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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NBA free agency: Which team best suits Pau Gasol?

NBA free agency: Which team best suits Carmelo Anthony?

Lakers juggling attention on free agency, summer league

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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Jordan Clarkson still upset by being selected in second round

Nearly two weeks has passed, and Jordan Clarkson still seems bothered.

After both his agent and various mock drafts projected him as a mid first-round pick, Clarkson did not cement an NBA future until the second round. The Lakers scooped Clarkson up with the 46th overall pick, paying the Washington Wizards around $1.8 million to secure the former Missouri standout. And as he prepared for the Lakers’ Summer League team that plays in Las Vegas on Friday, Clarkson suggested elements beyond the Lakers’ championship tradition has fueled his hunger.

“I have a chip on my shoulder from the draft,” Clarkson said Monday at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo. “I feel like I was one of the better point guards in the draft, maybe the best. But falling out of the first round and being selected in the round. It’s not about the number being drafted. It’s about the fit. That’s where I get my chip from.”
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NBA free agency: Kent Bazemore met with Atlanta Hawks on Monday

Newly-aquired Lakers Kent Bazemore, left, and MarShon Brooks wait at the scorers table during a timeout in the first half, Friday, February 21, 2014, at Staples Center. (Photo by Michael Owen Baker/L.A. Daily News)

Newly-aquired Lakers Kent Bazemore, left, and MarShon Brooks wait at the scorers table during a timeout in the first half, Friday, February 21, 2014, at Staples Center. (Photo by Michael Owen Baker/L.A. Daily News)

Lakers reserve forward Kent Bazemore met with the Atlanta Hawks on Monday about possibly joining the team, according to a league source.

This marks the beginning of a pretty busy week for Bazemore, who has sparked a flurry of interest including the Lakers, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Golden State, Boston, Philadelphia and Utah. Meetings inquiring about Bazemore are also scheduled for Tuesday with the Spurs and for Wednesday with the Celtics. Bazemore also plans to meet with the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday. It is not clear if Atlanta presented Bazemore with an offer.

Bazemore is open toward fitting in more visits with other teams should any more teams express interest. But Bazemore is expected to finalize his decision on where he plays by either next Sunday or Monday, according to a person familiar with his thinking.

The Lakers like Bazemore after acquiring from before the deadline from Golden State as part of the Steve Blake trade. Bazemore averaged 13.1 points per game through 28 appearances and showed plenty of promise with his athleticism and defensive energy. But the Lakers did not extend a $1.1 million qualifying offer that would have made Bazemore a restricted free agent, ensuring the Lakers the right to match any offer sheet he receives. This move freed up a $3 million caphold while pursuing high profile stars, such as LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.

After having surgery on his right foot on April 16, Bazemore has since progressed toward stationary shooting drills and performing light jogging, walking and biking drills. Bazemore has not progressed toward any cutting or jumping drills, but he is expected to be fully healthy well before training camp starts in late September.

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Kendall Marshall finds Lakers’ offseason “amusing” and “entertaining”

NBA free agency: Jordan Farmar leaves the Lakers for the Clippers


Julius Randle’s Summer League start hinges on when he signs contract

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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Kendall Marshall finds Lakers’ offseason “amusing” and “entertaining”

n this file photo, the Lakers' Kendall Marshall makes an errant pass behind his head as Nuggets' Kenneth Faried defends him under the basket at the Staple Center in Los Angeles, CA on Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze file)

n this file photo, the Lakers’ Kendall Marshall makes an errant pass behind his head as Nuggets’ Kenneth Faried defends him under the basket at the Staple Center in Los Angeles, CA on Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze file)

Plenty of concerns swirl around Kendall Marshall surrounding his development and his Lakers’ future. But with the Lakers holding a team option on him and likely to keep him at least through training camp, Marshall can view the Lakers’ offseason with some detachment. Unlike most of his Lakers teammates, most of the proceedings will significantly affect his standing with the Lakers.

“It’s entertaining. It’s comedy to me to be honest with you,” Marshall said. “You see all the stuff that teams go through for players.”

That included the Lakers having a meeting last Thursday with New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony at the team’s practice facility in El Segundo. Shortly before the 2 1/2 hour meeting began, Marshall facetiously tweeted that the Lakers refused to let him in the pitch meeting that included executives Jim and Jeanie Buss, general manager Mitch Kupchak, former Lakers forward James Forward and executives with Time Warner Cable SportsNet and AEG.

“I knocked on the door and they said, ‘Go away,’” Marshall said. “I don’t know what’s going on out there.”
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Julius Randle’s Summer League start hinges on when he signs contract

Lakers' top draft pick Julius Randle said he can't wait to become a teammate of Kobe Bryant. (Brad Graverson / Staff Photographer)

Lakers’ top draft pick Julius Randle said he can’t wait to become a teammate of Kobe Bryant. (Brad Graverson / Staff Photographer)

A cloud of uncertainty hovering around Julius Randle has finally cleared. He has known for the past five days he will not need surgery to correct a screw in his right foot. His scheduled has also lightened. Randle no longer needs to worry about boarding flights for doctor visits and pre-draft workouts. He can start settling into his new role with the Lakers.

“I knew what the diagnosis was going to be as far as clearing me to play,” Randle said following a practice on Monday at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo. “But to finally have it over and have that whirlwind of going to places and having that over with, it’s definitely a relief and I can just play basketball.”

Well, not quite.

Randle cannot play for the Lakers’ Summer League team that starts Friday in Las Vegas until he signs a contract with the team. But the Lakers will hold out on that until they have clarity on whether they can sign Carmelo Anthony and subsequently entice Pau Gasol. With the Lakers already spending $23.5 million on Kobe Bryant and $9.7 million to Steve Nash next season, the Lakers would like to save every dollar.

“We’ll see. It’s out of my hands right now,” Randle said. “I’m ready to play whenever. It’s not really in my hands right now.”
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NBA free agency: Which team best suits Carmelo Anthony?

In this March 5, 2014, file photo, New York Knicks' Carmelo Anthony, right, leaves the floor as he drives around Minnesota Timberwolves' Dante Cunningham in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Minneapolis. A person with knowledge of the plans says the Knicks also planned to meet with Anthony on Thursday, July 3, 2014, in Los Angeles. Anthony was in Los Angeles to meet with the Lakers, who are among the teams hoping to convince the All-Star forward to leave New York. (AP Photo/Jim Mone, File)

In this March 5, 2014, file photo, New York Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony, right, leaves the floor as he drives around Minnesota Timberwolves’ Dante Cunningham in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Minneapolis. A person with knowledge of the plans says the Knicks also planned to meet with Anthony on Thursday, July 3, 2014, in Los Angeles. Anthony was in Los Angeles to meet with the Lakers, who are among the teams hoping to convince the All-Star forward to leave New York. (AP Photo/Jim Mone, File)

The billboards plastered with his likeness welcomed Carmelo Anthony when he stepped foot in Chicago and Houston. Championship trophies and a Hollywood-produced film greeted Anthony when he walked into the Lakers’ facility. Anthony heard every sales pitch, whether it came from a persuasive owner (Dallas’ Mark Cuban) or a persuasive executive (New York’s Phil Jackson) or a persuasive friend (the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant).

All of which leaves Anthony to answer one important question that will shape both his future and the NBA landscape. Which team will Anthony play for next season?

Anthony would not provide much insight after leaving the Lakers’ practice facility last week. “You know I can’t say anything,” Anthony said with a smile as he rolled down the window of his red Rolls Royce. To help Anthony sort out every sales pitch and persisting concern, below are a list of pros and cons from each team he visited during free agency.

Team: Chicago Bulls
Pro: Chicago could offer everything Anthony lacked during four frustrating seasons in New York. The Bulls have an elite ball handling point guard that could offer secondary scoring and crisp passes (Derrick Rose). The Bulls have a defensive minded coach (Tom Thibodeau). They have scrappy players that can provide all the hustle plays (Joakim Noah). That leaves Anthony with no little worry than to tap into what he does best: score and shoot a lot at a prolific rate.

Con:
Chicago lacks the cap flexibility to sign Anthony to a maximum-level contract. So it appears likely Chicago would either have to unload parts of its roster or facilitate a sign-and-trade. It appears doubtful the Knicks would become open in such a sign-and-trade since they want to keep Anthony. So that leaves Anthony potentially leaving for another team that gutted its roster simply to accommodate his arrival.

Outlook:
As currently constructed, Chicago has the best personnel to help Anthony pursue an NBA championship. Yet, question marks persist on whether Rose can stay healthy.

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Kobe Bryant spotted Sunday on UCLA campus

Kobe Bryant was spotted on UCLA's campus on Sunday. Photo by Brad Graverson/Daily Breeze file

Kobe Bryant was spotted on UCLA’s campus on Sunday. Photo by Brad Graverson/Daily Breeze file

Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Love shook the Twitter world by storm, and no the three have not teamed up on the Lakers.

Instead, social media went abuzz about the trio apparently working out together on Sunday at UCLA. Bruins officials also provided confirmation on Twitter that such a pickup game happened. Speculation ramped that this means Anthony will sign with the Lakers as an unrestricted free agent. Only one inconvenient detail: one part of the story is true.

A UCLA official said that Bryant was seen on campus on Sunday, but it is not clear if he played any pickup basketball. Anthony was seen working out at the UCLA campus last week, coinciding with his free agency meeting on Thursday with the Lakers at their practice facility in El Segundo. And Love did not step foot on the UCLA campus on Sunday at all.

So much for those UCLA officials suggesting otherwise on Twitter, those 140 characters reflecting the fact they were all non eyewitness accounts. It is also worthy to note that a flurry of NBA players compete in pickup basketball games on UCLA’s campus every day during the offseason.

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Lakers, Kobe Bryant know the path to rebuilding and frustration that comes with it


NBA free agency: Jordan Farmar agrees to two-year deal with Clippers


NBA free agency: Los Angeles Lakers, Pau Gasol mulling options

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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