Lakers’ Julius Randle off crutches as 2014 draft class suffers injury bug

Lakers forward Julius Randle recently has walked without crutches after fracturing his right leg a little less than two months ago in a season-ending injury. (Micah Escamilla/Staff Photographer)

Lakers forward Julius Randle recently has walked without crutches after fracturing his right leg a little less than two months ago in a season-ending injury. (Micah Escamilla/Staff Photographer)

It appeared like a normal exercise as Lakers rookie forward Julius Randle performed a leg press during Wednesday’s practice. But in Randle’s case, it marked one of many progressions he has made since suffering a season-ending injury to his right leg in the Lakers’ season opener just under two months ago.

Since then, Randle has healed enough to get around without any crutches in the past week.

“Honestly I’m not supposed to be off crutches,” Randle said, with a chuckle. “The doctor said to go at your own pace. My pace was to get rid of them immediately.”

Randle still has a long way to go. He has started the physical therapy portion of his season-long rehab that currently entails walking on a weight-bearing treadmill. That hardly matches what the Lakers envisioned with they drafted him seventh overall out of the University of Kentucky. That hardly matches what Randle envisioned when he showed potential during exhibition play as a versatile forward that could play physical, hit a mid-range jumper and even assume ball-handling duties.

“You miss the competitive atmosphere and going to war with your teammates,” Randle said. “It’s tough. It’s a brotherhood out there and its tough to sit back and watch. But I’m learning a lot throughout all this.”
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Lakers’ Kobe Bryant increasing practice work

"MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 14: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers waves to the crowd after passing Michael Jordan on the all-time scoring list with a free throw in the second quarter of the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on December 14, 2014 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)"

“MINNEAPOLIS, MN – DECEMBER 14: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers waves to the crowd after passing Michael Jordan on the all-time scoring list with a free throw in the second quarter of the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on December 14, 2014 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)”

It might seem hard to imagine. But Kobe Bryant’s workload has gotten bigger.

The Lakers’ star participated in what coach Byron Scott described as a “light practice” on Wednesday that entailed five-on-four and five-on-five half-court drills. Bryant also plans to practice on Thursday in preparation for when the Lakers (8-17) host the Oklahoma City Thunder (12-13) on Friday at Staples Center.

Bryant had also practiced last Thursday in what became memorable for his profanity laced tirade during portions of a five-on-five scrimmage open to the media. But for the previous two weeks, Scott had sat Bryant out of both practice and shootarounds after believing his fatigue contributed to poor shooting performances.

“He seems to have more pep in his step for whatever reason. Maybe he’s getting his second wind,” Scott said of the 36-year-old Bryant, who played only six games last season with injuries to his left Achilles tendon and left knee. “We still all tend to forget he hasn’t played a year and a half of basketball since he was out. He probably still has some rust on him. But right now he’s getting that second wind.”

Scott had indicated last week he hoped to practice Bryant when the Lakers had multiple days in between games. The Lakers had off on Tuesday following Monday’s loss in Indiana that concluded a 2-1 trip. Bryant has averaged 23 points albeit on only 34.5 percent shooting in his past five games.

Meanwhile, Lakers forward Jordan Hill sat out of Wednesday’s practice because of an upper respiratory infection. But Scott believes Hill will “be all right.”

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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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Rick Fox, Jalen Rose, George Karl offer perspective on Kobe Bryant-Michael Jordan

"MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 14: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers waves to the crowd after passing Michael Jordan on the all-time scoring list with a free throw in the second quarter of the game on December 14, 2014 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)"

“MINNEAPOLIS, MN – DECEMBER 14: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers waves to the crowd after passing Michael Jordan on the all-time scoring list with a free throw in the second quarter of the game on December 14, 2014 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)”

The debate never dies. Who is better, Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant? The conversation emerged again amid Bryant surpassing Jordan for third place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. But there is also appreciation for Bryant’s legacy itself with five NBA championships in 19 NBA seasons regardless of how it matches up with Jordan’s six NBA titles in a 15-year career.

Former NBA coach and ESPN analyst George Karl, former NBA player and ESPN analyst Jalen Rose and former Lakers forward and NBA TV analyst Rick Fox offered some perspective on both Bryant and Jordan below.


What are the similarities between Kobe and Michael?

Karl: “The common thread for me is they’ve always been great competitors. They all have off the charts focus and they see and play a game probably with more intensity and mental focus than most players that ever played the game. Then you top that off with the fact that they are great athletes. Kobe is long and lean. But Michael was kind of powerful and could beat you with a rebound, could beat you with a defense, could beat you with a shot and could beat you with a pass in almost every way.”

Rose: “I like how they say the game of basketball in their interviews. It’s almost like Kobe got that from MJ. It’s their fundamentals. Somebody that has coached basketball, analyzed basketball and played basketball, there are certain things I watch for in players. They have one trait that shooting guards that has really been lost by that position. You have to dominate the boxes and the elbows and be able to catch the ball with a live dribble still available. A lot of young players catch the ball and just dribble the ball for no reason. Both of those guys get the ball, face up, jab step and triple threat and assess the situation. If you fall asleep, they’ll just jab and go to the right or go baseline and just dunk the ball without even any thought.”
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Lakers’ Kobe Bryant sets franchise record for most fouls

The Lakers’ Kobe Bryant thanks his high school English teacher for encouraging him to write. He recently penned an essay on passing Michael Jordan on the all-time NBA scoring list. (Photo by Eric Gay/Associated Press)

The Lakers’ Kobe Bryant thanks his high school English teacher for encouraging him to write. He recently penned an essay on passing Michael Jordan on the all-time NBA scoring list. (Photo by Eric Gay/Associated Press)

Kobe Bryant set another milestone, but this one did prompt a video tribute, a game-ball presentation at halfcourt and a celebration on the team plane.

Bryant committed four fouls in Monday’s loss to Indiana, setting a Lakers’ record of 3,226 career fouls. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had 3,224 fouls with the Lakers.

“I don’t think we’ll all look back at that and say, ‘Man, Kobe was a hacker,’” Lakers coach Byron Scott said with a chuckle. “When you play 19 years, you’re going to accumulate some fouls.”

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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 reflects on passing Michael Jordan, nearly giving up sport

"MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 14: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers leaves the court after the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on December 14, 2014 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Bryant passed Michael Jordan on the all-time scoring list with a free throw during the second quarter. The Lakers defeated the Timberwolves 100-94. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)"

“MINNEAPOLIS, MN – DECEMBER 14: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers leaves the court after the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on December 14, 2014 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Bryant passed Michael Jordan on the all-time scoring list with a free throw during the second quarter. The Lakers defeated the Timberwolves 100-94. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)”

Kobe Bryant once felt so sluggish on the court that he reported he scored zero points as a 12-year-old in Philadelphia’s Sonny Hill Future League. Bryant once felt so insecure with his play that he considered quitting basketball and playing soccer instead.

None of those things ever turned out as planned. Bryant stuck with basketball and eventually won five NBA championships and just surpassed Michael Jordan for third place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. The Lakers’ star attributed his determination to gut it out in part to Jordan.

“Here’s where my respect and admiration for MJ was forged,” Bryant wrote in a first-person essay for The Players’ Tribune. “I learned that he had been cut from his high school team as a freshman; I learned he knew what it felt like to be embarrassed, to feel like a failure. But he used those emotions to fuel him, make him stronger, he didn’t quit. So I decided to take on my challenge the same way he did. I would channel my failure as fuel to keep my competitive fire burning. I became obsessed with proving to my family — and more importantly to myself — that I CAN DO THIS.
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Lakers’ Kobe Bryant says he’s “used to being the villian”

"MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 14: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers waves to the crowd after passing Michael Jordan on the all-time scoring list with a free throw in the second quarter of the game on December 14, 2014 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)"

“MINNEAPOLIS, MN – DECEMBER 14: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers waves to the crowd after passing Michael Jordan on the all-time scoring list with a free throw in the second quarter of the game on December 14, 2014 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)”

MINNEAPOLIS — Well after he cemented himself in the NBA history books yet again, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant strolled down a hallway here at Target Center, stopped at the loading dock and heard a thunderous sound that did not fade.

Even as the team bus stood outside with its engine rumbling, a much louder noise kept rising and rising at a feverish pitch.

“Kobe! KOBE! KOBE!!!!!” dozens of fans roared through these walls. Bryant has heard that sound plenty of times during his 19 seasons amid public appearances, game-winning shots and championship parade. But this whole sequence of events just startled him. The Lakers secured a 100-94 victory against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center. Yet, plenty of the 15,0008 fans here applauded him in nearly every instant.

When he he hit a 26-foot 3-point field goal with 1:02 remaining that but secured the Lakers (8-16) earning their first three-game winning streak of the season. When Bryant made a pair of free throws with 5:24 left in the second quarter that eclipsed Michael Jordan’s 32,692 career points for third place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. And just as Bryant would board the team bus.

Only moments earlier, Bryant struggled processing it all.

“I’m so used to being the villain all the time on the road,” Bryant said. “It took a minute to adjust. But I got to say it felt good to be appreciated.”
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Lakers’ Byron Scott enjoys the Nick Young coaching experience

MINNEAPOLIS — The smile widened on Byron Scott’s face as he heard the question.

What’s the Nick Young coaching experience like?

“It’s been interesting to say the least,” Scott said. “There’s been a lot of good moments because he’s interesting. But it’s been fun.”

It sure has.

When he isn’t averaging 15.7 points per game and giving Kobe Bryant a secondary scoring option, Young is also entertaining teammates, coaches and reporters alike with his friendly personality and hilarious quotes.

Young appeared in mid-season form after hitting a 30-foot three-pointer that secured the Lakers’ 112-110 overtime win on Friday against the San Antonio Spurs. Young gave shoutouts to nearly all of his teammates and interviewed Jordan Hill about himself. Young playfully talked trash to Kobe Bryant during Thursday’s practice and poked fun at the Lakers’ star feeling fatigued against San Antonio. After calling himself “Swaggy P” for his nine-year NBA career, Young gave himself a new nickname titled “IDM,” standing for “I Don’t Miss.”

“He’s a walking quotation,” Scott said. “He’ll give you guys anything you need. He loves when you talk to him.”
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Byron Scott says it was on Kobe Bryant’s “list a long time ago” to surpass Michael Jordan’s career points

Kobe Bryant remains nine points away from surpassing Michael Jordan for third place on the NBA's all-time scoring list. Photo credit: VINCENT LAFORET/AFP/Getty Images)

Kobe Bryant remains nine points away from surpassing Michael Jordan for third place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Photo credit: VINCENT LAFORET/AFP/Getty Images)

MINNEAPOLIS — Well before Kobe Bryant would win five NBA championships, post a career-high 81 points or play through nearly every injury imaginable, Lakers coach Byron Scott quickly learned what made him tick.

As he mentored Bryant during his rookie season 19 years ago, Scott became aware Bryant wanted to becomes the NBA’s best player and win endless championships. Scott also became aware of something else. It became important for Bryant to eclipse Michael Jordan for third place in the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Bryant will likely achieve that goal when the Lakers (7-17) play the Minnesota Timberwolves (5-17) on Sunday at Target Center considering he only needs to score at least nine points.

“Knowing Kobe the way I do, this is something that was on his list a long time ago,” Scott said. “This is one of them as well as trying to pass him in championships rings and things of that nature as well. He’ll take it in stride, believe me. He’ll do it and say it’s no big deal.”
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Lakers’ Byron Scott believes Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time scoring record staying put

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Byron Scott gives direction to his players during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs, Friday, Dec. 12, 2014, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Byron Scott gives direction to his players during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs, Friday, Dec. 12, 2014, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

SAN ANTONIO — For this entire 2014-15 Lakers’ season, it has become a matter of when and not if Kobe Bryant will eclipse Michael Jordan for third place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.

More clarity has emerged on this development since Bryant will only need to score nine points when the Lakers (7-16) play on Sunday against the Minnesota Timberwolves (5-17) at Target Center to surpass Jordan’s career 32,692 points.

But what happens after that? Well, more than likely Bryant stays there. He will then trail behind Karl Malone’s 36,928 points and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s 38,387 points.

“That’s going to stand for a while,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said of Abdul-Jabbar’s record. “I don’t think in our lifetime we’re going to see it being broken. It’s going to be hard for somebody to break that. Someone will have to play 20 plus years to do that.”
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