Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant gestures while arguing with a referee during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Sacramento Kings, Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
SAN ANTONIO –Kobe Bryant’s voice reached fever pitch. He let out a string of expletives with as much volume as one of his shooting outbursts. He demeaned teammates about their talent and effort.
With the media let in to practice on Thursday to see this incident take place, the footage soon went viral and hit the airwaves.
All of which prompted Lakers coach Byron Scott to say, so what?
“It’s a practice where guys go at each other,” Scott said after morning shootaround on Friday for the Lakers’ game tonight against San Antonio at AT&T Center. “That’s not the first time he has gone at those guys and it’s not the first time they’ve gone back at him. Last night, I’m looking at ESPN and it says Kobe goes off in practice. To me, it wasn’t that big of a deal. To me, it was fun.”
Instead, Scott viewed Bryant’s practice on Thursday as significant for another reason. He actually practiced. Scott has held out Bryant in practices and shootarounds for the last two weeks to rest his 36-year-old body. This happened after Bryant shared that he felt “heavy legs,” particularly toward the end of games.
But Bryant practiced on Thursday, both after improving his energy level and the Lakers benefiting from having two days in between games. Scott said he would like to practice Bryant when the Lakers have multiple days in between games. The Lakers will have that next week with three days in between Monday’s game in Indiana and Friday’s home game against Oklahoma City. Scott reflected on his own anxiousness during his 14-year NBA career when he faced multiple days in between games.
“I felt like I was losing something,” Scott said. “It wasn’t enough to just get shots up. If I took a day off or had a day off, that next day I wanted to get a nice lather going.”
Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls (L) eyes the basket as he is guarded by Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers during their 01 February game in Los Angeles, CA. Jordan will appear in his 12th NBA All-Star game 08 February while Bryant will make his first All-Star appearance. The Lakers won the game 112-87. AFP PHOTO/Vince BUCCI (Photo credit should read Vince Bucci/AFP/Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO — The moment seems inevitable.
Kobe Bryant will surpass Michael Jordan for third place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Will it happen when the Lakers (6-16) play on Friday against the San Antonio Spurs (16-6) here at AT&T Center? Or will Bryant make history when the Lakers play on Sunday in Minnesota?
Bryant did not speak to reporters following morning shootaround, but Lakers coach Byron Scott maintained his star player hardly has thought about his upcoming milestone.
“His mindset is to win the game. I’m pretty sure of that,” Scott said. “The other part is secondary. His mindset is always to win.”
Kawhi Leonard of the Spurs/Photo courtesy of San Antonio Spurs, NBA.com
Small forward Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs is the second-leading scorer on a balanced team that has five players averaging double figures in points. Leonard averages 14.8 points and 7.5 rebounds. But he is just scratching the surface, Lakers coach Byron Scott intimated after practice Thursday in El Segundo. That was evident when Scott was asked what problems Leonard will present when the teams square off Friday night at San Antonio.
“I don’t think there is a problem that he doesn’t present,” Scott said. “I mean, he’s a quiet assassin. Offensively, he can make 3s, he can get it to the basket, he can post up. And defensively, he can guard three or four different guys. So he’s just a very valuable piece of the puzzle and his emergence has made him that much better.”
Leonard, just 23, prepped at King High School in Riverside before playing his college ball at San Diego State. He’s in his fourth season with the Spurs (16-6), the defending NBA champions.
Leonard was held out of Wednesday’s game against the New York Knicks with a bruised right hand. According to an online report by the San Antonio Express-News, an MRI done Thursday morning on the hand proved negative and he could play Friday.
Magic Johnson/Photo by Associated Press
Try as they might, reporters still haven’t been able to get coach Byron Scott to express any anger toward Lakers great Magic Johnson, who this week said he wants the Lakers to lose every game so they can get the highest possible pick in the draft next year.
“I got a good kick out of it because I know him; if he was on the court, there is no way in the world he would concede a basketball game,” Scott said Thursday after practice. “That’s how competitive he is. So, again, that’s why it makes me laugh.”
Jim Hill, sports anchor for CBS, kept trying, asking Scott if it irritated him.
“It really didn’t,” Scott said. “Like I said, these guys (beat reporters) asked me and I started smiling and, really, inside just laughing about it. So, no, it didn’t irritate me at all.”
Jeremy Lin/Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Lakers, NBA.com
Power forward Carlos Boozer and point guard Jeremy Lin were removed from the starting lineup two games ago. Boozer has responded well with 12 points on 6 of 12 shooting in a loss to New Orleans on Sunday and 15 points on 6 of 13 shooting Tuesday in a win over Sacramento.
Lin has suffered. He had just three points on 1 of 5 shooting against New Orleans and three points on 1 of 5 shooting against Sacramento. He did have four assists in each game.
“He has to be aggressive, but you’ve gotta be smart,” coach Byron Scott said, when asked what Lin needs to do to thrive. “As a point guard, he has to understand the situations, he has to understand the guys he’s playing with, who needs a shot, when they need a shot, who’s hot and things like that. But still have an aggressive mind-set. I think right now that’s the one or two things that he’s struggling with.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s as a starter or as a reserve, those are the things he has to implement into his game.”
“Lakers Jeremy Lin takes a shot over Kings Rudy Gay in the second half. The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Sacramento Kings 98-95 in Los Angeles, CA. December 9, 2014. (Photo by John McCoy Daily News)”
He lost his starting position, but Lakers guard Jeremy Lin pledges to make the best of his circumstances. Lin recently hasn’t finished games, but he remains determined improved play will change that outcome.
But even if those things do not go his way, Lin at least hopes that his bench role will entail playing more with Ed Davis after showing chemistry in the pick-and-roll game. The only challenge: Davis has since replaced Carlos Boozer’s spot at power forward in the starting lineup.
“I’d like to see more minutes with him,” Lin said of Davis. “Whatever time I could get with him, I would love because we were able to get it going.”
“Lakers Kobe Bryant is cheered for his efforts in the 4th quarter. The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Sacramento Kings 98-95 in Los Angeles, CA. December 9, 2014. (Photo by John McCoy Daily News)”
As if Kobe Bryant does not already have a heavy workload.
But in addition to the high volume shooting, Bryant could have the additional task in managing point guard duties. After Bryant closed out the Lakers’ 98-95 win on Tuesday over the Sacramento Kings at Staples Center, Lakers coach Byron Scott suggested that marks a sneak preview of things to come.
“You will see it again,” Scott said after practice on Wednesday at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo. “I know it’s very effective and something I’ve been thinking about.”
“Kobe Bryant shoots over Ben McLemore in the first half. The Los Angeles Lakers played the Sacramento Kings in Los Angeles, CA. December 9, 2014. (Photo by John McCoy Daily News)”
The smirk widened on Kobe Bryant’s face as he learned the news.
Magic Johnson argued on Tuesday in New York City to reporters that he hopes the Lakers lose every single game to maximize their chances at a top pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. Perhaps puzzling for Johnson to say such a thing after helping the Lakers to five NBA championships through his sheer talent and strong supporting cast.
“Magic’s one of the most competitive players in time,” Bryant said following the Lakers’ 98-95 win on Tuesday over the Sacramento Kings at Staples Center. “From an owners’ perspective, his opinion is to get top picks and be able to use those as leverage to trade and field a competitive team.”
Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant warms up before an NBA basketball game against the Sacramento Kings, Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014, in Los Angeles. Several athletes have worn “I Can’t Breathe” shirts during warm ups in support of the family of Eric Garner, who died July 17 after a police officer placed him in a chokehold when he was being arrested for selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
The Lakers came out and made a statement. It went beyond ending with a 98-95 victory on Tuesday over the Sacramento Kings at Staples Center instead of a loss to improve their draft lottery chances as Magic Johnson hoped.
The Lakers also wore “I Can’t Breathe” T-Shirts both during pre-game warmups and when players sat on the bench. The message is in support of Eric Gardner, a young African American who died in July after a police officer choked him. Though the incident was captured and shown on video, a grand jury decided last week not to indict the police officer.
“I didn’t have to study or research too much after looking at the video,” Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said. “It’s pretty self explanatory.”
Head coach Byron Scott of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on from the bench during the first half against the Washington Wizards at Verizon Center on December 3, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
The moment has happened to every Lakers’ head coach, and it only took 21 games for Byron Scott to experience it.
How to respond to something Magic Johnson argued that may put the coach in a precarious position.
Johnson said at a promotional event on Tuesday in New York City that he hopes the Lakers “lose every game” so it helps their chances in landing a top lottery pick. His boisterous laugh foreshadowed what Scott said he plans to text Johnson in response.
“LOL,” said Scott, though he then turned serious.
“That’s easy to say, but when you’re behind the scenes and you’re in the trenches and you’re coaching, that’s not something you wan to do,” Scott said. “I don’t think our players look at it that way. We have to try to go out here and win every game possible. If you lose games it’s one thing. But to go out and try to lose, that’s a different story. That sends a message to those guys in there that it goes back to a losing mentality. We don’t want to create that here.”