Lakers’ Kobe Bryant describes Michael Jordan’s technique as “flawless”

LOS ANGELES, UNITED STATES: Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls (L) eyes the basket as he is guarded by Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers during their 01 February game in Los Angeles, CA. Jordan will appear in his 12th NBA All-Star game 08 February while Bryant will make his first All-Star appearance. The Lakers won the game 112-87. AFP PHOTO/Vince BUCCI (Photo credit should read Vince Bucci/AFP/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES, UNITED STATES: Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls (L) eyes the basket as he is guarded by Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers during their 01 February game in Los Angeles, CA. Jordan will appear in his 12th NBA All-Star game 08 February while Bryant will make his first All-Star appearance. The Lakers won the game 112-87. AFP PHOTO/Vince BUCCI (Photo credit should read Vince Bucci/AFP/Getty Images)

Kobe Bryant forever idolized Michael Jordan growing up, taking endless notes on his scoring, his competitive drive and leadership style.

So when Bryant first matched up against Jordan on Dec. 17, 1997, the Lakers’ star wanted to make the most out of it. Bryant did not act intimidated, knowing that demeanor neither matches his personality nor Jordan’s. Though the two bantered back and forth, Bryant did not just resort to trash talking.

Instead, Bryant asked Jordan during a stoppage of play how to find more space to shoot.

“Feel the defense with your legs,” Jordan told Bryant. “You can take advantage of that.”

Bryant called the feedback “very inspiring for me,” for reasons that included Jordan’s openness and, well, the source.

“I learned a lot about his game, a lot about how technically sound Michael was,” Bryant said in an interview with NBA TV aired Monday night. “It’s one thing to watch him play and then play against him. His technique was flawless. I wanted to make sure my technique was just as flawless.”
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Lakers’ Kobe Bryant had shoulder injury for “long time” despite feeling strong

"DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 30: Kobe Bryant (24) of the Los Angeles Lakers watches as the Denver Nuggets attempt a pair of free throws during the first quarter of action. The Denver Nuggets hosted the Los Angeles Lakers at the Pepsi Center on Monday, December 30, 2014. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post)"

“DENVER, CO – DECEMBER 30: Kobe Bryant (24) of the Los Angeles Lakers watches as the Denver Nuggets attempt a pair of free throws during the first quarter of action. The Denver Nuggets hosted the Los Angeles Lakers at the Pepsi Center on Monday, December 30, 2014. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post)”

The concerns persist on Father Time throwing Kobe Bryant some more lethal punches. Lakers coach Byron Scott continuously second-guessed and blamed himself for burdening his star player with too many minutes. Yet, it seems possible that Bryant’s season-ending injury to his right shoulder coincided with those two elements instead of having a direct correlation.

Bryant revealed in an interview aired on NBA TV on Monday evening that he nursed an injury to his right shoulder for “a long time,” possibly even more than when Scott reported Bryant mildly complained about pain in his shoulder during an otherwise forgettable practice sometime in December, 2014.

“I never actually got an MRI on it because the strength of my shoulder, even now, is good,” Bryant told NBA TV’s Ahmad Rashad about his torn rotator cuff. “It’s fine. I can shoot. I keep tearing it more and more. I have this pain a long time. I never got it looked at because the strength is so good.”
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Lakers’ Kobe Bryant believes he can adjust his game next season

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant reacts from the bench during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans, Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015, in New Orleans. The Pelicans won 96-80. (AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant reacts from the bench during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans, Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015, in New Orleans. The Pelicans won 96-80. (AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)

Kobe Bryant has said he has no interest in prolonging his NBA career if he cannot match his own expectations in still playing at an elite level. But the Lakers’ star has also said he wants to maximize his longevity, playing different styles and roles to squeeze out the immense talent that has already secured five NBA championships and a third-place standing on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.

How Bryant looks in the 2015-16 season in what likely marks the last of a 20-year career remains anyone’s guess. But Bryant maintained in an upcoming interview airing Monday night on NBA TV that he will evolve his game just fine after recently having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder.

“You adjust,” Bryant told NBA TV’s Ahmad Rashad. “It’s not like I look at the process of losing a few steps here or there, getting older and saying, ‘Damn, I wish I could do it.’ Of course, I wish I could do it. But the reality is I can’t.”
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Lakers’ Kobe Bryant recalls first matching up with Michael Jordan

Kobe Bryant craves any edge he can have against an opponent, let alone against his idol, Michael Jordan.

So when a a teammate asked him if he would like any feedback on how to match up him shortly before they first squared off nearly 19 years ago, well Bryant was all ears.

“Whatever you do,” the unnamed teammate advised, “don’t look him in the eye.”

To which Bryant responded, “Why in the hell would I NOT look him in the eye?”

Bryant shared that story as part of a preview for his MUSE set to air on Showtime on Feb. 28, presumably one of many insights Bryant provides on his career, let alone his connection to Jordan. Before he surpassed Jordan for third place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, Bryant stressed that the similarities went beyond the points they scored or the championships they collected.

It’s that Bryant and Jordan played against each other with the same ruthlessness that they would against anyone else.

“When I first came into the league, Michael was terrifying everybody,” Bryant said. “I was willing to challenge and learn from him. I wasn’t afraid to call him and ask him questions. He was open and spoke to me a lot and helped me a lot.”

All of which happened because Bryant remained intent on looking at Jordan in the eye.

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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’ Kobe Bryant inspired by Beethoven

As he begins his quest completing a lengthy rehab and navigating endless on how he will return from his third major injury in consecutive years, Kobe Bryant has taken inspiration from one key source.

Of course, Bryant studies basketball as he always does, trying to find different ways to remain effective to offset the diminishing returns stemmed from Father Time and injuries. Bryant surely feeds off the endless external doubt. But Bryant also shared, as a preview for his MUSE set to air on Showtime on Feb. 28, that he seeks inspiration from classical musician Beethoven.

Beethoven was not supposed to compose the Ninth Symphony by being legally deaf,” Bryant said. “Not being able to hear and being able to compose the Ninth Symphony than playing basketball on 1 1/2 legs.”

Or a debilitating shoulder, for that matter, leaving Bryant with another reason he feels determined he can navigate that challenge.

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Lakers’ Nick Young downplayed left foot injury

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’ Nick Young downplayed left foot injury

Portland Trail Blazers' Steve Blake (25) defends against Los Angeles Lakers' Nick Young (0) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Wednesday Feb. 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Greg Wahl-Stephens)

Portland Trail Blazers’ Steve Blake (25) defends against Los Angeles Lakers’ Nick Young (0) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Wednesday Feb. 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Greg Wahl-Stephens)

PORTLAND — The tape remained heavily wrapped around his left foot as Nick Young slowly put his shoes and socks on. But the familiar smile and his unrelenting defiance said it all.

The Lakers’ 102-86 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday at Moda Center may have ensured a six-game losing streak and a franchise-worst 11 consecutive road losses heading into the All-Star break. But the Lakers believe they avoided another negative development. Young downplayed the strained tendon in his left foot after landing awkwardly on the court following his foul on Portland guard and former teammate Steve Blake with .02 seconds left in the third quarter.

“I should be all right over the break,” Young said. “Just give it a little time to rest and get away.”

Young felt so sure about his foot that he remained adamant he would not stay in Los Angeles to receive extra treatment.

“Hell no, it don’t change anything,” Young said. “I’m not missing Hawaii.”

After all, Young sounded excited about going on a dolphin watching tour after he shared he vacationed last summer in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico when a dolphin nearly caused him to drown.

“I’m not missing dolphins,” Young said. “I’m gonna go get my revenge on some dolphins.”
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Lakers’ Jordan Clarkson says he “was terrible on defense” against Denver

Lakers#6 Jordan Clarkson is contested by "n21" and Nuggets#23 Jusuf Nurkic in the first half. The Los Angeles Lakers hosted the Denver Nuggets at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA February 10, 2015.  (Photos by John McCoy / Los Angeles Daily News)

Lakers#6 Jordan Clarkson is contested by “n21″ and Nuggets#23 Jusuf Nurkic in the first half. The Los Angeles Lakers hosted the Denver Nuggets at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA February 10, 2015. (Photos by John McCoy / Los Angeles Daily News)

These games in an otherwise relatively meaningless season all served to teach Lakers rookie point guard Jordan Clarkson a lesson.

He would see to what degree he could both hang with the NBA’s top point guards and refuse to back down from them. He would find out if he could evolve into a more natural playmaker after competing mostly as a combo guard at the University of Missouri. He would aim to control the pace after his unmatched speed sometimes threw himself and teammates more off balance than his opponents.

Yet, Clarkson reported experiencing his “highest” Welcome to the NBA moment since taking the Lakers’ starting point guard position three weeks ago when he was not even playing. It all happened when Lakers coach Byron Scott pulled Clarkson with 1:11 left in the Lakers’ eventual 106-96 loss on Tuesday to the Denver Nuggets at Staples Center.

Scott pulled Clarkson to the side and provided some brutal albeit honest feedback on his defense that contributed to Nuggets guard Ty Lawson posting a season-high 32 points on 12-of-20 shooting and 16 assists.

“He wasn’t guarding him,” Scott said afterwards. “He’s giving up way too much space and way too much respect.”

Scott had instructed Clarkson to force Lawson to use his left hand. Clarkson listened with that. But somehow as he made that adjustment, Clarkson failed to smother Lawson with the same intensity bees latch onto honey.

“I was terrible on defense tonight,” Clarkson said. “I ain’t going to lie. I’m going to go out there and compete and know that’s not going to happen again.”
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Lakers’ Byron Scott dislikes Jeremy Lin’s decision making in loss to Denver

Lakers#17 Jeremy Lin shoots, but can not hit a 3-pointer against Nuggets#3 Ty Lawson and Nuggets#00 Darrell Arthur in the 4th quarter. The Denver Nuggets defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 106-96 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA February 10, 2015.  (Photos by John McCoy / Los Angeles Daily News)

Lakers#17 Jeremy Lin shoots, but can not hit a 3-pointer against Nuggets#3 Ty Lawson and Nuggets#00 Darrell Arthur in the 4th quarter. The Denver Nuggets defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 106-96 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA February 10, 2015. (Photos by John McCoy / Los Angeles Daily News)

The praise poured out of Byron Scott’s mouth, his compliments on Jeremy Lin seeming as sweet as honey gushing out with the speed of a river stream.

“I’m a Jeremy Lin fan,” Scott said last summer, weeks before the Lakers would name him the head coach. “He plays the right way and plays extremely hard. He’s always in attack mode and pushes the ball up the floor as well as anybody in the league.”

But as Scott has coached Lin through a tortuous Lakers’ 2014-15 season, that sentiment has changed. The Lakers’ 106-96 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday at Staples Center featured Lin spoiling his seven-point effort on 3-of-5 shooting and four assists in 21 minutes off the bench by committing five of the team’s 10 turnovers. And it provided yet another avenue for Scott to air his season-long criticisms for how Lin runs the Lakers’ offense.

Scott chalked up Lin’s turnovers to “bad decisions,” noting that Lin set himself up to fail by throwing too many risky passes and dribbling into traffic. In what has become a broken record, Scott also expressed his dissatisfaction with how Lin has lived up to the Lakers’ coach’s expected job description.

“Get everybody in their sets and take care of the ball,” Scott said. “Just run the show. You don’t have to do too much. Just run the show.”

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Lakers’ Byron Scott adamant about fining Nick Young

Lakers#0 Nick Young shoots over Nuggets#7 J.J. Hickson in the 4th quarter. The Denver Nuggets defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 106-96 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA February 10, 2015.  (Photos by John McCoy / Los Angeles Daily News)

Lakers#0 Nick Young shoots over Nuggets#7 J.J. Hickson in the 4th quarter. The Denver Nuggets defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 106-96 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA February 10, 2015. (Photos by John McCoy / Los Angeles Daily News)

Back when he led the Lakers in scoring and his infectious personality became a bright spot in an otherwise dour season, Nick Young confidently sported black sunglasses in the locker room. A Lakers official warned him to take off his glasses to prevent the NBA from fining him for breaking the league’s mandated dress code during post-game interviews.

“Swaggy P don’t get fined,” Young said with laughter.

But a year after saying those words, Young has gotten fined. Plenty of times. He already has sparked $2,000 NBA-imposed fines each of his five technical fouls he accumulated through this season. Lakers coach Byron Scott also will fine Young around $1,500 for arriving to Staples Center about 68 minutes before tipoff of the Lakers’ eventual 106-96 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday at Staples Center.

“He was late,” Scott said afterwards. “Simple as that.”
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Lakers’ Nick Young recalls how a dolphin nearly killed him

"The Lakers’ Nick Young #0 drives to the hoop as the Magic’s Nikola Vucevic #9 defends during their NBA game at the Staples Center Friday, January 9, 2015.  (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)"

“The Lakers’ Nick Young #0 drives to the hoop as the Magic’s Nikola Vucevic #9 defends during their NBA game at the Staples Center Friday, January 9, 2015. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)”

A recent shooting slump and the Lakers’ recent struggles did not prove enough to remove Nick Young’s smile as he strolled into the Staples Center locker room.

Young sported a sweatshirt that said “Romantic,” an ode both to Valentine’s Day and his recent proclamation that he needs some “love” after experiencing a rough January. That entailed shooting 32 percent from the field, spraining his right ankle and falling into Byron Scott’s doghouse over his frustration about his attitude and work ethic.

Young then confirmed the story was true that his girlfriend and hip hop artist Iggy Azalea revealed on Twitter. Young is scared of dolphins. And the Lakers’ forward has good reason to feel that way after experiencing a bizarre episode during an unspecified vacation in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

“The dolphin tried to kill me,” Young said before the Lakers (13-38) hosted the Denver Nuggets (19-33) on Tuesday at Staples Center. “They were playing with everybody else. But when I started to ride the dolphin, for some reason he took me all the way to the bottom. He tried to drown me. But I jumped off the water, took off the life vest and stayed outside.”

Dolphins seem like a friendly bunch. Young is, too. So why did the two not mesh together?

“He was trying to get at Iggy, he was friendly kissing her,” Young joked. “He was trying to take my woman.

Reporters around Young laughed. But Scott soon interrupted the noise.

“You like getting fined, don’t you?” Scott asked Young from across the locker room.

“This is my normal time,” Young argued back. “I come in at 6:15 every day.”

“6 p.m.,” Scott answered back.

Young looked visibly annoyed and indicated he wanted to end the interview. But Young spoke for a minute-and-a-half more to talk about Brotherhood Crusade, a non-profit group that Young partnered with to bring 60 kids to the Lakers’ game.

“Growing up where I came from, it’s not the best community,” said Young, a former Reseda High standout. “I try to do what I got to do to help the youth be as Swaggy they can. It’s always a good time to give back no matter when it s good or bad. I try to stay positive.”

Even when a dolphin nearly kills him, or when a demanding coach gets on his nerves.

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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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