LA Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak said coach Byron Scott “has done an excellent job under the circumstances that he’s had to deal with the last two years.” Photos by Brad Graverson/LANG/09-24-15
It usually seems like a foregone conclusion the Lakers make changes anytime their season does not end in a championship parade. Therefore, it seems inevitable a shakeup will happen after the Lakers finished the 2015-16 campaign with a franchise-worst 17-65 record.
Yet, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak argued that coach Byron Scott “has done an excellent job under the circumstances that he’s had to deal with the last two years.” As Scott finished with a combined 38-126 through two years, the Lakers became mindful of a few things.
After playing only 35 games in the 2014-15 season because of season-ending right shoulder surgery, Kobe Bryant’s presence in his 20th and final season brought challenges with both his health and the hoopla surround his farewell tour. The Lakers also fielded a roster this season filled with talented albeit inexperienced players in D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, Larry Nance Jr. and Anthony Brown.
Scott and Kupchak spent most of Thursday completing exit meetings with players on Thursday. Kupchak shared he also spoke with Scott on Friday for about 45 minutes. But Kupchak did not articulate Scott’s job status other than saying he’s “under contract” entering the third season of a four-year deal worth $17 million. Kupchak added he plans to meet with Scott and Lakers vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss in “an informal lunch at some point in the next week or two.”
“Anything is possible,” Kupchak said. “All I anticipate is some informal meetings and moving on from there.” Continue reading →
Lakers coach Byron Scott said he believes he will coach next season. (photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles News Group)
Despite not receiving any assurances from the Lakers’ front office, Byron Scott hardly flinched on whether he thinks he will coach the Lakers in the 2016-17 season.
“Yeah,” Scott said. “Absolutely.”
Scott said he has not had any conversations with Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak or executive vice president of basketball operations surrounding his job status. Scott added no one has any meetings scheduled. Yet, Scott maintained, “I think we’re all on the same page.”
Back when the Lakers hired Scott two years ago, he expressed optimism about rebuilding a franchise back into purple and gold glory after winning three NBA championships during the Showtime Era. Yet, Scott has overseen the Lakers go a combined 38-126 through the past two seasons. Those marks became bad enough to represent the Lakers worst records in franchise history in consecutive years.
“I have to assess the job I’ve done. Guys know here I’m not happy with the way we’ve played as a basketball team,” Scott said. “That’s the price you pay with young guys to develop. But overall the record is what it is, and that’s what you’re judged by.”
Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson said he wants to return to the Lakers. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)
Once the experiences no longer feel like a blur, Jordan Clarkson has plenty of stories he could tell about playing in Kobe Bryant’s final game that ended with a throw-back 60-point performance.
Clarkson could marvel at Bryant’s greatness. Clarkson could gush on being part of Bryant’s last play that entailed throwing a cross-court pass that ended with Clarkson dunking the ball. Clarkson could wax poetic on the large embrace Bryant gave him, D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle following the Lakers’ 101-96 win over the Utah Jazz on Wednesday at Staples Center.
That moment could arguably bring back reminders on why Clarkson intends to re-sign with the Lakers once he becomes a restricted free agent this offseason.
“I feel confident I’ll be back here. I want to be here. After seeing last night, it was crazy,” Clarkson said on Thursday after his exit meeting at the Lakers’ facility in El Segundo. “I want to be one of those guys that is not bouncing around from team to team. I want to be somewhere where I can come home and leave my mark or legacy or somewhere I can call home. I feel like this is the place I can do that.”
Lakers forward Metta World Peace hopes he can extend his NBA future. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
The stories seemingly could last forever.
Metta World Peace gushed about Kobe Bryant’s last game. World Peace provided both support and constructive criticism toward his young teammates. Before he went into great detail on both subjects, World Peace offered strong public support toward Lakers coach Byron Scott without any solicitation.
The Lakers may have finished with a 17-65 record in what marked the franchise’s worst mark in history. Yet, World Peace argued that Scott “has my vote for Coach of the Year” because of so many extenuating circumstances.
“Coach Scott had a tough season. I don’t know how he did it with the retirement and farewell tour,” World Peace said. “He’s not able to have a full practice at all during the season with the whole unit and then had to go out and coach that unit. On top of that, he’s having young guys you’re trying to teach and manage at the same time.” Continue reading →
Nick Young is not expected to stay with the Lakers. (Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles News Group)
For one brief moment, the smile returned on Nick Young’s face.
The Lakers’ forward found joy in witnessing Kobe Bryant drop 60 points in his final game in the Lakers’ season-ending win over Utah on Wednesday at Staples Center. The reasons went beyond watching a supportive teammate, enjoying a champagne bath or Bryant taking a picture with his son. Young grew up idolizing Young as a standout at Cleveland High in Reseda and USC.
“It seemed like it was made up, like the end of the movie. All movies end on a great note,” Young said. “I couldn’t believe this. He ended with an assist though. He should’ve ended it with a shot. That’s not the Kobe I know!”
Young has plenty more to complain about than playfully nitpicking Bryant’s fifth highest scoring performance in his 20-year NBA career. He averaged 7.3 points on a career-low 33.9 percent clip. Young missed the last 17 games, 15 of which were considered healthy scratches. Young also had unresolved personal issues with Lakers rookie point guard D’Angelo Russell, who secretly recorded a video that showed Young admitting to infidelities.
Hence, Young echoed the skepticism the Lakers will retain him despite having two years left on his $11 million. The Lakers will either trade him or negotiate a buyout.
“You never know what’s going to happen. You know something’s got to happen,” Young said. “The Lakers will make decisions for the Lakers. It’s a business. We did win 17 games after all. Something is going to happen.”
Young hardly shied away from his hope on what he hopes happens.
“I just want to play basketball again,” Young said. “Wherever that is at, I want to enjoy being out there and playing the game I love and having fun again.” Continue reading →
Los Angeles Lakers guard Louis Williams #23 takes and misses the last shot of the game. The Lakers lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves 112-111 in the opening game of the 2015-16 NBA season. Los Angeles, CA, 10/28/2015 (photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles News Group)
The job description for Lou Williams usually involved something pretty simple.
Score the basketball.
In his first season of a three-year, $21 million deal with the Lakers, it turned out Williams’ role became much more than just averaging 15.3 points on 40.8 percent shooting in in 67 games.
Williams competed for minutes with the Lakers’ young core with D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson. Williams eventually started over Russell 20 games into the season only to lose the spot shortly after the NBA All-Star break. During that time, Williams became one of the team’s most vocal leaders behind the scenes.
“I still think there’s potential there,” Williams said following his exit meeting on Thursday at the Lakers’ facility in El Segundo. “The upside is brighter than what it’s shown. I feel like we have a lot of potential.”
Yet, Williams did not walk away with too many positive impressions. The reasons went beyond the Lakers finishing 17-65 in what marked their worst record in franchise history. Williams also contended,” “sometimes I felt like we weren’t hungry enough.”
He then shared that he often preached that his younger teammates should have adopted some of his mindset during his 11-year NBA career. Then, Williams often found ways to motivate him besides winning, such as embracing potential Sixth Man of the Year matchups with current teammate Nick Young when they played on opposing teams.
“Sometimes I feel like we didn’t look at games like that when our younger core was playing against their peers,” Williams said. “At the same time, we have guys that are right up there with other guys that are having success in this league. They just have to understand how to do that every night.” Continue reading →
Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant (24) before a basketball game at the Staples Center on Sunday, April 4, 2010 in Los Angeles. (SGVN/Staff Photo by Keith Birmingham/SPORTS)
So much uncertainty lingers on the exact numbers of former Lakers teammates that will attend Kobe Bryant’s final game. Or what the exact pageantry will entail for when the Lakers (15-66) host the Utah Jazz (40-41) on Wednesday at Staples Center. Or if Bryant becomes overwhelmed with emotions after spending most of his 20-year NBA career not allowing that human element to consume him.
But in a game that has fielded both a sell-out crowd 450-500 credentialed media members, there marks at least one thing that will be easy to anticipate. That involves how Bryant will play in his 1,346th and final NBA contest.
“A lot of shots in a lot of minutes,” Lakers coach Byron Scott with a smile. “I got a real good sense that we’re going to try to get him the ball as much as possible, and we’re going to try to compete as best as we can.”
Scott would only say Bryant’s workload hinges on how well he feels after nursing soreness all season in his right shoulder. Yet for unlike most of the season, Bryant’s playing status remained definitive.
Yet, Scott has said Bryant would exceed the season-high 37 minutes he played in late November against Toronto. Bryant has also averaged a team-leading 16.4 field-goal attempts albeit in 28 minutes per contest.
Lakers forward and veteran teammate Metta World Peace hesitated to predict how many shots Bryant would take. World Peace sounded worried any clairvoyant powers he has could end up with an airball.
“I didn’t ask him, ‘How many shots are you going to shoot?'” World Peace said. “If he said, ’40 [shots]’ and he falls short, then people will be disappointed. So I don’t know.”
The boos greeted Kobe Bryant nearly anytime he stepped on an opposing team’s court. Profanity-laced barbs also filled the arenas both when he made and missed shots.
All of which sounded like pleasant music to Bryant’s ears. Hence, Bryant’s latest Nike commercial features the Lakers’ star as a conductor toward those critics.
He calls out rival fans, who have suddenly given him standing ovations during his final season. Bryant points to former Lakers coach Phil Jackson, whose close relationship with Bryant also entailed tumultuous times over philosophical and personal differences. Bryant also sets up memorable opponents such as Paul Pierce, whose rivalry in the Lakers-Celtics Finals matchups included plenty of trash talk.
Now all those words have turned into respect, providing another beautiful soundtrack to Bryant’s storied 20-year NBA career.
Twenty years passed with moments so breathtaking that the time does not feel long at all.
Kobe Bryant made game winners no one else could. He overcame injuries no one could even try. He won five NBA championships that the Pacers, 76ers, New Jersey Nets, Magic and Celtics wished they had.
Bryant has a chance to provide one last encore in his career finale when the Lakers (16-65) host the Utah Jazz (40-41) on Wednesday at Staples Center. Nothing will be more poetic than another game-winning shot. Nothing will be more fitting than Bryant fighting through more injuries that require icing, stretching and massage therapy on a daily basis. And even if his last game does not end with pouring purple and gold confetti to celebrate another NBA title, the same streamers could drop to celebrate Bryant’s accomplished career.
Yet once that moment ends, Bryant will still remain on the basketball court wearing his No. 24 Lakers jersey. It will not happen in real time. Instead, it will happen on the NBA2K17 Legends edition, where Bryant’s presence will be pronounced on the video game’s cover. Continue reading →
OKLAHOMA CITY — The private conversations will always stay that way. Kevin Durant does not seem like one to wax nostalgia. Neither does Kobe Bryant.
So, the Oklahoma City forward always preferred “learning more from just watching” the Lakers’ star and “figuring out why he’s like this.” After all, those moments told Durant more about Bryant than anything Bryant could ever say. And what Durant saw from Bryant in the Las Vegas during the 2008 offseason.
Then, Durant had just completed his NBA rookie season and began training for the U.S. Olympic trials in Las Vegas. Bryant was also there to train for the U.S. Olympics later that summer in Beijing.
“Jeff Green and I are only ones on the first bus. Right as we’re about to leave, we see Kobe getting on walking by himself when everybody else took the day off,” Durant said. “He worked out on one end. We worked out on the other.”
Then, Durant saw Bryant make 50 shots in seven different spots from behind the 3-point line. As Bryant dripped in sweat, Green and Durant remarked to each other, “He’s the best player in the league.”
“He took a bus to a high school gym to put some work in,” Durant said. “He’s old school. That’s exactly what I wanted to be like.” Continue reading →