Lakers’ Larry Nance Jr. ruled out vs Houston with sore right knee

Laker Larry Nance Jr.,  ,7, fights for a rebound against Utah's Jeff Withey ,24, during the 3rd quarter, at the Staples Center. Utah won 86-74.  Los Angeles  , Calif., Sunday, January,10, 2016.         (Photo by Stephen Carr / Daily Breeze)

Laker Larry Nance Jr., ,7, fights for a rebound against Utah’s Jeff Withey ,24, during the 3rd quarter, at the Staples Center. Utah won 86-74. Los Angeles , Calif., Sunday, January,10, 2016.
(Photo by Stephen Carr / Daily Breeze)

It turns out the Lakers’ concerns became correct. It turns out Larry Nance Jr’s optimism became wrong.

Although MRI results came out negative, Nance Jr. will sit out Sunday’s game against the Houston Rockets at Staples Center because of a sore right knee.

Nance Jr. played only three minutes during Saturday’s loss to Utah, but he told Los Angeles News Group afterwards that he felt minor pain in his knee through varying points of the 2015-16 season.

“It was just progressive. You play so many games that you’re not used to as a rookie,” Nance Jr. said. “It gets worse and worse. It’s something. I don’t know what it was. It was something. The training staff said, ‘Let’s get under control.'”

Nance Jr. still insisted he’s “all good.” He added, “If it was up to me, I’m going.” But then Nance Jr. observed the Lakers’ training staff is “very protective.” So when Nance Jr. alerted Lakers trainer Gary Vitti about feeling additional pain before the game, the team’s training and coaching staff observed Nance Jr. with a critical eye.

“We watched him right from the start and we could tell from the start he was limping pretty badly,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said. “He was grimacing.”

Lakers second-year forward Julius Randle will likely start in Nance Jr.’s place after playing the past 21 games as a reserve. Randle has averaged 10.5 points on 40.3 percent shooting and 9.4 rebounds this season.

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Lakers’ Kobe Bryant rules out stint in 2016 Olympics

Lakers' Kobe Bryant rules out playing in the 2016 Olympics. (Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles News Group)

Lakers’ Kobe Bryant rules out playing in the 2016 Olympics. (Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles News Group)

SALT LAKE CITY — A brief moment stopped for Kobe Bryant where he could focus on something other than playing through pain in his 37-year-old body, overcoming shooting inconsistency and elevating his younger Lakers teammates. Warriors guard Leandro Barbosa approached him two days ago during a stoppage in play, wishing him future greetings for when Bryant presumably would play in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janiero, Brazil.

Then, Bryant informed Barbosa that he changed his sentiment.

“It’s the young guys turn to go and play and perform. I’ve been fortunate enough to win two gold medals,” said Bryant, referring to his Olympic stints in Beijing (2008) and London (2012). “I’ve had my moment. I think it’s important for them to go and play.”

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Lakers’ Kobe Bryant expected to play Saturday against Utah

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant is expected to play in Saturday's game against Utah. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant is expected to play in Saturday’s game against Utah. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

SALT LAKE CITY — The confident words coming out of Kobe Bryant’s mouth left Lakers coach Byron Scott optimistic Bryant will play when the Lakers (9-32) visit the Utah Jazz (17-22) on Saturday at Vivint Smart Home Arena.

After nursing soreness in his right Achilles tendon and right shoulder for the past week, Bryant told Scott on Saturday morning that he “felt pretty good.”

The Lakers technically have listed Bryant’s status as questionable after posting eight points on three on 4-of-15 shooting, six rebounds and three assists in Thursday’s loss to Golden State. But Scott said “unless he says something this afternoon that it’s sore or worse the other day, the Lakers coach had trouble envisioning Bryant missing what would be his second-to-last game in Utah. The Lakers also play here March 28th on the second night of a back-to-back.

“You have to take that with a grain of salt,” Scott said following morning shootaround. “You know how tough he is. Things to him that feel pretty good would keep most guys out of games.”

Meanwhile, the Lakers have ruled forward Brandon Bass out for tonight’s game against Utah because of a sore right foot. He also missed Thursday’s loss in Golden State.


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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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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).

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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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