Lakers’ Julius Randle credits Kobe Bryant for aiding his recovery

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, left, gestures to count a basket as forward Wesley Johnson, center, and forward Julius Randle react as referees nullify it during the second half of a preseason NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz, Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014, in Los Angeles. The Lakers on 98-91. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, left, gestures to count a basket as forward Wesley Johnson, center, and forward Julius Randle react as referees nullify it during the second half of a preseason NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz, Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014, in Los Angeles. The Lakers on 98-91. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

The raw emotions hit him hard, Lakers forward Julius Randle sobbing in both pain and disappointment over suffering a season-ending right leg injury in his first NBA game.

But an influential person named Kobe Bryant immediately texted and called Randle. Bryant offered sympathy before quickly providing perspective on two debilitating injuries to his left Achilles tendon and left knee.

“‘My recovery starts at that moment,’” Randle recalled Bryant saying in late October, 2014. “From then on, he checked on me every day and every week and made sure my head was in the right place and made sure I’m getting ready for next year.”

After his exit meeting on Tuesday with Lakers coach Byron Scott and general manager Mitch Kupchak, Randle reported he remains well on his way toward accomplishing that goal.

Randle reported feeling “no pain” in his surgically repaired right tibia. He said he has lost an unspecified amount of weight to ensure strong conditioning. And Randle estimated he is “not too far” into receiving medical clearance to participate in contact drills.

But Randle urged caution on the strong possibility he could recover fully to play on the Lakers’ summer league team in July in Las Vegas.

“The plan is to be ready for training camp,” Randle said. “The short-term goal of summer league, that’s what I want to plan. But we have to work to that.”

Randle largely credited Bryant during his recovery for ensuring that he stayed confident and focused throughout his recovery. Randle declined to watch the replay of his injury once he started rehab. Randle also consulted with Indiana forward Paul George, who has recently returned to the court after fracturing his right leg last summer with the U.S. national team. The conversations ranged from just seeking encouragement to asking George questions about rehab, such as how to run with a bone callus.

“It’s very encouraging when you see a guy like that and he’s coming back and he looks great,” Randle said of George. “He needs that repetition and games under his belt. It’s very encouraging.”

Randle also feels encouraged about his own recovery, calling himself a “strong-minded person.”

But he found it useful to hear from Bryant on how he handled self-doubt surrounding his injuries, which currently entails rehabbing from a surgically repaired right shoulder that Lakers believe will fully heal by training camp. Randle also embraced Bryant’s instruction to embrace the chance to watch games closely on film and on the sideline to gain another perspective on the game. It helped Randle’s psyche that he said he has experienced zero setbacks.

“When you see the improvement,” Randle said, “it’s easy in those moments of self doubt to reflect on those things and have that confidence to keep pushing.”


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Lakers’ Julius Randle embraces learning during lengthy recovery

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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Jeremy Lin open to return to Lakers despite initial struggles

Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade (3) defends against Los Angeles Lakers' Jeremy Lin (17) as he brings the ball up court during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Miami, Wednesday, March 4, 2015. The Heat defeated the Lakers 100-94. (AP Photo/Joel Auerbach)

Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade (3) defends against Los Angeles Lakers’ Jeremy Lin (17) as he brings the ball up court during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Miami, Wednesday, March 4, 2015. The Heat defeated the Lakers 100-94. (AP Photo/Joel Auerbach)

The philosophical differences between Lakers guard Jeremy Lin and coach Byron Scott ran deep, the two figures rarely agreeing much on anything regarding basketball.

Lin admitted “it hurt” he lost his starting role only 19 games into the season, while Scott saw it as a necessity to jumpstart the Lakers’ eventually lost season. Lin believed his play enhanced through pick-and-roll sets, while Scott believed that just inhibited ball movement. Lina argued his inconsistency stemmed from a lack of floor spacing, while Scott pointed the problem to his decision making.

Yet, Lin sensed he experienced “good progression and improvement through the course of the year,” both with his play and his relationship with Scott. So much that Lin he remains open toward re-signing with the Lakers once he becomes an unrestricted free agent in July.

“That’s definitely an option for me to consider,” Lin said. “I’m here. I love the city. I love the fans. I’m comfortable. I would definitely consider it for sure if that’s an option.”

The Lakers feel skeptical about re-signing Lin amid his discomfort under Scott’s system. The Lakers will also prioritize their roster needs through the NBA draft on June 25 and pursuing marquee stars once free agency begins on July 1. Meanwhile, Lin shared that he feels less consumed with the size and length of his contract after making $14.9 million last season. Instead, Lin remains more concerned with the on-court implications.

“I want to find a good place and hopefully the best place I can fit in at,” said Lin, who will turn 27 in late August. “I’ll be going into the physical prime of an athlete. I feel like I want to be able to find a good fit for me and find the best I can wherever that is.”
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Lakers’ Nick Young “confident” he will return next season despite team’s effort to trade him

Nick Young says Lakers head coach Byron Scott has unfairly targeted him. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Nick Young says Lakers head coach Byron Scott has unfairly targeted him. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

A swirl of negativity surrounded Nick Young involving seemingly everything. His poor shooting numbers. His persistent injuries. His commitment. His love for the cameras. His post-game celebration over a rare victory against Boston that sparked scorn from Lakers star Kobe Bryant and Lakers coach Byron Scott.

Yet, Young still maintained he feels “confident” he will return next season still wearing a Lakers uniform.

“I’m confident in everything,” Young said. “Whatever happens, happens. It’s meant to happen.”

If the Lakers have their wish, this will mark the end of the so-called “Swaggy P” era. With Young averaging 13.4 points on a career-low 36 percent shooting and having occasional clashes with Scott, the Lakers will entertain trade offers for him, according to a team official familiar with the front office’s thinking. Still, complications could emerge in trading Young, who still remains under contract for three more years at $16.33 million. Young’s poor play could sour his value as well as the Lakers’ reluctance to attach any draft picks just to expend him.

Yet, Young stressed that “me and coach are cool” before adding “we’re on the same page.” That marks a sharp contrast to when Young told L.A. News Group two weeks ago that he takes Scott’s criticism with “a grain of salt” and he considers the feedback “a little unfair.”

“I take that as he wants me to get better,” Young said of Scott. “If he ain’t talking about you, he don’t care about you. That’s one of the things coaches always say. As we talked, he wants me to get better.”

The most obvious area involves Young improving his poor shooting.

“I blame it on the rim,” Young joked. “The rim was tripping this year. Next year, I’m going to take her on a date and treat her a little better.”
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Lakers to sign Vander Blue for last two games

Amid a crush of injuries, the Lakers plan to sign Vander Blue for the team’s last two games of the 2014-15 season after starring on their Development League Affiliate, the Defenders.

Blue plans to join the Lakers (21-59) for Monday’s game against the Sacramento Kings (27-53) at Sleep Train Arena, but it is currently unclear if he will be able to play. The Lakers were left to only two ball-handling guards with Jordan Clarkson and Jabari Brown because of season-ending injuries to Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Ronnie Price, Xavier Henry, Nick Young, Wayne Ellington and Jeremy Lin. The Lakers also lost Wesley Johnson (sprained left ankle) and Dwight Buycks (fractured right hand), whose injury coincided with his 10-day contract expiring following Sunday’s loss to Dallas.

The 22-year-old Blue averaged 23.3 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.3 assists with the D-Fenders and had a brief stint with the Boston Celtics last year. He was not drafted in the 2013 NBA Draft after starring at Marquette.


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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’ Jordan Clarkson open to playing with Rajon Rondo in L.A.

Lakers Jordan Clarkson fouls Mavricks Rajon Rondo during second half action action at Staples Center Sunday, April 12, 2015.  The Lakers lost to the Mavericks 106-120.  ( Photo by David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News )

Lakers Jordan Clarkson fouls Mavricks Rajon Rondo during second half action action at Staples Center Sunday, April 12, 2015. The Lakers lost to the Mavericks 106-120. ( Photo by David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News )

Every game marks another chapter for Lakers rookie guard Jordan Clarkson where he learns a lesson or two about how he measures up against either a top prospect or a veteran elite point guard.

But when Clarkson squared up against Rajon Rondo in the Lakers’ 120-106 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday at Staples Center, the implications proved far deeper. Both provided a snapshot on what things might look like for the Lakers’ starting point guard next season.

Clarkson’s team-leading 26 points on 9-of-19 shooting and six assists showed promise, while his four turnovers still showed he remains a work in progress. Rondo’s 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting and 11 assists confirmed he can overcome his shooting inaccuracies with timely passes. If the Lakers land Rondo in the free agent market, Clarkson said he support the idea even at the expense of a starting role.

“He gets everybody involved,” Clarkson said about possibly playing with Rondo. “He moves the ball. He’s not going to put up a bunch of shots and stuff like that. But he gets everybody involved. He’s a good guard.”
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Dallas’ Rajon Rondo joked Kobe Bryant “bailed on me” while in Los Angeles

Lakers Ryan Kelly gets fouled by Mavricks Rajon Rondo during first half action at Staples Center Sunday, April 12, 2015. ( Photo by David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News )

Lakers Ryan Kelly gets fouled by Mavricks Rajon Rondo during first half action at Staples Center Sunday, April 12, 2015. ( Photo by David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News )

The two star players report to remain close. Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and Dallas guard Rajon Rondo have affectionately called each other “a–holes” as another way of praising the other’s unyielding competitiveness.

But with Bryant having breakfast with Rondo in December when he played with the Boston Celtics, did the two have any plans to reconnect before or after the Lakers’ 120-106 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday at Staples Center.

“No,” Rondo said. “He bailed on me again this time.”

Rondo reported the same thing happened before the Lakers’ loss to the Mavericks on March 8 at Staples Center. Bryant has publicly said he would recruit Rondo, gushing over his championship experience with the Boston Celtics, his passing ability and his basketball smarts. But if Bryant wants Rondo to join the Lakers so much once he becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer, why is the Lakers’ star standing up his friend?

“I don’t know,” Rondo said. “I called and left a couple of voice mails. But he didn’t respond.”

Rondo said the comments with a half-joking manner, making it hard to know if this actually took place or if the Mavericks guard is just staying coy. But Rondo kept a straight face on whether Bryant’s apparent flakiness will prompt him to answer his phone if the Lakers’ star calls during free agency.

“No,” Rondo said. “There’s two missed calls.”

So would they talk at all this summer?

“I don’t know,” Rondo said, smiling. “I might change my number by then. We’ll see.”

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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’ Wesley Johnson, Dwight Buycks suffer injuries in loss to Dallas

Los Angeles Laker Wesley Johnson grabs a rebound against the Utah Jazz first half in the NBA preseason basketball game at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. on Tuesday, October 22, 2013. (Photo by Sean Hiller/Daily News)

Los Angeles Laker Wesley Johnson grabs a rebound against the Utah Jazz first half in the NBA preseason basketball game at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. on Tuesday, October 22, 2013. (Photo by Sean Hiller/Daily News)

Lakers coach Byron Scott could only laugh at the ridiculousness of it all.

Lakers forward Wesley Johnson suffered a moderate strain to his left ankle that sidelined him for the second half of the Lakers’ 120-106 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday at Staples Center after scoring 16 points on 6 of 9 shooting in 20 minutes. Scott expressed doubt Johnson would travel for Monday’s game in Sacramento, leaving the Lakers coach to chuckle over his contingency plans. And it just marked the latest string of injuries that have included Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Julius Randle, Jeremy Lin, Wayne Ellington, Ronnie Price and Xavier Henry.

“It’s just like, ‘What could happen next?’” Scott said. “But I don’t want to dare ask that question.”

Scott spoke too soon.

The Lakers soon learned that shooting guard Dwight Buycks would miss the final two games because of a fracture to his right hand. Incidentally, that took place on the last night of his 10-day contract and happened a few hours after Scott confirmed the Lakers would plan to keep him considering Lin’s season-ending left knee injury. Now the Lakers are left with eight healthy players and two point guards in Jordan Clarkson and Jabari Brown, leading Scott to chuckle on what his contingency plans might entail.

“I don’t have one right now, said Scott, who then suggested he would play either Ryan Kelly or Brown at the small forward spot. “Its going to be a weird lineup out there tomorrow night.”

The Lakers have fielded an often lot of weird lineups considering their players have sat a combined 324 games because of injuries, which both tops the leagues and surpasses last year’s mark at 319. Despite that never-ending development, Johnson had only missed four games because of minor ailments and a coach’s decision. He posted 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting against Dallas just before rolling his ankle at halftime. Johnson, who will become an unrestricted free agent this summer, has averaged career-highs in points (9.9) and minutes played (29.5). But as he has for most of his five-year career, Johnson has shown some inconsistency.

“Wesley has been up and down,” Scott said. “But he’s been probably the most consistent guy we’ve had as far as going out there every night and you know what you’re going to get. He had nights where he didn’t shoot the ball well and had nights he shot extremely well. Hes had some inconsistency, but the effort wise would be the same.”

As for Buycks, he had averaged 8.7 points on 45 percent shooting and 2.3 assists in 20.5 minutes through six games off the bench.

“He’s got good poise,” Scott said of Buycks. “He handles the ball pretty well, can run the offense and can make outside shots. I just want to see a little bit more.”

Scott will not have that opportunity, leaving him with dwindling options as an injury-riddled season draws to a close.

“It’s just one of those things where you shake your head,” Scott said. “Hopefully we have seven to eight guys healthy for the next two games and we can finish it out.”

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Former Laker Jamaal Wilkes believes rebuilding “will take a couple years”

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’ Jeremy Lin ruled out for the season

Los Angeles Lakers' Jeremy Lin, left, puts up a shot against Phoenix Suns' Earl Barron during the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game on Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014, in Anaheim, Calif. (File photo/AP Photo)

Los Angeles Lakers’ Jeremy Lin, left, puts up a shot against Phoenix Suns’ Earl Barron during the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game on Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014, in Anaheim, Calif. (File photo/AP Photo)

Nearly five hours expressing optimism that Jeremy Lin could play at some point before the 2014-15 season ends, Lakers coach Byron Scott ruled him out for the team’s three remaining games because of continued left knee soreness. Lin also will not travel for the Lakers’ game on Monday in Sacramento.

“I didn’t change my mind,” said Scott before the Lakers (21-58) hosted the Dallas Mavericks (48-31) on Sunday at Staples Center. “I was optimistic this morning seeing him shoot and everything I thought maybe he could try to cut it on [the knee]. I talked to him this morning and he said he didn’t try to cut on it yet. I was feeling pretty good there’s a chance he plays. But I got the news he’s not able to play tonight and be out the rest of the season.”

Lin may never return to the Lakers again considering he will become an unrestricted free agent this summer and experienced plenty of frustrations in his lone season wearing the purple and gold.

His 11.2 points on 42.4 percent shooting and 4.6 assists nearly mirrored his career average through five NBA seasons But Lin had philosophical albeit respectful differences with Scott over his offense, which put less an emphasis on pick-and-roll plays than what Lin would have liked. Lin also lost his starting point guard spot after 19 games for reasons varying to the Lakers’ losing, Scott’s preference for Ronnie Price’s defense and Scott’s preference to develop rookie guard Jordan Clarkson.

“He’s gotten better. When he first got here, his mind of what a point guard is is totally different than mine,” Scott said. “As we went along, he started to understand what I wanted on a day-to-day basis. I thought the progression was much better. But I’m not happy with the way it ended with him being out. He got better throughout the season.”

Scott then praised Lin after offering plenty of pointed critiques regarding his decision making, turnovers, aggressiveness and consistency.

“The one thing about him is the kid takes criticism. You can jump on him about things and he takes it with a grain of salt and tries to get better,” Scott said. “That’s one thing I do love about him. He doesn’t pout about it or doesn’t cry. He goes out there to implement the things you give him to become a better basketball player. He got a lot better mentally as the season went along. A lot of that comes with the understanding of what the coach wants. I saw big time growth from day one to the present day where he got better as a basketball player.”

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Former Laker Jamaal Wilkes believes rebuilding “will take a couple years”

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 said Jordan Hill will need to change offseason preparation

"Los Angeles Lakers' Jordan Hill smiles before the Lakers' NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Karen Pulfer Focht)"

“Los Angeles Lakers’ Jordan Hill smiles before the Lakers’ NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Karen Pulfer Focht)”

In only five days, Lakers coach Byron Scott will reflect on a frustrating 2014-15 season with each player and offer his honest feedback surrounding their production.

Once Jordan Hill has that conversation, he will hear something that has plagued him through nearly 3 1/2 seasons with the Lakers. Scott will inform him that he will need to change his offseason preparation so that he can avoid crashing and-burning because of depleting energy levels.

“I don’t think he did that this summer to get ready for this season,” Scott said. “He’s got to train like he’s going to play for 48 minutes every single night. If you train that way and the summer time you go into the season, that energy can stay up for a longer period of time.”
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Lakers’ Jeremy Lin likely to miss Sunday’s game vs. Dallas

"Lakers Coach Byron Scott has a word with Lakers#17 Jeremy Lin in the first half. 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 Coach Byron Scott has a word with Lakers#17 Jeremy Lin in the first half. 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 )”

Although the Lakers (21-58) will offer nothing definitive until tipoff approaches, they do not expect Jeremy Lin to play in Sunday’s game against the Dallas Mavericks (48-31) because of continued soreness in his left knee.

If so, this would mark the third consecutive game Lin would miss because of his injury. Although Lin completed some dribbling and shooting drills during Saturday’s practice, Lakers coach Byron Scott remained skeptical about Lin’s return because he has not yet completed any hard cuts to test his knee.

“I don’t think he’ll go tonight,” Scott said of Lin. “I could be wrong. He could come tonight and say he feels fine and go out before the game to work out. So we’ll wait before tonight to find out for sure.”

Regardless of Lin’s availability against the Mavericks, he still plans to travel with the team for Monday’s game in Sacramento in hopes to play.

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Jeremy Lin’s future with Lakers up in the air

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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