Los Angeles Lakers: Los Angeles Lakers

3 Points: MJ fine with Kobe passing him?

December, 18, 2014
Dec 18
7:00
AM PT
By ESPNLosAngeles.com
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Michael Jordan, Kobe BryantAndrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesMichael Jordan and Kobe Bryant are two of the most competitive players the NBA has seen.

Each week, ESPN.com Lakers beat writer Baxter Holmes, along with ESPN.com NBA writers Ramona Shelburne and Arash Markazi, will weigh in on three questions that are on the minds of Los Angeles Lakers followers.

1. Is Michael Jordan really OK with Kobe Bryant passing him on the all-time scoring list?

Holmes: Remember Jordan's Hall of Fame speech? The one where he torched anyone who he believed possibly slighted him at any point in his life, even if that person really didn't? I'm sure Jordan doesn't like that Kobe passed him, and MJ's statement would've said as much if he were allowed to really speak his mind. But at the end of the day, Jordan has more rings. And to many people, but especially MJ and Kobe, rings are what matter most.

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What do you think Michael Jordan's true feelings are about Kobe Bryant passing him on the scoring list?

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Shelburne: No. And that's why he's Michael Jordan. He and Kobe are two of the most competitive people on the planet. They are never going to be OK when anyone beats them or passes them for a milestone like that. I do think that Michael respects Kobe more than any other current player in the league, though. Their relationship is real. But I can almost guarantee you that a part of MJ is thinking how many more points he'd have than Kobe if he hadn't gone off to play baseball.

Markazi: Yes. Of all the accomplishments or records in Jordan's career that he might be protective of, I don't think being third on the all-time scoring list was one. As long as Jordan has more championships and MVPs than Kobe, I think he's just fine.


2. Was it fine the way Kobe called out his teammates at practice recently?

Holmes: It wasn't anything out of the ordinary. Kobe has been doing that for years -- and he's done it more than once this year. But his approach reminds me that there are different ways to skin a cat. He believes in his approach, whereas someone like Tim Duncan believes in a much different approach. Both have had great success. A key point: Which method is going to make others want to play with you? And which method is more likely to turn others off? The answer is pretty clear.

[+] EnlargeBryant
AP Photo/Darron CummingsKobe Bryant has made a habit of calling out teammates in practice throughout his career.
Shelburne: Yes. That's how he has been his entire career. The only thing different was that he did that in front of the media so the whole world found out about it. But this is how Kobe pushes people. This is how he leads. You may not like it or understand it. Not every player will respond well to that style. But he has five rings that say his way works. He ain't changing now.

Markazi: I think that was actually a regular occurrence that got more attention because Kobe did it in front of the media. I actually think the Lakers needed some tough love and the fact that they beat the Spurs in San Antonio afterward and won three straight shows it was probably more helpful than divisive.


3. Do you believe Jeanie and Jim Buss are on the same page with how to run the Lakers?

Holmes: Great question. I'm still pretty new here, so I'm really not too sure just yet, but it's perhaps the biggest question surrounding the future of the Lakers. Ramona's excellent Q&A with those two shed light on their relationship, and it appears that while both obviously want to win, I'm not for sure if they're completely on the same page. Their comments sure felt that way to me.

[+] EnlargeJeanie Buss, Jim Buss
Chris McPhersonJeanie Buss, and brother Jim, are looking to take the Lakers out of their recent doldrums.
Shelburne: Not yet. I believe they both want to be. They wouldn't have sat for a joint interview for the first time if they weren't committed to trying to run the Lakers together. But it seems as if they still need to improve their communication on certain things. And Jeanie seems to be skeptical of the plan Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak and her brother have to rebuild the current team.

Markazi: For the most part, yes. I mean ideally Phil Jackson would be in the fold, but they are both committed to getting the Lakers back to championship contention and not tanking. I think they're both also committed to going in a different direction if the Lakers aren't in the Finals within three years.

3 Points: What of Kobe-Rondo meeting?

December, 11, 2014
Dec 11
8:00
AM PT
By ESPNLosAngeles.com
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Kobe Bryant and Rajon RondoBrian Babineau/Getty ImagesKobe Bryant is long known to be a fan, and friend, of Rajon Rondo.

Each week, ESPN.com Lakers beat writer Baxter Holmes, along with ESPN.com NBA writers Ramona Shelburne and Arash Markazi, will weigh in on three questions that are on the minds of Los Angeles Lakers followers.

1. Is there anything basketball related to glean from Kobe Bryant's breakfast meeting with the Boston Celtics' Rajon Rondo last week?

Holmes: It doesn't take much of an imagination to realize that Bryant was, in fact, recruiting Rondo to come play for the Lakers when Rondo becomes a free agent next summer. That might not have been all they talked about during their sit-down, but you can be sure that subject came up, because it's no secret that Bryant is fond of Rondo and that the Lakers have Rondo high on their list of free-agent targets next summer.

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What is the implication of Kobe Bryant's breakfast meeting with Rajon Rondo last week in Boston?

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Shelburne: Yes. A lot. I don't care if this really was just breakfast or two competitors talking hoops or two dudes going through rough seasons commiserating. This was Kobe Bryant recruiting Rajon Rondo. Maybe not overtly, maybe not officially, but Kobe Bryant isn't exactly the social type. He doesn't do things like this often, so for him to reach out to Rondo and want to connect is a big deal.

Markazi: Not really. Players grab breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks all the time -- it's just not pictured and talked about on social media. Would Kobe love to have Rondo on the Lakers? Sure. But I don't think that's any closer to happening just because they split pancakes and eggs.

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2. Do you agree with Magic Johnson's sentiment that the Lakers should get serious about losing for the remainder of the season?

Holmes: Yes. Of course the Lakers won't publicly admit their plan is to tank the season -- and general manager Mitch Kupchak told me he is very much against that method -- but Magic is right, even if that's a tough pill to swallow for Lakers fans. The Lakers are in an even more interesting position because of their 2015 first-round pick that is top-five protected. If that pick falls outside the top five, it goes to the Phoenix Suns. Essentially, the more the Lakers lose, the closer they are to keeping that pick and potentially nabbing a talented young prospect at the top of this upcoming top-heavy 2015 draft class.

[+] EnlargeMagic Johnson
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesMagic Johnson made waves by saying, "I hope the Lakers lose every game, because if you're going to lose, lose. I'm serious."
Shelburne: No. I don't believe in tanking as a strategy. For every LeBron James or Blake Griffin, there's a Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or an Otto Porter. You might get lucky, you might not. But if you look at it as an opportunity cost, on the whole, I think tanking as a strategy doesn't work. The problem is compounded when you're an iconic franchise such as the Lakers, for which having a poor, lottery-bound season damages your brand value with potential free agents.

Markazi: I know Magic will get grief for what he said, but he's right. Why try to win a couple more games and get the sixth pick in the 2015 draft only to see it shipped to Phoenix? Lose, get a top-five pick and rebuild properly. The Lakers are about championships, not being a middle-of-the-road team.


3. Will Byron Scott's recent lineup changes, aimed at improving the team's NBA-worst defense, have any material benefit?

Holmes: Not really. Given their patchwork roster, the moves aren't likely to make much of a difference because, simply put, the Lakers are playing in a brutal, unforgiving conference. Any positive impact the moves might make will be overshadowed by how good their opponents are on a nightly basis. We've said it before: Lineup changes for this team is a lot like shuffling deck chairs on the "Titanic."

[+] EnlargeCarlos Boozer
AP Photo/Alex BrandonPart of Byron Scott's lineup adjustment was to bring Carlos Boozer off the bench, a move Boozer wasn't happy about.
Shelburne: Yes. Ultimately, I think it will be good for both Jeremy Lin and Carlos Boozer. Lin needs confidence. The only way to get that is to take some pressure off of him -- by moving him to the second unit -- and create as many minutes for him to be on the floor without Bryant. He needs to play without constantly thinking of how to play with Kobe. With Boozer, it's simply a pride thing. He still has some. This will motivate him.

Markazi: Nope. The Lakers simply don't have the pieces to be a good defensive team. You can mix and match these pieces all you want, but no combination will get Scott the defensive team he is looking for.

3 Points: What to make of Nash's silence

December, 4, 2014
Dec 4
8:00
AM PT
By ESPNLosAngeles.com
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Steve Nash and Byron ScottAP Photo/Getty ImagesSince being injured, Steve Nash's contact with Lakers coach Byron Scott has been minimal.

Each week, ESPN.com Lakers beat writer Baxter Holmes, along with ESPN.com NBA writers Ramona Shelburne and Arash Markazi, will weigh in on three questions that are on the minds of Los Angeles Lakers followers.

1. Is it a big deal that Steve Nash's communication with Byron Scott has been minimal to this point?

Holmes: Nope. Scott brought up a good point the other day -- that any longtime player whose career ended rather abruptly because of injury needs time to cope with the fact that, well, it's over. If Nash is taking his time, that's fine. And Scott seems fine with giving Nash time and space. If and when Nash decides to come back, then I'm sure those two will have an in-depth chat. For now, they have more important things on their plate.

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What do you think of Steve Nash's relative silence since his injury?

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Shelburne: No. But it is a little strange. I know the Lakers really wanted to give Nash space to deal with what's obviously a tough, emotional time in his life. But they are still paying him $9.7 million this season, and if there's a way he can contribute something to the organization -- even if it's just mentoring some of their younger players, such as Jordan Clarkson or Julius Randle -- that would be a nice gesture. I don't know what Nash and Scott would actually talk about, if they did talk. But they should just get on the phone one day so this doesn't continue to be as awkward each time either one of them is asked about it.

Markazi: I don't think so. I mean, would it be nice if they communicated immediately after he was ruled out for the season and he planned to be with the team as some kind of assistant? Sure. But that doesn't seem to be the plan -- and not just from Nash but the Lakers as well. There's no reason for him to be a distraction and for fans to ask why he isn't playing despite making almost $10 million this season by practicing and being around the team.

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2. As Nick Young jokingly suggested, does Kobe Bryant need to pass him the ball more?

Holmes: Yes. The Lakers function better when Bryant plays the role of facilitator more than just trying to shoulder the load on offense. And because defenses already give Bryant so much attention, other Lakers players, such as Young, are often open. Young is a very capable scorer and it makes the Lakers more potent on offense if he's involved, just like some of the other players. Bryant would do well to keep them involved.

Kobe Bryant and Nick Young
AP Photo/Jae C. HongNick Young has certainly helped the Lakers on offense since his return from injury.
Shelburne: No. Kobe needs to pass the ball more to other people, but Young isn't one of them. He's perfectly capable of creating his own shot, unlike most of the current players on the team. It really doesn't seem as though Young is having any trouble involving himself in the Lakers' offense. Other players are however, and it's on both Kobe and Swaggy to get them involved.

Markazi: The Lakers won two straight and were 4-4 in Young's first eight games back, so his return has helped the Lakers. It's always better for the team when Kobe facilitates as well as shoots, so it's important for him to pass the ball to Young more. That doesn't mean Young is the center of attention or that the offense will run through him but simply shows that he's an important part of the team too and that Kobe trusts him.


3. Scott has threatened lineup changes recently, but is that something the Lakers need?

Holmes: At this point, why not? The only other option is to keep playing Eastern Conference teams, but I don't think the schedule lines up that way. Either way, it's not as though mixing up the lineup could really hurt their chances anyway. A starting lineup with Young and Ed Davis would be interesting, and it could perhaps give the Lakers a much-needed jolt to start games.

[+] EnlargeBoozer
Noah Graham /NBAE/Getty ImagesIs Carlos Boozer one of the players the Lakers should consider moving to the bench?
Shelburne: Yes. The only way to get through to certain players is to reward them for good play and punish them for poor effort. The Lakers consistently have the same issues on defense, which means the corrections Scott is trying to get across to his team either aren't being digested or, worse, are being ignored. A lot of the guys Scott is referring to with this threat have been known as offense-minded players. It'll be hard to sacrifice those points by cutting their playing time. But Scott needs to prove that he will hold players accountable for their failures at the defensive end.

Markazi: I think anything and everything would help the Lakers at this point. Start Davis over Carlos Boozer. Start Young over Wesley Johnson. Shoot, try playing Jordan Clarkson over Jeremy Lin for a game and see what happens. When you're in the bottom of the West with nothing to lose, I don't think it ever hurts to experiment with the lineup and give other players a shot that might help you in the long term.

Byron Scott doesn't hold back criticisms

November, 29, 2014
Nov 29
12:48
AM PT
Holmes By Baxter Holmes
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
LOS ANGELES -- Byron Scott tried to find the right words.

"Have you ever been to the zoo?" the Los Angeles Lakers coach asked Friday.

That eyebrow-raising response marked the beginning of a long-winded answer to a query about why these Lakers would look at any team as an easy win, as the Lakers did in their 120-119 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves at Staples Center.

[+] EnlargeByron Scott
Andrew D. Bernstein/NGetty ImagesLakers coach Byron Scott said Friday's effort against the Timbwolves "was about the worst we've played as far as being focused and ready to play."
Scott said he had warned his three-win Lakers not to look at the now four-win Timberwolves that way. He said he warned them during shootaround in the morning, then before the game, then during halftime.

And yet, according to Scott, those warnings went unheeded.

Which brings us back to the zoo.

"Do you ever go see the gorillas, the elephants, the lions and the monkeys, and they're looking right back at you?" Scott asked. "That's what Minnesota was doing. They were looking right back at us."

They looked at the Lakers, now 3-13, as an easy target -- and rightfully so.

"There's nobody in this ..." Scott continued.

He began to utter an R-rated, four-letter expletive, pausing only before reciting the final syllable.

Perhaps he paused because he realized that he needed to somehow appear steady during these most turbulent times. Or perhaps he paused because he thought the league would fine him.

But, make no mistake, at no point during the worst start in Lakers' franchise history has Scott ever publicly come unglued in the way he did after Friday's loss.

And just after he paused before reciting that final, fateful syllable, Scott's breath turned to fire. He raised his voice, all but shouting. He pounded the table before him in the postgame news conference. He beat his hands into it four times -- hard.

"There's nobody in this league that we should be looking at thinking, 'This is an easy win,' " he boomed, beating the table as he spoke. "Period."

Was this rock bottom? So far, yes. It's still November. It can -- and probably will -- get worse.

But the Lakers had circled this game as one they could definitely win, which they won't be able to do much this season, especially in the Western Conference.

Then the Lakers got a rather efficient 26 points from Kobe Bryant, on 10-of-18 shooting, and 19 points from Wesley Johnson, and a double-double (18 points and 11 assists) from Jeremy Lin.

They shot 53.9 percent as a team.

They had an eight-point lead with 5:03 left in the fourth.

Then they fell apart, Bryant missed a last-second 3-pointer, and the Lakers lost.

"We looked at them like they were inferior to us," Scott said. "That's the bottom line."

He used the phrase "lack of focus" six times. He cited "bone-head plays."

So did Bryant.

[+] EnlargeKobe Bryant
AP Photo/Danny MoloshokKobe Bryant, who missed a potential winning 3-pointer at the buzzer, said the Lakers were "lazy" on defense in their loss to the Wolves.
"We were just lazy," Bryant said. "We were lazy defensively. We cut corners."

He added, "We are shooting ourselves in the foot."

Timberwolves rookie Zach LaVine scored 28 points on 11-of-14 shooting off the bench, a spectacular performance for the UCLA product.

"I was playing against my childhood idol," LaVine said of Bryant, "and I'm really, really surprised he missed that [final] shot. That scared me."

While LaVine spoke, his teammate Corey Brewer shouted, "He's the biggest Kobe fan and he beat his a-- tonight."

The Timberwolves won't have much to celebrate this season, but the Lakers certainly weren't expecting any celebrating from the visitor's locker room Friday.

"We know this was supposed to be a win for us," said Lakers guard Nick Young, who scored 16 off the bench. "Playing against a wounded team and they're all young, we knew what we had to do. We've let a lot of games slip this way."

Johnson recalled hearing Scott's warning.

"They played exactly how we thought they were going to play," Johnson said. "They kept coming. They never let up. They didn't feel like the game was over when we went on a little run. They continued to play.

"And like [Scott] said before shootaround, they were looking at us as an opportunity to win. We didn't necessarily take that serious and execute like we should have."

All of which led to Scott blowing his stack.

"You can't play good, hard-nosed basketball one night," Scott said, "and look at the opponent the next night and say, 'Oh, we've got an easy one tonight.' It doesn't work that way in this sport. You'll get you're a-- kicked doing that."

There's a segment of the Lakers' fan base that is no doubt pleased, for every Lakers loss is another step closer toward the chance at a higher draft pick next summer, toward a tantalizing prospect who could help right this sinking ship.

For now, there is only frustration and convoluted metaphors about zoo animals.

"Sooner or later, you get tired of getting the crap beat out of you and you start manning up and doing the things you're supposed to do," Scott said.

Can he get through to his players?

"Definitely," he said.

So Friday was just an anomaly?

Yes, Scott said. He says he believes they can fix things with more effort and more focus.

"But tonight," he said, "that was about the worst we've played as far as being focused and ready to play."

With that, he got up and left. There was nothing more to say.

3 Points: Any downside to not practicing?

November, 27, 2014
Nov 27
12:00
AM PT
By ESPNLosAngeles.com
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Kobe BryantAndrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesKobe Bryant has been playing plenty of minutes despite early talk of trying to limit that a bit.

Each week, ESPN.com Lakers beat writer Baxter Holmes, along with ESPN.com NBA writers Ramona Shelburne and Arash Markazi, will weigh in on three questions that are on the minds of Los Angeles Lakers followers.

1. Is there any potential downside to having Kobe Bryant sit out practices so he can play more in games?

Holmes: None that really matter. From fans to television viewers to season-ticket holders to corporate sponsors, Lakers coaches and teammates, everyone is better served if Bryant is in the best position to play well when the lights are on. Given his age and mileage, rest is what's best for him right now. If that means he misses a few practices, or even most of them, then it's for the greater good.

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What is the best way to handle Kobe Bryant's preparation and playing time?

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Shelburne: Yes. This team needs to improve throughout the season, and practice is the place to work on team concepts. Right now, though, that just can't be helped. The Lakers need the best version of Kobe on the floor during games as much as possible, and if resting during practice is the way to make that happen, they have to do it.

Markazi: In the immortal words of Allen Iverson, "Practice? We're talking about practice?" I don't think there's any downside to Kobe sitting out practices. He wasn't participating in all the practices during training camp, and I didn't expect him to participate in all of them during the season. Bryant is getting paid $25 million per season to play in all 82 games, sell out arenas and draw eyeballs to the television. Whether or not he practices in between doesn't really matter and won't affect the Lakers' fate this season.


2. Is Kobe being honest with himself when he says the contract discount he took was enough for the Lakers to be a contender?

[+] EnlargeBryant
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesKobe Bryant's contract takes up plenty of the Lakers' salary cap, but is it a fair deal for all involved?
Holmes: I think he's focusing solely on his situation in this market, which is truly unique. In fact, given the Lakers' television deal and what he means to them from a financial standpoint, his massive contract can easily be justified. And if the Lakers had signed Carmelo Anthony last summer, maybe the size of his deal wouldn't be an issue. And yet, here we are.

Shelburne: In his mind he is. Others may have a different opinion. But Kobe has seen the Lakers go very deep into the luxury tax to field a championship contender (as recently as 2012-13) and has no reason to think they wouldn't do so again if the opportunity to acquire championship-caliber players presented itself. The thing is, the opportunity hasn't presented itself recently.

Markazi: Not totally. I mean, yes, he technically took a pay cut and, yes, the Lakers could have offered a max contract last offseason and will be in position to next offseason, but if Kobe had taken a deal similar to what Dirk Nowitzki accepted, the Lakers could have lured two big-name free agents as opposed to one and could have quickly positioned themselves as a contender. As it is, no big-name free agent wants to join the Lakers' rebuild with Kobe alone, and, therefore, their rebuild might not be able to fully take shape until Kobe retires.


3. On the heels of Xavier Henry's season-ending injury, is the Lakers' rash of injuries the past few seasons anything more than bad luck?

Holmes: It is bad luck, but it is a pretty startling streak of bad luck. I mean, losing three players to season-ending health issues and we're not even one month into the season? Lakers coach Byron Scott said he's never seen anything like it. They might want to start bubble-wrapping their players just to be on the safe side.

[+] EnlargeRandle
AP Photo/Mark J. TerrillJulius Randle is one of several Lakers to be hit with an injury that will keep sidelined for the season.
Shelburne: It's definitely bad luck. There was a sense that the up-tempo system Mike D'Antoni ran last season wore players down and made them more susceptible to injuries, but there has never been any data to back that up. There's also a sense that younger players with a history of injuries like Henry tend to keep getting injured. But again, that's just a theory. Until there's hard and fast data on the issue, you have to chalk it up to bad luck.

Markazi: It's certainly bad luck, but at some point, it wouldn't be a bad idea to take a look at how the training staff is doing things in comparison to, say, the Phoenix Suns. Leading the league in players missing games because of injuries in consecutive seasons is a tag no training staff wants, and once it becomes a trend, it might be time to take a closer look at how players are being treated. If it was just Kobe and Steve Nash, you could chalk it up to age, but when you add Julius Randle, Nick Young, Ryan Kelly and Henry, it becomes a bigger problem.

3 Points: Is effort cause for poor start?

November, 20, 2014
Nov 20
8:00
AM PT
By ESPNLosAngeles.com
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Byron ScottEzra Shaw/Getty ImagesByron Scott is big on effort, but the Lakers' problems probably run way deeper than that.

Each week, ESPN.com Lakers beat writer Baxter Holmes, along with ESPN.com NBA writers Ramona Shelburne and Arash Markazi, will weigh in on three questions that are on the minds of Los Angeles Lakers followers.

1. Can the Lakers' poor start simply be blamed on effort, as Byron Scott has said?

Holmes: Of course not. The Lakers' problems are many. They've been plagued with injuries (Steve Nash, Julius Randle, Ryan Kelly, Nick Young), have had a one-man show on offense that while entertaining has been problematic, and, last but not least, they're playing in a brutally tough conference. The Lakers could play at maximum effort and it might help make their games more competitive, but they lack talent. Simple as that.

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What is the biggest issue for the Lakers during their slow start?

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Shelburne: Not entirely. Effort was definitely a component of the 1-9 start. But the Lakers also played one of the toughest schedules in the NBA without three of their top players (Young, Nash and Randle). They had far less talent than most of the teams they were facing, which led to some hero ball from Kobe Bryant. That can demoralize his teammates, who don't get into a rhythm offensively, which carries over to the defensive side of the ball. Yes, that was a huge problem and part of the losses. But the lack of talent, strength of schedule and injuries were more important.

Markazi: It's more than effort, of course. This is not a good team to put it bluntly. If you look at this team on paper and look at their results so far this season they should make sense. Unless there were some delusions of grandeur about what Jeremy Lin and Carlos Boozer could provide on a regular basis or a false sense of hope that Kobe wouldn't shoot every time he was open, the poor start should have been expected regardless of the effort, which hasn't always been bad.


2. Is Jeremy Lin right when he says communication and trust top his list for the Lakers' problems?

Holmes: Absolutely. A large part of that stems from many new players playing in a new system, but it doesn't help that Kobe has, up until their win at Atlanta, largely eschewed his teammates on offense. As Boozer said after the Hawks' win, when they all touch the ball, they all feel involved and engaged, which leads to them playing more like a team on both ends but especially on defense. Scott has also noted that the bigs haven't communicated well with the guards on defense, which he said has led to several lapses.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Lin
Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty ImagesJeremy Lin is on to something when he talks about some of the major issues for the Lakers.
Shelburne: Yes, but not in the way that quote read. When Lin said "communication" and "trust" were the Lakers' biggest issues, that was code for Bryant not keeping his teammates feeling involved in what the team is doing. He just didn't want to say that out loud and cause a larger rift. Whether Lin is right is debatable. Bryant is a smart basketball player who knows how to win games. He also has heard he shoots too much for 19 years. It's not as if he doesn't recognize the drawbacks of that style of play. He's playing that way because he didn't have faith in his teammates to score. That's the real trust issue. And it can only be corrected by guys like Lin and Boozer proving Bryant wrong and scoring the way they're capable of.

Markazi: This team has a lot of problems, but if we start with the premise that the guys in the locker room are the guys that they will have all season and not worry about the future then yes, communication and trust are two big problems. The Lakers can worry about their more pressing problems for a legitimate point guard and center in the offseason. The only way the Lakers can improve their communication and trust is by moving the ball around and playing together, which, of course, hasn't always been the case so far.


3. Is it on Kobe Bryant to make sure team morale doesn't become an issue?

Holmes: Yes. It's on Kobe to do pretty much everything. In fact, in one way or another, he's responsible for almost every aspect of the team and, to a greater degree, what goes on in the organization. But as the veteran who has been on rebuilding teams, he can speak from experience to the new and younger players about how to stay focused on the process without getting too downtrodden after blowout wins. Everyone in the locker room will look to him to lead them.

[+] EnlargeKobe Bryant
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesKobe Bryant's experience and wisdom are what is needed to help the Lakers through tough times.
Shelburne: Yes. That's the responsibility he accepted when he signed on to be the NBA's highest-paid player.

Markazi: It's on everyone but it begins with Scott and Bryant. If the players feel that Scott will simply do whatever Kobe wants, and Kobe continues to shoot 30 times a game, regardless of how many he makes, morale will suffer and it's going to be a long season. Everyone on this team has to buy in for the morale to improve and that's on both Bryant and Scott.

Spurs 93, Lakers 80: Kobe goes 1 for 14

November, 14, 2014
Nov 14
9:35
PM PT
Holmes By Baxter Holmes
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
videoLOS ANGELES – At 1-8, the Los Angeles Lakers are off to their worst nine-game start in franchise history, courtesy of the defending champion San Antonio Spurs. In an odd twist, Kobe Bryant wasn’t a factor, as he posted one the worst shooting nights of his career, while Carlos Boozer was the Lakers'
lone bright spot (19 points on 8-of-13 shooting) in another blowout loss.

Oddity of the night: Bryant missed his first 10 field-goal attempts, not sinking one until there was 10:59 left in the fourth quarter. The last time Bryant went through three quarters without any field goal makes was Feb. 12, 2013 against Phoenix (0-5 entering the fourth). Though the Spurs played good defense on him, the 36-year-old Bryant appeared to be fatigued and labored as he brought the ball up the court. He still played 36 minutes, finishing 1 of 14 from the floor, his most attempts with just one make in his career. (He was 1-10 once in 1998). Bryant’s other points came on seven free throws.

Milestone of the night: Tim Duncan scored 13 points on 6 of 8 shooting from the field, surpassing the 25,000 career-point barrier. The Spurs forward joined Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the only players in NBA history with at least that many career points, at least 14,000 career rebounds and at least 2,500 career blocks. Duncan added 11 rebounds.

Stat of the night: The Spurs outscored the Lakers 30-6 from 3-point range.

Second stat of the night: No Spur scored more than 14 points, yet they led the Lakers by as much as 26 points. Impressive balance.

3 Points: Maximizing Jeremy Lin's minutes

November, 13, 2014
Nov 13
8:00
AM PT
By ESPNLosAngeles.com
ESPNLosAngeles.com
LinJeff Gross/Getty ImagesThe Lakers need Jeremy Lin to be aggressive on the court no matter who else is there with him.

Each week, ESPN.com Lakers beat writer Baxter Holmes, along with ESPN.com NBA writers Ramona Shelburne and Arash Markazi, will weigh in on three questions that are on the minds of Los Angeles Lakers followers.

1. Should Jeremy Lin's minutes be maximized during times when Kobe Bryant is on the bench?

Holmes: Right now, the Lakers don't have too many scoring options on the perimeter (or in general, really), so when Bryant is out, it would be great to see Lin take it upon himself to shoulder more of the scoring load, to be more aggressive on that end. Taking that approach would no doubt boost his overall confidence, which appears to have been up and down early in the season as he adjusts to playing with Bryant.

SportsNation

Should the Lakers plan Jeremy Lin's minutes around times when Kobe Bryant is sitting out?

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Discuss (Total votes: 2,064)

Shelburne: Yes. The original plan was for Lin to come off the bench because he has been most successful in his NBA career playing in the more uptempo style the Lakers' second unit prefers. But that plan went out the window when Steve Nash was ruled out for the season with recurring back and nerve injuries. Instead Lin is the starter, and it's clear it's taking some time for him to learn how to play with Bryant. The key for Lin is aggressiveness. The Lakers want him to orchestrate their offense, not look for Bryant and then run the offense. The more times he is on the court where Bryant isn't even a thought in his mind, the more muscle memory he can develop in that role.

Markazi: Yes, but he needs to be aggressive and play to his strengths no matter if Bryant is on the court or not. What is happening now is Lin is a different player when Bryant's on the floor. He isn't as aggressive and isn't the player the Lakers need him to be when Bryant is controlling the ball. That needs to change if the Lakers are going to be anything more than a vehicle for Bryant to win the scoring title this season.


2. Was it necessary for Steve Nash to send an open letter to Lakers fans?

Holmes: It wasn't necessary, but it certainly didn't hurt. While there is obviously a huge difference between playing an NBA game and swinging a golf club, that video of Nash didn't look good publicly, as Lakers coach Byron Scott even admitted. Nash hadn't made any public comments since he was declared out for the season, and his letter helped provide some much-needed insight.

[+] EnlargeSteve Nash
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty ImagesIt probably wasn't necessary for Steve Nash to send an open letter to Lakers fans, but it probably didn't hurt either.
Shelburne: No, but I thought it was a nice touch. Nash hasn't exactly endeared himself to the fans in LA since his trade in July of 2012. He essentially has been hurt the entire time, and has built up very little equity with a group of fans who have been disappointed by the Lakers' run of bad luck and failures since he arrived. Explaining himself in the way did can't change that history, but it was a classy move by Nash to acknowledge that the videos he posted had offended some fans.

Markazi: I don't know if it was necessary but hopefully some of the more level-minded Lakers fans appreciated his openness and honesty. Nash has been crucified by Lakers fans for the disastrous trade the Lakers made for him two years ago and his subsequent inability to stay healthy. Injuries happen, and they happen more frequently and severely when you get past 40 so it shouldn't come as a shock that Nash wasn't able to play at high level until he was 41. It was the Lakers' choice to make that trade and they knew the risks they were taking when they made it.


3. Will Nick Young's eventual return make a big difference for the Lakers?

Holmes: Yes. With Nash out, Julius Randle sidelined and Wayne Ellington out indefinitely because of a death in the family, the Lakers are badly in need of help. They had only 10 active players in their loss to Memphis. Young will also help provide a scoring punch, and his shooting will help stretch the floor.

[+] EnlargeNick Young
AP Photo/Jae C. HongNick Young figures to be a welcome addition to a Lakers team that lacks offensive punch.
Shelburne: That depends on your definition of "a big difference." Will it make the Lakers a playoff team? No. Will it have a transformative effect on this team's fortunes? Probably not. But will it give the Lakers a reliable second scorer to take the burden off of Kobe, create more balance between the starting unit and the bench and bring some excitement back into the building? Absolutely.

Markazi: A big difference? No. But it will certainly help a team that could use another experienced player and someone to take the scoring load off of Bryant. Young is a fan favorite, a talented offensive player and one of the highlights in the locker room, so his presence on the court again will be a breath of fresh air for a team that could certainly use it. It might be a stretch to think that his return will drastically change the Lakers' fortunes this season, but it certainly can't hurt.

3 Points: Should Kobe be traded?

November, 7, 2014
Nov 7
8:00
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By ESPNLosAngeles.com
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Kobe BryantKyle Terada/USA TODAY SportsThis season will undoubtedly be a head-scratcher for Kobe Bryant and the Lakers.

Each week, ESPN.com Lakers beat writer Baxter Holmes, along with ESPN.com NBA writers Ramona Shelburne and Arash Markazi, will weigh in on three questions that are on the minds of Los Angeles Lakers followers.

1. Should the Lakers trade Kobe Bryant?

Holmes: No. Even in a lost season, they need Kobe for TV ratings, to justify their ticket prices, to keep interest high especially when the Los Angeles Clippers are the far better team. Kobe is all the Lakers have going for them now -- and that's even more true with Julius Randle out for the season. Of course, none of those are basketball reasons -- a phrase that forever lives in infamy with Lakers fans -- but it's hard to imagine the Lakers getting anything in return for Kobe that would appease their fans/sponsors/etc. enough to make the deal feel worth it.

SportsNation

Should the Lakers even consider the idea of trading Kobe Bryant?

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Discuss (Total votes: 5,849)

Shelburne: NOOOOOO. What would they get for him that helps the rebuild? Any trade at this point would be a salary dump. And you do not salary dump Kobe Bryant. The only reason to trade him would be if he wanted to end his career with a clear chance at a ring. But he's not signaling that at all. If anything, he seems committed to sticking with the franchise through the lean times, no matter how bad things get. We're only in early November. As the losses mount, we'll see if everyone sings the same tune. Knowing Kobe and knowing the Lakers, I think they will. He's too important to their legacy and sticking with the Lakers for his entire career is too important to Kobe's legacy. Not many superstars play their entire career with one franchise. Michael Jordan didn't. Neither will LeBron. Neither did Kareem. Kobe has the opportunity to do that and he will.

Markazi: The hopeless romantic in me says no, that Kobe should finish his career as a Laker and play all 20 seasons of his NBA career in Los Angeles. The basketball realist in me says yes. The Lakers are going to be one of the worst teams in the NBA this season with Kobe and all signs point to them being pretty bad next season, too. As long as Kobe's contract is on the books for $25 million per season, it's going to be hard for the Lakers to begin rebuilding for the future. So if they can get a package of players and picks that makes sense, they should certainly look into it. Realistically, I don't think that they ever will, though, and Kobe will retire a Laker.


2. Should Ed Davis be in the starting lineup?

Holmes: Yes. He has been a pleasant surprise off the bench, scoring double-digit points in four of the Lakers' first five games ... whereas Carlos Boozer has really struggled, including posting twice as many turnovers (eight) as points in a road loss at Phoenix. Whenever Davis has been on the court, good things seem to happen for the Lakers. It would be nice to see what he could do with more playing time.

[+] EnlargeEd Davis
AP Photo/Matt YorkEd Davis has been one of the few bright spots off the bench for the Lakers so far.
Shelburne: Yes, like yesterday. He reminds me of Jordan Hill last season: really good as an energizer off the bench and you always shook your head and thought, "If he's this good in 20 minutes, what could he do in 35 minutes?" Well, Hill is showing what he can do as a starter this season and I think Davis would have the same impact if he moved into that role. I know that means Boozer would go to the bench, but at this point, the Lakers need to try things -- anything they can -- to create some sparks.

Markazi: Yes. Lakers fans were already down on Boozer when he came to the team and he has done very little to change that opinion. Boozer is averaging 10.4 points and 5.6 rebounds, shooting 44 percent from the field and is a nightmare on defense. Meanwhile, Davis is averaging 10.4 points and 7.2 rebounds, shooting 66 percent from the field and is the team's best post defender. Not only is Davis playing better while playing fewer minutes off the bench, he is 25 and could be part of the Lakers' future. Boozer is turning 33 later this month and is basically a one-year rental. In a season that doesn't have many silver linings, developing Davis may actually be one of them.


3. Will the Lakers win three games before November ends?

Holmes: Nope. The only games that even look winnable for the Lakers are against Charlotte at home this Sunday, and then at home against Minnesota later this month. Then again, the Hornets were a playoff team last season, and the Timberwolves have Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic, and Kevin Martin is piling up points. Beyond that, the Lakers' November schedule is a gantlet. They might need some luck to avoid being blown out of several of those games.

[+] EnlargeByron Scott
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesLakers coach Bryon Scott has had a rough start to the season and it could get worse.
Shelburne: Yes, but I'm really not confident in saying that. They have such a brutal schedule this month it's hard to see where the wins come from. Sunday against Charlotte looks like an opportunity. But if they don't get that one, it could be a while. Six of the next seven games are against playoff teams. It's not until home games on Nov. 23 against Denver and Nov. 28 against Minnesota that the schedule lightens up a bit. I'm going to say they get all three of those games, but I say that without a ton of conviction.

Markazi: This question really drives home how long this season will be, right? I'll play the law of averages and say yes. The Lakers came close to winning two of their first five games and I have to think they'll find a way to close out at least three of their first 17 games.

Similarity between Kobe, Jordan twilight years?

November, 6, 2014
Nov 6
2:49
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Holmes By Baxter Holmes
ESPN.com
Archive
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Two Hall of Fame shooting guards, both with a fistful of championships rings and a closet full of trophies, spending the twilight of their career on struggling teams.

There are indeed parallels between where Michael Jordan was when he played for the Washington Wizards and where Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant is now.

Jordan’s Wizards posted consecutive 37-45 records in his final two seasons with the team, failing to make the playoffs both times. Bryant’s Lakers are off to their worst start (0-5) since 1957 and have lost their games by an average of 14.8 points.

But when hit with the question about the similarities Thursday at the team’s facility here, the 36-year-old Bryant laughed, said no and then relented after giving it some brief thought.

“Well, maybe, I guess,” Bryant said after a pause.

Oh?

“He wasn’t in Chicago, playing for the same organization for all those years,” Bryant said of Jordan. “It’s a little different. I’m still younger than he was.”

Jordan retired at the age of 40 in 2003 after averaging 20 points that season.

“I can see where you guys are thinking there’s similarities there,” Bryant told reporters. “I also think it’s probably reaching for content at this point, which is okay. I get it. So, yeah, there are similarities.”

LeBron: Shame to see Nash's year end

October, 26, 2014
Oct 26
11:50
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McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPN.com
Archive
videoINDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- Having played his entire 12-year career in the Eastern Conference while Steve Nash spent all 19 of his years in the West, LeBron James doesn’t have epic playoff battles against the point guard to reflect on or scores of regular season showdowns to color his memories about the fellow all-time great.

Still, even though most of their time spent together over the years occurred during All-Star games and Nike promotional events, that didn’t mean James wasn’t observing Nash do his thing from afar.

Now that Nash has been ruled out for the 2014-15 season because of nerve damage in his back, a condition that will likely result in Nash retiring without suiting up for a game ever again, James looked back at the career of the man who is No. 3 on the NBA’s all-time assists list.

“It’s tough,” James said Sunday. “You hate to see anyone have the game be taken away from him because of injury and especially a talent like that. Obviously he’s worked his tail off to try to be healthy and play for that franchise and over his career he’s always kept his body in shape, we all knew that. For his body to fail him at a time where he still feels like he has something to give to the game, I think it sucks. At the same time, he has nothing to be ashamed of. He should be proud of every moment that he had in this league -- from him waiting behind and sitting on the bench behind J-Kidd (Jason Kidd) to finally getting his opportunity in Dallas and going back to Phoenix and having an unbelievable career, the two MVPs, and doing the things that he did.”

Nash will join Karl Malone as the only other two-time MVP to never win a championship, but James, a four-time MVP himself, still sung the court magician’s praises.

“You just look at him, you would never (know),” James said. “If you’re playing street basketball and he’s out on the side, you’re not going to pick him. And then when he finally gets his chance to pick the four guys that he wants to run with, then you’re going to be like, ‘Damn! I should have took that guy. I should have took him.’ And he’s part of that 90-50-40 club (with) a few guys -- (Kevin) Durant, (Larry) Bird, Dirk (Nowitzki). Nash, he did it multiple years. I think 4-5 years straight, which is crazy. And never one of the most athletic guys. Always just played with his mind and his agility. So it sucks. It’s always bad when a guy, like I said before, I’ll harp on it again, when your career is kind of shortened because of injury.”

James has so much affinity for Nash, in fact, that he wishes he got a chance to play alongside the guy who led the league’s No. 1 offense for nine straight seasons from 2001-02 in Dallas through 2008-09 in Phoenix.

“The way he played the game of basketball, I wish I could have been a teammate of his for probably a year or two just to be around a guy like that who is just all about team,” James said. “He never asked for anything and everything was given to him and you can respect somebody like that.”

Davis-Lin pick and roll effective already

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22
11:26
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Buha By Jovan Buha
Special to ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
ONTARIO, Calif. -- The play starts the same way every time: Jeremy Lin dribbling atop the 3-point arc, patiently waiting for a screen from Ed Davis.

As Lin's yo-yoing lulls his defender, Davis flashes up and sets a pick. More often than not, Davis will go left, toward Lin's right side, which allows Lin to gain traction and comfortably attack with his dominant hand.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Lin
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY SportsJeremy Lin, above, calls pick-and-roll partner Ed Davis "unselfish" and "smart" when it comes to his style of play.
Depending on how the defense reacts, Davis and Lin will usually do one of two things.

"You just have to read it," Lin said after the Los Angeles Lakers' 94-86 preseason win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday at Citizens Bank Arena. "It depends what the defense is doing. Sometimes [Davis] has got to get out of there quick. Sometimes he can meander around behind for a pop."

If Davis' defender comes up to trap Lin, or "show" with a hard hedge, Davis will slip the screen and dart to the rim. Lin can then pull up for a midrange jumper, hit Davis with a bounce pass or find the open man on the weak side as an opposing defender likely collapses into the paint to stop Davis from scoring undeterred.

But if Davis' defender drops back and hangs around the free throw line, Lin has the speed and ballhandling ability to pick up momentum off the dribble and blaze past the slower big man into the paint. From there, he can lay the ball in, dish to a trailing Davis or kick out to a weakside spot-up shooter (usually Wayne Ellington or Wesley Johnson).

The effectiveness of the game's bread-and-butter play best materialized in the fourth quarter with 3:22 left.

As Lin reset the offense on the right side of the floor after a Roscoe Smith offensive rebound, Davis came up on Lin's right side and screened his defender, C.J. McCollum. After taking McCollum out of the play, Davis rolled to the rim, and his defender, Meyers Leonard, stepped up to contest Lin.

The outcome was predictable, yet virtually unstoppable.

Lin threw a soft lob with his right hand and Davis flushed it home, giving the Lakers a commanding 88-75 lead with 3:16 left.

(Read full post)

Frontcourt provides much-needed punch

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22
12:22
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Buha By Jovan Buha
Special to ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The highlight of the Los Angeles Lakers' 114-108 overtime loss to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday was guard Kobe Bryant uncorking a vintage Vino performance down the stretch.

Bryant dominated Suns guard-forward P.J. Tucker -- one of the league’s better perimeter defenders -- over the final two minutes of regulation, rising up and connecting on three consecutive possessions with fadeaway after fadeaway out of isolation around the left elbow.

[+] EnlargeHill
Richard Mackson/USA TODAY SportsJordan Hill and the Lakers' other frontcourt players had a strong collective effort in a loss to the Suns on Tuesday.
On the fourth possession, Tucker played Bryant over-aggressively and picked up a shooting foul. Tucker, visibly frustrated and helpless, smirked and eventually laughed. Bryant, sensing Tucker's frustration, smiled and gave him a pat on the backside.

But arguably just as important as Bryant showing the ability to still take over a close game was the impressive offensive play of the Lakers' four primary big men -- Jordan Hill, Carlos Boozer, Ed Davis and Julius Randle.

Bryant's heroics would not have been possible if not for the dirty work Los Angeles' frontcourt did earlier to keep the team within striking distance.

The quartet combined for 40 points on 18-of-31 shooting, 19 rebounds, nine assists, two steals and three blocks, pushing around the Suns' undersized big men inside and creating space around the rim to score.

Heading into the 2014-15 season, the Lakers' projected advantage on offense was their dynamic perimeter attack.

Bryant, Steve Nash, Jeremy Lin and Nick Young have each shown the ability to consistently score and/or create for their teammates, and it was assumed the backcourt would grab the offensive reins.

In many ways, that has been the case this preseason. The Lakers' three leading scorers Tuesday were all perimeter players -- Bryant (27 points), Lin (15) and Wesley Johnson (15). But just like last season, injuries have a funny way of ruining the Lakers' game plan.

With Bryant still shaking off some of the rust from his return, Nash, Lin and Young nursing injuries for a majority of the preseason, and coach Byron Scott all but abandoning 3-pointers, the team’s offensive identity has been in flux. There has been essentially no consistency from game to game.

"There are just too many injuries," Scott said before the game. "We're not going to be able to do the things I want to do, as far as trying to find the type of rotations that we would have. But I'm just going to go with what I've got and see how it works out."

(Read full post)

NBA Windows: Kobe Bryant's last stand

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
11:21
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By Jason Concepcion
Grantland
Archive
Kobe BryantAndrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesWith the years dwindling away, Kobe Bryant's window of opportunity is about to close.
Kobe Bryant is facing his NBA mortality. In his own words, “Soon, but not yet.” It’s a testament to the ferocity with which he’s attacked his career that even though logic and a basic understanding of human biology tell us that, yes, definitely yes, Kobe is near the end of his NBA career, just writing it out like this carries a faint hint of danger. It’s a bit like an aging dictator not showing up for his breakfast one morning; who dares go into his bedroom to check on him?

Because Kobe has proved people wrong before: by jumping from Lower Merion High School to the NBA; by blending his game with Shaq’s; by winning titles after Shaq left; by salvaging his public image; by hero-balling out to such an extent that his copious bricks actually transformed themselves into a rare species of unselfishness.

So, if you come out and say that Kobe is close to being done, you do so after considering the possibility that his indomitable, coiled Mamba fury, buoyed by harvested ligaments and European blood-spinning technology, can find a way to turn you into Dewey Defeats Truman in miniature. I mean, would anyone be all that surprised if Kobe took his revenge for being ranked the 40th-best player in the NBA by averaging 40 points (on 40 shots per game; Lakers go 4-78)?

But 36 years old and over 45,000 minutes (13th on the all-time list above Moses Malone, the first player to jump from high school to the pros, and less than 200 minutes behind Robert Parish) equals gray-whiskered dog years for all but the rarest of the rare pro ballers. And, in the wake of one of the most devastating injuries in sports, it is fair to consider this the twilight of the Bryant Age. I feel confident in saying that. I think.

Visit Grantland to read the whole story.

Hope for healthy Lakers squad fading

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
10:15
PM PT
Markazi By Arash Markazi
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
LOS ANGELES -- Before the start of training camp, Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said he expected the Lakers to contend for a championship, and he was pinning his high hopes on the health of Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Carlos Boozer.

No, he wasn’t joking. He said that with a straight face on more than one occasion.

“I think a big degree of our success will be if those three guys can stay healthy,” Kupchak said. “For me, a lot of our success this year is going to rely on Steve and Kobe and Carlos. They will have to stay healthy and play their best for us to be the best team we can be.”

Kupchak might as well have said the Lakers' championship hopes rely on Lakers coach Byron Scott coming out of retirement and playing as well as he did 25 years ago.

After all, the chances of Nash staying healthy this season are probably on par with Scott's chances of suddenly reclaiming his “Showtime” form and helping this team out.

Kupchak and the Lakers came into this year’s training camp wanting to believe they could rely on Nash. They wanted to believe Nash, who turns 41 in February, could be a reliable starter and end his career on a high note after his first two injury-riddled seasons with the Lakers.

As much as they wanted to believe it, they knew it wouldn’t happen. After watching Nash spend most of the past two seasons in the trainer’s room, they knew expecting him to suddenly find the fountain of youth and reclaim his old form at 40 was unrealistic. It’s a reality they have finally come to grips with a little more than a week before the regular season starts.

“I don’t have any expectations right now, to be honest with you,” Scott said Sunday when asked about Nash. “When Steve and I talk, and I talk to [Lakers trainer] Gary Vitti, it’s all about day-to-day right now. You just kind of pencil him out until you know he can play, and then you pencil him back in. Right now, we just have to assume that he’s not going to play every game, obviously, and the ones that he can go, we’ll go with him on those nights.”

[+] EnlargeSteve Nash
Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY SportsThe Lakers knew Steve Nash would battle some injuries, but they probably didn't expect that in the preseason.
Nash missed Sunday’s 98-91 win over the Utah Jazz, just as he did this past Thursday’s 119-86 loss to the Jazz. Nash missed the Lakers’ second preseason game and asked out of the third preseason game after the first quarter, when he told Scott he didn’t feel right and couldn’t continue. The Lakers knew they’d cross this bridge with Nash at some point this season. They probably didn’t expect it to be during the preseason, but in some ways it’s better this way.

Any false hope the Lakers had about Nash being a regular starter and regaining his old form can finally stop before the season starts and Jeremy Lin, who missed the past three games with a sprained left ankle, can be named the starting point guard. Anything they get from Nash this season should be viewed as a bonus. He should be an extension of the coaching staff and a part-time player who suits up on the days he wakes up without his back hurting while getting dressed.

The larger issue for the Lakers isn’t Nash’s health. Any reasonable person, including Nash, didn’t expect him to be healthy the entire season. But Nash isn’t the only player who can’t stay healthy on the team. Scott said earlier this week that he’s just looking for eight guys to play hard every night. At this point, he’ll be lucky to find eight healthy players every night.

On Sunday, the Lakers were without eight players -- Nash, Nick Young, Jeremy Lin, Xavier Henry, Ryan Kelly, Jordan Clarkson, Keith Appling and Jeremy Tyler -- for a variety of reasons and ailments. Scott was a studio analyst for the Lakers the past season, when Lakers players missed a league-high 319 games. It is a league-leading ranking he knows the Lakers can’t duplicate if they hope to be at least respectable this season.

“You have to be a little concerned, especially with the guys we have out being players that we expected to depend on," Scott said when asked about the injuries. “It’s a little concerning, but we have a little less than a week and half or so to go, and hopefully a couple of those guys will get healthy and be ready to play. We know Nick is not going to be healthy for another three or four weeks, but if we can get a couple of guys back healthy, we’ll be OK.”

It’s hard to say what will pass for “OK” for the Lakers this season. They are a far cry from the championship team Kupchak is hoping for, and when they get healthy, they might not be as bad as they have looked at times during the preseason. The biggest concern early on this season might not be Bryant’s health, but rather, Bryant trying to carry the team by himself with so many players out.

“You do want to avoid that as much as possible,” Scott said. “But obviously with the guys that we have hurt, Kobe will want to take that upon himself as much as possible, but you want to try to keep that to as little as possible. You don’t want him trying to take all of the scoring load and put it on his back. We just have to get other guys healthy.”

Waiting for guys to get healthy has been a seemingly never-ending waiting game for the Lakers over the past two seasons. When it comes to certain players on this team, it’s probably time for them to stop waiting and finally move on.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Kobe Bryant
PTS AST STL MIN
24.6 5.0 1.4 35.4
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 8.3
AssistsK. Bryant 5.0
StealsK. Bryant 1.4
BlocksE. Davis 1.2