Lakers gush about Steve Nash’s career and defends him amid criticism

"The Lakers' Steve Nash drives the baseline on the Wizards' Andre Miller, Friday, March 21, 2014, at Staples Center. (Photo by Michael Owen Baker/L.A. Daily News)"

“The Lakers’ Steve Nash drives the baseline on the Wizards’ Andre Miller, Friday, March 21, 2014, at Staples Center. (Photo by Michael Owen Baker/L.A. Daily News)”

The tributes gushed out as quickly as Steve Nash could lead his team on a fast-break.

Lakers coach Byron Scott called Nash a “modern-day Bob Cousy” after collecting two NBA MVP awards, climbing to third place on the league’s all-time assists list and revolutionizing the NBA. Lakers backup center and fellow Canadian Robert Sacre noted how Nash had “always been that guy that Canadians have always looked up to” after he became the first NBA star from that country. Lakers rookie guard Jordan Clarkson recalled idolizing Nash growing up for “making passes people couldn’t see.”

Yet, with Nash officially announcing his retirement from a storied 19-year NBA career, it also closes the chapter surrounding a dark time in the Lakers’ history.

The Lakers acquired Nash from the Phoenix Suns in 2012 in a sign-and-trade worth $28 million for three years, the team willing to trade two first and second-round draft picks for the chance at championship glory.

But Nash played in only 65 of a possible 164 regular-season games amid overlapping nerve issues with his left left, back and hamstrings, ailments that kept him out for the entire 2014-15 campaign. Nash also averaged 11.4 points and 6.4 assists through two seasons, a stark drop from his career averages of 14.4 points and 8.5 assists. Perhaps his only hightlight entailed Nash’s last assist in April, 2014 against Houston allowing him to surpass Mark Jackson on the NBA’s all-time assists list.

Yet, Scott advised Lakers fans to “take a look at everything he’s done over his career and judge him that way, not by what ended up happening here.”

“Obviously it didn’t work out the way he planned or the way he wanted or the way the organization wanted,” Scott said. “But fans also have to look at the fact that the guy did everything possible to get on the court. I don’t think they take that into consideration that he’s hurt and he has some physical problems. But he did everything possible to get on the court.”

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Lakers’ Steve Nash officially announces retirement

Lakers' Steve Nash, right, passes off the ball as Los Angeles Clippers' Chris Pauldefends during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013. (Danny Moloshok/The Associated Press file photo)

Lakers’ Steve Nash, right, passes off the ball as Los Angeles Clippers’ Chris Pauldefends during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013. (Danny Moloshok/The Associated Press file photo)

The man has not played in a competitive basketball in over five months. But it wasn’t until now that Lakers 41-year-old guard Steve Nash officially announced his retirement, capping a storied 19-year NBA career that entailed two NBA MVP awards, a third-place standing on the league’s all-time assists list and an assured place in the Hall of Fame.

“The greatest gift has been to be completely immersed in my passion and striving for something I loved so much — visualizing a ladder, climbing up to my heroes,” Nash wrote in an essay on The Players Tribune. The obsession became my best friend. I talked to her, cherished her, fought with her and got knocked on my ass by her.”

The latter experiences happened plenty of times during his three years with the Lakers.

He fractured his left leg in only his second game as a Laker on Oct. 2012, an injury that first sidelined him for 24 games before spiraling into never-ending issues with the nerves surrounding his back and hamstrings. After playing in only 15 games in the 2013-14 season because of those ailments, Nash returned for the 2015 training camp only to appear in two exhibition games before the Lakers shut him down for the rest of the season. Add it all up, and Nash played in only 65 of a possible 164 regular-season games the past two seasons with the Lakers.

“When I signed with the Lakers, I had big dreams of lifting the fans up and lighting this city on fire,” said Nash, whom the Lakers acquired in a sign-and-trade for three years worth $27 million after sending two first and second-round draft picks to the Phoenix Suns. “I turned down more lucrative offers to come to L.A. because I wanted to be in the “fire,” and play for high risk and high reward in my last NBA chapter. In my second game here, I broke my leg and nothing was the same.”

Nash hardly built the same equity he enjoyed with the Phoenix Suns (1996-1998, 2004-12) and Dallas Mavericks (1998-2004), and the reasons go beyond his injuries. He caught some criticism for admitting in a Grantland documentary last season, “I’m not going to retire because I want the money.” Nash, who was owed $9.7 million this season, was mostly absent from the team this season. He did not mentor rookie guard Jordan Clarkson until February, 2015.

This concerned some in the organization. But Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak and coach Byron Scott publicly supported and deferred to Nash on how he spends his time.

“Last spring, when I returned to the court, I was given a standing ovation at Staples Center,” Nash wrote. “It was a dark time in my career and that gesture will be one of my best memories. There’s been a lot of negativity online, but in my nearly three years in L.A., I’ve never met anyone who didn’t show me anything but love and support for my efforts. There’s a lot of class in Lakerland, and the organization and staff have given me unwavering support.”

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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’ Jabari Brown feels “blessed” to have second 10-day contract

He vowed he would treat every play as if it were his last. He would show he would play aggressive on every possession. He basically would not leave any stone unturned.

Yet, Lakers guard Jabari Brown attended practice on Friday doing absolutely nothing. Not by choice, though. Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak informed Brown on Thursday night the Lakers would sign him to a second 10-day contract on Saturday. Then, Scott could play both when the Lakers (19-50) play on Sunday against the Philadelphia 76ers (16-52) at Staples Center and for their entire five-game trip next week with stops in Oklahoma City (Tuesday), Minnesota (Wednesday), Toronto (Friday), Brooklyn (March 29) and Philadelphia (March 30).

All of which Brown without anything to do at the Lakers’ practice facility for one day.

“Just watching,” Brown said, smiling. “It’s just one day. I don’t know the exact rules, and I don’t want to break any.”

Brown will gladly follow those rules, saying he feels “blessed” the Lakers granted him a second 10-day contract after averaging seven points on 57.9 percent shooting in 20 minutes per night through four games. That marked a sharp improvement from Lakers training camp when he posted a combined five points, two rebounds and an assist in 22 minutes through four exhibition games.

“I felt like I played within myself and the team concept,” Brown said. “I felt like I gave a lot of energy on both ends of the court. I feel like I can continue to improve with some of the turnovers and stuff like that, just being strong with the ball and getting into the paint. I feel like I can always improve.”

Though he found it an easy transition after averaging a league-leading 24.4 points per game with the Lakers’ Development League affiliate, the D-Fenders, Brown said the team’s offense mostly centered on catch-and-shoot opportunities and isolation plays. Lakers coach Byron Scott hopes Brown can also thrive in the pick-and-roll game.

Brown’s strong play coincides with the Lakers nursing an injury to Nick Young, who has missed the past 11 games because of a swollen left knee. The Lakers ruled him out for at least another week after a CT scan showed a small fracture in his left knee cap.

Once Brown’s 10-day contract worth around $29,000 expires, the Lakers would either have to sign him for the remainder of the season or release him as a free agent.

“You just have to play with a motor,” Scott said. “Playing hard is a skill. You have to do it, especially when you’re trying to make something happen. It’s an extra incentive.”

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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’ Jeremy Lin says he will feel “100 percent” by Saturday

The Los Angeles Lakers introduce newest player Jeremy Lin to the gathered media at the Toyota Sports Center training facility in El Segundo, Calif., on Thursday, July 24, 2014. (Photo by Brad Graverson/The Daily Breeze)

The Los Angeles Lakers introduce newest player Jeremy Lin to the gathered media at the Toyota Sports Center training facility in El Segundo, Calif., on Thursday, July 24, 2014. (Photo by Brad Graverson/The Daily Breeze)

Lakers guard Jeremy Lin slowly walked off the court, showing deliberate movement with each step he took.

He just completed a set of stationary shooting exercises in Friday’s practice a day after laboring through back spasms in the Lakers’ loss on Thursday to the Utah Jazz at Staples Center.

“I’m not moving fast, but I don’t need to,” Lin said. “I’ll be 100 percent tomorrow for sure.”

Then, Lin plans to complete a full practice before playing when the Lakers (17-50) host the Philadelphia 76ers (16-52) on Sunday at Staples Center.

“I knew it was going to feel like this,” said Lin, whose back spasms stemmed from running into one of the Lakers’ frontcourt players on a screen in Wednesday’s practice. “This wasn’t bad. Yesterday was a bad day. Once we fixed the problem yesterday, it was a matter of calming it down. I was a little off.”

Lin posted only two points on 1-of-8 shooting and two turnovers against Utah. But he offset his shooting struggles with four assists and three steals.

“It’s just about finishing strong,” said Lin, who will become an unrestricted free agent. “I love playing the game of basketball. During the offseason, I miss it a lot. So I want to cherish these last 15 [games].”

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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 praises Jeremy Lin for playing through back spasms in loss to Jazz

Over and over again, Jeremy Lin kept going through his pre-game routine that entailed shooting endless free throws and jump shots. Once the Lakers took the court, Lin eventually entered the game and tried to fulfill the usual job description by attacking the basket, setting up others and making defensive stops.

If not for Lin’s two-point effort on 1-of-8 shooting in the Lakers’ 80-73 loss to the Utah Jazz on Thursday at Staples Center, it appeared the Lakers’ guard looked completely normal.

Except he wasn’t at all. Lin suffered back spasms that he said stemmed from what he called an undisclosed “bad hit” in Wednesday’s practice. Lin reported that collision caused his back alignment to move “probably six to eight inches to the side.” That left Lin and the Lakers’ training staff furiously spending Wednesday’s practice, Thursday’s morning shootaround and Thursday’s pre-game warmups trying to fix his back.

Once it was all done, Lakers trainer Gary Vitti was overheard praising Lin for fighting through his injury. Lin praised the Lakers’ training staff in return. Lin reiterated that afterwards when he said the Lakers’ training staff “did an unbelievable job.”

“You have to give him credit,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said. “I didn’t think he was going to play at all. He wanted to give it a go.”
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Lakers’ Byron Scott wants to keep Jabari Brown for a second 10-day contract

"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) “

Both excitement and anxiety may creep into Jabari Brown’s mind when the Lakers (13-49) host the Utah Jazz (30-36) tonight at Staples Center, which will mark the last game he will play in his first 10-day contract.

But when Lakers coach Byron Scott plans to meet with general manager Mitch Kupchak after tonight’s game, it seems clear Brown will have at least one vocal supporter.

“Right now, I’d like to keep him for another 10 days and see how it goes,” Scott said. “I think he’s improved from what we had in the summer time to this time right now.”
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Lakers’ Byron Scott does not expect Nick Young to travel for next week’s trip

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 Lakers will have more answers on Nick Young’s health when they plan to reevaluate the progress surrounding a small fracture in his left knee. But Lakers coach Byron Scott already seems prepared for a possible scenario that will entail Young staying sidelined for at least two more weeks.

“I don’t see him going on this [upcoming] trip,” Scott said. “He can do his therapy here.”

If Scott proves out clairvoyant, that means Young will sit out for at least seven more games after missing the previous 11 because of his current injury. The Lakers (17-49) have a two-game homestand this week against Utah (tonight) and Philadelphia (Sunday) before going on an eight-day, five-day trip. The stops include Oklahoma City (March 24), Minnesota (March 25), Toronto (March 27), Brooklyn (March 29) and Philadelphia (March 30).

That would leave Young with only nine games to play through two weeks in April. Young has averaged 13.4 points on a career-low 36.6 percent shooting.

“Each week it goes by, there’s less and less a chance of him playing,” Scott said. “We have to wait and 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’ Nick Young out at least another week with small fracture in left knee

"The Lakers’ Nick Young #0 drives to the hoop as the Magic’s Nikola Vucevic #9 defends during their NBA game at the Staples Center Friday, January 9, 2015.  (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)"

“The Lakers’ Nick Young #0 drives to the hoop as the Magic’s Nikola Vucevic #9 defends during their NBA game at the Staples Center Friday, January 9, 2015. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)”

First, the good news: Nick Young’s swollen left knee will not require surgery as some in the organization feared, a procedure that would surely sideline him for the remainder of the Lakers’ 16 regular-season games. Now, the bad news: A CT scan shows that Young has a small fracture in his left kneecap, which will sideline him for at least another week until the Lakers reevalaute him.

According to the Lakers’ timetable, Young would stay out for the Lakers’ homestand this week against Utah (Thursday) and Philadelphia (Sunday). Young would miss at least the beginning of the Lakers’ week-long trip that begins next week in Oklahoma City (Tuesday). Yet, Lakers coach Byron Scott estimated Young may need at least a week just to catch up on his conditioning after missing the previous 10 games because of his knee injury.

Young has averaged 13.4 points on a career-low 36.6 shooting percent clip, a mark that dipped in January (32.2 percent) and February (32.4 percent).

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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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NCAA tournament: Lakers’ Julius Randle “absolutely” believes Kentucky will win championship

Julius Randle, seen at a pre-draft workout in June, had 10 points and eight rebounds in a Lakers preseason game Monday. (Thomas R. Cordova/Staff Photographer)

Julius Randle, seen at a pre-draft workout in June, had 10 points and eight rebounds in a Lakers preseason game Monday. (Thomas R. Cordova/Staff Photographer)

The question made Lakers forward Julius Randle initially uncomfortable. After all, he did not want to “jinx” his alma mater.

But a moment later, Randle sounded fully confident that the top-seeded University of Kentucky will keep its 34-0 undefeated record intact en route to the 2016 NCAA men’s basketball national championship.

“They’re the most talented team and best team out there,” Randle said following Wednesday’s practice at the Lakers’ facility in El Segundo. “I haven’t watched other games other than Kentucky. But from what I understand, they have the toughest bracket. I’m not worried about it.”
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Lakers’ Nick Young sports new haircut as he awaits CT scan results

The snickering started as soon as Lakers Byron Scott saw Nick Young.

With Young staying sidelined for the past 10 games because of a swollen left knee, he spent that idle time fixing up his haircut. The Lakers are still awaiting on the results surrounding his CT scan taken on Monday, a team official saying the holdup simply hinges on an East-Coast based doctor to analyze and inform the franchise on the results. The original scans were read and then misplaced, leaving the Lakers in a state of indecision considering they want medical opinions before taking the next step.

But that did not prevent Young from soaking up all the attention.

“It’s called being at home doing nothing,” said Young, who said his new look came from recently watching Jamie Foxx in ‘Booty Call.’ “I felt like it was time for a change.”

Most of the Lakers rolled their eyes at Young’s antics.

Scott joked that Young hair “looks like a bunch of worms running around” and concluded he “lost a bet.” Lakers rookie forward Julius Randle called Young’s haircut “very special” and compared the look to the character “O-Dog” in “Menace to Society” Lakers forward Ed Davis offered a “no comment” on Young’s hairstyle before siding with Scott since he controls playing time. When asked by Young’s haircut as he walked past him, Lakers forward Wesley Johnson said, “That’s him.”

But what about Scott’s criticism?

“People with no hair wouldn’t understand,” said Young, a jab at Scott being bald. “He had the ability to try things with his hair. But when it’s over with, you tend to turn into a hater to people who got hair. I would be mad at somebody who had hair if I didn’t have hair.”

Young enjoyed all the attention. But when he fielded questions about his left knee, Young walked away. He only shot free throws for a few minutes at the end of Wednesday’s practice after spending most of that time receiving treatment and then watching the team’s scrimmage from the sideline. The Lakers (17-49) have no information other than ruling Young out for Thursday’s game against the Utah Jazz (30-36) at Staples Center.

When will the Lakers know about Young’s health?

“Hopefully sometime this week,” Scott said. “The sooner, the better. Hopefully before the end of this week is over with, we’ll have an idea of whats going on.”

Young has averaged 13.4 points on a career-low 36.6 shooting percent clip, a mark that dipped in January (32.2 percent) and February (32.4 percent). That left Scott outlining a best-case scenario that does not seem likely with 16 games remaining.

“We get results today and start getting him on work tomorrow. But if it’s prolonged a week or so longer, it minimizes his chance of coming back.”

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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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