Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant pauses in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
WASHINGTON D.C. — His thirst for competition still seems unquenchable. His willingness to put in the work appears unmatched. His public support over the Lakers’ front office has not waned despite the frequently debilitating losses.
Yet, Kobe Bryant hardly sounded uncertain if that will entice him enough to prolong his career with the Lakers beyond his two-year, $48.5 contract that expires following the 2015-16 season.
“Maybe. Maybe not. I don’t want to be coy about it,” Bryant said following the Lakers’ 111-95 loss on Wednesday to the Washington Wizards at Verizon Center. “I don’t know what to tell you. Right now I’d say no. But it doesn’t matter. Would that change a year from now or something like that?”
The Lakers’ Kobe Bryant, center, overcame early fatigue to score 12 points in Tuesday’s 106-96 victory over Detroit. Jordan Hill led the Lakers with 22 points. Carlos Osorio ‑ The Associated Press
WASHINGTON D.C. — Amid the sleepless nights and debilitating losses, three things still keep Lakers coach Byron Scott enthusiastic.
His love for the Lakers’ franchise after winning three NBA championships during the Show Time Era. His optimism that the Lakers will rebuild quickly. And his joy in coaching Kobe Bryant after once serving as his rookie mentor 18 years ago.
Part of Scott’s optimism about the Lakers’ future stems from Bryant posting a league-leading 25.8 points per game after appearing in only six contests last season with injuries to his left Achilles and left knee. Scott also believes he can convince Bryant to play beyond his contract that expires following the 2015-16 season.
“We’ll talk about that. You guys have watched him play. He has a lot left in that tank,” Scott said before the Lakers (4-13) play the Washington Wizards (11-5) at Verizon Center. “If we put something together that excites him, we’ll have a real good chance of him saying he’ll play another year and give it another shot. That’s what we plan to do.”
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — When it appeared the Lakers could jeopardize their chances at collecting a rare victory, the team relied on a key player to close out the game they wanted.
His name was not Kobe Bryant.
His name was Jordan Hill, whose surprisingly consistent mid-range jumper became the Lakers’ key weapon in securing a 106-96 victory on Tuesday over the Detroit Pistons at the Palace. Hill’s team-leading 22 points on 10-of-15 shooting and 13 rebounds also featured a fourth-quarter stretch where he scored eight consecutive points at the perfect time.
The Lakers’ second unit nearly squandered a 21-point lead, prompting coach Byron Scott to reinsert his starters to ensure a dwindling 88-78 cushion with 6:39 remaining would not decrease even more. During that stretch, Hill sank two jumpers, converted on a layup and connected on a left hook shot. And all that body work left the Lakers’ usual closer handing out an assist.
“Jordan worked extremely hard this summer on his mid-range jumper at the point where he’s one of the best big shooters in the league,” Bryant said. “He makes it tough for defenses to lock in. That mid-range jumper for him is dead eye.”
Mike D’Antoni gives some instruction in the final seconds to Chris Duhon and Kobe Bryant. The Lakers defeated the Brooklyn Nets 95-90 in a game played at Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. The game was new coach Mike D’Antoni’s first victory as a Laker. 11/20/12 (photos by John McCoy/Staff Photographer)
Kobe Bryant once considered Mike D’Antoni both a childhood idol when he grew up watching him play overseas in Italy and an “offensive genius” when the Lakers hired him to coach about two years ago. But Bryant’s sentiments soon changed as the he developed a dislike for D’Antoni’s fast-paced system through the Lakers’ two injury-plagued seasons.
Hence, why D’Antoni admitted in an interview on SiriusXM NBA Radio that he viewed coaching Bryant with mixed feelings.
First the positives. D’Antoni could not rave enough about Bryant’s work ethic. The Lakers’ star has averaged a league-leading 26.7 points albeit on a career-low 39.1 percent shooting after playing in only six games last season amid injuries to his left Achilles tendon and left knee.
“His ability to have a volume of work that he does. I didn’t have any doubt he would come back from the two injuries other than age. If it’s humanly possible, he’s going to do it,” D’Antoni said about Bryant. “He’ll keep it going as long as it’s humanly possible. He’ll try to be the best that has ever played the game. Being around him every day and watching him every day work that hard is incredible.”
“The tough part about coaching him is that he has that determination and near sightedness that he doesn’t see the fringes too much,” D’Antoni said. “He’s going to go over you, under you, but he gets right to where he wants to go. Sometimes that makes it tough to coach him.”
Detroit guard Jodie Meeks relished his two-year stint with the Lakers. But he went to Detroit this offseason on a lucrative mutil-year deal (File photo by Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — The smile on Jodie Meeks’ face widened as he reflected on his two-year stint with the Lakers. The giddiness in his voice rose, too.
Meeks gushed about learning from Kobe Bryant. Meeks expressed gratitude for the opportunities he received that helped him post career-highs last season in several statistical categories. Meeks thanked Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak for signing him nearly 2 1/2 years ago.
But all those warm feelings did not prove enough this offseason for the Lakers to keep Meeks. He signed with the Detroit Pistons to a three-year deal worth $19 million that did not include any team or player options. That marked nearly a $5 million per year raise from the $1.55 million Meeks made last season with the Lakers, something they would neither offer nor match while pursuing high caliber superstars in LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.
“I was getting some interest with the Lakers, but obviously they were waiting on Carmelo and LeBron,” Meeks said in an interview with L.A. Newspaper Group. “Who knows what would’ve happened had I waited, but I feel like this is the best place for me.”
Meeks hardly waited much. The Lakers liked Meeks, but wanted to maintain financial flexibility to maximize their purchasing power for James and Anthony. But instead of waiting for those dominoes to fall, Meeks signed with Detroit on July 1, which marked the first day of free agency. James did not announce he would return to Cleveland until July 11. Anthony then re-signed with the New York Knicks shortly afterwards.
“They wished me luck and wished I would’ve given them more time to work with, but it’s a business,” Meeks said of the Lakers’ feedback. “You have to go with who likes you the best and opportunities where you have the most chance to play.”
Minnesota Timberwolves’ Andrew Wiggins defends against Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Nov. 28, 2014, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)
AUBURN Hills, Mich. — In nearly single file fashion, the Lakers exited their locker room following their film session and made their way onto the bus. That is except for Kobe Bryant.
He skipped morning shootaround in preparation for the Lakers’ (4-13) game on Tuesday against the Detroit Pistons (3-14) at the Palace for reasons beyond just his usual custom to rest. Lakers coach Byron Scott reported Bryant “looked exhausted” on the team flight on Monday and texted him Tuesday morning asking if he could stay at the team hotel for additional rest. Yet, Scott said Bryant will still play tonight against Detroit.
Bryant has sat out of most recent practices and shootarounds. But he still was within the Lakers’ premises both to receive treatment and watch film.
“This has nothing to do with injury or things like that,” Scott said. “This is all about trying to preserve his body as much as possible and let him get rest. Recovery time is the most important thing right now. We want him to be as strong as he can be for the games.”
The Lakers once reserved any celebrations until June. Then, the Lakers sprayed champagne bottles to savor the taste of championship victory. They would bask in the afterglow as they would host parades in downtown Los Angeles. They would savor it all summer before recharging the following season to repeat the quest again.
But now is not once of those times. Hence, it seems both equally surprising and amusing that Time Warner Cable SportsNet Access analyst James Worthy ran victory laps in the studio following a rare Lakers’ win Sunday over the Toronto Raptors at Staples Center. After winning three NBA championships with the Showtime Lakers, Worthy brought new meaning to his nickname by considered a regular-season victory in late November as “Big Game.”
“Give me that victory!” Worthy said. “When there’s one, there’s many!”
The Lakers (4-13) can only hope.
Lakers’ Kobe Bryant finds it “very challenging” to balance workload, recovery
Lakers’ Nick Young jokes he will end career with 46,000 career points
James Worthy helps Lakers rookie Julius Randle through recovery
Kobe Bryant’s triple-double leads Lakers to OT win over Toronto
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant reacts after making a basket against the Toronto Raptors in overtime of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Nov. 30, 2014, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 129-122. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
At a time when the Lakers needed anything to stop the dive toward mediocrity, they relied on a trusty source who compiled a track record in bailing them out in tough situations.
The man’s name is Kobe Bryant. You may have heard of him. He has won five NBA championships, climbed to fourth place on the league’s all-time scoring and sank too many game winning-shots to count. But the Lakers’ 129-122 overtime victory on Sunday over the Toronto Raptors at Staples Center went beyond Bryant providing his distinguishable scoring touch. He collected his 20th career triple double by posting 31 points on 11-of-24 shooting, 11 rebounds and 12 assists by basically doing everything.
Incidentally, this coincided with Bryant becoming the first NBA player both to post 30,000 career points and 6,000 assists.
“It’s a huge huge honor,” Bryant said. “It means I pass more than people say.”
Plenty instead have griped this season about Bryant’s shot selection. After all, he has led the league with 26.4 points per game albeit on only 38.8 percent shooting. Bryant’s deliberate approach toward increasing his around-the-clock treatment and strict diet juxtaposes when he scored a career-high 81 points eight years ago against Toronto after consuming pepperoni pizza and grape soda.
But Bryant turned back the clock by playing his most efficient game all season.
“He’s just an amazing basketball player. That’s the bottom line. He’s had an unbelievable career. He’s still going pretty strong,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said. “There’s a lot left in that tank, it’s obvious. His accomplishments are just fantastic. To watch him continue to compete the way that he does at this level is remarkable.”
Los Angeles Lakers coach Byron Scott, sitting next to assistant coach Paul Pressey during the Lakers 109-102 loss to New Orleans, said he would like to talk to Steve Nash, but the point guard hasn’t returned his call. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
The things that keep Lakers coach Byron Scott agitated thus far involves the team’s worst start in franchise history, the team’s league-worst defense and endless injuries. Don’t lump Scott’s playing phone tag with Lakers Steve Nash as one of those categories, however.
Scott revealed on Sunday he and Nash have still not connected on the phone since the Lakers ruled the 40-year-old guard out for the season in late October, their conversations amounting toward nothing more than periodic text messages. But Scott hardly sounded upset over this development.
“Steve’s a busy guy and I’m a busy guy as well,” Scott said. “I don’t think he misses sleep over it and I don’t miss any sleep over it. He’s a great guy and have known for Steve for a long time. Not to have contract with one another at this particular time, to me it’s not a big deal.”
“Lakers Coach Byron Scott talks to the crowd before the tipoff. The Lakers played the Houston Rockets in the opening game of the 2014-2015 Season. Los Angeles, CA. 10/28/2014 (Photo by John McCoy Daily News )”
Something appears looming on the Lakers’ itinerary. The timing has not become as definitive as the Lakers (3-13) hosting the Toronto Raptors (13-3) on 6:30 p.m. Sunday at Staples Center.
But outside of tonight’s game, Lakers coach Byron Scott suggested that it’s only a matter of if and not when he will make lineup changes.
“I’m pretty sure I will,” Scott said following Sunday’s morning shootaround at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo. “Eventually, yes I will.”
But what Scott would not outline what exactly what he would do. He laughed when asked which positions he has thought about tinkering with, but he declined to specify. But after questioning the Lakers’ effort in their 120-119 loss on Friday to Minnesota, Scott has said he is “getting closer” toward making a shuffle in hopes of changing the Lakers’ fortunes that have entailed a three-game losing streak and a 1-8 home record. Scott also held out his lanyard, moving his fingers closer to each other to outline how his figurative “leash” has shortened.
“I don’t look at it as chances. I’m just looking at it as a timetable,” Scott said. “Sometimes it takes two to three months before to see if guys are getting it and if they’re understanding and gelling or picking up things. Or do you have to make changes before you see other results? I’m still in that time frame of giving them time. I’m also much more aware in my mind that I’m going to be making some changes.”