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.

RELATED:

Can D’Angelo Russell bring ‘Showtime’ back to the Lakers?

Lakers’ Jordan Clarkson not satisfied with promising rookie season

D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson tandem gives Lakers hope for future

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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James Worthy believes Kobe Bryant can play past current contract

Former Laker James Worthy, left, shown with Kobe Bryant during a recent media day, believes Bryant can play past his current contract. Photo credit: John McCoy / Staff Photographer

Former Laker James Worthy, left, shown with Kobe Bryant during a recent media day, believes Bryant can play past his current contract. Photo credit: John McCoy / Staff Photographer

The pain Kobe Bryant has felt in his body has at times become too overwhelming. He felt a kicking sensation just moments before tearing his left Achilles tendon. He felt tension in his left leg after colliding with Memphis’ Tony Allen. He felt an ache in his right shoulder right after throwing down a one-handed dunk that morphed into a torn labrum.

Yet, Bryant has willingly completed his lengthy rehabs that has entailed taking endless ice baths, antibiotics and rest all for the sake of accomplishing two things. So Bryant can return to the basketball court and prove he can both overcome a serious injury and play at an elite level. So he can further reach his quest that has driven him for his entire 19-year NBA career.

“I know Kobe wants six championships,” former Showtime Laker James Worthy said Monday on SiriusXM NBA Radio with Brian Geltzeiler and Stacey King. “I know he wants to tie Michael [Jordan]. Kobe is looking to six.”

Hence, the $25 million question entering the Lakers’ 2015-16 season entails whether Bryant can play out the final year of his contract without suffering another major injury. Yet, Worthy hardly believes this will mark Bryant’s official farewell tour.

“It depends on his body. The body can only take so much,” Worthy said. But if he can play less minutes and take less money, I think he would play some more. I don’t see him retiring until I see it.”

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Mitch Kupchak downplays Kobe Bryant not touching base with new teammates

The Lakers held a press conference on Wednesday to introduce new players, from left, center Roy Hibbert, guard Lou Williams and forward Brandon Bass. (Photo by Brad Graverson/staff)

The Lakers held a press conference on Wednesday to introduce new players, from left, center Roy Hibbert, guard Lou Williams and forward Brandon Bass. (Photo by Brad Graverson/staff)

A seemingly harmless question soon turned into a heavily scrutinized topic.

The Lakers’ newcomers in Roy Hibbert, Lou Williams and Brandon were all asked if Bryant touched base with them at all ever since joining the purple and gold. Hibbert shook his head ‘no.’ Williams and Bass continuously stared at Hibbert. Bass soon smiled over the awkward silence.

But instead of considering this a red flag in future team chemistry, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak represented one of many who found the incident amusing.

“It’s kind of comical and funny to be honest with you,” Kupchak said recently on SiriusXM NBA Radio with Brian Geltzeiler and Rick Mahorn. “It was a good moment in TV. They asked a question and the three players kind of looked at each other and kind of just shrugged their shoulders, ‘No.”

There have been countless free agents and draft prospects in recent seasons that mentioned in some variance of Bryant calling or texting to talk about getting ready for the upcoming season. Such examples included Dwight Howard, Carlos Boozer, Jeremy Lin, Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell. Yet, Kupchak argued “it’s not that unusual” Bryant declined to touch base with any of the team’s new arrivals.

“Kobe doesn’t call every single player we sign or trade for. I don’t even know if he’s in the country, to be honest with you,” Kupchak said, though Bryant attended FC Barcelona’s soccer practice last week in Los Angeles. “There was much made of it. But I thought it was kind of comical.”

RELATED:
Lakers’ Nick Young felt more assured about future after recent meeting with Mitch Kupchak
Kobe Bryant yet to touch base with new Lakers teammates
Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak may add another guard or center to roster

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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Mitch Kupchak envisions D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson playing together in next 10-12 years

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said on SiriusXM Radio that he hopes D'Angelo Russell/Jordan Clarkson can play together for 10-12 years. (Scott Varley/Staff Photographer)

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said on SiriusXM Radio that he hopes D’Angelo Russell/Jordan Clarkson can play together for 10-12 years. (Scott Varley/Staff Photographer)

The pinpoint passes he threw and his confident on-court presence gave D’Angelo Russell the edge over all the other draft prospects the Lakers evaluated. His prolific scoring and insatiable thirst for self-improvement ensured Jordan Clarkson a positive impression among his Lakers teammates, coaches and trainers. Combined together, it appears Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak cannot help but think about good things that will transcend into the franchise’s long-term future.

“Our vision would be that both of those players play together in the backcourt for 10-12 years,” Kupchak said recently on SiriusXM NBA Radio with Brian Geltzeiler and Rick Mahorn. “That’s what we’re hoping for. We don’t look at them as players that can’t play with each other or have to play with somebody else. We think they can play together.”
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Lou Williams argues he and Nick Young can co-exist

Lakers guard Lou Williams said he and Nick Young can co-exist.  Photo by Brad Graverson/LANG/07/22/15

Lakers guard Lou Williams said he and Nick Young can co-exist. Photo by Brad Graverson/LANG/07/22/15

One player has taken pride in coming off the bench and scoring in bunches. Another player has felt the same. One has done it consistently enough last season to win the NBA’s sixth man of the year award. The other player failed to do it consistently enough that the Lakers could not to find any suitors to trade him.

That leads to one question that could define the Lakers’ bench identity. When Lou Williams and Nick Young are playing together, who will shoot the ball?

“Whoever has it,” Williams joked, prompting plenty of laughter on Wednesday at his introductory press conference at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo.

Yes, Williams and Young have cemented reputations as looking to score first, pass second and defend never. Before signing a three-year deal worth $21 million with the Lakers this offseason, Williams has averaged 11.9 points and 2.9 assists through his 10-year NBA career with stops in Philadelphia (2005-12), Atlanta (2012-14) and Toronto (2014-15). Young has averaged 12.3 points and 1.1 assists through his 8-year NBA career with stints in Washington (2007-12), the Clippers (2012), Philadelphia (2012-13) and the Lakers (2013-present).

Yet, Williams expressed optimism he and Young will co-exist. The Lakers plan to bring Williams off the bench as a shooting guard, while Young will play as a reserve small forward. Williams also cited his past experience teaming with other high-volume scorers, including Allen Iverson.

“I’ve played in systems with multiple guards where we had two or three guards on the court at the same time,” said Williams, who will also share scoring duties with Kobe Bryant. “The most important thing is to not pin Nick and I against each other. We’re teammates now. We both have similar games. We both like to score the basketball, that’s been one of our strong suits. That’s what we hang our hats on. But once we’re on the court, I like to play team basketball. If I’m in an iso situation, that when I try to score the ball. Other than that, I just try to make plays whether it’s for myself or my teammates.”
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Lakers’ Nick Young felt more assured about future after recent meeting with Mitch Kupchak

The LakersþÄô Nick Young #0 reacts during their NBA game against the Grizzlies at the Staples Center Friday, January 2, 2015. The Grizzlies beat the Lakers 109-106. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak met recently with forward Nick Young, which assuaged his concerns about his standing on the team. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)

Lakers forward Nick Young recently met with general manager Mitch Kupchak, according to league sources familiar with the situation.

It is not entirely clear what Young and Kupchak addressed in their meeting. It is typical for Kupchak to meet with players to discuss both professional and private issues. But the conversation at least left Young feeling comfortable enough that he will enter the 2015-16 season on the Lakers’ roster, according to a source familiar with his thinking.
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Roy Hibbert credits Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s influence

 Center Roy Hibbert could experience a resurgence with the Lakers. (Photo by Brad Graverson/Staff)

Center Roy Hibbert could experience a resurgence with the Lakers. (Photo by Brad Graverson/Staff)

A statue of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has sat outside Staples Center for the past three years, showing the unstoppable skyhook that both punished opponents and carried the Lakers to five NBA championships during the Showtime Era. The Lakers also retired his No. 33 jersey on March 20, 1989, a uniform the Lakers have displayed proudly both at the Forum and at Staples Center. And Abdul-Jabbar’s listing in the NBA record books has not changed, his league-leading 38,387 points staying intact ever since retiring more than 25 years ago.

Yet, there marks another symbol in which Abdul-Jabbar has cast a shadow on the Lakers’ organization. Even before he proudly held his No. 17 Lakers jersey at an introductory press conference on Wednesday, center Roy Hibbert revealed he has stepped foot on The Captain’s ship.

“Kareem reaches out to me, comes to watch my workouts and we stay in touch for the most part,” Hibbert said. “He gives me little tidbits, I worked with him a lot last year during the summer and he keeps up with me. So, he always gives me some advice, gives me some things to work on and I always ask him questions.”

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Kobe Bryant yet to touch base with new Lakers teammates

The question has become customary to ask any new Lakers player considering Kobe Bryant’s lasting influence on the organization.

“Have any of you guys heard from Kobe,” a reporter asked, “and if so, what did he say?”

Usually, the players will share that Bryant texted or talked with them on the phone. Sometimes, they will divulge what insight or advice Bryant offered. But center Roy Hibbert, guard Lou Williams and forward Brandon Bass, all of whom the Lakers acquired this offseason, indicated in an introductory press conference on Wednesday they had not heard from the Lakers’ star.

Hibbert shook his head “no.” The players looked at one another. Brass smiled amid the deafening silence.

Bryant, who is entering the final year of his contract worth $25 million, has touched base with other players in the past. That included D’Angelo Russell, whom the Lakers drafted with the second overall pick. Bryant also sat in on the Lakers’ first free agency meeting with LaMarcus Aldridge.

Still, Bass mentioned earlier that his arrival with the Lakers partly hinged on Bryant,

Said Bass: “I thought it was a great opportunity to play with one of the greatest ever to ever play the game.”

RELATED:

Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak may add another guard or center

What qualities will No. 2 pick in NBA Draft need to flourish with Kobe?

Lakers’ Jordan Clarkson not satisfied with promising rookie season

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 GM Mitch Kupchak may add another guard or center

The Los Angeles Lakers had the number 2 pick in the NBA draft and selected D'Angelo Russell from Ohio State Thursday, June 25, 2015, El Segundo, CA. Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak discusses the selection of Russell with the media from the Toyota Sports Center practice facility. Photo by Steve McCrank/Staff Photographer

Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak said on Wednesday that the Lakers may look to add another point guard and/or center. Photo by Steve McCrank/Staff Photographer

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak stood next to what represented the framework surrounding all the moves he made during free agency.

Roy Hibbert stood next to Kupchak donning his Lakers jersey at an introductory press conference on Wednesday after the Lakers acquired him from Indiana for a second-round pick. Shooting guard Lou Williams and power Brandon Bass also stood their holding their Lakers jerseys after signing here as free agents.

Add in Kobe Bryant’s expected return and the Lakers crop of young draft prospects, and it appears they have most of their roster set for the 2015-16 season. Yet, Kupchak stressed afterwards that his work is hardly finished, suggesting he would look to add either a point guard or center.

The Lakers have a flooded backcourt with D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Bryant, Williams, Nick Young and Jabari Brown. But Kupchak suggested Bryant and Young could play more at small forward instead of shooting guard. Meanwhile, Brown is expected to make the team on a non-guaranteed deal, but is only a second-year player.

“Depending on how you look at it, we may look to bring another guard on board,” Kupchak said. “We may not.”
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