Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal express regret over feud

Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant gestures while arguing with a referee during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Sacramento Kings, Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant gestures while arguing with a referee during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Sacramento Kings, Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

The two disagreed often, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal squabbling endlessly on how they would co-exist with the Lakers.

But that tension has evaporated enough that Bryant appeared on O’Neal’s podcast set to be broadcast on Monday. According to excerpts that were played on ESPN Radio on Wednesday, both Bryant and O’Neal expressed regret over their squabbling through their eight-year tenure as teammates (1996-2004) before the Lakers traded O’Neal to the Miami Heat following the team’s NBA Finals loss to the Detroit Pistons.

Though the pair put their differences aside enough to help the Lakers to three consecutive NBA titles from 2000 to 2002, constant debate has ensued on whether Bryant and O’Neal could have won more together had their relationship improved.

“A lot of stuff was said out of the heat of the moment,” O’Neal said on “The Big Podcast With Shaq.” “I guarantee I don’t remember a lot of stuff that they said, because I changed my thought process of, you know what, we won three out of four, what the hell are you all talking about? This is not really even a story.”
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D-Fenders finalize coaching staff for 2015-16 season

The Lakes’ Development League affiliate, the D-Fenders, have finalized Casey Owens’ coaching staff.

His assistant coaches will include Paul Woolpert, Brian Walsh, Jermaine Byrd and Will Scott, all of whom have extensive experience in different capacities.

“I am pleased to have Paul Woolpert, Brian Walsh, Jermaine Byrd and Will Scott join us as assistant coaches for this upcoming season,” Owens said in a statement. “Paul and Brian are veteran coaches who have won multiple championships throughout their careers. Both have been head coaches in the past, and their experience, leadership, and expertise will be invaluable to the organization as we begin this new challenge. Jermaine and Will are D-League veterans, rising young coaches, and have worked extensively with Team USA and the Lakers, respectively. It’s a dynamic staff, and all of us are focused on bringing championship level basketball to El Segundo.”

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Lakers officially sign Michael Frazier to two-year deal

The Lakers officially signed undrafted Florida guard Michael Frazier on Tuesday.

The team described the contract in a release as a multi-year deal, but a league source familiar with the terms said Frazier will have a two-year deal worth $1.4 million.

Frazier is not assured a spot on the Lakers’ training camp roster, and only $50,000 of his rookie salary worth $525,000 is guaranteed. Frazier is slated to make $875,000 in the 2016-17 season, though that is not guaranteed.

Frazier made 43 percent of his 3-pointers during three seasons at Florida before playing for the Golden State Warriors’ summer league team.

The Lakers currently have 16 players under contract, including non-guaranteed deals for Tarik Black and Jabari Brown. The Lakers are over the NBA’s 15-man roster limit, but they can field as many as 20 players during training camp. If Frazier does not make the Lakers’ roster, he could play for the team’s Development League affiliate, the D-Fenders.

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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, Metta World Peace have couple conversations about possible return

Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace

The Lakers have considered bringing back a player that helped deliver them their last NBA championship.

Metta World Peace and the Lakers have had a “couple conversations” about the former Ron Artest returning to the team, according to a league source familiar with the situation. The source added that both sides have not reached any agreement regarding a deal with the 35-year-old World Peace and that nothing is imminent.

World Peace has trained extensively this offseason at the Lakers’ practice facility as well as in pickup games at the Drew League. During his visits with the Lakers’ facility, World Peace has worked out extensively with 2014 first-round pick Julius Randle.

The Lakers waived World Peace using the amnesty provision in the 2013 offseason. After the New York Knicks bought out his contract during the 2013-14 season, World Peace has since played professionally in China and Italy. But World Peace’s potential return to the Lakers could fill a few areas of need.

The Lakers are thin at the small forward position. World Peace’s presence would bolster a defensive unit that ranked 29th out of 30 NBA teams in total defense (105.3), defensive field-goal percentage (46.6) and 26th in fast-break points allowed (15.1). World Peace also represents the lone member along with Bryant of the Lakers’ 2010 NBA championship team, a role World Peace largely influenced in a Game 7 win over the Boston Celtics.

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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’ Ryan West named director of player personnel

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After serving various scouting positions with the Lakers for the past six years, Ryan West was promoted to be the team’s director of player personnel.

West had recently served as the Lakers’ assistant director of scouting and worked along with Lakers director of scouting Jesse Buss. West also worked as a scout with the Memphis Grizzlies for eight years.

West’s change in title is definitive, but the Lakers do not plan on making any official announcement until sometime in September. The Los Angeles Times first reported the news.

West is the son of former Lakers player and general manager Jerry West. He led the Lakers to an NBA championship in 1972, became a 14-time All-Star, 10-time All-NBA team member and won the 1969 Finals MVP during his NBA career with the Lakers from 1960-74. He then served head coaching and scouting positions before assuming the general manager role in the 1982-1983 season. That led to seven championships and an NBA executive of the year honor in 1995. Jerry West also secured Shaquille O’Neal in free agency and Kobe Bryant on a draft-day trade in 1996, which led to three NBA championships.

As for Ryan West, he and Jesse Buss played a role in the Lakers in the team acquiring Jordan Clarkson in a trade during the 2014 NBA Draft. The Lakers paid the Washington Wizards about $1.8 million for their 46th pick to select Clarkson, who was then named on the NBA’s all-rookie first team.

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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 begins shooting drills

Even if his torn rotato cuff causes Kobe Bryant to miss the rest of the 2014-15 season, don’t think this is how the Lakers superstar will go out. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer)

Even if his torn rotato cuff causes Kobe Bryant to miss the rest of the 2014-15 season, don’t think this is how the Lakers superstar will go out. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer)

A present for his 37th birthday arrived roughly 24 hours early for Kobe Bryant, a slight consolation to an otherwise frustrating year riddled with injuries.

Bryant revealed on his Instagram account that he began shooting drills on Saturday, roughly seven months after tearing a rotator cuff in his right shoulder that required season-ending surgery.

“First day back on the court shooting! Bout Damn time!!” Bryant wrote on his Instagram account before including hashtags for shoulderrecovery, 20thseason, drinkbodyarmor and lakers.

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TWC SportsNet panel on if Kobe Bryant can stay healthy next season

Lakers Kobe Bryant watches the game during first half action at Staples Center Sunday, March 8, 2015. ( Photo by David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News )

Lakers Kobe Bryant watches the game during first half action at Staples Center Sunday, March 8, 2015. ( Photo by David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News )

The possibilities seem endless for Kobe Bryant, the Lakers’ star keeping all options regarding his future open in case he can delay Father Time from defeating him again.

Would Bryant play beyond his current contract that ends after next season? Perhaps. Does Bryant want to play in the 2016 Rio Olympics to secure a third gold medal? Sure thing. Could Bryant even extend his basketball elsewhere overseas? It’s a possibility. First, he has to prove he can stay healthy for the entire 2015-16 NBA season, something he has failed to do for three consecutive years.

But well before Bryant will navigate that treacherous course, former NBA star and TNT analyst Charles Barkley offered biting skepticism. The commentary both illustrates the challenging question marks Bryant must answer and the unfiltered opinions Barkley often offers.

“His best days are behind him,” Barkley said last week on Sirius XM Radio. “I hear these fools on TV, talking about, ‘Kobe’s going to get healthy.’ Old people don’t get healthy; they die. Old people don’t get healthy. Father Time is undefeated. … You can get in great shape in the summer, because you’re playing against air. Air doesn’t hit back.”

That prompted a discussion Wednesday night on Time Warner Cable’s Access SportsNet where host Chris McGee, analyst Dave Miller and I offered our own two cents on if Bryant can prove Barkley wrong. Bryant sure things he can, tweeting, “My reaction to critics is the same as my reaction in the vid #excuseme.” Bryant then linked to a video where he paid no mind two years ago to a Milwaukee Bucks mascot unexpectedly moving in front of him.

But both Miller and I offered various variables that make this offer complicated. How much will Bryant rest in practices on back-to-backs? Can Bryant defer more to his teammates? Will either of these approaches even ensure he stays healthy? Watch here for more, including Miller successfully getting me to flinch at a basketball nearly being tossed my way, something Bryant refused to do against Matt Barnes five years ago.

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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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TWC SportsNet panel on how the Lakers do next season

Chris Paul of the Clippers keeps his dribble away from Kobe Bryant of the Lakers during a 107-102 Clippers win at Staples Center on Jan. 4, 2013, at Staples Center. (Harry How/Getty Images)

Chris Paul of the Clippers keeps his dribble away from Kobe Bryant of the Lakers during a 107-102 Clippers win at Staples Center on Jan. 4, 2013, at Staples Center. (Harry How/Getty Images)

At this point, every NBA team remains undefeated and no one has suffered any significant injuries.

But that has hardly prevented anyone from expressing skepticism regarding the Lakers’ fortunes for the 2015-16 season. The latest entailed ESPN predicting that the Lakers will finish 12th in the Western Conference with a 26-56 record. That marks a relative improvement from last season’s 21-61 record in what marked the team’s worst mark in its 67-year-old franchise history. Yet, that prediction also represents a drop off from the Lakers finishing 12th last season in the Western Conference.

That sparked a conversation on Wednesday night on Time Warner Cable’s Access SportsNet. Then, host Chris McGee, analyst Dave Miller and I analyzed all the variables detailing what will contribute to either a successful or failed 2015-16 season for the Lakers.

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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’ D’Angelo Russell not considered favorite to win rookie of the year

Lakers' D'Angelo Russell drives by Minnesota Timberwolves' Tyus Jones during the first half of NBA summer league game in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Lakers’ D’Angelo Russell drives by Minnesota Timberwolves’ Tyus Jones during the first half of NBA summer league game in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

The Lakers’ consolation prize for another missed playoff appearance came in the form of drafting D’Angelo Russell. The 6-5, 195-pound guard out of Ohio State could both transform the Lakers into the modern NBA with a court vision and playmaking presence the organization has not seen since Magic Johnson.

Whether that becomes enough for Russell to bring back Showtime seems uncertain. But according to results on an NBA.com rookie survey, the majority of Russell’s class suggest that will not happen right away. At least not enough for Russell to win the NBA rookie of the year award.

A 41.9 percent plurality believe that honor will belong to Philadelphia center Jahlil Okafor, the elite big man the Lakers passed up in favor of Russell. Other favored candidates ahead of Russell include Detroit’s Stanley Johnson (19.4 percent) and Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns (12.9 percent). Russell finished in a tie for fourth place, sharing a 9.7 percent vote with Denver guard Emmanuel Mudiay.

If these survey results prove correct, a debate could emerge on whether the Lakers should have selected Okafor. After all, most NBA talent evaluators consider Okafor the most offensively skilled big man despite his poor free throw shooting. Yet, Okafor’s expected dominance next season could partly trace to Philadelphia’s barren roster.

Meanwhile, Russell will have to adjust sharing ball handling duties with Jordan Clarkson and Kobe Bryant (18.2 percent of rookies consider him their favorite player, behind Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant at 21.2 percent). After averaging 11.8 points on only 37.7-percent shooting and logging more turnovers (5.2) than assists (3.2) through five summer league games, Russell has also admitted he has to temper his decision making and pace.

Still, a 40 percent plurality voted Russell as the best playmaker in this year’s rookie class with Minnesota’s Tyus Jones (17.1 percent), Mudiay (14.3 percent) and Toronto’s Delon Wright (8.6 percent) following suit. For what it’s worth, Russell also finished third behind Brooklyn’s Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Charlotte’s Frank Kaminsky for most funniest.

Whether Russell makes the Lakers smile will depend on if he matches expectations as a playmaker and proves his contemporaries wrong about his rookie of the year award prospects.

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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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Chinese e-commerce giant signs Kobe to wide-ranging deal

Kobe Bryant’s international star got a little brighter today. Maybe more than a little.

Kobe Inc., has reached an agreement with a Chinese e-commerce giant to release Bryant’s autobiographical documentary and create a series of Kobe-branded products to distribute to its 350 million active buyers.

Alibaba Group Holding Limited will exclusively release Kobe Bryant’s Muse through its video platform, Tmall Magic Box, available beginning Aug. 8 for $1.29 (or 8 yuan). To promote the documentary, which first aired in the U.S. on Showtime in February, Alibaba Group and Sina will collaborate with Kobe Inc., to create a new social media platform that will connect “China’s young people directly to Kobe and his philosophies.”

“I believe there is power in understanding the journey of others to help create your own,” Bryant said in a press release. “This narrative is an intimate look at who I am as a person, not what I am. My dream is that others are inspired by my personal story and create epic life stories of their own.”
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