How will Lakers handle Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash on back-to-backs?

The Lakers' Kobe Bryant in street clothes during their game against the Heat at the Staples Center December 25, 2013. Bryant may not return to play this season. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)

The Lakers’ Kobe Bryant in street clothes during their game against the Heat at the Staples Center December 25, 2013. Bryant may not return to play this season. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)

Despite their contrasting personalities and different skillsets, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash have a connective thread beginning from entering 1996 NBA draft and eventually retiring with a sure lock for a Hall of Fame nomination.

Amid Bryant’s thirst for scoring and Nash’s enjoyment out of passing, both have maximized their careers by perfecting those particular skills with versatility and creativity. They have done so through sheer work ethic, through mastering fundamentals and through overcoming too many injuries to count. Yet, both Bryant and Nash failed last season in translating their devotion to training, dieting and rehabbing into actually staying healthy.

Nash appeared in only 15 games because of persisting nerve issues in his back that emerged through seemingly any measure of physical contact with an opponent. Bryant played in only six games after a seven-month rehab on his left Achilles tendon coincided with a fractured left knee. The Lakers have labeled Bryant and Nash as fully recovered, but how will they manage the two veterans in the 2014-15 season?

That marked one of many topics Time Warner Cable Access SportsNet host Chris Geeter, analyst Dave Miller and I addressed Wednesday to preview the schedule release of the Lakers’ 2014-15 season. We discussed the possibility that both Bryant and Nash could sit out on the second night of the 16 sets of back-to-back games this season, a slight dropoff from the 19 sets of back-to-back games the Lakers played last season.

It seems likely Nash would continue that formula considering the Lakers immediately adopted that route with him last season. But how about Bryant? Both former coaches Mike Brown and Mike D’Antoni talked in recent seasons about needing to limit Bryant’s minutes both to ensure his long-term health and ease the burden on his workload. But overlooking Bryant’s 29.2 minutes he averaged last season in only six games, considering the playing time in previous seasons, including the campaigns in 2011-12 (38..5) and 2012-13 (38.6). Clearly, the ideal for Bryant not to log so much playing time often does not comform to the short-term pressures the Lakers face.

That is why Miller argued how Lakers coach Byron Scott handles Bryant’s workload will mark his biggest challenge in handling a potentially lengthy rebuilding process.

So what should it be? Should the Lakers play Nash and Bryant conservatively, hoping their long-term health would maximize the Lakers’ chances at winning even if their absence creates additional challenges? Or do the Lakers need to establish some comfort level in the standings before taking such measures?

RELATED:

How will Kobe Bryant-Dwight Howard season-opening showdown turn out?


Lakers guard Steve Nash sheds light on recovery, ‘soccer showdown’ and 2014 World Cup


Kobe Bryant provides positive report about his health

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

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

How will Kobe Bryant-Dwight Howard season-opening showdown turn out?

Houston's Dwight Howard will square off against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers in the team's season opener Oct. 28 at Staples Center. Photo credit: ANDY HOLMZMAN — STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Houston’s Dwight Howard will square off against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers in the team’s season opener Oct. 28 at Staples Center. Photo credit: ANDY HOLMZMAN — STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

The tension rose at times Kobe Bryant shot the ball and Dwight Howard scoffed at his role. The arguments escalated in an infamous mid-season meeting in Memphis in which Bryant confronted Howard both about Howard’s indirectly critical comments about Bryant and his dissatisfaction about how the Lakers featured him. The philosophical differences emerged again when Howard believed the Lakers did not credit him enough for playing through recent back surgery, while Bryant and others believed Howard’s attitude only perpetuated his struggles.

Yes, the Bryant and Howard duo featured plenty of drama, something that paled only to the contentious relationship Bryant had with Shaquille O’Neal. But unlike that pairing, Bryant and Howard never won an NBA title together. Instead, Bryant tore his left Achilles tendon three games before the 2012-13 regular season ended and Howard pulled a disappearing act in the Lakers’ first-round sweep to the San Antonio Spurs. Howard then quickly jetted to the Houston Rockets as a free agent.

Incidentally, the Lakers’ season opener Oct. 28 against the Houston Rockets at Staples Center will mark the first time Bryant and Howard took the floor together since Bryant injured his Achilles on April 13, 2013. Considering their acrimonious feelings toward each other, how will the Bryant and Howard showdown materialize?

That became one of several topics Time Warner Cable Access SportsNet host Chris Geeter, analyst Dave Miller and I addressed Wednesday to preview the schedule release of the Lakers’ 2014-15 season. As much as Bryant will stay more focused on the actual game, I wouldn’t be surprised if Bryant tried to dunk over Howard in the same fashion the Lakers’ star did during Howard’s rookie season in Orlando nearly a decade ago. Miller dismissed my theory, and hilarity ensued as we provided some spirited albeit light-hearted give and take.

But what say you? How will the Bryant-Howard dynamic play out? Will they exchange pleasantries, scowl at each other or just pass up any chance to interact? Will either Bryant and Howard attempt to show up the other? Or will both players remain fixated on just helping their team win? More importantly, which team will come out on top?

RELATED:

Can the Lakers no longer attract high-level free agents?


Lakers travel to play Pau Gasol, Bulls for Christmas; Clippers to spend holidays at home


ESPN predicts Lakers will finish 12th in Western Conference

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

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Lakers to play in Chicago on Christmas Day

Kobe Bryant has missed nearly the entire 2013-14 season. His return to health is key to the Lakers' immediate future. But it's anyone's guess whether he can overcome the latest injuries and be effictive again. Photo by David Crane/Staff Photographer

Kobe Bryant has missed nearly the entire 2013-14 season. His return to health is key to the Lakers’ immediate future. But it’s anyone’s guess whether he can overcome the latest injuries and be effictive again. Photo by David Crane/Staff Photographer

For once, the Lakers might actually experience a White Christmas. They have played on Christmas Day for 15 consecutive seasons, a testament both to the Lakers’ past success and unmatched brand even amid recently tumultuous years. But instead of playing in the friendly confines of Staples Center, the Lakers will spend their Christmas on the road for the first time since the 2005-06 season. Then, the Lakers will face the Chicago Bulls, facing Pau Gasol for the first time since leaving the Lakers this offseason. Incidentally, the Lakers will then travel to Dallas the following night.

The Lakers will also host Chicago at Staples Center on Jan. 29 at Staples Center, which would likely feature a tribute to Gasol for helping them win NBA championships in 2009 and 2010. That reception will juxtapose the inevitable boos Lakers fans will shower Houston’s Dwight Howard (opening night on Oct. 28) two years after leaving the purple and gold. Or the possible feeling of disappointment when Carmelo Anthony comes to Los Angeles wearing a New York Knicks uniform (March 12) and when LeBron James and Kevin Love don a Cleveland Cavaliers outfit instead of the purple and gold get up (Jan. 15). Speaking of the Cavaliers, Byron Scott will also face the former team he coached for three seasons on Feb. 8, bringing a unpleasant reminder of his 64-166 record there through three seasons following James’ initial departure.
Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

ESPN predicts Lakers will finish 12th in Western Conference

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love, left, drives against Los Angeles Lakers forward Jordan Hill, right, during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game in Minneapolis, Friday, March 28, 2014. The Timberwolves won 143-107. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love, left, drives against Los Angeles Lakers forward Jordan Hill, right, during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game in Minneapolis, Friday, March 28, 2014. The Timberwolves won 143-107. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)

So much has changed for the Lakers this offseason, a flurry of activity in the past four months keeping them just as busy during an otherwise tumultuous year.

Mike D’Antoni resigned, and four months later, Byron Scott became the head coach. The Lakers have reported Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash to feel healthier. Some players left (Pau Gasol, Jodie Meeks, Jordan Farmar, Kent Bazemore, Chris Kaman). Some players stayed (Nick Young, Jordan Hill, Xavier Henry, Wesley Johnson, Ryan Kelly). Some newcomers arrived (Jeremy Lin, Julius Randle, Ed Davis, Carlos Boozer).

But it appears ESPN sees those moves as nothing more than rearranging the chairs of a sinking ship, a panel of media memberss collectively predicting the Lakers will finish 12th in the Western Conference. That marked the same pre-season ranking the Lakers received last season. Despite public outcry from Kobe Bryant and the rest of his supporting cast, it turns out that ranking proved too generous. The Lakers eventually finished with a 27-55 mark, putting them 14th in the Western Conference and earning the unenviable title of a team that holds the worst record in L.A. franchise history.
Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Kobe Bryant hands-on with Nike clinic in China

The screaming elation for Kobe Bryant heightened with each highlight-reel jumper and cross over he performed. Bryant’s mere presence also lifted a nation that seeks inspiration from his overflowing talent and work ethic.

But as Bryant recently spent time in Shanghai, China as part of the Nike RISE campaign, it appears his impact at the clinics go beyond his celebrity and skills. He also spends time teaching them critical skills to revamp their game. The videos highlighted in this post show Bryant providing instruction in various facets.

Bryant showed one player how to operate in the post using his footwork and various counter moves. Bryant demonstrated to another player how to master playing with a defensive stance. Of course, Bryant also relished competing one-on-one with several players, both to showcase his superiority and provide a blueprint on how to win.

“I wasn’t the fastest one,” Bryant said in a video interview. “I wasn’t the most athletic one. So I had to learn, deal with and play with what I had. That really helped my skill level. Then eventually I grew. And eventually I became faster. Then I had the skills to go along with that.”

Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Byron Scott believes Kobe Bryant will “surprise a lot of people this year”

Kobe Bryant

The accomplishments on Kobe Bryant’s basketball resume provides every indication he can stay on the mountaintop of greatness. His five NBA championships provides various flash points in his career that involved temporarily co-existing with another star (Shaquille O’Neal) and morphing into a more established leader amid a dependable supporting cast (Pau Gasol). Bryant’s fourth-place ranking on the NBA’s all-time scoring list shows his consistent ability to score in too many ways to count. His extensive pain threshold suggests the same.

Yet, Bryant enters the 2014-15 season with fair skepticism on how he will play namely because of the unprecedented challenges that await him. How does he stay healthy after suffering significant injuries to his left Achilles tendon and left knee that kept him sidelined last season for all but six games? How does Bryant return to an elite level after not playing a competitive basketball game in nearly nine months? How does Bryant find any degree of balance in maximizing his play without putting too much burden on his body?

Lakers coach Byron Scott remains mindful of those concerns. But in a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aSeJBzJwlwM" interview with Fox Sports Live, Scott conveyed optimism about Bryant’s fortunes after seeing a recent series of his individual workouts.

“It fuels his fire when people are doubting him,” Scott said. Championships fuel his fire. Kobe is going to surprise a lot of people this year.”

Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Five things to watch for in Byron Scott’s coaching tenure with Lakers

Former Lakers standout Byron Scott and the team came to an agreement for him to become the team's next head coach on Saturday. (chris Chambers / Getty Images)

Former Lakers standout Byron Scott and the team came to an agreement for him to become the team’s next head coach on Saturday. (chris Chambers / Getty Images)

It took three months before clarity ever emerged on who would coach the Lakers. They narrowed in on a familiar face in Byron Scott, whose four-year, $17 million deal with a team option on his last season was officially signed on Monday.
“After an extensive and thorough search, we’re proud to welcome Byron back to the Lakers family as our next head coach,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said in a statement. “Byron has proven himself at the highest levels of the game as both a player and a coach in his almost 30 years of NBA experience. His leadership skills and track record for success make him the ideal person to lead this franchise forward.”

That may bring closure to a frenetic offseason in which the Lakers drafted Julius Randle, struck out on LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, lost Pau Gasol and added a flurry of players to fill a once vacant roster. But what’s next in the Lakers trying to restore their prominence after finishing last season with the word record in L.A. franchise history? Below are five things to watch for pertaining to Scott’s role in turning this proud organization around.

1. Scott already has plenty of equity.

Lakers fans already like Scott for reasons going beyond not being named Mike Brown or Mike D’Antoni. Scott has extensive ties with the Lakers stemmed from winning three NBA championships during the Showtime Era and playing 10 of his 14 NBA seasons here. That puts Scott at an immediate advantage in winning over the public and having organizational even amid a rebuilding period.

“I am ecstatic to once again be a Laker and to have the opportunity to work alongside Mitch and the Buss family,” Scott said in a statement. “I know firsthand what it takes to bring a championship to this city, and as someone who both grew up in L.A. and played the majority of my career here, I know how passionate and dedicated our fans are. I will give everything I have to fulfill the championship expectations that our supporters have for us, and that we have for ourselves.”
Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Lakers officially sign Wesley Johnson

The Lakers agreed to a one-year, $1 million deal with Wesley Johnson Rick Bowmer / The Associated Press

The Lakers agreed to a one-year, $1 million deal with Wesley Johnson Rick Bowmer / The Associated Press

The Lakers officially signed Wesley Johnson to a one-year deal worth $1 million.

Johnson averaged 9.1 points per game on 42.6 percent shooting last season, production that featured both impressive performances and disappearing acts. But the Lakers were willing to resign Johnson for reasons including his age (27), athleticism and being a good teammate.

“I’m happy to welcome Wesley back to our team and am excited to see him develop further after taking such great strides last season,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said in a statement. “Wesley possesses elite athleticism, and has the potential to develop into an excellent defender.”

RELATED:

Steve Nash confirms this will be his last NBA season

Watch best of Kobe Bryant going one-on-one

Lakers guard Steve Nash sheds light on recovery, ‘soccer showdown’ and 2014 World Cup

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

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Steve Nash confirms this will be his last NBA season

Steve Nash talks about the disappointing season and his future following his Lakers exit interview at their training facility in El Segundo, CA on Thursday, April 17, 2014. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze)

As he has labored tirelessly through back pain for the last two years, Steve Nash all but confirmed the obvious when looking ahead on what the last year of his $9.7 million with the Lakers will mean for his NBA future.

“I think this is my last season,” said the 40-year-old Nash in a video posted by Sport TV. But I still love to play, practice and work on my game. I’m going to spend hopefully many many years living this life without basketball. It’ll be nice to play one more year.”
Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Watch best of Kobe Bryant going one-on-one

The venues, the opponents and the circumstances all change. But Kobe Bryant’s approach toward playing one-on-one doesn’t.

Bryant could play at his basketball camp. Or in China. or an actual NBA game. As the video edited by Max Funke shows above, Bryant will keep the same approach. He will still look either to drive to the basket or post up. Bryant will talk trash, whether chastising a camper for wearing And-1 shorts over Nike gear or bragging to an NBA contemporary that he cannot be stopped. And of course, Bryant will ensure that he wins every time.

RELATED:

Byron Scott says he agrees to terms to be Los Angeles Lakers’ next coach


Kobe Bryant competes with fan in a game of H-O-R-S-E

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

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email