Q&A: Jerry West reflects on Kobe Bryant’s pre-draft workout, career and standing among Lakers greats

In this May 29, 2008 file photo, Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant gives basketball great Jerry West a shoulder rub after the Lakers beat the San Antonio Spurs in Game 5 of the NBA Western Conference basketball finals in Los Angeles. When asked about the latest honor in a long series of enshrinements and accolades since West hung up his sneakers in 1974, the longtime Los Angeles Lakers guard and executive seemed to be anticipating his trip to Kansas City to be inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame with something between cautious excitement and outright dread. AP FILE PHOTO

In this May 29, 2008 file photo, Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant gives basketball great Jerry West a shoulder rub after the Lakers beat the San Antonio Spurs in Game 5 of the NBA Western Conference basketball finals in Los Angeles. When asked about the latest honor in a long series of enshrinements and accolades since West hung up his sneakers in 1974, the longtime Los Angeles Lakers guard and executive seemed to be anticipating his trip to Kansas City to be inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame with something between cautious excitement and outright dread. AP FILE PHOTO

Below is an edited transcript of Golden State executive and former Jerry West speaking about Kobe Bryant before the Lakers’ 116-98 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Thursday at Oracle Arena.

On Jerry West securing the Charlotte Hornet’s draft rights that landed Kobe Bryant for the 13th pick in the 1996 NBA Draft.

West
: “Something very unique happened to the Lakers organization that year that I think changed the course of a franchise that had been very good. But it put it on a track to have incredible success for so many years. We had a chance to work out a 17-year-old kid, and everyone talks about legendary workouts, that’s you people that create legendary because I’ve seen an awful lot of good workouts. But for someone that age, it was remarkable the skill, the love that he had for the game, and the desire to excel.

I think the one thing that was very evident to me right away was this was a player that, from my perspective at 17 years old, I’d never seen anyone with the skill level that he had. He was really unique. And we were trying to do something I think really daring that summer. But to acquire him, we traded an All-Star center and a starting center for a lot of teams in the league. We offered Vlade Divac from the No.1 pick in the draft all the way down to 13, and finally, Charlotte, who needed a center desperately agreed to do this.

Now everyone looks back and says it’s a one-sided trade. It was not a one-sided trade. Charlotte won over 50 games that year with Vlade as a starter. So I think it’s almost demeaning to Vlade and to Charlotte to even think that that was something that was an error for them. As it turned out, it did work to our advantage because we were able to kill two birds with one stone.

We got what I thought was a number one player in the draft, in Kobe Bryant, 17 years old, and it wasn’t en vogue to draft 17-year-old kids yet. It was not. But we got the biggest prize of all in Shaquille O’Neal. And for us, it was a turning point for this franchise.

And, again, I think you look back over history of what Shaquille and Kobe accomplished together and then what Kobe Bryant accomplished without Shaquille O’Neal, it’s really pretty remarkable.

Obviously, the game has changed a lot. At one time big men were the people that everyone was looking for. Today there are almost a dearth for big players that can play with their back to the basket. And Kobe kind of transcended some of the players we see today with the way he played the game, and particularly with the enormous desire and toughness, never-quit attitude.

But maybe one of the things I admired most about him from a distance, because I wasn’t there any longer, was his ability to play when other players would simply not play. He’d play through things that other players just wouldn’t play. He was a show man, but he also was a winner. And he has led a legacy throughout the world. Millions of people love this guy, and millions of people will miss what he was able to accomplish in his career.”
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Lakers’ Kobe Bryant to play vs. Golden State

The Lakers’ Kobe Bryant, seen during the Jan. 8, 2016 game against the Thunder at Staples Center, is questionable for Tuesday, Jan. 12, with a strained right Achilles that kept him out of the Jan. 10 game. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)

The Lakers’ Kobe Bryant, seen during the Jan. 8, 2016 game against the Thunder at Staples Center, is questionable for Tuesday, Jan. 12, with a strained right Achilles that kept him out of the Jan. 10 game. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)

OAKLAND — The graceful steps Kobe Bryant showed as he walked to the podium answered the question. So did the Lakers uniform that he was wearing.

Will Bryant play when the Lakers (9-31) play against the Golden State Warriors (34-2) on Thursday at the Oracle?

“The uniform is no indication on whether I’m playing tonight. But I will try to play tonight,” Bryant said more than two hours before tipoff.

Yet, questions emerged about Bryant’s availability considering he felt increased soreness in his right Achilles and right shoulder. So much that Bryant played only 16 minutes in Tuesday’s win over New Orleans. So much that the Lakers listed Bryant’s status as questionable. So much that Lakers coach Byron Scott reported that head athletic trainer Gary Vitti suggested that Bryant should sit out for one or two weeks.

But Bryant scoffed at that idea.

“It’s hard for me to say, ‘I’m going to shut it down for two weeks.” Bryant said. “What if it’s better in two days? If it’s not better in two weeks, I won’t play for two weeks. But if it gets better before then, I should be out there playing.”

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Kobe Bryant is considered a game-time decision, but intends to play vs. Golden State

Lakers’ Kobe Bryant holds the ball during Friday's 117-113 loss to Thunder. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/LA Daily News)

Lakers’ Kobe Bryant holds the ball during Friday’s 117-113 loss to Thunder. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/LA Daily News)

OAKLAND — Nearly four hours from now, Kobe Bryant will arrive at the Oracle and complete a routine that seems customary. He will receive treatment on his sore right shoulder and the tendinitis in his right Achilles. He will talk with doctors. Perhaps he will complete a pre-game warmup.

Whenever that happens, what will Lakers coach Byron Scott need to see for Bryant to play when the Lakers (9-31) visit the Golden State Warriors (36-3) on Thursday at the Oracle?

“Tell me he’s good. That’s it,” Scott said after morning shootaround on Thursday. “If he says, ‘Coach, I’m good,’ we’ll go from there.”

Scott currently considers Bryant a game-time decision after he played only 16 minutes in Tuesday’s win over New Orleans amid increasing pain in his right Achilles. But Scott had revealed on Wednesday that Lakers trainer Gary Vitti had recommended shutting Bryant down for one or two weeks. Scott deferred questions to Vitti on whether he still holds that opinion after Bryant had another day of recovery. But the Lakers stressed Bryant has maintained medical clearance from team doctors to play.

All of which suggests Bryant will largely determine his playing status, something Scott sounded more than willing to accommodate out of respect for Bryant playing in his 20th and final NBA season.

“If his intention is to play, I have to honor his intentions. It’s his last year,” Scott said. “If he wants to play, I’m not going to sit here and say, ‘No, you can’t play,’ especially when I know he’s able and willing to go out and play. He may not play great and be 100 percent healthy. But he feels it’s an obligation to do that. So I’m behind him 110 percent.”

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Kobe Bryant remains in lead in All-Star votes after 3rd return

Lakers forward Kobe Bryant #24 and Los Angeles Lakers head coach Byron Scott in the 2nd quarter. The Los Angeles Lakers played the New Orleans Pelicans in a game at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA 1/12/2016 (photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles News Group)

Lakers forward Kobe Bryant #24 and Los Angeles Lakers head coach Byron Scott in the 2nd quarter. The Los Angeles Lakers played the New Orleans Pelicans in a game at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA 1/12/2016 (photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles News Group)

The results seem as expected as Kobe Bryant shooting the ball. The Lakers’ 37-year-old star has maintained a firm edge in NBA All-Star votes, the third returns released on Thursday showing he has a league-leading 1,533,432 votes.

A vast discrepancy has emerged between Bryant and his other All-Star counterparts, including Golden State’s Stephen Curry (1,206,467), Cleveland’s LeBron James (830,345), Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant (774,782), Indiana’s Paul George (569,947) and Golden State’s Draymond Green (499,947).

Bryant has every intention in playing what will be his 18th and final NBA All-Star appearance on Feb. 14 in Toronto. Although that obviously hinges on his health with his sore right shoulder and sore right Achilles, the Lakers’ latest proposal to shut him down for one to two weeks would leave Bryant enough time to participate.

Bryant is currently expected to start along with Curry, Durant, Green and Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook (609,901 votes). Bryant is voted as a frontcourt player instead of a guard since he has played the small forward position for most of this season. The Western Conference All-Stars are slated to start against James, Miami’s Dwyane Wade (736,732 votes), George, Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving (399,757) and New York’s Carmelo Anthony (368,336).

RELATED:

Lakers’ Kobe Bryant could miss four to seven games due to Achilles injury

Lakers’ Byron Scott appreciates D’Angelo Russell’s honesty about wanting to close out games

Byron Scott views Larry Nance Jr, Julius Randle differently on mid-range game

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, Gary Vitti had “initial conversations” about temporarily shutting Kobe Bryant down

Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant #24 and Los Angeles Lakers head coach Byron Scott in the 2nd quarter. The Los Angeles Lakers played the New Orleans Pelicans in a game at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA 1/12/2016 (photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles News Group)

Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant #24 and Los Angeles Lakers head coach Byron Scott in the 2nd quarter. The Los Angeles Lakers played the New Orleans Pelicans in a game at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA 1/12/2016 (photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles News Group)

The pain in Kobe Bryant’s right Achilles felt serious enough for him to leave the court in Tuesday’s win over New Orleans after logging only 16 minutes. The pain in Bryant’s right Achilles felt serious enough that Lakers coach Byron Scott reported head athletic Gary Vitti has suggested sitting Bryant for about one or two weeks. According to that timetable, Bryant would miss anywhere between four to seven games.

“He would love to shut him down,” Scott said after Wednesday’s practice at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo. “But that probably isn’t going to happen.”

The reason for Scott’s level of pessimism appears obvious. Although the Lakers (9-31) have listed Bryant questionable to play in Thursday’s game against the Golden State Warriors (36-2) at the Oracle, Bryant will still travel with the team in hopes to play both on Thursday against Golden State and on Saturday against Utah.

Bryant has not spoken to reporters since Friday’s loss to Oklahoma City when he first felt pain in his right Achilles. But he was at the Lakers’ practice facility on Thursday both to receive treatment and get a haircut. On Wednesday, Scott reported Bryant telling him he felt “much better” than when he left in the second quarter of Tuesday’s win over New Orleans and when he missed Sunday’s game against Utah.

“That makes me feel better, but I’m still very cautious,” Scott said before referencing Bryant’s self-imposed pressure to play as many games in his final NBA season. “I know how he is. He wants to try to give the fans their respect as well. The biggest thing for me is we have to sit down and talk about minutes. Obviously he can’t play 30-32 minutes per game.”
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Kobe Bryant leaves after short appearance vs. New Orleans

Lakers’ Kobe Bryant holds the ball during Friday's 117-113 loss to Thunder. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/LA Daily News)

Lakers’ Kobe Bryant holds the ball during Friday’s 117-113 loss to Thunder. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/LA Daily News)

It took Kobe Bryant about four days to heal a strained right Achilles enough for him to return to the court. It took him only 16 minutes of on-court play before needing to rest it again.

Bryant went to the locker room midway through the second quarter of the Lakers’ game against the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday at Staples Center. Bryant finished with seven points on only 3 of 9 shooting, including 0 of 5 from 3-point range.

When Bryant sat on the bench, he often wore a heatpack to keep his sore right shoulder warm, an injury that kept him out of four games earlier this month. He also appeared rusty when he moved on the court.

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’ Ryan Kelly fighting frustration with limited playing time

Lakers Ryan Kelly has acknowledged frustration with a limited role. ( Photo by David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News )

Lakers Ryan Kelly has acknowledged frustration with a limited role. ( Photo by David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News )

His shot went in the basket with dependable accuracy. He tested defenses by stretching the floor. He embraced any minute he stepped on the floor.

Ryan Kelly exuded all the qualities that the Lakers liked enough for him to select him 48th overall in the 2013 NBA Draft. But there was only one problem. In his third NBA season, Kelly has fulfilled this job description more with the Lakers’ Development affiliate than in purple and gold.

“It’s frustrating,” said Kelly, who has averaged 5.4 points on 48.8 percent shooting in 11.6 minutes through 11 games this season. “But that’s a huge part of this league. Huge part of it is opportunity.”

Lakers coach Byron Scott said Kelly hasn’t had that opportunity with the Lakers because of a bloated frontcourt featuring Julius Randle, Larry Nance Jr. and Brandon Bass. Scott has resisted playing Kelly at the small forward position as he did last year, mindful that compromised his ability to hit mid-range jumpers and space the floor.

“That makes my job that much harder,” Scott said. “But it’s not so much what he hasn’t done. It’s what those guys have done.”

Amid Kelly’s frustration, Scott still described Kelly’s attitude as “good.” That explains why Scott has told Kelly his plan to send him anytime he can to the Development League to make up for his on-court absences with the Lakers.

Through seven games with the D-Fenders, Kelly has averaged a team-high 27.0 points on 52.9 percent shooting from the field and 37.5 percent from 3-point range. He also has averaged 7.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.0 blocks a game. In the D-League showcase in Santa Cruz last weekend, Kelly has posted 29 points and 23 points through two contests.

“It’s not just an opportunity to work on my game. But the front office said it would be an opportunity to have plenty of people see me. I want to continue to go out and prove myself,” Kelly said. “I’m a way better player than I was before. It’s for other teams to recognize it whether it’s the Lakers or anyone else, I’m better.”
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Byron Scott sees similarities in rebuilding projects with Lakers, New Orleans

Laker head coach upset with a call against Utah, in the 4th quarter, at the Staples Center. Utah won 86-74.  Los Angeles  , Calif., Sunday, January,10, 2016.         (Photo by Stephen Carr / Daily Breeze)

Laker head coach upset with a call against Utah, in the 4th quarter, at the Staples Center. Utah won 86-74. Los Angeles , Calif., Sunday, January,10, 2016.
(Photo by Stephen Carr / Daily Breeze)

A devastating first year awaited Byron Scott where he oversaw his team fall out of playoff contention nearly as soon as the season began. In the offseason, Scott oversaw his team use its coveted draft pick on a promising point guard. Scott then oversaw a significant improvement as his team made the NBA playoffs two years later.

That made for a relatively successful rebuilding project for the former New Orleans Hornets (2004-09) that entailed a Western Conference semifinals appearance in 2008 and a first-round exit in 2009. But with the Lakers (8-31) hosting the Pelicans (11-25) on Tuesday at Staples Center with the Western Conference’s worst record, can they surpass New Orlean’s rebuilding and make the playoffs next season?

“I think so,” Scott said. “But the summer is big.”

Scott obviously referred to how the Lakers will assemble their roster this offseason once Kobe Bryant retires in what will mark their 20-year NBA career. They will only have a lottery pick if it lands in the top three. Otherwise, the Lakers owe it to Philadelphia as part of the Steve Nash trade. The Lakers will also have cap space to sign up to two players to max contracts.

Scott also pinpointed specifically on how well D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. have improved, all of whom Scott said have shown “flashes” of their potential this season.

“It’s big for them to continue to get better and better. That requires a whole lot of work,” Scott said. “All of those guys we just talked about are willing to do all those things. Hopefully next year the game slows down even much more for all of them and it becomes a whole lot easier.”
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Lakers’ Kobe Bryant, D’Angelo Russell face uncertainty on playing vs. New Orleans

The Lakers’ Kobe Bryant, seen during the Jan. 8, 2016 game against the Thunder at Staples Center, is questionable for Tuesday, Jan. 12, with a strained right Achilles that kept him out of the Jan. 10 game. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)

The Lakers’ Kobe Bryant, seen during the Jan. 8, 2016 game against the Thunder at Staples Center, is questionable for Tuesday, Jan. 12, with a strained right Achilles that kept him out of the Jan. 10 game. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)

The Lakers’ training room has remained crowded.

Kobe Bryant (right Achilles) and D’Angelo Russell (right ankle) are considered game-time decisions when the Lakers (8-31) host the New Orleans Pelicans (11-25) on Tuesday at Staples Center. But Lakers coach Byron Scott expects Julius Randle (bone bruise in right eye) and Brandon Bass (corneal abrasion in right eye) to suit up.

Bryant, Russell and Bass all missed Sunday’s loss against Utah. But injuries to Bryant and Russell were considered the most worrisome for reasons beyond their stature. Bryant missed four games earlier this month because of soreness in his right shoulder. Bryant also needed season-ending surgery on his left Achilles tendon two years ago. Although Russell participated in morning shootaround on Tuesday, the Lakers still want to wait to see how Russell’s right ankle reacts following his pre-game routine

“From both of those guys, they have to say they’re ready,” Scott said before addressing the role of the Lakers’ head athletic trainer. “It has to come from Gary Vitti to me that he thinks those guys are okay to play. That’s basically the protocol right now. You have to listen to them. They know their bodies better than we do. If D’Angelo says, ‘Coach, I’m good to go, that’s the first step.’ Same with [Kobe] If they go to Gary and say, ‘I’m a little sore,’ and Gary says, ‘B, I think you should keep them out,’ we’ll keep them out.”

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Byron Scott views Larry Nance Jr, Julius Randle differently on mid-range game

Laker head coach upset with a call against Utah, in the 4th quarter, at the Staples Center. Utah won 86-74.  Los Angeles  , Calif., Sunday, January,10, 2016.         (Photo by Stephen Carr / Daily Breeze)

Laker head coach upset with a call against Utah, in the 4th quarter, at the Staples Center. Utah won 86-74. Los Angeles , Calif., Sunday, January,10, 2016.
(Photo by Stephen Carr / Daily Breeze)

The mid-range jumpers do not always fall for Lakers forward Julius Randle, leading Lakers coach Byron Scott to offer some fairly pragmatic feedback.

“I still want him to attack the rim,” Scott said. “But you have to keep the defense honest by looking to take that shot two or three times a game.

The mid-range jumpers surprisingly have gone in for Lakers rookie forward Larry Nance Jr. leading Scott to ask for more and more.

“I talk to him during the game, ‘Shoot the ball, son,'” Scott said. “You have wide open shots.”

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