Julius Randle’s itinerary for NBA All-Star weekend did not exactly go as planned.
The Lakers’ second-year forward surprisingly did not make the cut for the Rising Stars Challenge despite leading his sophomore class in double doubles (21). But he at least made some impact during All-Star weekend by appearing in a Mountain Dew commercial to commemorate the event along with Chicago’s Jimmy Butler and Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook.
Randle landed an endorsement deal with the soda company earlier this year that include posing for promotional materials and making future promotional appearances.
Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell addressed during All-Star weekend what it’s been like playing with Kobe Bryant. Photo by Steve McCrank/Staff Photographer
TORONTO — The cheers represent the soundtrack to Kobe Bryant’s farewell tour. The endless video tributes provide the highlights. Bryant’s nostalgia as he reflects on his accomplished 20-year NBA career tell the story.
But there marks more to Bryant’s final NBA season. The Lakers (11-44) are competing more for lottery picks than playoff positioning. Bryant experiences fluctuating trends with his health and shooting accuracy. And Bryant has gone through this while playing with a roster that were mostly toddlers when he first entered the NBA. That issue becomes more complicated amid Bryant’s commanding offensive presence both with scoring and handling the ball.
“Honestly, it’s hard. It’s not easy,” Lakers rookie point guard D’Angelo Russell said during NBA All-Star weekend. “He’s a guy that’s earned every shot he’s taken and earned every minute he’s given. So you feel like being a rookie, but you feel like you’ve worked to be in his
position so early. But you’ve just got to be patient.”
Relative to the rest of his career, Bryant has shown more patience. He smiles after he makes mistakes. He encourages teammates after they make their own. Although Bryant said the losing still eats at him, the Lakers’ 37-year-old star still appears happy afterwards.
“He eased up on us a little bit because it’s his last year,” Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson said. “But he pushes us every day. On the court, you might see him get after us. He’s always trying to get the best out of us.” Continue reading →
Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant prior to a NBA basketball game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Staples Center on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2015 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News)
TORONTO — The legacy grew every time Kobe Bryant shot the ball. Bryant’s game-winning shots showed his desire both to seize the moment and perform under pressure. Bryant’s misses revealed how his approach bordered on confidence and stubbornness.
So when Bryant makes his 18th and final NBA All-Star appearance on Sunday at Air Canada Centre, the perfect last chapter for the Lakers’ 37-year-old would arguably play out this way. Bryant picks up his fifth All-Star MVP award to break Bob Pettit’s record. Bryant scores a lot of points to ensure he remains for now the league-leading scorer in NBA All-Star history. Bryant makes a game-winning shot and his teammates lift him up.
Sounds like quite the storybook ending, no? Bryant apparently doesn’t think so.
“My storybook ending would be to enjoy this experience and help these young guys get there,” said Bryant, who repeated he would to play somewhere around 10 minutes as opposed to the 27.71 minutes he averaged in 14 All-Star appearances. “I’ve had good experiences and I’ve had MVP’s here. These opportunities don’t come around often for the young guys. It’s important for them to take advantage of the moment while it’s here. I’m here to help them.”
Yet, Bryant did not sound thrilled about the idea that his Western Conference teammates could hep him. Bryant reported dismissively questioning Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry after the NBA’s reigning MVP told him, “I have a lot of assists for you.”
“I said, ‘No. What are you doing? You’re a shooter. You grew up watching me. What the hell are you talking about that you want to pass me the ball at an All-Star game. Are you crazy?”
TORONTO — The words struck an emotional chord for Kobe Bryant as he heard his idol and mentor gush about his talent.
Michael Jordan, the Hornets owner, spoke eloquently about Bryant’s talent and competitiveness in a tribute video broadcast last month in Charlotte as part of Bryant’s farewell stop. But the gestures did not stop there. Jordan also presented Bryant with his entire Nike catalog, which includes 30 of Jordan’s various shoes in brilliant white. The gift brought Bryant full circle considering he wore Jordan’s shoes both as a child and at varying points of his career, including the Jordan III and Air Jordan VIII during the 2002-03 season.
All of which sparked a close moment when Bryant and his wife, Vanessa, attended Jordan’s NBA All-Star party on Saturday night.
“‘I told him you have no idea how much I worked to try to find a pair of shoes when I was in high school,” Bryant said. “Now I have the whole collection. It’s pretty sweet.”
So sweet that Bryant maintained he will “make room” to ensure he has enough space to feature the collection in his Newport Beach residence. Meanwhile, Nike said it also accompanied the gift with an alternate full set of the Air Jordan line in black. Those shoes will be auctioned off via eBay For Charity beginning on Saturday and ending on Sunday at 12 p.m. EST.
“That’s amazing,” Bryant said of Jordan’s gift. “He and I have had such a beautiful relationship. When I first came into the league, he’s really been a big brother to me throughout this entire journey.”
Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant waves to the crowd after receiving his Al-Star jersey prior to a NBA basketball game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Staples Center on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2015 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News)
TORONTO — Every move that Kobe Bryant made sparked hysteria as cameras clicked and flashed endlessly. His mere presence caused several to chant his name. Every word that Bryant said sparked smiles. Every joke Bryant told preceded a laugh track.
Usually Bryant creates this atmosphere after he scores a basket for the Lakers. This time, Bryant sparked a stir amid the estimated 150 journalists, both real and imagined, that surrounded him during his media availability at a local hotel as part of NBA All-Star weekend.
Bryant’s press conference started with alleged reporters clapping upon his arrival. Then, several things happened that very few of his contemporaries experienced. Bryant offered a linguistics lesson by answering questions both in English, Spanish and Italian for nearly 27 minutes. A few international media members greeted Bryant with retirement gifts. One Toronto-based reporter handed Bryant a personalized “Thank you” card. A Japanese reporter gave Bryant a piece of artwork that depicted the Lakers’ 37-year-old star as a samurai.
Somewhere in between, Bryant talked about basketball, including the fans selecting him for his 18th and final All-Star game during his 20th NBA season on Sunday at Air Canada Centre.
“I’m looking around the room and seeing guys that I’m playing with that are tearing the league up that were four in my first All-Star game,” Bryant said. “How many players can say they played 20 years and actually have seen the game go through three or four generations? It’s not sad at all. I’m really happy and honored to see this.”
CLEVELAND — The bullet pass went straight toward the most sensitive spot in D’Angelo Russell’s body. It left the Lakers’ rookie point guard falling over and balled up in pain.
Russell lay motionless on the floor after Cleveland forward LeBron James accidentally humbled him in the most embarrassing way imaginable in the third quarter of the Lakers’ 120-111 loss to the Cavaliers on Wednesday at Quicken Loans Arena. Russell eventually stood up. He then winced some more. Russell then played the rest of the game.
“I’m all right,” Russell said nearly an hour later. “It was unexpected. I know if I expected it, it would’ve hurt more than it did. It was tough. Every guy knows the feeling.”
But Russell also offered a different feeling. He admitted he had watched the replay and laughed over the sequence. So much that Russell smiled when he compared the incident toward what a referee experienced in the movie, “The Longest Yard.”
“Laugh about it now,” Russell said. “Then two months from now, somebody else will have something to laugh about.” Continue reading →
Even if he is not starting, Lakers rookie point guard D’Angelo Russell said that Byron Scott allows him to play through his mistakes. Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles News Group
CLEVELAND — The nostalgia swept over Lakers coach Byron Scott as he reflected on coaching Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving during his first two NBA seasons.
“I thought he was the most talented point guard I had,” Scott said. “He didn’t have any weaknesses offensively.”
The realism hit Scott as he evaluated Lakers point guard D’Angelo Russell with 30 games left in his rookie season.
“He still has a whole lot to room to learn about this league and about playing that position,” Scott said. “But the thing I like about him is he’s willing to learn and willing to accept the criticism to try to get better.”
When the Lakers (11-43) visit the Cleveland Cavaliers (37-14) on Wednesday at Quicken Loans Arena, Irving and Russell will symbolize how both evolved both as a player and how they have viewed playing under Scott.
Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant grimaces against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first half of a NBA basketball game at Staples Center on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2015 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News)
CLEVELAND — His life seemingly flashed before Tyronn Lue’s eyes, all because he managed to do something few have ever pulled off. Lue blocked Kobe Bryant’s shot.
In his second NBA season with the Lakers (1999-2000), Lue played in a five-on-five scrimmage that in most circumstances would have suggested Bryant would pull off an endless highlight reel. Lue played on the reserve unit with Devean George, Brian Shaw, Mark Madsen and Slava Medvedenko. Bryant represented the starters that also included Shaquille O’Neal and Derek Fisher.
But as Bryant drove baseline for a layup, Lue recalled cutting from the elbow down toward the paint to block his dunk attempt against the glass. George then made a layup to seal the win. Shaw then teased Bryant for Lue’s scrimmage-defining block.
“He went crazy. Kobe wanted to fight me at first,” said Lue, who is now the Cleveland Cavaliers coach. “He wanted to play one-on-one after practice. He said, ‘We’re going to play one-on-one, me and you.’ I said, ‘No, I’m not playing you one-on-one.’ He was so mad. Then after that, every day we stepped onto the court and he just went after me every single day. It was crazy.”
Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant shoots a free-throw against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the second half of a NBA basketball game at Staples Center on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2015 in Los Angeles. Los Angeles Lakers won 119-115. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News)
INDIANAPOLIS — The issue often made Kobe Bryant upset, as the Lakers’ guard saw his star teammate struggle with something so basic.
Former Lakers center Shaquille O’Neal rarely could make a shot at the free-throw line. The same frustration emerged for Bryant when Dwight Howard struggled with the same job description during their lone season together with the Lakers three years ago.
But even if his former centers’ struggles cost the Lakers some games, Bryant strongly argued against NBA commissioner Adam Silver abolishing the so-called “Hack a Shaq” tactic. That entails intentionally fouling poor free-throw shooters to send them to the foul line.
“That sets a horrible example for the kids, honestly,” Bryant said. “You can’t protect guys because they can shoot free throws. They’re getting paid a lot of damn money to make a free throw, dude. I think it sets a bad precedent. I wouldn’t change it.”
Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant prior to a NBA basketball game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Staples Center on
Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2015 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News)
INDIANAPOLIS — The chirping constantly flooded Jordan Hill’s ears as he went up and down the court. He could hear Kobe Bryant yelling in practice and during games about anything imaginable.
He would bark out instructions to teammates. He would pull teammates to the side and point out various tactics. He would talk trash to opponents. He would do the same thing to teammates in practice.
All of which Hill said he loved during his 3 1/2 seasons with the Lakers before signing with the Indiana Pacers this offseason as a free agent.
“He’s bringing out the best out of his teammates and he wants the best out of his team,” Hill told Los Angeles News Group. “He’s a winner. You have to be prepared for it. Not a lot of people can handle it. But he deserves everything he gets.” Continue reading →