The man who has climbed toward fourth place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list suddenly cannot make a basket. The man who has dazzled the NBA with difficult shots through double and triple teams suddenly cannot make them unguarded. The man who has willed himself toward collecting five NBA championships on talent, fundamentals and work ethic suddenly cannot win in a game of H-O-R-S-E.
Another video emerged, posted by Youtube user Max Funke, surrounding Kobe Bryant playing a fan in a game of H-O-R-S-E. But despite his trash talking and attempts to make difficult shots, Bryant is the one left eating up a dose of humble pie. He missed routine three-point attempts. Bryant never appeared in a rhythm. He initially stayed in game only because the three-person competition featured one player consistently making shots to knock another camper out.
But once the field narrows, Bryant hardly became the clutch player he usually has been on the basketball court. Bryant accepts the loss graciously, both congratulating and hugging the camper. Yet, the game hardly matches everything we are used toward seeing Bryant doing.
The Lakers’ Jordan Hill smiles after securing a rebound before a timeout and the lead against the Celtics, Friday, February 21, 2014, at Staples Center. (Photo by Michael Owen Baker/L.A. Daily News)
The Lakers officially signed Jordan Hill to a two-year, $18 million deal on Wednesday, adding a power forward that usually helped the Lakers on defense and rebounding.
“Jordan has been a consistent contributor for us over the last three seasons and we are pleased to keep him in the Laker family,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said in a statement. “Jordan’s frontcourt versatility is a benefit to our roster and his on-court work ethic is something we value on our team. We hope he’ll continue to work hard and develop as an NBA player.”
Despite posting a career-high 9.7 points and 7.8 rebounds in the 2013-14 season, Hill’s work ethic has actually come into question. Though he prides himself on making hustle plays, the Lakers became frustrated that his energy level and defensive rotations became inconsistent. It also did not help that Hill felt frustrated with Mike D’Antoni’s system that featured him playing inconsistent minutes.
Los Angeles Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak during a press conference held at the Toyota Sports Center, El Segundo Calif., Friday, April 18, 2014. (Photo by Stephen Carr / Daily Breeze)
Amid all the unanswered questions who the Lakers will hire as their next head coach and when, two team sources strongly disputed that any delay stems from waiting out to see if Clippers coach Doc Rivers will become available because of embattled owner Donald Sterling prolonging a costly litigation battle.
ESPN’s Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose each brought up that prospective theory on why the Lakers have gone three months without hiring a coach since Mike D’Antoni’s resignation on April 30. Clippers interim Chief executive Dick Parsons also testified in court Tuesday that Rivers does not want to continue to coach if Sterling still owns the team next season.
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak stood before a bunch of microphones, tape recorders and cameras, but his presence on Wednesday at the team’s practice facility in El Segundo hardly cleared up the uncertainty on where the team stands with its coaching vacancy.
Kupchak displayed Ed Davis’ No. 21 Lakers’ jersey. Kupchak gushed about Davis’ potential. Kupchak vaguely spoke about how the Lakers “made significant improvements and changes” to their roster despite losing out on LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony as well as losing Pau Gasol. Then, Kupchak ducked out of the press conference room without taking any questions from reporters. Continue reading →
The Lakers quickly added free agent forward Ed Davis, providing some much-needed depth to their thin front court. Davis quickly jumped on the opportunity, latching onto somewhere where he could escape the NBA’s version of purgatory in Memphis where he suddenly became a benchwarmer.
So as much as Davis gushed about the Lakers’ storied championship history or his private phone conversation with Kobe Bryant, it became clear that Davis turned down more lucrative offers for a two-year, $2 million deal with hopes he can bolster his career.
“There is opportunity where I can play and help this team win,” said Davis, whom the Lakers introduced on Wednesday at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo.
Davis averaged around five points and four rebounds in 15 minutes through two seasons with Memphis, a drop off when he netted a career-high 9.7 points and 6.7 rebounds in 24.5 minutes in his third season in Toronto. It did not help that Davis found himself stuck behind a bloated Grizzlies frontline in All-Stars Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.
“It definitely was a challenge, but I took it as a learning experience,” said Davis, who relished both playing against Gasol and Randolph in practice. They’re such good players and learning from them every night helped me out a lot.”
Linsanity swept the world up in excitement. But it made Jeremy Lin feel empty. He enjoyed how it cemented his NBA future. He enjoyed the thrill in adding more memorable moments to a once fledgling career. He enjoyed how his work ethic proved all those NBA teams wrong that passed him up.
But that elation became only temporary. Lin then struggled through two seasons with the Houston Rockets. He eventually lost his starting position. The Rockets even featured Carmelo Anthony in mock-up uniforms wearing Lin’s No. 7 even before eventually trading him and a first and second round draft pick to the Lakers for nothing more than the rights to Sergei Lishchuk. But in a 42-minute testimony in a recent trip to Taiwain, Lin shares how he learned to better cope with such struggles because of his Christian faith.
“I can’t promise next season will go well,” Lin said. “As badly as I want it to go perfectly, I know it could also be a disaster. But the one thing I can promise is that God’s bigger and better than anything that can happen.”
As he travels down the long winded path toward pursuing greatness, Kobe Bryant consults material that no coach trainer, or game film could ever reveal. The Lakers’ star also seeks inspiration from people who have thrived in areas away from basketball.
Bryant frequently talks with Nike’s chief executive officer Mark Parker. Bryant has chatted with Apple’s lead designer Jony Ive. Bryant has recently consulted media monguls Oprah Winfrey and Arianna Huffington. Bryant has a long-lasting friendship with actress Hilary Swank.
“I just cold call people,” Bryant told Bloomberg News in the video above. “I cold call people and pick their brain about stuff. Some of the questions I ask seem really really simple and some of them seem stupid, quite honestly, for them. But if I don’t know, I don’t know. I have to ask. I’ll just do that and ask questions. I want to learn more about how they build their business and how they run their companies and how they see the world.”
Bryant asks these questions for a few reasons. He advanced toward the beginning stages of constructing his own business brand titled Kobe Inc. Bryant also wants to see how he can apply the preparation and vision those leaders have shown in various fields into his own basketball game. It turns out some of those people feel the same way about Bryant.
“Jony wanted to know how do I prepare?” said Bryant, who confirmed he visited the Apple headquarters. “How do I study and view the game? How do you build your game? My response is much like the way he builds products. You think sequentially. Yeah, you look at the end result in which you want to create. But in order to create that, there’s so many little things that go into this massive entity and device. Its’ no different than building a basketball game. You start with what you want your game to be, what will make your game most unstoppable or hard to deal with and then you work backwards from there. You start building one piece at a time, one move at a time, one counter at a time. There’s a lot of similarities.”
Former Laker Michael Cooper will take a leave of absence as the head coach of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream because of early stage tongue cancer. Cooper plans to have a surgical procedure this week at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University in Atlanta and is expected to recover in two weeks. Assistant coach Karleen Thompson will assume head coaching duties during Cooper’s absence.
“The doctors and staff at Emory have been tremendous, and I know I’m in good hands,” Cooper said in a statement. “I’m fortunate that my condition was diagnosed early, and this episode illustrates the importance of screening and early detection. I know the team will be in good hands with Coach Thompson at the helm during my absence, and I look forward to returning to the court soon.”
Cooper has guided Atlanta to an Eastern Conference best 15-6 record in his first season. He also coached the East to a 125-124 overtime win at the WNBA All-Star game on Saturday.
Cooper is best known as a defensive specialist with the Showtime Lakers (1978-90) where he won five NBA championships. He also coached the Los Angeles Sparks to two WNBA championships (2001, 2002). Cooper left his second stint with the Sparks to coach the USC’s women’s basketball team. But he resigned in March after finishing 11-20, his first losing record in four seasons.
Los Angeles Lakers Ryan Kelly (4) defends against Utah Jazz’s Derrick Favors (15) in the first quarter during an NBA basketball game Monday, April 14, 2014, in Salt Lake City, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
The Lakers spent part of their day on Monday finishing up a bunch of paperwork. Shortly after announcing the Lakers signed Nick Young’s four-year deal worth $21.5 million, the Lakers announced that Ryan Kelly signed his contract.
The Lakers did not divulge the terms of Kelly’s contract. But it is a two-year deal a little shy of $3.5 million with no options, according to a league source familiar with the terms. The Lakers used their $2.7 million exception on his deal.
“When we extended a qualifying offer to Ryan in June, we fully expected him to be a part of our future,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said in a statement. “Ryan did everything we asked of him as a rookie and showed great promise and potential. After rehabbing an injury last summer, he will have the benefit of a full offseason regimen and training camp for the first time in his NBA career, and we anticipate further development as a result.”
Kelly had missed parts of training camp while rehabbing a surgically repaired right foot. But the 48th pick of the 2013 NBA draft quickly made an impression on the Lakers with his work ethic, shooting and floor spacing. Kelly, who averaged eight points and 3.7 rebounds in 22.2 minutes per game, started in 22 of his 59 appearances. Kelly also joined Kobe Bryant and Eddie Jones as the third Lakers rookie in the last 20 years to score at least 17 points in consecutive games.
The Lakers believe Kelly went through some growing pains with adapting to the physical nature of the NBA and on defense. But they saw improvement because of his strong fundamentals and basketball IQ, two ingredients the Lakers believe will spur his growth.
Los Angeles Lakers forward Nick Young (0) puts up a shot in front of Orlando Magic forward Maurice Harkless (21) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Orlando, Fla., Friday, Jan. 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
The Lakers officially signed up for more years of “Swaggy P,” formalizing Nick Young’s four-year, $21.5 million deal that includes a player option in his final season. The Lakers and Young agreed to a deal 10 days ago, but they held off on signing the contract so they could navigate the parameters of the NBA’s complicated collective bargaining agreement.
After acquiring Carlos Boozer last Thursday on an amnesty claim, the Lakers waived point guard Kendall Marshall so they could have enough money both to accommodate the Boozer and Young acquisitions. The Lakers are then allowed to Jordan Hill’s two-year, $18 million deal because his “Bird Rights’ enable them to go over the cap. The Lakers can then sign deals to Ed Davis (a reported two years, $2 million), Xavier Henry (a reported one-year worth $1 million), Xavier Henry (a reported one-year worth $1 million) and Ryan Kelly (two years).
“When Nick became a free agent in June, I expressed hope that we would be able to bring him back on a contract that was in the best interest of both the Lakers and himself, and I am proud to say we were able to do so,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said in a statement. “Nick was a bright spot for us last season, and we are happy to retain such a skilled player who is committed to being a part of what we are building as a franchise.”
After averaging a team-leading 17.9 points, Young opted out of his $1.2 million player option in hopes of seeking a longer and more lucrative deal with the Lakers. The Lakers also wanted to keep Young, who starred both at Reseda Cleveland High and USC. But the Lakers were unsure if they would be able to re-sign him to a multi-year deal considering they prioritized pursuing LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. Once it became official the Lakers’ pitch did not work out, Young became the first player from last year’s team to agree to a deal.
The accomplished track record, his superior fundamentals and his uncompromising drive still cannot provide clarity on one question.
How will Kobe Bryant play next season?
Will his prolonged recovery on his left Achilles tendon and left ankle reenergize Bryant’s aging body that turns 36 in August? Or does the six games he played in last season suggest he will not survive a grinding NBA season? Will Will Bryant still stay effective by adjusting his game? Or will he just become damaged goods? Can his greatness boost a sluggish Lakers’ season? Or will his fortunes become as bleak as what the Lakers’ season could entail?
Of course, Bryant would argue the best case scenarios will happen. He will use the cited worst case scenarios as fuel to prove those outcomes will not play out. He will use any self-doubt as both additional fuel and to make any necessary adjustments to his game. As the video produced by Old Skool BBall shows, Bryant stays resolute in ensuring he still can leave an impressive “Last Dance.”
I don’t want to say I’ll be back at the top of my game because everybody is going to think I’m crazy and it’s the old player not letting go sort of thing,” Bryant said in March when the Lakers announced he would miss the rest of the season. “But that’s what it’s going to be.”