LeBron James announces he’s returning to Cleveland Cavaliers

In this file photo, Miami Heat forward LeBron James, left, passes around Los Angeles Lakers guard Wesley Johnson in Los Angeles, Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2013. James and Carmelo Anthony, both free agents, had not yet decided which team or teams to sign with as of Thursday evening, leaving the Lakers in a holding pattern. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

In this file photo, Miami Heat forward LeBron James, left, passes around Los Angeles Lakers guard Wesley Johnson in Los Angeles, Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2013. James and Carmelo Anthony, both free agents, had not yet decided which team or teams to sign with as of Thursday evening, leaving the Lakers in a holding pattern. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Apparently, Cleveland rocks.

LeBron James announced through an article written in Sports Illustrated that he will return to the Cleveladn Cavaliers after famously leaving them four years ago and announcing in a one-hour television special that he is “taking his talents to South Beach.” But after guiding the Miami Heat to four consecutive NBA Finals and two NBA championships, James will return to his hometown and try to fill a similar job description.

“When I left Cleveland, I was on a mission,” James wrote. “I was seeking championships, and we won two. But Miami already knew that feeling. Our city hasn’t had that feeling in a long, long, long time. My goal is still to win as many titles as possible, no question. But what’s most important for me is bringing one trophy back to Northeast Ohio. I always believed that I’d return to Cleveland and finish my career there.”

The Lakers showed enough determination to acquire James that general manager Mitch Kupchak and senior vice president of Business Operations Tim Harris flew to Cleveland last week to meet with James’ agent, Rich Paul. But the Lakers never met with James personally. The Lakers also hosted a 2 1/2-hour meeting last week for New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, whom accounts described as receptive toward the sales pitch. That entailed the Lakers talking about their 16 NBA titles, cap space, Kobe Bryant’s improved health and numerous business ventures for Anthony and his wife, La La, a reality television star. But a league source familiar with Anthony’s thinking reiterated on Thursday he has not decided where he will play next season. There is a prevailing sense, however, that Anthony would make a decision after James.

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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at mark.medina@langnews.com

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Julius Randle’s status unclear for Lakers’ summer league opener

Kentucky forward Julius Randle, right, poses for a photo with NBA commissioner Adam Silver after being selected seventh overall by the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2014 NBA draft, Thursday, June 26, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Kentucky forward Julius Randle, right, poses for a photo with NBA commissioner Adam Silver after being selected seventh overall by the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2014 NBA draft, Thursday, June 26, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

It becomes more and more possible Julius Randle may not suit up for the Lakers’ summer league opener on Friday in Las Vegas. No, the Lakers’ rookie prospect did not experience any setbacks with his foot. Instead, uncertainty looms on whether Randle will sign his contract in time to suit up for today’s game against the Toronto Raptors at 3 p.m. PST.

The Lakers and Randle have agreed not to sign his contract until clarity emerges surrounding the playing future of LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. The Lakers want to maximize any purchasing power they have in landing either or both of the two prospects, and holding off Randle’s contract would give the Lakers an additional $500,000 in savings.

The Lakers obviously would have preferred for James and Anthony to make their decisions earlier so they could formulate how they will build their roster with or without them. The Lakers also wished Randle could have squeezed in an additional practice before playing. But the Lakers remain flexible with Randle’s debut, a league source familiar with the team’s thinking saying Randle could sign his contract as late as an hour before tipoff and still play. Randle has already traveled with the Lakers’ summer league team in case that scenario happens.

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LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony indecision leaves Los Angeles Lakers in holding pattern


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James Worthy cites “La La” as critical factor in Lakers’ sales pitch to Carmelo Anthony

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at mark.medina@langnews.com

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James Worthy cites “La La” as critical factor in Lakers’ sales pitch to Carmelo Anthony

Carmelo Anthony, left, formerly of the New York Knicks and being guarded by Indiana's Paul George, reportedly will meet with Lakers officials this week. (Seth Wenig / The Associated Press)

Carmelo Anthony, left, formerly of the New York Knicks and being guarded by Indiana’s Paul George, reportedly will meet with Lakers officials this week. (Seth Wenig / The Associated Press)

The Lakers made sure they left nothing unsaid when they hosted Carmelo Anthony last week for a meeting. The NBA championship trophies in Jeanie Buss’ office provided a nice backdrop. Kobe Bryant’s continuous conversations with Anthony may have reinforced their friendship and assuaged concerns about Bryant’s health and how they would play together.

But former Lakers forward James Worthy also said his message partly included the importance of Anthony’s wife, “La La,” a noted reality television start. Just imagine the possibilities for her if Anthony moved out to Los Angeles.

“I told Carmelo, I said, I wish your wife were here because she’s more popular than you in Los Angeles. We’re trying to recruit her, because if you can get LaLa, Carmelo has no say,” Worthy recently told SLAM. “So, we’re trying to get her to Hollywood. Hollywood is right here. She can do whatever she wants”
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Photo gallery of Kobe Bryant’s basketball camp at UC Santa Barbara

Kobe Bryant welcomes youngsters to the Kobe Basketball Academy at UCSB, Wednesday, July 9, 2014. The five-day camp focuses on the Flex offense, the Princeton offense and the Triangle offense. (Photo by Michael Owen Baker/Los Angeles Daily News)"

obe Bryant welcomes youngsters to the Kobe Basketball Academy at UCSB, Wednesday, July 9, 2014. The five-day camp focuses on the Flex offense, the Princeton offense and the Triangle offense. (Photo by Michael Owen Baker/Los Angeles Daily News)”

You read about Kobe Bryant gushing about possibly playing with Carmelo Anthony at his summer basketball camp in UC Santa Barbara. You read about Bryant’s patient outlook and positive feedback on the Lakers’ rebuilding approach. You read about Bryant offering an encouraging update on his health. You read about Bryant leaning on Lower Merion coaches and players to help out with his camp.

But pictures always tell a 1,000 words. And in the case of LANG’s photo gallery of the Bryant’s basketball camp at UC Santa Barbara, plenty of his images tell various stories.

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Follow L.A. Daily Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at mark.medina@langnews.com

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Kobe Bryant gushes about Carmelo Anthony, Buss family, Byron Scott, recovery

The Lakers' Kobe Bryant. (John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News file)

The Lakers’ Kobe Bryant. (John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News file)

SANTA BARBARA — A frenetic atmosphere engulfed Kobe Bryant as he greeted eager campers, watched an Argentina-Holland World Cup match decided by penalty kicks and, of course, addressed an uncertain offseason.

Bryant stayed cool through it all, oozing a persona that had contradicted his on-court snarl and mirrored his confidence amid adversity.

What if the Lakers’ grand experiment in pursuing both LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony fail to work?

“It would be fine,” Bryant said Wednesday at his eighth annual basketball camp at UC Santa Barbara. “It would be more than fine.”

Instead, Bryant lauded the Lakers for being “extremely aggressive” ever since free agency began. The Lakers became one of five teams along with the Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks and New York Knicks to host Carmelo Anthony for a sales pitch meeting. The Lakers’ 2 1/2 meeting with Anthony featured a dose of heavy hitters in executives Jim and Jeanie Buss, general manager Mitch Kupchak, vice president of business operations Tim Harris and executives to AEG and Time Warner Cable SportsNet that detailed both their rebuilding plan and marketing opportunities. While Bryant met with Anthony afterwards, Kupchak and Harris reportedly flew to Cleveland to meet with James’ agent, Rich Paul, for the following day.

“They’re going for it,” Bryant said. “There are no if’s, and’s or buts about it. They’re being extremely aggressive. They have solid concepts and plans to get it done and are putting out all the stopts to make sure we can put a contender on the floor next year. That’s all you can ask for.”
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Source says Carmelo Anthony hasn’t decided future

In this file photo, New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, right, drives to the basket against Sacramento Kings defender Derrick Williams during an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, March 26, 2014. Anthony is now a free agent. (AP Photo/Steve Yeater)

In this file photo, New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, right, drives to the basket against Sacramento Kings defender Derrick Williams during an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, March 26, 2014. Anthony is now a free agent. (AP Photo/Steve Yeater)

When will Carmelo Anthony decide where he will play?

As of Wednesday night, a source close to Anthony insisted “there is no decision yet.” The source then added it is “still up in the air.”

Neither the Lakers nor the Knicks have been informed on where Anthony will play. But a New York Daily News report quoted an unnamed friend who said Anthony plans is expected to announce announce on Thursday that he re-signing with the Knicks.

Still, there is a sense that Anthony has held off any decision to see what Miami Heat forward LeBron James will do. He reportedly met with Heat president Pat Riley on Wednesday at his basketball camp in Las Vegas.

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at mark.medina@langnews.com

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Kobe Bryant stays connected with Lower Merion partly through basketball camp

SANTA BARBARA — The stories roll off the tip of Gregg Downer’s tongue, rehashing both new and old tales on how a young Kobe Bryant began his legacy over 18 years ago at Lower Merion High School in suburban Philadelphia.

Downer, who has coached the Aces ever since Bryant played there, glowed about how Bryant needed to win every shooting drill or sprint. He marveled at how Bryant attended Lower Merion at 6 a.m. everyday for a workout. Downer cited numerous examples on how Bryant played through numerous injuries, including a recently broken nose that required him wearing a plastic mask that he eventually ditched. Downer laughed telling how Bryant’s competitiveness oozed so much that he once chewed out a benchwarmer after he mistakenly failed to give him the ball for the last shot of a scrimmage.

All of these examples should sound familiar to the Lakers, who have seen Bryant guide them through five NBA championships with an unyielding work ethic, a demanding leadership style and a strong injury threshold. They also explain how Bryant led Lower Merion High School to a state championship title in 1996, its first in 53 years, and broke Wilt Chamberlain’s Southeastern Pennsylvania high school scoring record (2,883 to 2,252). Yet, in a visit to Philadelphia earlier this year, it became clear that Bryant’s legacy at his alma mater went beyond his achievements. His lasting power also partly stems from maintaining close relationships with those in the Aces program.

So when Bryant hosts his eighth basketball camp beginning Wednesday at UC Santa Barbara, it should come as no surprise that he will lean on his alma mater. A 11-member delegation representing the Aces program will help run Bryant’s camp, according to Bryant’s former teammate and Lower Merion spokesman Doug Young. That list will include Aces coaches (Downer, varsity assistant Adam Miller, JV coach Will Carter, strength coach Rob Jones), former teammates (Jermaine Griffin, Guy Stewart, Young), current players (sophomore Noah Fennell) and future prospects (Stevie Payne, Darryl Taylor).

“It’s a great way to connect with him in a low key environment than in the season when he’s in town for a couple of hours,” Young said of Bryant. “We really treasure those opportunities to sit down and have meaningful conversations with him outside of the limelight where it’s a lot like what it was back in the day.”
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Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim likes Kobe Bryant-Carmelo Anthony pairing, but wonders if it is enough

Carmelo Anthony, left, formerly of the New York Knicks and being guarded by Indiana's Paul George, reportedly will meet with Lakers officials this week. (Seth Wenig / The Associated Press)

Carmelo Anthony, left, formerly of the New York Knicks and being guarded by Indiana’s Paul George, reportedly will meet with Lakers officials this week. (Seth Wenig / The Associated Press)

The two men step on the court, grab hold of the ball and immediately put on an offensive clinic. Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony score from seemingly anywhere – in the post, behind the perimeter and close to the basket. They create their own shots with fundamental footwork, deceiving moves and sheer will. And they fulfill this job description with lots and lots of shooting.

So should Anthony join the Lakers, how would he and Bryant operate together knowing there is only one ball?

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim provided an answer after seeing Anthony help win win his lone national championship in 2003 and serve as an assistant coach when Bryant and Anthony played on two U.S. Olympic teams in 2008 and 2012.

“I think it would work,” Boeheim told ESPN Radio’s Colin Cowherd. “They are both great offensive players. I think obviously you can have two great offensive players on a team, whether it’s [Dwyane] Wade and LeBron [James] or whether it’s [Kevin] Durant or [Russell] Westbrook. I think those guys can play. They’ll each get their opportunity. It’s a 48 minute game, they’ll each get their opportunity. I think it takes some of pressure off each guy. If Kobe is in good shape and healthy, he’s going to get his 20-25 points,and I think Carmelo will as well.”

Yet, Boeheim, who famously is known for watching plenty of NBA and college basketball fans out of his own enjoyment, suggested the Bryant-Anthony pairing is not a match made in heaven. Not because Boeheim does not believe Bryant and Anthony can carry over their friendship and chemistry stemmed from their Olympic run. Instead, Boeheim wonders if the pairing will provide enough to put the Lakers back into the championship contention after finishing last season with the worst record in L.A. franchise history.

“If they’re playing together, it helps them make a good team. But do they have enough guys around them to win in the West?” Boheim said. “That would be awfully difficult in the emergence of Portland, the Clippers, Oklahoma City and the Spurs. That’s a tough way to go in the playoffs.”
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NBA free agency: Jordan Hill sparks Miami Heat’s interest

Lakers' Jordan Hill is wrapped by by Suns P.J Tucker during first period action  at Staples Center Sunday, March 30, 2014.  ( Photo by David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News )

Lakers’ Jordan Hill is wrapped by by Suns P.J Tucker during first period action at Staples Center Sunday, March 30, 2014. ( Photo by David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News )

The Miami Heat have much more pressing concerns on keeping LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. But the Heat have also expressed interest in acquiring Lakers forward Jordan Hill, according to a league source familiar with the discussions.

Hill has sparked interest from other teams, including the Lakers, Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets. But Hill’s free agency interest has not gone beyond what one source called “dialogue” and no meetings with teams are currently scheduled.

There is a sense that Hill represents one of many NBA free agents whose future depends on how the dominoes fall surrounding where both James and Carmelo Anthony choose as their free agency destination. The Heat have also already acquired forward Josh McRoberts from Charlotte.

Despite posting a career-high 9.7 points and 7.8 rebounds in the 2013-14 season, Hill grew frustrated last season with the Lakers under Mike D’Antoni’s system that featured him having a fluctuating role partly because of his preference for a so-called “small ball” system. Hill became more amenable toward returning to the Lakers. But his future seems uncertain there.

The Lakers are also waiting for James and Anthony to make their decision. They also drafted Kentucky power forward Julius Randle, a bruising post player who could take away Hill’s minutes. Hill’s preference for a three or four year deal also contradicts the Lakers’ preferences for small-term contracts to maximize cap flexibility for future offseasons.


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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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NBA free agency: Which team best suits Pau Gasol?

In this file photo, Los Angeles Lakers' Pau Gasol sits on the bench in the second half during an NBA basketball game. Gasol's future with the Lakers is uncertain as both parties entertain other possibilities amid NBA free agency. (Keith Birmingham Pasadena Star-News file)

In this file photo, Los Angeles Lakers’ Pau Gasol sits on the bench in the second half during an NBA basketball game. Gasol’s future with the Lakers is uncertain as both parties entertain other possibilities amid NBA free agency. (Keith Birmingham Pasadena Star-News file)

In this time of heightened stress and uncertainty, Pau Gasol has attempted to clear his mind. As shared by his Twitter account, the Lakers forward shared that he has listened to classical music including Chopin’s greatest hits to help him relax. Gasol has enjoyed the ocean breezes along Redondo Beach. He has become both appreciative of his blessings and curious about his future.

Another instance of Gasol trying to stay level headed amid trade rumors? Hardly. Gasol has become a coveted man ever since becoming an unrestricted free agent last week, leaving him both humbled and cautious on how he should proceed.

“The process continues,” Gasol tweeted recently. “Intense days with a lot to think about & consider.”

As Gasol suggested, these options do not yield any simple answers. Below is a look at all those variables that has prompted Gasol to dive into deep reflection.
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