Lakers’ Kobe Bryant, Byron Scott push for Jeremy Lin to play more aggressive

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PHOENIX — The possibility of having a clean slate invigorated Jeremy Lin.

No more worries remained about living up to “Linsanity” that sparked during a breakout season in New York. No more uncertainty lingered about his fluctuating role during two frustrating years in Houston. But only two games into an already trying Lakers’ season, Lin has encountered a new challenge.

How to play with Kobe Bryant.

“He’s used having to look over his shoulder all the time and playing with players who like controlling the ball a lot,” said Bryant, an obvious reference to New York’s Carmelo Anthony and Houston’s James Harden. “I told him that’s a big urban legend of me. I want to score. That means coming off of picks, catching and shooting. You handle the ball and you run the show.”
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Lakers’ Byron Scott “shocked” over Julius Randle’s season-ending injury

"Lakers players gathered around #30 Julius Randle after he broke his leg on a play in the 4th quarter. The Lakers played the Houston Rockets in the opening game of the 2014-2015 Season.  Los Angeles, CA. 10/28/2014 (Photo by John McCoy Daily News )"

“Lakers players gathered around #30 Julius Randle after he broke his leg on a play in the 4th quarter. The Lakers played the Houston Rockets in the opening game of the 2014-2015 Season. Los Angeles, CA. 10/28/2014 (Photo by John McCoy Daily News )”

PHOENIX — Only one game into the books of his Lakers’ head coaching career, and Byron Scott already struggled to sleep.

The reasons went beyond absorbing a double-digit season-opening loss. Scott also had to stomach the reality that he would coach rookie forward Julius Randle for quite a while. The Lakers announced Randle to miss the remainder of the 2014-15 season after having surgery on his right leg at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on Wednesday morning.

“We’re all a little shocked by it and disappointed and hurt,” Scott said before the Lakers visited the Phoenix Suns at U.S. Airways Center. “Talking to him after the game, I was basically and holding him listening to him cry and console him as much as possible.”
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Lakers’ Julius Randle expected to miss season after surgery on right leg

"Lakers#30 Julius Randle broke his leg on a play in the 4th quarter. The Lakers played the Houston Rockets in the opening game of the 2014-2015 Season.  Los Angeles, CA. 10/28/2014 (Photo by John McCoy Daily News )"

“Lakers#30 Julius Randle broke his leg on a play in the 4th quarter. The Lakers played the Houston Rockets in the opening game of the 2014-2015 Season. Los Angeles, CA. 10/28/2014 (Photo by John McCoy Daily News )”

Lakers rookie forward Julius Randle is expected to miss the 2014-15 season after having surgery on his right leg on Wednesday.

This offers a devastating blow to the Lakers on multiple fronts. The Lakers saw promise that Randle could develop into a top prospect after selecting the former University of Kentucky standout seventh overall in this year’s draft. The Lakers already field a depleted lineup with a season-ending injury to Steve Nash (back) as well as ailments to Nick Young (thumb) and Ryan Kelly (right hamstring). And the Lakers have only completed one game in what could become a long 2014-15 season.

Randle injured his right leg midway through the fourth quarter of the Lakers’ 108-90 season-opening loss on Tuesday to the Houston Rockets at Staples Center. After driving into the lane, Randle collapsed on the floor and favored his right leg. The Lakers’ training staff and players immediately attended Randle near the Rockets’ basket. After Randle’s leg was immobilized, he was soon lifted onto a stretcher and taken to a nearby hospital.

Randle only posted two points on 1-of-13 in 14 minutes in his NBA regular-season debut. Lakers coach Byron Scott has also offered public criticism with Randle’s conditioning and work ethic. But the Lakers found Randle steadily developing through training camp where he averaged 8.8 points and 5.8 rebounds in 20.9 minutes in eight exhibition games. After posting a nation-leading 24 double doubles in his lone season at University of Kentucky, Randle showed signs as both a bruiser, mid-range jump shooter and ball-handling forward.

The Lakers plan to file a disabled-player exception to the NBA that will be worth $1.5 million. They are also still awaiting league approval for a disabled player exception on Nash, which is worth about $4.9 million. The Lakers can use both of those tools to acquire two players through trade or free agency at that allotted amount. When Young returns sometime next November, the Lakers will have a league-maximum 15-player roster.

Randle has dealt with injury issues earlier in his career.

In the second game of his senior year at Prestonwood Academy, Randle broke the fifth metatarsal in his right foot in what was considered a season-ending injury. Randle returned for five playoff games and averaged 28.8 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks en route to Prestonwood Academny’s third consecutive state championship. He was then granted an exemption to play in the McDonald’s All-American game.

He then starred at the University of Kentucky and posted a nation-leading 24 double doubles without missing a game. Reports circulated during pre-draft workouts that Randle would need surgery to treat an incorrectly placed screw in his right foot. But the Lakers said their medical reports did not suggest such a thing. Randle also consulted outside medical advice that suggested the same thing.

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Julius Randle eager to thrive with Lakers’ support

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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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 calls Dwight Howard “soft” after late-game scuffle

Kobe Bryant often questioned Dwight Howard, viewing his goofiness, griping over reduced roles and constantly citing injuries as signals suggesting he lacked championship drive. Howard often questioned Bryant, seeing his demanding personality, high-volume shooting and unyielding obsession to basketball became obstructive.

So on a night where they faced off against each other for the first time since Howard unceremoniously parted ways with Bryant and the Lakers last year, it only seemed natural that they would add another chapter toward their recently contentious history.

Midway through the fourth quarter of the Lakers’ eventual 108-90 loss Tuesday to the Houston Rockets at Staples Center, Bryant heavily guarded Howard after he grabbed a rebound. Howard then swung his elbows and hit Bryant’s jaw, something that immediately ignited two years worth of tension.

“He elbowed me in the face and I’m going to let him know that I don’t like that,” Bryant said. “It’s that simple.”

Bryant and Howard exchanged barbs. Officials separated the two before reviewing the play. They then granted Bryant a personal foul, Howard a flagrant foul and a technical foul for each. During that time, Bryant could be seen telling Howard to “try me” before telling him that he’s “soft.” Howard answered back with words that remained hard to lip read.

So what did Howard say? It depends on who you ask.

Said Howard: “There’s no need to go into it. We won the game. It’s about basketball. It’s over. It’s nothing. I’m not even focused on it.”

Said Bryant: “Blah blah blah blah. I’m sure I said the same thing and he heard the same thing from me. It is what it is.”
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Lakers’ Julius Randle suffers fractured tibia in right leg

After once marking a signature piece of the Lakers’ future, Julius Randle now represents the organization’s uncertain present.

Randle suffered a fractured tibia in his right leg midway through the fourth quarter of the Lakers’ 108-90 season-opening loss on Tuesday to the Houston Rockets at Staples Center, an injury that dampens the team’s currently thin depth chart. Randle was taken off the court in a stretcher before being taken to a nearby hospital. The Lakers will have more information likely by Wednesday, including when Randle will presumably have surgery. But given that it appears Randle broke his leg, the Lakers sounded well aware of the devastating implications. Lakers coach Byron Scott also reported players told him they heard a “pop” when Randle fell to the floor.

“It’s hard. When you have a young guy like that go down, you’re already thin with the injuries that we have,” said Scott, referring to a season-ending injury to Steve Nash (back) and ailments to Nick Young (thumb) and Ryan Kelly (right hamstring). “It makes it that much harder. But the last three or four minutes, we weren’t thinking a lot about basketball. We were thinking about Julius and hoping he was okay.”
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Ramon Sessions: Lakers departure nothing to do with Kobe Bryant

Kings guard Ramon Sessions said his departure from the Lakers two years ago had nothing to do with Kobe Bryant.  MARK J. TERRILL — ASSOCIATED PRESS

Kings guard Ramon Sessions said his departure from the Lakers two years ago had nothing to do with Kobe Bryant. MARK J. TERRILL — ASSOCIATED PRESS

Ramon Sessions shook his head and chuckled, wondering how his failed free agency bid to secure a long-term with the Lakers two years ago suddenly became cited as an example that he does not want to play with Kobe Bryant.

Sessions stressed he hardly felt upset about an ESPN The Magazine story that said he left because of Bryant’s presence. “I didn’t think nothing of it,” Sessions says. Yet, Sessions strongly disputed that Bryant played any role in his departure with the Lakers and eventually signing a multi-year deal with the Charlotte Bobcats.

“That was never nothing I ever said,” said Sessions, who now plays with the Sacramento Kings. I had an option to opt in or opt out. I was at a point where I wanted to get some stability. That was the only reason.”
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Lakers’ Byron Scott says Kobe Bryant is “last of a dying breed”

Several NBA analysts and experts weighed in on how the Lakers will fare with Kobe Bryant returning from injuries and new coach Byron Scott taking over. (Jae C. Hong/The Associated Press)

Several NBA analysts and experts weighed in on how the Lakers will fare with Kobe Bryant returning from injuries and new coach Byron Scott taking over. (Jae C. Hong/The Associated Press)

The question marks surrounding Kobe Bryant’s return go beyond his health. It also has involved an ESPN The Magazine article portraying Bryant as deterring the Lakers’ rebuilding than actually helping it, unnamed rival executives and agents and apparent Lakers insiders that say his dominating personality and two-year, $48.5 million has scared off free agents.

But the Lakers paint a different picture.

“He’s the last of a dying breed,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said of the 36-year-old Bryant. “When he’s gone, all of this stuff that’s being said, people will start looking back and see how much they miss him. He has an old school spirit. He brings a lot to the table. He has a lot of pride in what he does and takes the game seriously. To him, it’s all about winning. Not a lot of guys in this league think that way.”

Bryant will play in the Lakers’ season opener tonight against the Houston Rockets at Staples Center, his first regular-season game since suffering a season-ending left knee injury nearly 10 months ago. Bryant’s return also coincides with matching up against Dwight Howard for the first time since he left the Lakers two summers ago. They never enjoyed an acrimonious relationship, the pairing marking an example on how Bryant scared away marquee players from ensuring the Lakers’ franchise stays strong.

This season’s Lakers have characterized Bryant differently. Veteran forward Carlos Boozer went on a two minute monologue gushing about Bryant’s leadership style.

“He’s been absolutely amazing,” Boozer said. “I didn’t know coming here. He’s after us practicing everyday, running sprints every day and getting extra shots and in the weight room. He’s teaching the guys, talking, and mentoring. Not just one or two guys, the whole team. If he sees something that can help, he says it. He has a great basketball IQ. He studies the game and has been a student of the game for a long time.”

Boozer was just getting started.

“He knows at the highest level more than we do,” Boozer said. “He’s won five times and looking for his sixth one. We all pay attention and try to learn as much as we can from him. Then he’s out there showing us too. That’s what makes him special compared to other stars in the league. He takes the time to teach his teammates what he sees and helps us be on the same page. Again, for him, it’s all about winning. If I can show him this or show him that, it’ll help us win games maybe not now but in January or make a playoff push, it’ll sink in then. He thinks that far ahead.”

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Kobe Bryant the latest Lakers legend to take on Father Time

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’ Ronnie Price, Xavier Henry could play vs. Rockets

Could a combination of Kobe Bryant’s return and crowd antagonism toward Dwight Howard prove enough for the Lakers to open the season with a victory over the Houston Rockets at Staples Center?

Perhaps that’s too much to ask. But the Lakers could at least begin their season with more depth than originally anticipated. Lakers coach Byron Scott held out the possibility following Tuesday’s morning shootaround that both veteran guard Ronnie Price and forward Xavier Henry may play tonight after nursing respective right knee injuries.

Price suffered a bone bruise in his right knee during the Lakers’ preseason loss on Friday to the Sacramento Kings in Las Vegas. Price went through the Lakers’ morning shootaround, but he would play behind Jeremy Lin at point guard despite starting for most of the preseason.

Scott sounded less certain about Henry, who recently went to Dusseldorf, Germany to have Regenokine treatment on his right knee, which previously had surgery in April. Henry has missed the entire preseason because of his knee and back spasms, and has only completed a few practices. Henry was just seen following Monday’s practice working on shooting drills. Scott said the Lakers medical staff has cleared Henry to play, but he still sounded uncertain.

“When I watch him out there, he doesn’t look as fluid as I want him to be,” Scott said. “That’s a lot of rust and he hasn’t played a long time. It might be a good idea to throw him put there for five or six minutes. But it might not be. I don’t know yet. But I know he’s eager. He wants to put a uniform on and play. It’s just a matter if I feel comfortable enough to put him in some spot situations.”

Scott also ruled out Lakers forward Ryan Kelly for this week that include two sets of back to backs. The Lakers will travel to Phoenix on Wednesday, host the Clippers in a designated home game on Friday and then play in Golden State on Saturday. Kelly hasn’t played at all in training camp because of recurring hamstring injuries.

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Lakers’ Byron Scott questions Dwight Howard’s championship mindset

Kobe Bryant the latest Lakers legend to take on Father Time

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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