Lakers intrigued with Larry Nance Jr/Julius Randle combination

Laker Larry Nance Jr.,  ,7, fights for a rebound against Utah's Jeff Withey ,24, during the 3rd quarter, at the Staples Center. Utah won 86-74.  Los Angeles  , Calif., Sunday, January,10, 2016.         (Photo by Stephen Carr / Daily Breeze)

Laker Larry Nance Jr., ,7, fights for a rebound against Utah’s Jeff Withey ,24, during the 3rd quarter, at the Staples Center. Utah won 86-74. Los Angeles , Calif., Sunday, January,10, 2016.
(Photo by Stephen Carr / Daily Breeze)

A sluggish shooting performance and a lack of available players left Lakers coach Byron Scott trying something he had considered for nearly a week.

Scott featured Larry Nance Jr. and Julius Randle on the floor together in the Lakers’ 86-74 loss on Sunday to the Utah Jazz at Staples Center, adding a dynamic between the two beyond competing for minutes at the power forward spot.

“I loved it personally,” Nance Jr. said. “That adds youth and athleticism on the court. You got two guys that want to run the break and want to crash the glass offensively and get every defensive rebound. Personally, I love it and look forward toward playing on the same unit as him more. Hopefully we get to see it.”

Will Nance Jr. receive his wish? It seems likely as Scott has expressed in recent days the consideration to feature Nance Jr at the small forward spot, while Randle mans the power forward position. But will it happen as quickly as when the Lakers (8-31) host the New Orleans Pelicans (11-25) on Tuesday at Staples Center? That’s less certain.

A combination of Kobe Bryant (right Achilles), D’Angelo Russell (right ankle) and Brandon Bass (right eye) might heal from their respective injuries. Perhaps the Lakers recall Tarik Black and Ryan Kelly from the D-Fenders. Scott described the Nance Jr. and Randle pairing as only “okay” for legitimate reasons.

The pairing played 16 minutes together and netted an offensive rating of 88.2 and a defensive rating of 101.3, which is slightly better than the Lakers’ season-averages on offense (81.7) and defense (107.7).

“Watching them out there, they looked pretty good,” said Scott, though he planned to watch more tape. “I thought they did a good job of communicating and being active. They could’ve been more active on both ends of the floor. But for the first time for those guys to be out there together, I thought it was okay.”

Randle and Nance Jr. offered some positive signs once they began playing together with 8:47 left in the second quarter. Before Randle left the game with 4:29 left in the second quarter to get a bone bruise in his right foot treated, Nance Jr.’s presence gave Randle enough space for an open 5-foot shot. Once the pair played together again with 4:02 left in the third quarter, Randle had plenty of room to convert on a reverse layup while Nance Jr. patrolled the paint. In the fourth quarter, Randle and Nance Jr. finished at the rim on consecutive possessions.

“We both competed and we both going to go out there and play hard. It was fun,” Randle said of the pairing. “For the first time, it wasn’t bad. We have to build chemistry and stuff like that. But we’ll be fine.”

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Lakers’ Julius Randle plays mostly effective despite injury to right foot

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Lakers’ Julius Randle plays mostly effective despite injury to right foot

The Lakers' Julius Randle, left, and Utah's Gordon Hayward battle for a loose ball during the fourth quarter Sunday at Staples Center. Stephen Carr - Staff Photographer

The Lakers’ Julius Randle, left, and Utah’s Gordon Hayward battle for a loose ball during the fourth quarter Sunday at Staples Center. Stephen Carr – Staff Photographer

The bone bruise in Julius Randle’s right foot bothered him. So did the persistent whistles seemingly every time he imposed his 6-9, 250-pound frame inside.

But after struggling with his producting in recent games, Randle found a way to reverse the tide. The Lakers’ 86-74 loss to the Utah Jazz on Sunday at Staples CEnter may have featured Randle logging 11 points on only 5-of-12 shooting and seven rebounds, far from the double-double performances both Lakers coach Byron Scott and Randle expect on a consistent basis. But it marked a steep improvement from Randle’s four-game slide where he had averaged three points on 13 percent shooting.

“It was the same like everybody else,” Randle said. “We all made mistakes. We missed shots or whatever. We have to take it a day at a time and we’ll get better.”

Randle already did, showing better production at both finishing at the rim and canning the occasional mid-range jumper. Although Randle went to the locker room with 4:29 left in the second quarter because of his bruised foot stemmed from a workout on Saturday, he returned and played “like any other day” after Lakers trainer Gary Vitti put more padding in his shoe.

“He played well tonight. The only difference was he was able to get to the basket and make a few shots,” Scott said. “He’s still been in attack mode and he’s still rebounding the ball and doing all those little things for us. I think we sometimes tend to focus on his scoring or him going 1-for-5 or 1-for-4, whatever that might be. But for me, it’s the whole game, not just his scoring.”

Still, Scott had said in recent days that Randle’s recent struggles partly stemmed from his defensive awareness and ability to relax. Randle seemed more at ease against the Jazz, except for when he was called for fouls. After averaging 3.5 fouls in the previous four games, Scott had said he had talked to him about improving his reaction time.

“You just have to play through it,” Randle said. “Things are going to happen throughout the course of the game. You shouldn’t let it stop you from playing. You just got to keep playing hard.”

Randle mostly managed to do that on Sunday through a poor shooting night, something he struggled to elude from only days earlier.

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Lakers field concerns with offense, injuries to Kobe Bryant, D’Angelo Russell in loss to Jazz

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

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Kobe Bryant, Brandon Bass out vs Utah

Lakers’ Kobe Bryant holds the ball during Friday's 117-113 loss to Thunder. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/LA Daily News)

Lakers’ Kobe Bryant holds the ball during Friday’s 117-113 loss to Thunder. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/LA Daily News)

For once, the Lakers offered a glowing report about Kobe Bryant’s health without couching the prognosis with caution.

“He’s fine,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said with a smile after morning shootaround on Sunday at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo.

A few hours later, that is far from the case. The Lakers ruled Kobe Bryant out for Sunday’s game against the Utah Jazz at Staples Center, and the reason has nothing to do with the sore right shoulder that kept him out of three games last week. Instead, the Lakers said Bryant has a right Achilles strain. Scott said Bryant had alerted him he felt some pain in his right Achilles in the fourth quarter of Friday’s game against Oklahoma City before continuing to play. Bryant had surgery on his left Achilles tendon two years ago.

“I totally forgot he had mentioned that,” said Scott, who was then reminded later Sunday afternoon by Lakers trainer Gary Vitti. “It didn’t even cross my mind today. He shrugged and said, ‘I’m okay.'”

Meanwhile, the Lakers also ruled out forward Brandon Bass, who was diagnosed diagnosed with a corneal abrasion in his right eye after it was poked in Friday’s game against Oklahoma City. D’Angelo Russell also won’t play with Scott reporting he has had trouble planting and cutting.

Lakers rookie forward Anthony Brown will start in Bryant’s place, while Scott said he will feature “different faces” in only a 10-man rotation. Lakers forwards Tarik Black and Ryan Kelly also won’t be available because they were recently assigned to the D-Fenders, the Lakers’ Development League affiliate.

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Lakers’ Byron Scott decides against further lineup changes…for now

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Lakers’ Byron Scott decides against further lineup changes…for now

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Byron Scott had little to smile about. The Los Angeles Lakers played the Denver Nuggets in a regular season NBA game at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. 11/3/2015 (photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles News Group)

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Byron Scott 11/3/2015 (photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles News Group)

The designated day off following a slate of back-to-back games did not just give the Lakers time to rest. It also gave Lakers coach Byron Scott time to reflect on whether he would make any changes both to his starting lineup and his overall rotation.

And the verdict says…

“I like the way we’re playing from both units,” Scott said. “I’m going to stick with where it is right now.”

In other words, Kobe Bryant, Lou Williams, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr. and Roy Hibbert will start at least for the next five games. Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell will still come off the bench whenever he heals a right ankle injury that will keep him out for Sunday’s game against the Utah Jazz at Staples Center. But after posting a career-high 27 points on 11-of-16 shooting and four assists in Thursday’s loss in Sacramento, what else does Russell need to do to reclaim his starting job back?

“If he can score 27 in the next five or six games,” Scott joked. “I don’t want to put that pressure on him. Then he might try to come out and shoot every time. It wasn’t just about him scoring. It was his aggressiveness and attention to detail and being at the right place on the defensive end. All of those things accumulated him into him having the game that he had. The scoring just made it look better. If he keeps playing like that, there will be a time.”
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Lakers’ D’Angelo Russell out against Utah with sprained right ankle

Lakers rookie point guard D'Angelo Russell will miss Sunday's game vs Utah because of a sprained right ankle.  (John McCoy/Staff Photographer)

Lakers rookie point guard D’Angelo Russell will miss Sunday’s game vs Utah because of a sprained right ankle. (John McCoy/Staff Photographer)

Once morning shootaround ended on Sunday, Lakers rookie point guard D’Angelo Russell walked off the practice floor at a normal pace. It became notable simply because he played only eight minutes in Friday’s loss against Oklahoma City before the Lakers decided to sit him.

All of which made Lakers coach Byron Scott optimistic about Russell’s playing status for when the Lakers (8-30) host the Utah Jazz (16-20) on Sunday at Staples Center.

“I think he’s okay,” Scott said.

Moments later, Lakers trainer Gary Vitti informed Scott that Russell had experienced more discomfort in his right ankle and will not play against the Jazz. It has become a dicey situation for Russell, who landed awkwardly on his right ankle late in Thursday’s loss in Sacramento where he posted a career-high 27 points on 11-of-16 shooting and four assists in 29 minutes off the bench.

But Scott has openly gushed about Russell’s efforts to stay on the floor. He played for about an extra minute in Sacramento before leaving for the locker room. He completed a series of cutting drills before lasting only eight minutes against Oklahoma City. Russell completed Sunday’s morning shootaround, though there weren’t any strenuous cutting drills that tested his ankle.

“It showed me a lot of heart and toughness for a young kid,” Scott said. “I was very impressed. I was proud of him to just try it. It bodes well for him and for his teammates. They knew he had an ankle sprain, but he came out and gave it a go. At the end of the day, he couldn’t go. But the fact that he tried is big.”
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Lamar Odom transferred to local rehab facility

Former Lakers forward was recently transferred to a local hospital to continue his recovery.  file photo

Former Lakers forward was recently transferred to a local hospital to continue his recovery. file photo

After three months he was hospitalized in critical condition at a Nevada brothel, former Lakers and Clippers forward Lamar Odom has progressed enough in his rehab that he was recently transferred to a private rehab facility. Odom has recently stayed near Cedars-Sinai Medical Center near Beverly Hills.

JaNean Mercer, Odom’s aunt, described his nephew’s progress in a statement as a “miraculous recovery.”

“Lamar continues to make remarkable strides and we are asking that you continue to respect our
privacy,” Mercer said in the statement released by family spokesperson, Alvina Alston. “Again we thank all of you greatly. Your support has been paramount in helping to uplift us during these past few difficult months.”

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Lakers’ Kobe Bryant saw early signs of Russell Westbrook’s potential

http://www.dailynews.com/sports/20160108/la-lakers-loss-to-thunder-features-kobe-Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, right, tries to pass the ball as the Lakers’ Jordan Clarkson defends. Hans Gutknecht – staff photographerbryant-takin

http://www.dailynews.com/sports/20160108/la-lakers-loss-to-thunder-features-kobe-Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, right, tries to pass the ball as the Lakers’ Jordan Clarkson defends. Hans Gutknecht – staff photographerbryant-takin

The experience threw Kobe Bryant off, and the reasons went beyond seeing Russell Westbrook dash across the speed of lightning. Well before Westbrook fulfilled this job description by posting 36 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists in the Lakers’ 117-113 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday at Staples Center, Bryant saw these qualities even before Westbrook starred at UCLA.

That led Bryant to think two things.

“‘Who the hell is this kid?'” Bryant recalled thinking during a pickup game.

Then, Bryant wondered why no one else seemed to notice despite being what he called “a relentless competitor.”

“I had never even heard of him. So it was shocking to me sometimes to kind of look at scouts and see what the hell they’re looking at,” Bryant said. “This guy was this way when he’s 16 years old.”

Since then, Westbrook has won a gold medal in the 2012 London Olympics, appeared in four NBA All-Star games and won last year’s MVP award. Bryant has often said Westbrook reminds him of himself because of his competitiveness, scoring streak and indifference toward public opinion. All of which Bryant said he saw before mostly anyone else.

“He cared and competed and guys that compete and it means a lot to them, they’re going to get better no matter what,” Bryant said. “It’s not a surprise to me one bit.”

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Kobe Bryant believes Russell Westbrook shares his competitive personality

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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D’Angelo Russell: “Ya’ll ain’t seen nothing yet” after having career game

SACRAMENTO — The ball splashed into the basket seemingly every time Lakers rookie point guard D’Angelo Russell shot the ball. He ran the offense and called his own plays while his teammates eagerly obeyed. He proved he deserved to finish out a close game.

The Lakers did not receive the bottom-line result they wanted, a 118-115 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Thursday at Sleep Train Arena marking a second consecutive loss. But the Lakers (8-29) received everything they wanted from Russell, who posted a career-high 27 points on 11-of-16 shooting and four assists in 28 minutes off the bench. But just as nearly everyone around him gushed about his growth, Russell saw an incomplete picture.

“Ya’ll ain’t seen nothing yet,” Russell said. “That’s all I’m going to say. They got lucky. The world hasn’t seen anything yet.”

As Russell said those words, what has he envisioned in his mind?

“You got to see,” Russell said, smiling. “I know I want I can do. Ya’ll just have to see.”

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Lakers’ Kobe Bryant leads NBA All-Star voting in second returns

Lakers' Kobe Bryant gives a thumbs up before an NBA basketball game against the Charlotte Hornets in Charlotte, N.C., Monday, Dec. 28, 2015. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Lakers’ Kobe Bryant gives a thumbs up before an NBA basketball game against the Charlotte Hornets in Charlotte, N.C., Monday, Dec. 28, 2015. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

The only thing that will keep Kobe Bryant out of the 2016 NBA All-Star game will become his health. Otherwise, Bryant looks to be assured of making his 18th and final All-Star appearance on Feb. 14 in Toronto.

Bryant leads all NBA players in All-Star balloting with a league-leading 1,262,118 votes in the second returns announced on Thursday by the NBA. That marks a considerable lead over Golden State’s Stephen Curry (925,789 votes), Cleveland’s LeBron James (636,388) and Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant (616,096).

The Clippers’ Chris Paul ranks third among Western Conference points guards ((268,672), while the Clippers’ Blake Griffin ranks fifth among the Westeron Conference’s front-court players (298,212).

Fans vote for five starters, while the 30 NBA coaches will vote for reserves. As of now, the Western Conference starters would include Curry, Paul, Bryant, Durant and Golden State’s Draymond Green (332,223).

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Divac glad he didn’t obstruct Bryant’s path to Lakers

Lakers’ Byron Scott says he has a “great relationship” with Julius Randle

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 says he has a “great relationship” with Julius Randle

Los Angeles Lakers forward Julius Randle #30 is blocked by Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green #23 in the first half. The Los Angeles Lakers Played the Golden State Warriors in a regular season NBA game at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA 1/5/2016 (photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles News Group)

Los Angeles Lakers forward Julius Randle #30 is blocked by Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green #23 in the first half. The Los Angeles Lakers Played the Golden State Warriors in a regular season NBA game at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA 1/5/2016 (photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles News Group)

SACRAMENTO — The two men sat next to each other, talking and laughing as if they were best friends. But that hardly marked the images Lakers coach Byron Scott and Julius Randle showed in recent days.

Scott criticized Randle’s defense and pouting for being taken out midway through the fourth quarter of Sunday’s win over Phoenix. The following day, Randle questioned why Scott singled him out in front of the team and to reporters afterwards.

Scott has stood by his statements that the 21-year-old Randle needs to “grow up.” But Scott has attempted to patch things over in recent days. Scott initiated a conversation with Randle on Wednesday to go over his constructive criticisms. During Thursday’s morning shootaround at Sleep Train Arena, Scott and Randle had an extensive conversation that appeared friendly.

“If you want to believe all the reports out there, we have a terrible relationship,” Scott said. “But if you want to know the truth, we have a great relationship.”
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