Mitch Kupchak downplays Kobe Bryant not touching base with new teammates

The Lakers held a press conference on Wednesday to introduce new players, from left, center Roy Hibbert, guard Lou Williams and forward Brandon Bass. (Photo by Brad Graverson/staff)

The Lakers held a press conference on Wednesday to introduce new players, from left, center Roy Hibbert, guard Lou Williams and forward Brandon Bass. (Photo by Brad Graverson/staff)

A seemingly harmless question soon turned into a heavily scrutinized topic.

The Lakers’ newcomers in Roy Hibbert, Lou Williams and Brandon were all asked if Bryant touched base with them at all ever since joining the purple and gold. Hibbert shook his head ‘no.’ Williams and Bass continuously stared at Hibbert. Bass soon smiled over the awkward silence.

But instead of considering this a red flag in future team chemistry, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak represented one of many who found the incident amusing.

“It’s kind of comical and funny to be honest with you,” Kupchak said recently on SiriusXM NBA Radio with Brian Geltzeiler and Rick Mahorn. “It was a good moment in TV. They asked a question and the three players kind of looked at each other and kind of just shrugged their shoulders, ‘No.”

There have been countless free agents and draft prospects in recent seasons that mentioned in some variance of Bryant calling or texting to talk about getting ready for the upcoming season. Such examples included Dwight Howard, Carlos Boozer, Jeremy Lin, Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell. Yet, Kupchak argued “it’s not that unusual” Bryant declined to touch base with any of the team’s new arrivals.

“Kobe doesn’t call every single player we sign or trade for. I don’t even know if he’s in the country, to be honest with you,” Kupchak said, though Bryant attended FC Barcelona’s soccer practice last week in Los Angeles. “There was much made of it. But I thought it was kind of comical.”

RELATED:
Lakers’ Nick Young felt more assured about future after recent meeting with Mitch Kupchak
Kobe Bryant yet to touch base with new Lakers teammates
Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak may add another guard or center to roster

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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Mitch Kupchak envisions D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson playing together in next 10-12 years

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said on SiriusXM Radio that he hopes D'Angelo Russell/Jordan Clarkson can play together for 10-12 years. (Scott Varley/Staff Photographer)

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said on SiriusXM Radio that he hopes D’Angelo Russell/Jordan Clarkson can play together for 10-12 years. (Scott Varley/Staff Photographer)

The pinpoint passes he threw and his confident on-court presence gave D’Angelo Russell the edge over all the other draft prospects the Lakers evaluated. His prolific scoring and insatiable thirst for self-improvement ensured Jordan Clarkson a positive impression among his Lakers teammates, coaches and trainers. Combined together, it appears Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak cannot help but think about good things that will transcend into the franchise’s long-term future.

“Our vision would be that both of those players play together in the backcourt for 10-12 years,” Kupchak said recently on SiriusXM NBA Radio with Brian Geltzeiler and Rick Mahorn. “That’s what we’re hoping for. We don’t look at them as players that can’t play with each other or have to play with somebody else. We think they can play together.”
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Lou Williams argues he and Nick Young can co-exist

Lakers guard Lou Williams said he and Nick Young can co-exist.  Photo by Brad Graverson/LANG/07/22/15

Lakers guard Lou Williams said he and Nick Young can co-exist. Photo by Brad Graverson/LANG/07/22/15

One player has taken pride in coming off the bench and scoring in bunches. Another player has felt the same. One has done it consistently enough last season to win the NBA’s sixth man of the year award. The other player failed to do it consistently enough that the Lakers could not to find any suitors to trade him.

That leads to one question that could define the Lakers’ bench identity. When Lou Williams and Nick Young are playing together, who will shoot the ball?

“Whoever has it,” Williams joked, prompting plenty of laughter on Wednesday at his introductory press conference at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo.

Yes, Williams and Young have cemented reputations as looking to score first, pass second and defend never. Before signing a three-year deal worth $21 million with the Lakers this offseason, Williams has averaged 11.9 points and 2.9 assists through his 10-year NBA career with stops in Philadelphia (2005-12), Atlanta (2012-14) and Toronto (2014-15). Young has averaged 12.3 points and 1.1 assists through his 8-year NBA career with stints in Washington (2007-12), the Clippers (2012), Philadelphia (2012-13) and the Lakers (2013-present).

Yet, Williams expressed optimism he and Young will co-exist. The Lakers plan to bring Williams off the bench as a shooting guard, while Young will play as a reserve small forward. Williams also cited his past experience teaming with other high-volume scorers, including Allen Iverson.

“I’ve played in systems with multiple guards where we had two or three guards on the court at the same time,” said Williams, who will also share scoring duties with Kobe Bryant. “The most important thing is to not pin Nick and I against each other. We’re teammates now. We both have similar games. We both like to score the basketball, that’s been one of our strong suits. That’s what we hang our hats on. But once we’re on the court, I like to play team basketball. If I’m in an iso situation, that when I try to score the ball. Other than that, I just try to make plays whether it’s for myself or my teammates.”
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Lakers’ Nick Young felt more assured about future after recent meeting with Mitch Kupchak

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)

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak met recently with forward Nick Young, which assuaged his concerns about his standing on the team. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)

Lakers forward Nick Young recently met with general manager Mitch Kupchak, according to league sources familiar with the situation.

It is not entirely clear what Young and Kupchak addressed in their meeting. It is typical for Kupchak to meet with players to discuss both professional and private issues. But the conversation at least left Young feeling comfortable enough that he will enter the 2015-16 season on the Lakers’ roster, according to a source familiar with his thinking.
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Roy Hibbert credits Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s influence

 Center Roy Hibbert could experience a resurgence with the Lakers. (Photo by Brad Graverson/Staff)

Center Roy Hibbert could experience a resurgence with the Lakers. (Photo by Brad Graverson/Staff)

A statue of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has sat outside Staples Center for the past three years, showing the unstoppable skyhook that both punished opponents and carried the Lakers to five NBA championships during the Showtime Era. The Lakers also retired his No. 33 jersey on March 20, 1989, a uniform the Lakers have displayed proudly both at the Forum and at Staples Center. And Abdul-Jabbar’s listing in the NBA record books has not changed, his league-leading 38,387 points staying intact ever since retiring more than 25 years ago.

Yet, there marks another symbol in which Abdul-Jabbar has cast a shadow on the Lakers’ organization. Even before he proudly held his No. 17 Lakers jersey at an introductory press conference on Wednesday, center Roy Hibbert revealed he has stepped foot on The Captain’s ship.

“Kareem reaches out to me, comes to watch my workouts and we stay in touch for the most part,” Hibbert said. “He gives me little tidbits, I worked with him a lot last year during the summer and he keeps up with me. So, he always gives me some advice, gives me some things to work on and I always ask him questions.”

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Kobe Bryant yet to touch base with new Lakers teammates

The question has become customary to ask any new Lakers player considering Kobe Bryant’s lasting influence on the organization.

“Have any of you guys heard from Kobe,” a reporter asked, “and if so, what did he say?”

Usually, the players will share that Bryant texted or talked with them on the phone. Sometimes, they will divulge what insight or advice Bryant offered. But center Roy Hibbert, guard Lou Williams and forward Brandon Bass, all of whom the Lakers acquired this offseason, indicated in an introductory press conference on Wednesday they had not heard from the Lakers’ star.

Hibbert shook his head “no.” The players looked at one another. Brass smiled amid the deafening silence.

Bryant, who is entering the final year of his contract worth $25 million, has touched base with other players in the past. That included D’Angelo Russell, whom the Lakers drafted with the second overall pick. Bryant also sat in on the Lakers’ first free agency meeting with LaMarcus Aldridge.

Still, Bass mentioned earlier that his arrival with the Lakers partly hinged on Bryant,

Said Bass: “I thought it was a great opportunity to play with one of the greatest ever to ever play the game.”

RELATED:

Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak may add another guard or center

What qualities will No. 2 pick in NBA Draft need to flourish with Kobe?

Lakers’ Jordan Clarkson not satisfied with promising rookie season

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 GM Mitch Kupchak may add another guard or center

The Los Angeles Lakers had the number 2 pick in the NBA draft and selected D'Angelo Russell from Ohio State Thursday, June 25, 2015, El Segundo, CA. Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak discusses the selection of Russell with the media from the Toyota Sports Center practice facility. Photo by Steve McCrank/Staff Photographer

Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak said on Wednesday that the Lakers may look to add another point guard and/or center. Photo by Steve McCrank/Staff Photographer

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak stood next to what represented the framework surrounding all the moves he made during free agency.

Roy Hibbert stood next to Kupchak donning his Lakers jersey at an introductory press conference on Wednesday after the Lakers acquired him from Indiana for a second-round pick. Shooting guard Lou Williams and power Brandon Bass also stood their holding their Lakers jerseys after signing here as free agents.

Add in Kobe Bryant’s expected return and the Lakers crop of young draft prospects, and it appears they have most of their roster set for the 2015-16 season. Yet, Kupchak stressed afterwards that his work is hardly finished, suggesting he would look to add either a point guard or center.

The Lakers have a flooded backcourt with D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Bryant, Williams, Nick Young and Jabari Brown. But Kupchak suggested Bryant and Young could play more at small forward instead of shooting guard. Meanwhile, Brown is expected to make the team on a non-guaranteed deal, but is only a second-year player.

“Depending on how you look at it, we may look to bring another guard on board,” Kupchak said. “We may not.”
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Shaquille O’Neal, Scottie Pippen argue over all-time Lakers, Bulls teams

Shaquille O’Neal set his opponent off into a tizzy. This time, the reasons did not involve O’Neal unleashing his unmatched strength as he powered his way inside for a devastating slam dunk. Instead, it involved an unprompted O’Neal setting off a sports debate on how the best all-time Lakers and Bulls teams would square off in a game.

O’Neal imagined the Lakers would have too much dazzling passing (Magic Johnson), too many unstoppable sky hooks (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), too much prolific scoring (Kobe Bryant and Elgin Baylor) and too much brute force (himself) for any team to stop them. Even if the Bulls fielded a lineup featuring Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Derrick Rose, Dennis Rodman and Horace Grant, O’Neal offered the outcome would prove as lopsided as a forgettable game against a lopsided opponent.

“We would beat em by fifty,” O’Neal wrote on his Instagram page. “What you think. Let me know and don’t hold back.”
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TNT analyst Kenny Smith unsure what to expect from Kobe Bryant next season

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant will undergo surgery Wednesday for the torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder, but a timetable for his return will not be revealed until after the surgery. (Mark J. Terrill/The Associated Press)

TNT analyst Kenny Smith sounded unsure how Kobe Bryant will fare next season. (Mark J. Terrill/The Associated Press)

The sunny skies and frequent laughs served as the permanent backdrop when athletes and celebrities strolled down the red carpet before the ESPY awards at the Microsoft Theater on Wednesday. But TNT analyst Kenny Smith turned serious amid a cloudy forecast regarding the Lakers’ fortunes next season.

Among the many questions surrounding the Lakers: how will Kobe Bryant play in his 20th and perhaps final NBA season?

“I just hope he’s healthy, healthy as a 36 year old can be,” Smith said. “I’m hoping for that. I’m not hoping for Kobe of 22. That’s not going to happen.”
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TWC SportsNet records top ratings for Lakers’ summer league games

Lakers' Julius Randle drives by Minnesota Timberwolvesí Adreian Payne during the first half of their NBA summer league basketball game Friday, July 10, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Lakers’ Julius Randle drives by Minnesota Timberwolvesí Adreian Payne during the first half of their NBA summer league basketball game Friday, July 10, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

The interest seemed so high that a standing-room only crowd soon emerged just before tipoff. They cheered loudly over every highlight reel. They even booed during poor play.

The Lakers’ summer league team has garnered plenty of interest among the partisan fans that made the quick trip to Las Vegas. The interest has also translated on the team’s telecast. Time Warner Cable SportsNet reported sparking its highest-rated summer league game in the team’s opener against Minnesota on Friday at Thomas & MAck Center with a 1.45 Nielsen rating. The Lakers boasted similarly inspiring numbers for their game against Philadelphia on Saturday (1.23) and against New York on Monday (1.29). It seems likely the Lakers will attract similar interest when they play the Dallas Mavericks at 5:30 p.m. PDT on Wednesday at the Thomas & Mack Center as an 11th seed.

This represents a dose of good news for the network after experiencing relatively low ratings amid the Lakers finishing with their worst record in L.A. franchise history in consecutive seasons. TWC SportsNet averaged a 1.55 Nielsen rating this season, marking a decline from the average household ratings for televised games in 2013-14 (2.11) and 2012-13 (4.63). Although those numbers still better fare than the Lakers’ Summer League telecasts, it is not considered an apples-to-apples comparisons since summer league games typically draw less interest than the NBA regular season.

But the Lakers presumably experienced a boost because of the implications surrounding their summer league team. After all, the Lakers’ average household ratings for their summer league coverage were substantially lower in 2013 (.28) and 2014 (.27).
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