruple bypass surgery on his 68th birthday on Thursday at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center after being admitted this week with a cardiovascular disease.

UCLA’s chief of cardiac surgery Dr. Richard Shemin said in a statement released by the university that he expects Abdul-Jabbar to make a full recovery. The statement also read that Abdul-Jabbar, his physician and spokesperson will not provide any interviews or additional information.

“At this time, Abdul-Jabbar would like to thank his surgical team and the medical staff at UCLA, his alma mater, for the excellent care he has received,” the statement read. “He is looking forward to getting back to his normal activities soon.”

Abdul-Jabbar was also diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia on Nov. 2009, but he has since said then that he has fully recovered from his illness. Lately, Abdul-Jabbar has remained busy co-authoring numerous books, the latest titled ‘Stealing the Game,’ a novel targeted to pre-teen kids that was released in Feb. 2015.

After winning two national championships with the Bruins under the late John Wooden, Abdul-Jabbar was drafted to the Milwaukee Bucks before they traded him in 1975 to the Lakers. He then won five of his six NBA titles with the Showtime Lakers and remained as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, an impact that both cemented himself as one of the game’s all-time great centers and resulted in a statue being built outside Staples Center in 2012.

Abdul-Jabbar has occasionally attended Lakers games and also appeared with former teammates Magic Johnson and Jamaal Wilkes at Byron Scott’s introductory press conference last summer as the Lakers’ new head coach.

“He asks that you keep him in your thoughts and, most importantly, cherish and live each day to its fullest,” the UCLA statement read. “For those wanting to send well wishes, he thanks you in advance and asks that you support those in your own community who may be suffering from various health issues.”

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Kobe Bryant “doesn’t have anything left to prove”


Lakers’ Byron Scott unsure if he will become team’s draft lottery representative

Mitch Kupchak says Lakers can ‘be in the hunt quickly’

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 unsure if he will become team’s draft lottery representative

"Lakers Coach Byron Scott talks to the crowd before the tipoff. The Lakers played the Houston Rockets in the opening game of the 2014-2015 Season.  Los Angeles, CA. 10/28/2014 (Photo by John McCoy Daily News )"

“Lakers Coach Byron Scott talks to the crowd before the tipoff. The Lakers played the Houston Rockets in the opening game of the 2014-2015 Season. Los Angeles, CA. 10/28/2014 (Photo by John McCoy Daily News )”

The question made Lakers coach Byron Scott feel uncomfortable.

Surprisingly, the subject did not involve the Lakers’ 21-61 record in the 2014-15 season in what marked the worst mark in the franchise’s 67-year-old history or the uncertainty surrounding the team’s rebuilding. Instead, Scott remained unsure if he would accept the Lakers’ invitation to become the team’s draft lottery representative in New York City on May 19.

“They asked me to go,” Scott said, “so I don’t know if I want to go now.”

Scott then joked the Lakers should send team spokesman John Black on the trip. After his exit interview on Thursday, Scott clarified that he was serious he had not made up his mind. Yet, he maintained the uncertainty had nothing to do with any uncomfortable feeling he might have that national television will capture should the Lakers fall out of the top five. That scenario would force the Lakers to trade their pick as part of the Steve Nash deal.

“You guys know me,’ Scott said. “Glass is half full.”
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Lakers’ Mitch Kupchak says he doesn’t understand Sixers’ rebuilding plan

Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak said Thursday, April 16, 2015, team "can get better quickly." (Photo by Brad Graverson/Daily Breeze)

Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak said Thursday, April 16, 2015, team “can get better quickly.” (Photo by Brad Graverson/Daily Breeze)

The question and statement perhaps struck Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak.

He spent nearly 15 minutes addressing how the Lakers will rebuild amid a disastrous 21-61 record in the 2014-15 season, the team’s worst mark in the franchise’s 67-year-old history. Yet, a reporter still did not find much clarity on how the Lakers will turn things around, while noting that the Philadelphia 76ers’ blueprint seems pretty clear.

“Can you explain it to me, if it’s so clear?” Kupchak asked, in a half-joking, half serious manner.

The reporter then alluded how the Sixers traded away assets to stockpile draft picks while also fielding a young team in hopes to collect more. The Sixers could own as many as four first-round picks and five second-round selections. Philadelphia even traded 2014 Rookie of the Year Michael Carter Williams in a three-team deal with Milwaukee in exchange for the first-round pick the Lakers owe Phoenix.

“Okay,” Kupchak said, somewhat dismissively. “I still don’t understand what they’re doing.”
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Lakers’ Mitch Kupchak says “it’s possible” to return to Western Conference Finals in three years

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said Thursday that the team is prepared to "go all in" once free agency begins Monday night

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said Thursday that “it’s possible” the Lakers could reach the Western Conference Finals in three years

The Lakers’ historically sturdy foundation crumbled even further. Their 21-61 record cemented the worst finish in the franchise’s 67-year-old history and ensured a missed playoff appearance for the second consecutive season, providing an obvious conclusion the Lakers face a busy offseason rebuilding project.

But with the dust still clearing amid the rubble, the Lakers seem clouded by the most pressing question surrounding a franchise that won 16 NBA championships. How long will it take to return there?

Lakers executive vice president of player personnel, Jim Buss, has reportedly told her sister, Jeanie, the Lakers president, he would step down if the Lakers do not reach the Western Conference Finals within three years. Jeanie Buss said last month she would keep the team accountable to that timeline or else she would make changes.

“I didn’t see that quote. I never saw that quote,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said on Thursday at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo following exit meetings. “What’s my sense of being in the conference finals within three years? I think it’s possible. But what if you get to the conference semifinals, you lose in seven [games] and you have a great team that you know is going to get better and better? So I don’t think there is anything etched in stone that would determine any change in direction. Three years from now is forever.”

So how quickly can the Lakers improve at least next season?

“It can get better quick,” Kupchak said. “Every year, we have the same goal, which is to win a championship. We can get better quickly. We can be in the hunt quickly.”

Yet, Kupchak said that largely hinges on the Lakers fortunes in the NBA draft lottery on May 19th. Then, the Lakers will find out if their 82.8 percent chances of retaining their top-five pick happens. Otherwise, the Lakers will owe the selection to Philadelphia as part of the Steve Nash trade.

“We’d like to have something in our pocket for the way the year went,” Kupchak said.
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Lakers’ Ed Davis “not out here to chase money” by opting out of player option

"The Lakers’ Ed Davis #21 lays the ball up as the Grizzlies’  Jon Leuer #30 looks on during their NBA game at the Staples Center Friday, January 2, 2015.  The Grizzlies beat the Lakers 109-106. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)"

“The Lakers’ Ed Davis #21 lays the ball up as the Grizzlies’ Jon Leuer #30 looks on during their NBA game at the Staples Center Friday, January 2, 2015. The Grizzlies beat the Lakers 109-106. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)”

His plans have become transparent for the last two months. Lakers forward Ed Davis will opt out of his $1.2 million option of hopes of a more lucrative deal in both years and salary.

But Davis stressed that he’s “not really out here to chase money” and considers the Lakers his top choice in free agency.

“Hopefully I’ll be back next year,” Davis said on Wednesday after having an exit meeting with Lakers coach Byron Scott and general manager Mitch Kupchak at the team’s practice facility in El Segundo. “I think they want me back. With the draft and free agency, you never know how things go.”
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Lakers’ Carlos Boozer open to stay with Lakers “if they have a chance to compete”

Carlos Boozer received praise from Byron Scott for his professionalism, despite reduced role. (Photo by John McCoy / Los Angeles Daily News)

Carlos Boozer received praise from Byron Scott for his professionalism, despite reduced role. (Photo by John McCoy / Los Angeles Daily News)

Amid a demoted role and even occasional benchings, Lakers forward Carlos Boozer mostly stayed silent during his frustrating 2014-15 season.

Until now.

Boozer had plenty to say after his exit meetings on Thursday with Lakers coach Byron Scott and general manager Mitch Kupchak. But they went beyond any frustrations surrounding his season.

“I told Byron and Mitch if they have a team that could compete, I’d love to come back,” said Boozer, who will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. “It’s tough to come back to a situation like this where we’re 21-61 at this part of my career. I still want to win one championship when I retire. If we have a chance to compete in the playoffs for a championship, I’d love to be a Laker.”

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