Lakers’ Byron Scott reiterated to Nick Young not to take criticism personally

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)

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)

The message Lakers coach Byron Scott delivered to Nick Young during his exit interview on Tuesday may have sounded familiar.

Scott instructed to Young that he will need to improve on his career-low 36.3 percent mark from the field by learning how to move better without the ball, become a better catch-and-shoot scorer and become more aware as an off-ball defender. But the Lakers’ coach provided a personal message along with his X’s and O’s.

“It’s not about me or anything else but you getting better as a basketball player and to help you and help us as a basketball team,” Scott said after Wednesday morning’s shootaround at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo. “I have no agenda. I tell that to all my guys that ask me after the season and that don’t ask me. I say, ‘This is what you need to work on to get better as a basketball player coming into the next year.’ Nick is no exception.”

Yet, Young became an exception.

Two weeks ago, Young had scoffed at Scott’s critiques by telling Los Angeles News Group that he takes them “with a grain of salt” and that he considered them “a little unfair.” Young sang a different tune to reporters after his exit meetings on Tuesday. Young said “me and coach are cool” and that “we’re on the same page.” Young then added, “I take that as he wants me to get better.”

“What he called at that particular time criticism is coaching. I told him the same thing yesterday,” Scott said. “There are certain things you have to get better at on both ends of the floor. You do those things, there’s a great chance you’ll be able to do the things that you are accustomed to doing. If you don’t, it’ll be hard for you to get on the floor with me. That’s what I demand.”
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Lakers’ Jordan Clarkson, Wesley Johnson to miss season finale vs Kings

Lakers' Jordan Clarkson goes to the hoop against the Trail Blazers' Robin Lopez, Friday, April 3, 2015, at Staples Center. (Photo by Michael Owen Baker/L.A. Daily News)

Lakers’ Jordan Clarkson goes to the hoop against the Trail Blazers’ Robin Lopez, Friday, April 3, 2015, at Staples Center. (Photo by Michael Owen Baker/L.A. Daily News)

He may be on the brink of overseeing the worst Lakers’ team in franchise history. He also has fought a flu bug in recent days. But Lakers coach Byron Scott still managed to keep his sense of humor.

The Lakers (21-60) enter their season-finale on Wednesday against the Sacramento Kings (28-53) at Staples Center without starting rookie point guard Jordan Clarkson and starting small forward Wesley Johnson because of sprained left ankles. It marks a fitting to an ugly season ravaged by season-ending injuries to Kobe Bryant (right shoulder), Steve Nash (back), Julius Randle (right leg), Wayne Ellington (right shoulder), Nick Young (left knee), Jeremy Lin (left knee), Ronnie Price (right elbow), Xavier Henry (left Achilles tendon) and Dwight Buycks (fractured right hand).

“It’s kind of hilarious that the end of the season you look at it now,” Scott said. “I’m smiling and shaking my head and just going, wow. You can’t do anything but laugh about it.”

Here’s something that’s more laughable.

The Lakers’ starting backcourt will include Vander Blue (who signed with the Lakers two days ago) and Jabari Brown (who signed with the Lakers last month). The rest of the starting lineup will feature Ryan Kelly (small forward), Jordan Hill (power forward) and Tarick Black (center), while the lone reserves include a Carlos Boozer, Ed Davis and Robert Sacre frontcourt.

How do the Lakers play?

“A lot of zone and hope to God nobody gets hurt and nobody gets in foul trouble,” Scott said. “When I talk about nobody, I mean Jabari Brown and Vander Blue. Those are the only two guards I have. I can’t afford for any of them to get into foul trouble.”

The Lakers encountered a similar situation last year.

They have eight available players entering a game late February in Cleveland before Young and Jordan Farmar left the game with injuries. Chris Kaman then fouled out. Yet, Sacre stayed on the floor after collecting six fouls because the Lakers ran out of healthy bodies. The Lakers still somehow beat Cleveland, 119-108.

Scott said he hadn’t thought about that scenario, but believes that the Lakers will not encounter a similar scenario. But Scott still instructed Brown and Blue to avoid foul trouble by not reaching.

“Both are young,” Scott said. “So I don’t see why neither couldn’t play 48 minutes. It just a matter of staying out of foul trouble.”

But how will they play?

Vander’s first practice took place on Wednesday’s morning shootaround. Brown has shown promise as a scorer and defender, but this season marks the first time he held ball-handling duties. Scott remains optimistic both players’ background with the Lakers’ Development League affiliate, the D-Fenders, will minimize any mistakes. But Scott could not resist cracking a one-liner on how the two will become the team’s point guard.

“Whoever gets the ball,” Scott said. “Whoever gets it on the rebound or on the outlet, they’re going to be point guard.”

Scott then turned serious, kind of.

“Jabari, because he’s been with us longer and he played the point guard,” Scott said. “He has a better feel than with Vander. He’s been with us two days.”

But in this injury-ravaged season, that has proven enough time to quickly climb into the Lakers’ rotation.

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Lakers’ Julius Randle credits Kobe Bryant for helping him stay strong during recovery


Lakers’ rookie Jordan Clarkson finds inspiration from his father – coach, friend, cancer survivor

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’ Wayne Ellington thankful for team support through family turmoil

FILE PHOTO: L.A. Lakers guard Wayne Ellington, left, likely to see increased starter's minutes as Byron Scott rotates Kobe Bryant in and out of the lineup. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

FILE PHOTO: L.A. Lakers guard Wayne Ellington, left, likely to see increased starter’s minutes as Byron Scott rotates Kobe Bryant in and out of the lineup. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

The pain might still linger in Wayne Ellington’s right shoulder, the grade 1 separation that he suffered on April 1, 2015 still keeping him a couple of weeks away from shooting with his right hand. The frustration over the Lakers’ unsuccessful 2014-15 season may still feel raw, too.

But nothing will prove more devastating for the 27-year-old Ellington than what he experienced on Nov. 7, 2015, the night that his 58-year-old father was murdered in his Philadelphia hometown. Yet, Ellington found joy in the 2014-15 season partly because of the Lakers’ unyielding support. They granted him an indefinite leave of absence that lasted 11 days. Ellington had said key Lakers figures, such as coach Byron Scott, general manager Mitch Kupchak, executive Jim Buss, trainer Gary Vitti and teammates Kobe Bryant and Ed Davis constantly checked in to keep his spirits up.

“Coaches and the organization, teammates, everybody was so great,” Ellington said on Tuesday after having an exit meeting with both Scott and Kupchak at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo. “Everybody was so welcoming back when I came back from things. It really helped me get away and focus on something I love to do and be here.”

Ellington soon treated his profession as a personal refuge. Amid his family tragedy, it became relatively easier for Ellington to handle other challenges that included adjusting as a backup shooting guard toward becoming the Lakers’ definitive starter once Kobe Bryant suffered a season-ending right shoulder injury in late January. Ellington averaged 10 points on 41.2 percent shooting in 25.8 minutes through 65 games. He also recorded his first career double double (15 points and 10 rebounds against Utah on Feb. 25) and set single-game career marks this season in points (28), field goals (12), rebounds (10) and assists (six).

Ellington also felt struck strong relationships with two key figures. One was Davis, who Ellington said was “probably closest” after playing together at North Carolina and winning the 2009 NCAA men’s basketball championships. Ellington also reconnected with Scott, who also coached Ellington with the Cleveland Cavaliers (2012-13) when he averaged career-highs in points (10.4), shooting percentage (43.9) and minutes played (25.9).

“Coach and I have a really good relationship,” Ellington said. “We’re more than just co-workers. At the same time, I think he trusts me on the floor and realizes I’m not going to make a lot of mistakes. I’m not going to hurt the team. I’m going to try to play the right way every time I’m out there. I think he respects that being from a player and I’m a guy who knows how to play the right way. It’s about winning first before himself.”

So as he sets to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, Ellington could heavily factor in the Lakers’ support and his breakout season that would tilt into the purple and gold’s favor.

“I flat out told Coach and Mitch that I want to be back. I want to be back,” Ellington said. “At the same time, none of us are new to this and we know how the business goes. They both thought I helped myself this season and there’s going to be a market for me. But you never know how it might go.”

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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’ Nick Young “confident” he will return next season despite team’s effort to trade him


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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Lakers’ rookie Jordan Clarkson finds inspiration from his father – coach, friend, cancer survivor

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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Lakers’ Byron Scott praises Carlos Boozer’s professionalism amid reduced role

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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