Pau Gasol expresses gratitude for Kobe Bryant’s support

Lakers' Kobe Bryant high fives ex teammate Pau Gasol during game at Staples Center in 2013. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Lakers’ Kobe Bryant high fives ex teammate Pau Gasol during game at Staples Center in 2013. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

The affectionate smile formed on Pau Gasol’s face as he thought about what awaited him.

In what will mark the first time since squaring off in the 2012 Olympics, Gasol will greet Kobe Bryant as an opponent when the Lakers (9-38) host the Chicago Bulls (25-19) on Thursday at Staples Center. After spending 6 1/2 years with the Lakers from 2008 to 2014, Gasol signed with Chicago as a free agent. But Gasol and Bryant did not play against each other because of Bryant’s various injuries.

“It’ll be fun and I look forward to it. I’d love to see him on the floor,” Gasol said following morning shootaround at UCLA. “It’ll be a fun game and a special game for me for many reasons.”

There are many reasons. He still has waxed nostalgia about his 6 1/2 seasons with the Lakers that included three consecutive NBA Finals appearances and two NBA championships. Gasol plans to visit Dr. David Skaggs at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles before Sunday’s game against the Clippers. Gasol also called Los Angeles “one of the best cities in the world.”

But one of the main reasons included Bryant, who argued this week that Gasol did not become fully appreciated amid diminished roles under former Lakers coaches Mike Brown and Mike D’Antoni as well as never-ending trade speculation. The Lakers had sent Gasol to Houston on Dec. 2011 as part of the Chris Paul deal, but the NBA halted the trade.

“Some people appreciate you more. Some people don’t. Not everyone is going to appreciate you the same way,” Gasol said. “That’s something you have to live with and that’s what happens to all of us. But there were a lot of people that appreciated me and Kobe was definitely one of them.”

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Lakers to unveil Shaquille O’Neal’s statue during 2016-17 season

The news caught Shaquille O’Neal by surprise.

“Seriously?” O’Neal said with a hint of both excitement and disbelief.

The news sounded good to O’Neal’s ears. But he sounded initially reluctant toward listening.

“You’re playing,” O’Neal said.

But late-night television host Jimmy Kimmel pleaded for O’Neal to hear him out.

“Seriously, I swear to God,” Kimmel said. “This is not a prank.”

Kimmel had just revealed to O’Neal on Wednesday night that the Lakers will unveil a statue of him outside of Staples Center. Kimmel showed an artist rendering that shows O’Neal offering one of his powerful dunks. Kimmel reported the Lakers told him to deliver the news. The Lakers then confirmed this will happen at some point during the 2016-17 season.

“We look forward to having Shaq join the other legends who have been honored with statues at STAPLES Center,” Lakers president Jeanie Buss in a statement. “He is a giant not only in size, but also in stature and in what he accomplished as a Laker. Shaq literally broke the ground for the site, and was hugely responsible for not only getting STAPLES Center built, but for making it one of the most successful and famous arenas in the world. It’s an honor that is well deserved.”
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Lakers’ Kobe Bryant believes Pau Gasol was not fully appreciated in LA

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant did not believe Pau Gasol was fully appreciated here. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze)

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant did not believe Pau Gasol was fully appreciated here. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze)

A flood of emotions could hit Kobe Bryant soon. This time, the sentiments will prove much deeper than soaking in one of his last remaining games in his 20th and final NBA season.

When the Lakers (9-38) host the Chicago Bulls (25-19) on Thursday at Staples Center, Bryant and Pau Gasol will square off against each other for the time since he left the Lakers nearly two years ago.

That sparked Bryant to express gratitude over Gasol helping him win two NBA championship and make three NBA Finals appearances during his 6½ seasons with the Lakers after the franchise acquired him in February of 2008 in a trade with the Memphis Grizzlies.Bryant called Gasol a “fantastic player” and “one of the best post players of all time.” But Bryant also argued “the city of LA didn’t really appreciate” Gasol’s contributions partly because of reduced roles under Mike Brown (2011-12) and Mike D’Antoni (2012-14) and being connected to endless trade talk.

“Everybody kind of fell in line with the Mike D’Antoni rhetoric of small ball and all this other [expletive],” Bryant said. “For a guy that has two championships to be treated that way, you don’t do that, man.”

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Lakers’ D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson make Rising Stars Challenge

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Byron Scott  talks with Laker Jordan Clarkson,6, and D'Angelo Russell ,1, against Portland, during the second half at the Staples Center.  Los Angeles Calif., Sunday, November,22, 2015.         (Photo by Stephen Carr / Daily Breeze)

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Byron Scott talks with Laker Jordan Clarkson,6, and D’Angelo Russell ,1, against Portland, during the second half at the Staples Center. Los Angeles Calif., Sunday, November,22, 2015.
(Photo by Stephen Carr / Daily Breeze)

Amid a season full of losses and fluctuating roles, Lakers rookie point guard D’Angelo Russell and second-year guard Jordan Clarkson will soon experience something to celebrate.

Both will participate in the Rising Stars Challenge on Feb 12 in Toronto as part of NBA All-Star weekend, a game that will feature 10 American rookie and sophomore players competing against 10 foreign rookies and sophomore players.

Russell and Clarkson reacted in similar ways.

Russell jokingly asked if he has to go before gushing about the stage.

“Some people will be competitive and some people won’t be,” Russell said. “I know I’m going to be competitive and try to win.”

Clarkson called his appearance “cool,” “awesome” and “humbling” before stressing he is “not here for the awards.”

“I have the ability to be an All-Star caliber player one day,” Clarkson said. “I’m definitely working toward that.”

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Lakers’ Larry Nance Jr. willingly gives up seat to Kobe Bryant

It did not take look for Kobe Bryant to exert his presence. This time, it did not involve Bryant shooting a shot or calling out a teammate. With Bryant sidelined during the Lakers’ 92-90 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday at Staples Center, the Lakers’ 37-year-old star made a rare appearance on the bench.

That prompted Bryant to motion to rookie forward Larry Nance Jr. to get out of his seat so Bryant could squeeze in at the end of the bench toward the end of the first quarter.

“I heard the huge cheer with Kobe coming onto the court. I was just minding my own business and watching the game. All of a sudden, I hear, ‘Nance, Nance! Get up!'” Nance Jr. recalled with amusement. “I looked at the coaches like, ‘I’m going in?’ No. [Kobe said], ‘I need my seat.'”

Nance Jr. happily obliged even though it required him to sit on the floor.

“It’s not like, ‘Oh no, I’m a man, you can’t have my seat,'” Nance Jr. said. “It’s out of respect. You earned that. Come on now. If there’s anybody now that deserves and earns to be able to do that, it would be him.”

Still, Nance Jr. could have defended himself, arguing he needed the added comfort both to stay ready for the game and to give room for his previously sore right knee to stretch out comfortably.

“I don’t think that would’ve worked,” Nance Jr. said, laughing.

Nance Jr. admitted he may have responded differently had another teammate requested a seat. He joked he would have given Nick Young “a hard time,” before admitted he’d “probably do it” since he’s a nine-year NBA veteran.

But Nance Jr. sounded more amused than upset at the situation. In fact, he sounded more upset about officials taking issue with Nance Jr’s new seating arrangement.

“They made me get off the floor too,” Nance Jr. said. “Apparently its a league wide rule. Nobody wanted me.”


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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’ Byron Scott benched D’Angelo Russell late in loss to Dallas for trying to take over

Los Angeles Lakers guard D'Angelo Russell #1 drives to the hoop against Dallas Mavericks center JaVale McGee #11. The Los Angeles Lakers played the Dallas Mavericks in a regular season NBA game played at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. 1/26/2016, Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles News Group

Los Angeles Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell #1 drives to the hoop against Dallas Mavericks center JaVale McGee #11. The Los Angeles Lakers played the Dallas Mavericks in a regular season NBA game played at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. 1/26/2016, Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles News Group

Well before it became clear how his role would evolve through a trying season, D’Angelo Russell offered one quality that became universally promising. Russell believed the quality propelled his game to unforeseen heights. Lakers coach Byron Scott noticed the quality helped Russell distinguish himself on tape and in pre-draft workouts.

The Lakers fell in love with Russell’s confidence, aware that a 19-year-old kid with such self-assuredness would help him push through the NBA pressure cooker. But nearly haflway into the season, that has become a source of contention.

Scott benched Russell for the final 2:31 of the Lakers’ 92-90 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday at Staples Center. The Lakers head believed his 19-year-old rookie point guard “was really trying to take over the game.”

“That’s not him yet. I wanted the ball to move a little bit,” Scott said. “I thought it stuck with him. He tried to make the big shot and things like that. I understand that. But to me, that’s not him right now.”

Russell does not think that’s who he is, either.

He posted only 12 points on a 4-of-12 clip and zero assists in 25 minutes off the bench. He missed a 3-pointer with the Lakers tied 88-88 with 2:54 left. With Russell commanding the offense, the Lakers made one field-goal in a nearly four-minute stretch that entailed Russell driving to the basket and converting on a layup. But Russell argued those numbers had more to do with reacting to the defense than playing hero ball. He also supported his teammates from the bench, including greeting them during ensuing timeouts.

“I was taking what they were giving me,” Russell said. “It was a small split window of taking a shot or passing it up with a shot clock violation on the line. It was always was in my hand sand I had to take the shot. I missed it. But I don’t know if he would’ve said that if I missed those shots. So you live with it.”
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Lakers dispute Lou Williams’ late-game foul in loss to Mavericks

After a game that just ended in frustration, Lakers coach Byron Scott could not help but offer a hearty chuckle.

The box score will show that the Lakers suffered a 92-90 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday at Staples Center after Dirk Nowitzki made a 14-foot pull-up jumper with 2.2 seconds left. It will reveal Julius Randle missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer. It will indicate that the Lakers missed eight of their last nine shots.

But Scott remained upset that Lakers guard Lou Williams was called for an offensive foul on Dallas guard J.J. Barea after making a floater that would have given the Lakers a 92-90 lead wit 13 seconds left.

“I knew that Lou Williams’ play should’ve been an and-1, if anything,” Scott said. “Or a no-call at all.”

Williams advised to the media to “watch the replay and make your own conclusions.” Although the replay shows Williams pushing off on Barea’s arm, the tape also reveals that Barea locked his arm onto Williams. That prompted Williams to push away from him. Barea then stepped back a few steps. Williams admitted he thought it was “a bad call.”

“You have to tip your hat to J.J.,” Williams said. “That’s the way he plays. He flops eight or nine times in a game, and the referees know that. He has a reputation. He’s able to draw those fouls in those situations, where it’s win or lose.”

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Lakers’ D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle say little about Kobe Bryant’s recent criticisms

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant lit into the team, particularly D'Angelo Russell and Julius Randle, following Saturday's loss in Portland. Photo by Steve McCrank/Staff Photographer

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant lit into the team, particularly D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle, following Saturday’s loss in Portland. Photo by Steve McCrank/Staff Photographer

The two young Lakers players gushed about Kobe Bryant offering various tips that he noticed through 20 years of NBA experience.

Once second-year forward Julius Randle missed a 3-pointer that cemented a Lakers’ 92-90 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday at Staples Center, Bryant immediately went up to him and offered encouraging words.

“He was saying it was a good look,” Randle said. “It’s unfortunate that it didn’t go in.”

With the Lakers and Mavericks tied, 90-90, with 13.5 seconds remaining, rookie point guard D’Angelo Russell reported Bryant asking him on the sideline how the Mavericks would run their final play. Russell outlined two scenarios. Either Dallas would run a high-ball screen to force a switch while Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki had an open look at the elbow. Or Dallas would set a baseline screen so Nowitzki had an open look in that area. Shortly before Nowkitzki nailed a contested 14-foot pull-up jumper to give Dallas a 92-90 lead with 2.1 seconds left, Russell and Bryant shared a moment.

“He looked at me,” Russell said. “We made good eye contact and called it.”

But neither Russell nor Randle sounded sentimental about Bryant critiquing the team following Saturday’s loss in Portland. Then, multiple sources said Bryant angrily addressed his teammates for two minutes. Bryant also singled out Russell and Randle in front of teammates.

What did Russell take away from that treatment?

“No comment,” Russell said.

Bryant had critiqued his teammates for various reasons. The Lakers had lost their sixth consecutive game. The Lakers did not follow the game plan to trap Portland guards Damian Lillard (36 points) and CJ McCollum (28 points). Bryant also became irritated with his teammates’ overall attitude, which included some smiling after the loss. Although Bryant singled Russell and Randle out by name amid his team-wide criticism, Randle suggested the critiques should not have applied to him.

“I didn’t take anything away from it,” Randle said. “I compete. I work hard. I have a lot of heart. Guys just get frustrated.”

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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 to miss Tuesday’s game vs. Dallas

Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (24) will miss Tuesday's game vs. Dallas with a sore right shoulder. (AP Photo/Steve Dykes)

Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (24) will miss Tuesday’s game vs. Dallas with a sore right shoulder. (AP Photo/Steve Dykes)

As he strives to complete his 20th and final NBA season without a major injury, Kobe Bryant has discovered that the slightest movement can hurt his health.

Hence, Bryant will miss Tuesday night’s game against the Dallas Mavericks at Staples Center for reasons that have nothing to do with any wear and tear that happened on the court. Bryant reported feeling increased soreness in his right shoulder while struggling to sleep on Monday night.

“I lay down in bed sometimes and it aches,” Bryant said. “I prop it up with a pillow and there’s a technique of laying on my side and all this other stuff. Nights like that are pretty tough.”

So even if Bryant woke up on Tuesday morning to complete his treatment, the Lakers 37-year-old star still did not feel right. So much that Bryant will miss his final matchup against Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki.

“I guess [it’s tough] for a sentimental competition standpoint, but he and I have had a lot of battles,” Bryant said. “I’m sure we’ll have a lot more when no cameras are around. I’m sure well get together and have a beer or two and play against each other one-on-one.”
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Lakers’ Byron Scott said his Instagram account was hacked

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Sacramento Kings The Lakers' coach Byron Scott watches his team as they trail the Kings during a NBA basketball game Wednesday, January 20, 2016, Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA. The Kings won 112-93. Photo by Steve McCrank/Staff Photographer

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Sacramento Kings
The Lakers’ coach Byron Scott watches his team as they trail the Kings during a NBA basketball game Wednesday, January 20, 2016, Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA. The Kings won 112-93.
Photo by Steve McCrank/Staff Photographer

Through the debilitating losses and mounting criticism, Lakers coach Byron Scott promised he resisted any inkling to respond to any negative fan reaction on his Instagram page.

“I know me,” Scott said two months ago. “I take it personal and might say something back.”

Scott maintained he still has not done that. He posted on Tuesday that his Instagram account was hacked, adding he did not make comments attributed to his account that challenged a fan to a fight.

“There was someone that got my password to respond back to a fan as if it were me,” read a message on Scott’s Instagram account. “That would never happen from my end. We have gotten it corrected. My social media is only for positive and uplifting things only! God Bless Lakers nation & have a great day!”

In a previous message, Scott responded to a commenter that challenged him to a fight accompanying a photo of Scott boxing. Whoever was in control of Scott’s account replied, “bring it,” and added, “show your face, don’t hide.”

Even before the latest incident, Scott has said that an unnamed family member uses and monitors his Instagram account on his behalf.


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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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