Kobe Bryant’s return could take place in Hawaii

Lakers Kobe Bryant watches the game during first half action at Staples Center Sunday, March 8, 2015. ( Photo by David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News )

Lakers Kobe Bryant watches the game during first half action at Staples Center Sunday, March 8, 2015. ( Photo by David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News )

The beginning of Kobe Bryant’s quest to write his last chapter likely will not take place in the comfortable Staples Center surroundings. Or a contentious road arena.

Instead, that might happen in Hawaii where the Lakers will play at the beginning of training camp, including two exhibition games against the Utah Jazz in Honolulu on October 4 and 6. The Lakers have expected Bryant to return at some point in training camp as soon as he had surgery in late January to treat a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder that sidelined him for the rest of the 2014-15 season. Bryant averaged 22.3 points on a career-low 37.3 percent shooting through 35 games before suffering a third consecutive injury that ended his season. He has one year left on his contract worth $25 million in what will mark his 20th and perhaps final year of his NBA career.
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NBA Draft: Stanley Johnson called training with Kobe Bryant the “hardest workouts of my life”

CHICAGO — His eyes lit up as he recalled the experience, Arizona forward Stanley Johnson fondly remembering exactly what it felt like to train last summer with Lakers star Kobe Bryant.

“The hardest workouts of my life,” Johnson said here during the NBA pre-draft combine.

So even if the Lakers were not among the initial teams to interview Johnson, the former Mater Dei standout still has an early glimpse on what it be like to team with its star player.

“He’s going to be hard on me for sure,” Johnson said of Bryant. “He didn’t give me no excuses because I’m a rookie. He’s going to expect a lot out of me as a rookie. I get to compete with him the days he practices. I know I’m going to get a great leader out of him and he’s going to expect me to do well because he wants to win since it’s his last year. He wants to win and so do I.”
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NBA Draft: NBA TV’s Stu Jackson chooses Anthony-Towns over Okafor

Wisconsin's Nigel Hayes (10) drives against Kentucky's Karl-Anthony Towns (12) during the second half of the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball semifinal game Saturday, April 4, 2015, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes (10) drives against Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns (12) during the second half of the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball semifinal game Saturday, April 4, 2015, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Below is the second part of a occasional series with NBA analysts providing their take on the Lakers’ needs heading into the 2015 NBA Draft on June 25. Below is a recent interview with NBA TV analyst Stu Jackson, who helped with the network’s Draft Combine coverage from Chicago earlier this week, including talking to prospects on site.

Knowing the Lakers’ needs, who would you take if they land the No. 1 pick?

Jackson: “I think the four premier players in the draft are Karl Anthony-Towns, Jahlil Okafor, Emmanuel Mudiay and D’Angelo Russell. I think with both of those you have two premier big guys and two premier guards that I would consider All-Star potential.”

So why Anthony-Towns over Okafor?


Jackson:
“Karl Anthony-Towns is a little bit taller and longer. He developed his game from the outside in. This guy at a young age started out shooting the ball from the perimeter. It’s only as of late last year in high school and this year at Kentucky where his low post game started to develop. That’s a positive in that his upside is very large. He has the potential both to be an outside and inside player. Also, with Towns, more so than Okafor, he’s got slightly quicker feet and much more speed. When you’re talking about a big that can go out on the perimeter and defend NBA pick-and-rolls, I think that Towns is going to be a little bit more adept at doing that than Okafor.

Now on the flipside, Okafor, the guy has huge hands and soft hands. He catches things like a vacuum. I think he is a far superior low post player at this point. From a low-post standpoint, he’s NBA ready, I think when you put him on the floor. He’s going to score. In terms of their passing ability, I would give the slight edge to Towns. But Okafor is not by any means a bad passer. He can pass out of a double team himself. He’s got some passing skills. I just think Towns is a little bit better. But it’s splitting hairs.”

How would either player complement Julius Randle?


Jackson:
“Either guy will complement him in different areas. There’s not a team, regardless of personnel, that doesn’t need a low-post scorer. But as I mentioned, Towns, I think will be able to stretch the floor more. Randle is a little bit like Towns. He’s a better shooter than people give him credit for or that he’s able to showcase in college. But I look at him as somebody who will be able to eventually play in the post, but also stretch the floor for a low-post power forward. That will give the Lakers a huge advantage.

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NBA Draft: NBA TV/TNT analyst Grant Hill assesses Lakers’ draft needs

Duke freshman Jahlil Okafor is seen by many as not only the most polished big man in college basketball, but possibly the top player should he enter the 2015 NBA Draft. (Gerry Broome/The Associated Press)

Duke freshman Jahlil Okafor is seen by many as not only the most polished big man in college basketball, but possibly the top player should he enter the 2015 NBA Draft. (Gerry Broome/The Associated Press)

Below is the first part of a occasional series with NBA analysts providing their take on the Lakers’ needs heading into the 2015 NBA Draft on June 25. Below is a recent interview with NBA TV/TNT analyst Grant Hill.

If the Lakers land the number one pick in the draft lottery [on May 19], who should they pick?


Hill:
“Obviously the Lakers are kind of preparing for the future. But they still want to remain competitive with Kobe [Bryant[ in the equation. You have a very good young piece in Julius Randle already there. I’m assuming he will be healthy and able to return at a high level. So I like going with one of the bigs, either Karl Anthony-Towns [from Kentucky] or Jahlil Okafor [from Duke]. They’re young and can really be a cornerstone for the future of that franchise. They’re as good as post players as we’ve seen come through the draft in quite some time. I’m okay with that. I hate answering that question, not that I’m trying to avoid it. But it’s a hard question to answer when you get the No. 1 pick. But I think the general consensus is if you have the No. 1 pick, you pick one of those two guys. That’s what I would probably do.”

How would you compare Okafor and Anthony-Towns


Hill:
“They have some similarities, but there are some differences in some areas. Okafor is as a polished big guy for his age as we’ve seen in quite some time. He can come in offensively. He is so skilled. He has such a great touch and feel around the basket. He can come in offensively and put up some very good numbers right away. I think Towns has a little bit more versatility defensively. He can be a good rim protector. I don’t know if he is as polished offensively as Okafor. But he can do so many things on the court. There’s some similarities in some respect and some differences with what they do. I think both players will be great players.”

Who would you choose between the two?


Hill:
“It’s hard. I like Okafor and I’ve seen more of him. I’ve watched and gotten to know him more and I like what I see. But I really don’t know Towns that well. I only saw him play live in person one time. That wasn’t one of his better games and his team didn’t play well. They lost to Wisconsin on Final Four Saturday. So it’s unfair for me to pick one. I like them both. But at this point, I would probably give the nod to Okafor. I’m more familiar with him and spent considerable amount of time with him and watched him both in practice and in games and in person live. I’m more familiar with what he does.”
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Former Laker Magic Johnson believes Clippers can win NBA championship

"Clippers DeAndre Jordan screams after slaming in two points as Rockets Dwight Howard is unable to defend him during second half action at Staples Center Sunday, May 10, 2015. Clippers defeated the Rockets 128-95 to go up 3-1 in the series.  ( Photo by David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News ) "

“Clippers DeAndre Jordan screams after slaming in two points as Rockets Dwight Howard is unable to defend him during second half action at Staples Center Sunday, May 10, 2015. Clippers defeated the Rockets 128-95 to go up 3-1 in the series. ( Photo by David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News ) “

Just as Magic Johnson spent over an entire decade winning NBA championships and cementing his permanent legacy here in Los Angeles, the Clippers provided the perfect contrast as L.A.’s other NBA team.

They lost a lot. They had terrible management. They made horrible personnel decisions.

All of which made the Lakers’ legend argue something he never dreamed of imagining.

“I never thought I would say this, but I think the Clippers can win the NBA Championship. They have a little bit of everything,” Magic Johnson tweeted on Monday. “The Clippers have outside shooting, Blake [Griffin] is dominating, the best leader and coach in Chris Paul & Doc Rivers and great team defense!”

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar discharged without complications after experiencing dizziness

"FILE - This April 1, 2014,  file photo shows former Los Angeles Lakers player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at an NBA basketball ball game in Los Angeles. Abdul-Jabbar is recovering after undergoing quadruple coronary bypass surgery. A hospital statement on Friday, April 17, 2015 says Abdul-Jabbar had the surgery on Thursday at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. The doctor who performed the surgery, says the 68-year-old former NBA and UCLA star is expected to make a full recovery.((AP Photo/Danny Moloshok,File)"

“FILE – This April 1, 2014, file photo shows former Los Angeles Lakers player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at an NBA basketball ball game in Los Angeles. Abdul-Jabbar is recovering after undergoing quadruple coronary bypass surgery. A hospital statement on Friday, April 17, 2015 says Abdul-Jabbar had the surgery on Thursday at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. The doctor who performed the surgery, says the 68-year-old former NBA and UCLA star is expected to make a full recovery.((AP Photo/Danny Moloshok,File)”

Former Lakers and UCLA center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar experienced dizziness on Wednesday after having quadruple bypass surgery 13 days ago and reported to the emergency department at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. But Abdul-Jabbar was soon discharged after a battery of tests from a surgeon and cardiologist found no complications.

In a statement released by UCLA, Abdul-Jabbar’s surgeon, Dr. Richard Shemin said it is common for patients to experience symptoms following major heart surgery. Shemin also praised Abdul-Jabbar contacting his physicians and following their encouragement to report to the hospital.

UCLA and Abdul-Jabbar’s representatives have said they will not him make available for interviews or provide additional information about his recovery. But UCLA has said it expects Abdul-Jabbar to have a complete recovery.

RELATED:
How will Jordan Clarkson’s progression affect the Lakers’ offseason?
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar recovering after quadruple bypass heart surgery
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Kobe Bryant “doesn’t have anything left to prove”

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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How will Jordan Clarkson’s progression affect the Lakers’ offseason?

Lakers#6 Jordan Clarkson is contested by "n21" and Nuggets#23 Jusuf Nurkic in the first half. The Los Angeles Lakers hosted the Denver Nuggets at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA February 10, 2015.  (Photos by John McCoy / Los Angeles Daily News)

Lakers#6 Jordan Clarkson is contested by “n21″ and Nuggets#23 Jusuf Nurkic in the first half. The Los Angeles Lakers hosted the Denver Nuggets at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA February 10, 2015. (Photos by John McCoy / Los Angeles Daily News)

Through both the good and the bad, Lakers rookie point guard Jordan Clarkson remains restless.

Clarkson’s memories have stayed fresh regarding his uncomfortable feeling when he waited for NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to call his name during the 2014 NBA Draft, only to sit through an entire first round without that confirmation. In fact, Clarkson did not hear his name called until the 46th pick, which the Lakers bought from the Washington Wizards for $1.8 million. So as he experienced a rookie season that morphed from seldom-used reserve to a definitive starter, Clarkson watched last year’s draft between eight to 10 times to further remind himself of what drives him.

“It’s just kind of one of those things that keeps me hungry,” Clarkson said after last week’s exit meetings. “When I have a bad game, I watch the film and just kind of remember everything. I try not to put two bad games together. It’s kind of what gets me over the hump.”

The approach worked.

Clarkson ended his rookie season averaging a team-leading 15.8 points per game on 45.8 percent shooting, five assists and 4.2 rebounds. Even when accounting for Clarkson sitting out 23 of the Lakers’ first 43 games, his season-long averages still finished high in his rookie class. He ranked second in scoring average (11.9 points per game), third in assists (3.6), third in free-throw percentage (82.9) and fourth in field-goal percentage (44.8).

That prompted Lakers Byron Scott to declare publicly the Lakers will retain Clarkson, who has a non-guaranteed contract for the 2015-16 season worth $845,059. Lakers forward Carlos Boozer also likened Clarkson to a “little baby Westbrook,” called him “the steal of the draft” and told him he would pay to take his kids see him play within three to four years after he retires.

“To Jordan’s credit from day one,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said, “he embraced the opportunity and got better and better as the season went on.”

But as the Lakers enter a busy offseason, how will Clarkson’s emergence affect how the franchise fills their seemingly infinite amount of roster needs?
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Lakers’ Byron Scott to be NBA Draft lottery representative

"Lakers head coach Byron Scott talks about the upcoming NBA season at the Lakers training faciltiy in El Segundo, CA on Tuesday, September 9, 2014. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze) "

“Lakers head coach Byron Scott talks about the upcoming NBA season at the Lakers training faciltiy in El Segundo, CA on Tuesday, September 9, 2014. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze) “

After coaching the Lakers’ worst team in franchise history, Byron Scott hopes he can bring better luck during a significant moment in the team’s rebuilding process.

Scott will serve as the Lakers’ NBA Draft representative on May 19 in New York City. Then, the Lakers (21-61) will find out if their season ravaged by injuries and an unproven roster will result in a consolation prize. The Lakers must land a top-five pick, or else they will owe it to Philadelphia as part of the Steve Nash trade with Phoenix three years ago.

The Lakers finished with the NBA’s fourth-worst record, giving them an 82.8 percent chance of their draft pick to stay within the top five. They also have an 11.9 percent chance at landing the No. 1 selection. But the Lakers also have a 17.2 percent chance at falling either sixth or seventh, which the Lakers cannot keep.

After last week’s exit meetings, Scott downplayed whether he felt nervous about the Lakers’ chances considering they collected a combined four wins against Minnesota (16-66) and Philadelphia (18-64).

“No,” Scott said. “None.”

The Lakers sent Scott’s former Showtime teammate James Worthy to last year’s draft lottery, aware of the symbolism that he represented the Lakers’ last No. 1 pick in 1982. Although the Lakers landed that draft pick because of a trade, the move still helped the Lakers win three NBA championships in the Showtime Era.

Worthy attended last year’s lottery and brought with him bobbleheads featuring iconic figures of the Lakers, including their late owner (Jerry Buss) and the late famed announcer (Chick Hearn). Though they symbolized a period when the Lakers won the majority of their 16 NBA championships, the Lakers landed with only the seventh overall pick. They used that to select Kentucky forward Julius Randle, who played only one regular-season game before suffering a season-ending injury to his right leg.

Although they remain encouraged with Randle’s recovery and potential, the Lakers hope for better fortunes this year in both draft order and health. Scott said last week he may bring his grandaughter to help boost the Lakers’ odds. But after coaching the Cleveland Cavaliers when they landed the No. 1 pick in 2011 for Kyrie Irving, Scott joked the Lakers should send the son of Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert. He became the franchise’s good-luck charm after landing three No. 1 picks in the past four years.

RELATED:

Former Laker Steve Nash enjoying retirement, mentoring Jordan Clarkson

Top 50 most powerful in L.A. sports: Lakers’ Jeanie Buss determined to continue her father’s legacy

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’ Ryan Kelly believes he overworked himself last offseason

Photo: Keith Birmingham Pasadena Star-News

Photo: Keith Birmingham Pasadena Star-News

The goals stay plastered on his mirror, the pieces of paper inscribing everything that Ryan Kelly hopes to accomplish.

There are plenty, considering Kelly ended his 2014-15 season with the Lakers weathering frustration for many reasons. The Lakers (21-61) cemented their worst record in the franchise’s 67-year-old history. Kelly averaged 6.4 points on only 33.7 percent shooting, admittedly struggling at the small forward spot after spending his entire collegiate career at Duke and his rookie season with the Lakers assuming the so-called stretch four spot.

So Kelly plans to spend plenty of his offseason with a to-do list that will stay fixated on his mirror. He will tweak the arc of his to ensure a quicker release. He will work on ball handling drills. He will try to add more strength to his 6’11,” 230-pound frame. But the Lakers’ second-year forward has written a new goal, aware he will try to achieve all these tasks while somehow reducing his workload. All because he believes that endless training contributed to overlapping hamstring injuries that sidelined him for 30 games in the 2014-15 season.

“I was probably overworking myself leading up to training camp,” Kelly said after last week’s exit meetings. “I was working out in three different locations every day and driving between them up to an hour just because I wanted to be as ready as I could be. That was my first offseason really as a NBA player. I think, especially leading up to camp, I did a little too much. I obviously wasn’t training in the best position possible where I must have been off in some way. Once training camp rolled around, it put me over the edge if you will.”

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Lakers unsure if they will exercise Jordan Hill’s team option

The Lakers' Jordan Hill is probable for Thursday's game against the Cleveland Cavaliers after hyperextending his knee Tuesday against Miami. (Photo by Michael Owen Baker/L.A. Daily News)

The Lakers’ Jordan Hill is probable for Thursday’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers after hyperextending his knee Tuesday against Miami. (Photo by Michael Owen Baker/L.A. Daily News)

The energy Jordan Hill displayed with his rebounding and putbacks left Byron Scott giddy, the former Time Warner Cable SportsNet analyst believing Hill could consistently produce double doubles if only granted more consistent minutes and featured in a more deliberate offense.

Once he became the Lakers’ coach this past season, Scott afforded Hill those opportunities. But despite Hill posting career-highs in points (12), rebounds (7.9), starts (57) and minutes (26.8) in the Lakers’ 21-61 2014-15 season, his exit interview last week featured Scott focusing more on what Hill lacked.

“He was disappointed he didn’t see that energy,” Hill said. “That’s something else I need to work on.”

That marks one of many reasons why the Lakers feel unsure if they will exercise his $9 million team option before June 30. Just like how it has become with any player on their roster, the Lakers are placing more priority on the NBA Draft on June 25 and the marquee stars once free agency begins on July 1.

“It’s going to be a big offseason for the Lakers,” Hill said. “It’s up in the air right now. They don’t know what’s going to happen. I have to stay positive and hope everything will fall into plan.”
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