Los Angeles Lakers: Kobe Bryant

Kobe, LeBron all smiles near rivalry's end

January, 16, 2015
Jan 16
7:14
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Holmes By Baxter Holmes
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LeBron JamesHarry How/Getty ImagesLeBron James laughs with Kobe Bryant after a missed dunk in front of J.R. Smith during the first half of the Cavaliers' 109-102 win.
LOS ANGELES -- They started joking back and forth in the second quarter. While one of his teammates shot free throws on one end of the court, LeBron James stood on the other, next to the Lakers' bench, sharing laughs with Kobe Bryant.

They continued yukking it up throughout Thursday night, and after James’ Cavaliers beat Bryant’s Lakers 109-102, the two had a long embrace and more laughs at center court. Then they greeted each other again in the tunnel on their way out of the Staples Center, chatted, hugged and laughed some more.

Although they acted like they were teammates more than opponents, Bryant pointed out after the game that he wasn’t always so friendly with certain members of the opposition, including James.

“It’s a little different now,” Bryant said after scoring 19 points and tallying a career-high 17 assists in the loss. “Some years ago, both competing for championships, it was a little different. It was a lot more moody. Now it’s a little different. I’ve got a chance to really appreciate the competition and enjoy that interaction. We’ve gotten to know each other really well over the years. It’s good to see him.”

James agreed.

“It’s always fun and a pleasure,” the Cavaliers’ star said after scoring a game-high 36 points. “There are two big competitors, and to be on the same court as him, who I looked up to when I was a child, growing up and seeing him go from high school straight into the NBA, you know, it’s fun. It’s great. I hated him being out of the league because of the injury, but it’s fun having him back.”

James added of the matchup, "You don’t take that for granted, for sure. You don’t have many guys that come through this sport like Kobe.”

Bryant, 36, mentioned that he has more perspective at this point, knowing that he doesn’t have much time left in the NBA in general.

“I really won’t get a chance to play against [James] on the court for much longer," Bryant said. "You want to enjoy it.”

Other players seemed to get that sense as well Thursday, even during the course of the game.

“It was great to be a part of it,” said Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving, who scored 22 points. “[They are] two great players going at it. I want to be part of that as a competitor. Who knows how long that will last?”

Cavaliers coach David Blatt said he wasn’t thinking about the Bryant-James matchup until after the game.

“Now that I have a chance to reflect a little bit, yes, that’s very special,” Blatt said. “For the fans, for the players that are involved, for all of us, those are two all-time greats going at it and going at it like two prize fighters within the context of the team. ... It’s great to see two guys at that level playing the game at such a level for so many years and still involving their teammates in the way that they did.”

James and Bryant have never squared off in the NBA Finals, and Bryant said he wished that could have happened.

“Absolutely, which makes me appreciate what I grew up watching with Magic [Johnson] and [Larry] Bird,” Bryant said, “because you understand how hard it is to get to those Finals, let alone as a fan, seeing the two best players in the league match up with each other in the Finals over and over. We were just really, really fortunate, all of us, to see that happen. As a player growing up, once you get to that level, you want to have that same kind of rivalry, you know what I mean? It just never happened.”

But if opposing players and coaches are talking about appreciating Bryant, or if television announcers are reminding viewers to do the same during a nationally televised broadcast, as they did Thursday, well, that feels new and just a bit awkward for him.

“This is different for me, man, because I’m used to being hated,” Bryant said. “It’s really unnatural. It’s like, you go up against somebody and they give you a hug -- ‘Wait. What the hell are you doing? You’re supposed to say something nasty.’ It’s a different feeling, but I’m really appreciative of it. It feels good. Getting a hug feels good.”

Pierce: Kobe a 'basketball serial killer'

January, 11, 2015
Jan 11
8:38
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Holmes By Baxter Holmes
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce Ned Dishman/NBAE/Getty Images
Paul Pierce called Kobe Bryant one of the five toughest players he has ever defended and described the longtime Lakers star as "a basketball serial killer."

Pierce, now in his 17th NBA season, made his comments about Bryant in a first-person article for The Players' Tribune that was published last week. The other four players that Pierce listed as the toughest he has defended: Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.

"[Bryant's] mentality -- his killer instinct -- is what separates him from the other guys on this list, because once Kobe knows he has you, he’s going to keep attacking you," Pierce wrote. "He’ll throw you down, beat you up and even when you’re knocked out, he’ll keep hitting you."

Bryant, now in his 19th season with the Lakers, and Pierce have battled twice in the NBA Finals, with Pierce's Boston Celtics winning in 2008 and Bryant's Lakers winning in 2010.

"One of the toughest games I remember playing against Kobe happened in Boston," Pierce wrote. "I think he made seven or eight shots in a row on me. So we come into the huddle during a timeout and Coach is looking at me with a face that I knew meant he wanted me to switch off of Kobe. And the rest of the guys on the team could see what was happening and they were looking at me too. Finally they bring up that maybe we should switch and put a different guy on him, and I yelled, 'Hell no! I’m going to guard him! I got this!'

"He ended up missing the last nine shots of that game with me on him, and we won. But the stat sheet is still vivid in my mind. Kobe took 47 shots. Forty-seven. No one has ever taken 47 shots on me. Most games a team will get up 81 to 89 shots.

"What you have to understand about Kobe’s game is that by taking that many shots, he’s meticulously wearing down the defender until he breaks them. He’s made a career out of making guys lose confidence in their defense and then continuing to attack them. He’s won five rings doing that."

Kobe-less Lakers pull off shocker at Staples

December, 24, 2014
12/24/14
12:51
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Holmes By Baxter Holmes
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LOS ANGELES -- Kobe Bryant’s worst nightmare: He sits out to rest, and the rest of the Los Angeles Lakers not only play well in his absence, but dominate -- and they not only dominate, but they do so against the team with the best record in the NBA.

That was Tuesday at Staples Center: a surreal, wacky, pinch-yourself kind of night.

“They kicked our ass,” Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after the 9-19 Lakers did exactly that, pounding the 23-4 Warriors 115-105.

The Lakers led by as much as 24 -- their biggest lead of the season.

They tied their season high with 28 assists.

They tied their season high with 12 3-pointers.

They had two separate streaks of nine straight made field goals.

They were so hot, in fact, that Vlade Divac, whom the Lakers traded in 1996 to the Charlotte Hornets for the draft rights to a teenager named Kobe Bryant, sank a half-court shot between the third and fourth quarters that won $90,000 for charity.

By that point, the Lakers were up 95-73 entering the fourth and the crowd was hyped, but when his shot went through, the fans went bonkers and the building turned into a madhouse.

But underlying the Lakers’ biggest win of the season was the notion that has been floating around for a while, one heavily supported by advanced statistics.

So far this season, the numbers indicate that the Lakers have performed better when Bryant is off the court versus when he is on it. And though this was, of course, just one game ...

Not that his teammates were ready to connect the dots, but you could still read between the lines.

“We learned a lot about ourselves [Tuesday night],” said Lakers guard Jeremy Lin, who finished with 11 points and five assists off the bench.

Such as?

"I think we learned --”

Pause.

“I would say it’s just another stepping stone."

Ah, so close.

Wayne Ellington started in place of Bryant, scored 12 points and said they showed the rest of the Lakers aren't just out there for “jokes and giggles.”

“We can hoop,” Ellington said. “We just showed that we can hoop. We’re a good team when we all come out together.

As usual, Lakers guard Nick Young, who scored 15 points, was the most outspoken.

“Some guys just played like ‘Django Unchained' -- they were free tonight,” he said.

And what would Young tell Bryant?

“Pretty much going to have to tell Kobe to pass me the ball, pass us the ball,” Young said. “Tell him to take the backseat for a little bit. He can be ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ and I can be Miss Daisy and drive.”

For the record, the Warriors called this a trap game even before tipoff.

“We know we can’t let our guard down just because Kobe is out,” Kerr said before the game. “In many ways, it becomes a more dangerous game. We've got to be ready. They’re going to play well.”

Former Lakers and current Warriors assistant Luke Walton even warned his team, saying, “Hey, you better believe they’re going to be ready to play. Kobe is out and it’s their chance to play and get shots and get minutes.”

The Lakers’ locker room has often been a dismal place this season, even bordering on toxic, but it was as upbeat as ever after the Warriors win.

The 36-year-old Bryant wasn't in the building after Lakers coach Byron Scott told his star guard to meet them for their flight to Chicago for a Christmas Day matchup against the Bulls -- a game Scott said Bryant would start.

Bryant missed Tuesday after a string of bad games, after which he consistently complained about fatigue, leading Scott to finally sit Bryant down after playing him a team-high 35.4 minutes per game this season.

But the biggest question is whether the Lakers can play as they did Tuesday with Bryant in the lineup.

“That’s the challenge -- that we make sure we all try to get on the same page, continue to get on the same page,” Lin said. "You have to ask Coach more so than me, so, yeah."

Scott is optimistic, yet it’s unclear how the Lakers can keep a selfless rhythm with Bryant shooting as often as he does -- a league-high 22.4 attempts per game this season.

“When we go through slumps or periods when we’re not playing well, he takes it upon himself to be the aggressor,” Scott said. “That’s just him. One thing we've talked about is allowing those guys to continue to play. We’ll try that when he gets back.”

Scott added, “I think if he saw how we played tonight, he’d say, 'That was great.'”

(Wait. Did Scott think Bryant wasn't watching? Well, maybe he turned the game off at one point.)

“It takes a lot more pressure off of him, and it takes a lot more wear and tear off him, as well,” Scott continued. “It saves him more than anything, as well. It gives our guys confidence. We’ll try to play the same way. Hopefully, we can.”

The performance no doubt gives other Lakers confidence that they can play without Bryant.

“Sometimes you've got to move your security blanket to the side and just go out and play,” Scott said. “I think that’s what we did tonight. And when he comes back, it shouldn't be any different.”

That said, given how well the Lakers played without Bryant, and given whom they were playing against, it’s easy to jump to conclusions, especially when the data points in one direction.

Through 28 games, the Lakers' net rating -- the difference between offensive and defensive rating -- with Bryant on the court is minus-13.3 points per 100 possessions.

When he's on the bench, it's a whole different story: The Lakers' net rating is plus-11.1 points per 100 possessions.

But to people who point to Tuesday’s performance and to such numbers, Scott said, “I would say [those] people are crazy.”

To him, it was just one of those games.

“I hope we can keep that lightning in the bottle for the next three, four months,” he said. “I don’t know if we can play at that level for the rest of the season.”

It did give Scott a blueprint that he could take to Bryant as proof that team basketball can help the Lakers compete.

“It was great to have a game like this to make that case, just so he knows,” Scott said. “We’re still going to lean on him, but we don’t have to as heavy as we are. That’s kind of the message.”

But why do they have to lean on Bryant? Didn't Tuesday prove that they don’t need to lean on him? That he can just be one cog?

“[Tuesday] was one game,” Scott said. “Again, you’re looking at one game instead of the whole season or a smaller sample, let’s say 20 games or 30 games. We do have to lean on him at times. He’s one of the best players that’s ever played in this game.”

Lakers 115, Warriors 105: Holiday miracle

December, 23, 2014
12/23/14
10:08
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Holmes By Baxter Holmes
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LOS ANGELES -- Kobe Bryant finally took a much-needed game off to rest on a night when the Los Angeles Lakers were playing the team with the NBA’s best record.

Most figured that without their star, the Lakers would get blown out big time by the 23-3 Golden State Warriors, which of course would quiet down anyone saying the Lakers actually perform better when the 36-year-old Bryant isn't on the court, as advanced statistics indicate.

But then something happened.

The Lakers flipped the script, played by far their best game of the season and dominated the Warriors, leading by as much as 24 -- their largest lead of the season. Kobe’s worst nightmare? Good thing no one will jump to conclusions.

Play of the game: There were many big shots, but none bigger than the half-court shot Vlade Divac sank between the third and fourth quarters to win $90,000 for charity. The Lakers were rolling at that point, up 95-73, and everything in the world seemed to be going their way. And then Divac, a former Laker who in 1996 was traded to the Charlotte Hornets for the draft rights to a teenager named Kobe Bryant, came onto the court in a red sweater and buried the shot. The crowd went absolutely bonkers.

Stat(s) of the night: The Lakers tied their season-high with 28 assists, tied their season-high with 12 3-pointers and had seven players score in double figures, led by Carlos Boozer, who scored 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds. But you knew the Lakers were going to be hot when they went on two separate streaks of making nine straight field goals in a row. They shot 51.7 percent.

Turning point: In the third quarter, the Warriors charged back behind Stephen Curry, cutting the Lakers' lead to 10. But the Lakers didn’t back down. Wayne Ellington, who started in place of Bryant, hit a huge 3-pointer, and the Lakers eventually pushed the lead back to 21.

Similarity between Kobe, Jordan twilight years?

November, 6, 2014
11/06/14
2:49
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Holmes By Baxter Holmes
ESPN.com
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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.”

NBA Windows: Kobe Bryant's last stand

October, 21, 2014
10/21/14
11:21
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By Jason Concepcion
Grantland
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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
10/19/14
10:15
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Markazi By Arash Markazi
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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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.

Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash to start Thursday

October, 8, 2014
10/08/14
3:35
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Markazi By Arash Markazi
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash will start in the backcourt again for the Los Angeles Lakers in their second preseason game against the Golden State Warriors on Thursday.

Both started together Monday for the first time since March 30, 2013, and Thursday will mark the first time since March 23, 2013 that they will have started a game together at Staples Center.

Lakers coach Byron Scott said both will play limited minutes again after they played around 20 minutes in Monday’s preseason opener against the Denver Nuggets.

“As we get closer to the end of the preseason we’ll ratchet it up a little bit,” Scott said. “We’re going game by game and day by day. A lot of this is based on how [Kobe] feels. In the last week in a half he says he feels great. He got through training camp feeling really good and he got in great shape.”

Bryant and Nash both went through practice with the team Wednesday, but Nash was pulled early, as has been the case during training camp. While Scott believes Bryant can play 82 games and become the 25 points-per-night player he used to be, he has been much more cautious with Nash, who will turn 41 in February.

While the Lalkers will start the season with Nash as the starting point guard, Jeremy Lin is effectively the starter in waiting. He will likely play more minutes than Nash and could finish the season starting more games as well, depending on Nash’s health.

“He’s got to be ready every night,” Scott said of Lin. “Every game might be different. That’s one of the things we have that we just don’t know with Steve right now. Jeremy knows every game he’s going to play, but there’s going to be games that he’s going to start and he’s going to have to play a lot more minutes.”

(Read full post)

Bryant and Nash together again a joyful sight indeed for Lakers, fans

October, 6, 2014
10/06/14
11:33
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Markazi By Arash Markazi
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Kobe BryantAP Photo/Lenny IgnelziKobe Bryant went for 13 points and five assists in his first game action since December.

SAN DIEGO -- The last time Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash put on their Los Angeles Lakers uniforms and started a game together, Dwight Howard was still their teammate, Mike D'Antoni was still their coach and the thought of competing for a championship was an immediate goal rather than a long-term project.

On Monday, for the first time in 555 days, Bryant and Nash, the final remaining pieces of the Lakers' failed experiment of two seasons ago, started a game together. More important, they finished the 98-95 victory over the Denver Nuggets healthy and able to play another day together.

That might seem like a joke, but it's a painful fact for anyone who has followed the Lakers and their aging veterans over the past two seasons. The last time Bryant and Nash started a game together -- March 30, 2013 -- Nash left within the first two minutes with a right hamstring injury. Two weeks later, Bryant ruptured his Achilles tendon and, well, you know the rest.

Last season, Bryant played in only six games while recovering from that tear, then suffered a fracture in his left knee when he returned. Nash played in only 15 games because of nerve-root irritation in his left leg. In none of those games were they together.

Monday might have been only a preseason game, but it provided the first glimpse in a year and half of what Bryant and Nash would look like as teammates and it was, as expected, a beautiful sight.

There was Bryant with a fadeaway jumper near the baseline, followed by Nash driving into the paint and feeding Carlos Boozer for an easy layup. They both played a little more than 20 minutes, starting the first and second halves as was the plan before the game. Bryant finished with 13 points, five assists and two rebounds, and Nash had 11 points, five assists and one rebound.

“It was real easy,” Bryant said. “It’s extremely effortless to play with him. You get the ball to him and run and let him make decisions. We can do a lot in the two-man game so it’s pretty easy.”

When Bryant and Nash weren’t on the court, they were often talking to each other on the bench, which has often been the case during practice, when they sit out the final portions or skip altogether the second practice of two-a-days.

[+] EnlargeNash & Scott
Noah Graham /NBAE/Getty Images"I thought Steve looked good," Lakers coach Byron Scott said of guard Nash. "I hope he can [sustain it]. Only time will tell."
“Kobe made some shots; it was great to see a lot of his patented tough fadeaways,” Nash said. “It got guys off their feet, I thought it was a great first step for him. He looked like he’s going to round into a pretty decent ballplayer here.”

Not only were they on the court together, but for the first time in more than 18 months they actually looked like themselves. There’s no reversing the hands of time. Bryant is still 36 and Nash is still 40. Both are still coming back from serious injuries, but Monday was the first time in a while that their ages and injuries were not the focus.

“Kobe just looked like Kobe,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said. “The way he was moving. The way he was able to do that patented fallaway. He was able to take advantage of his length and his size with some of the guys they had on him. ... I thought Steve looked good. I hope he can [sustain it]. Only time will tell.”

Bryant and Nash said during the first week of training camp that they feel as good as they have in a while. It’s hard to know exactly what that means when you’re simply going through practices and drills and the occasional scrimmage. Monday was the first time they were able to test themselves against other NBA players in a game-type setting, and it confirmed everything they felt, which is the best news the Lakers have had since, well, both were injured.

“I felt fine,” Bryant said. “I felt like I could do anything I wanted. This is the healthiest I’ve been in a couple years, three years maybe.”

Said Nash: “It felt great to be back out there. You know it’s been a long summer and obviously for me it’s been a long two years, so just to be out there and feel pretty free was nice. Still got a lot of work to do, but one preseason game under the belt, it feels good."

It would be hard to find a backcourt with a collective résumé as distinguished as that of Bryant's and Nash's. After coming into the NBA as members of the 1996 draft, they have totaled 24 All-Star Games, five titles and three MVPs. A healthy Bryant will pass Michael Jordan as the third-leading scorer in NBA history this season. Nash is third on the all-time assists list. Every time the pair steps on the court, fans are treated to two of the greatest guards ever, playing in one of their final games. Bryant’s current two-year deal will take him to 20 seasons and will likely be his last. Nash, who turns 41 in February, has all but said this is his final season.

As will likely be the case with these young Lakers, Bryant was an extension of the coaching staff on the court and on the bench Monday. By the end of the game, Bryant had had a conversation with nearly every teammate. He coached Wayne Ellington and Jordan Clarkson on defensive positioning and where to keep their arms. He talked to Nash and Carlos Boozer about missed opportunities when they had numbers in transition. And he pulled Julius Randle aside and told him to be aggressive down low to get defensive rebounds.

When Scott addressed the team, Bryant would silently nod his head and look at his young teammates. When Scott was done, Bryant would pull a player or two aside to expand on what Scott told them. It was the kind of role Bryant simply didn’t have or wasn’t interested in having last season, when he was basically nonexistent on the bench during the latter stages.

This season, Bryant and Nash are not only healthy for the first time in years, but they are also happy, which was rarely the case over the previous two.

No one knows how many more games Bryant and Nash will start together. The Lakers had to wait 555 days just to see them reunited on the court. During that time, essentially everything about the team changed around them. Bryant and Nash have stayed, however, and if they can find a way to remain on the court, the Lakers might actually be worth watching this season.

A writer's fond farewell to Lakerland

September, 24, 2014
9/24/14
10:58
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McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Well, no use beating around the bush. It's time for me to say goodbye to you, Los Angeles Lakers fans.

After spending the last six years living in L.A. and covering a stretch of your franchise's history that saw just about everything, I'm leaving the purple and gold for LeBron James, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving and the wine and gold of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

It has been a privilege to cover your team for you. It truly has. The biggest compliment I can say is that you care. You truly do. From what the color of Kobe Bryant's Nikes for the night will be to what the Lakers plan to do with that seemingly perpetually open 15th roster spot, no detail was insignificant.

The Lakers are a way of life in Southern California. And just like the beautiful weather you all enjoy to be so perfect that an 85-degree day is considered too hot, your standards for excellence with your basketball team are also lofty.

If it's a championship-or-bust credo for the Lakers, the coverage by your beat writers better reflect that expectation as well.

Just last week, I was on vacation and one of you tweeted to me pointing out that Kobe was in Germany for another knee procedure and I failed to write about it, accompanied by the hashtag "#slackin."

The NBA "offseason” is one of the biggest misnomers. The league gets talked about year round and there is always some kind of media out there with which to compete. And you Lakers fans have an insatiable appetite when it comes to your team no matter what month the calendar says it is.

I always knew my work would get readers because of you guys. While that interest sometimes went overboard (give it a break about Michael Beasley already, will you?), I'm grateful I had such an active audience to share with.

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'Drew' legend Young looks forward to season

July, 27, 2014
7/27/14
6:29
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McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LOS ANGELES -- Nick Young's popularity around the NBA has grown thanks in part to his self-appointed "Swaggy P" nickname. But long before that handle became synonymous with Young's high-scoring, light-hearted exploits, he has been known as "I Am Legend" at The Drew League, a summer basketball league in Los Angeles.

"I've been a one-man show since I started at the Drew League," Young said on Sunday, explaining his other moniker. "I've been playing at the Drew for a while. I never played with no NBA people on my team or nothing. That's why."

[+] EnlargeNick Young
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY SportsNick Young is glad to be coming back to the Lakers after signing a four-year deal this offseason, and even has given himself a new moniker.
Now there are plenty of NBA players lining up to play in the league known simply as "The Drew." After Young's team won thanks to 26 points from him Sunday (on 21 shots), there were six current or former pros playing in the game after his in Baron Davis, Metta World Peace, Terrence Ross, Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson and Rashad McCants.

"It's most definitely growing each year," Young said of the league that he has been playing in for an estimated 6-7 years. "We get players from everywhere coming out and it's in a bigger gym. Nike is behind it now, you get free Nikes now. Back then you had to bring your own shoes."

Nike started sponsoring the league in 2013 and moved the venue from Charles Drew Junior High School to King Drew Magnet High School of Medicine and Science to accommodate more fans.

Young used to play in "The Drew" with his brother. These days his team, M.H.P. (which stands for Most Hated Players), is coached by his father, Charles Young Jr., features his cousin Adrian "Big Meat" Pascascio on the roster, and won't go a game without his mother, Mae, cheering on from the stands.

"I'm from L.A,," Young said after saying goodbye to close to two dozen people before exiting the gym Sunday. "It's home. It's like a family up here."

Young is hoping his tenure with the Los Angeles Lakers will start to feel the same way. The Lakers signed Young to a four-year contract extension worth $21.5 million this offseason.

"Of course they made me a priority by giving me four years and that's something that I wanted really, just to be part of the team," said Young, coming off a season in which he averaged a career-high 17.9 points per game.

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Saying goodbye to Pau Gasol

July, 14, 2014
7/14/14
2:15
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McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Pau GasolNoah Graham/NBAE/Getty ImagesPau Gasol helped the Lakers to three NBA Finals, winning two.
In the end, the way Pau Gasol left Los Angeles was almost as nondescript as the way he came in.

Six and a half years ago the Lakers -- off to a hot start to the 2007-08 season but treading water after Andrew Bynum went down with a season-ending knee injury -- swooped in like a burglar in the night and found themselves a shiny new pivot man from Memphis.

And then, on Saturday afternoon, smack dab in the middle of the World Cup consolation game, Gasol announced that the Chicago Bulls had landed his services and thus won the biggest consolation prize in this summer’s NBA free agency. He might not be LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony, but that doesn’t mean the Bulls aren’t thinking that Gasol can do for them what he did for the Lakers a half-dozen years ago.

It was a sad day for Lakers fans, and not just because they came to the sobering reality that Kobe Bryant is now the lone remaining member of the 2010 championship team still on the squad.

For a guy who was nearly traded so many times over the past several years -- starting with the deal that David Stern undid that would have sent him to Houston in a three-team swap for Chris Paul, ending with the transaction that L.A. backed away from in February that would have saved the franchise untold millions by sending Gasol to Cleveland, and including potential trades for Amare Stoudemire, Rajon Rondo, Josh Smith, Kevin Love and others sprinkled in between -- it was hard to call the news surprising.

Gasol’s departure seemed inevitable for quite some time now. Yet it didn’t diminish the effect the news had on people when Gasol made his announcement.

[+] EnlargeKobe Bryant and Pau Gasol
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesKobe Bryant and Pau Gasol made the Lakers, and each other, better during their six-plus seasons together.
Doing this job, you not only get to know the players, coaches and front-office personnel, but you become familiar with team staffers in every capacity. When it became official Gasol was saying goodbye, I started to notice reactions from many of those people.

Marko Yrjovuori, the Lakers’ sports massage therapist, posted a photo of him and Gasol -- both of them wearing big, goofy grins -- to his Facebook account with the caption: “Thank You for the Good times Pau!”

Paul Nankivell, who worked for the Lakers’ video department for years before joining their new television partner in Time Warner Cable SportsNet, also shared his appreciation on Facebook:

“Because of him, I got the chance to ride in parades, wear championship rings, and get champagne in my eyes after beating the Boston Celtics. But more importantly, I got to meet the kindest and most respectful NBA player I've ever come across. Good luck in Chicago Pau ... LA will miss you.”

Ty Nowell, the mind behind the Lakers’ web content on Lakers.com as well as the team’s active Facebook, Twitter, Vine and Instagram accounts, texted me when he heard the news: “Honestly, the guy changed my life. He made the Lakers the Lakers again at a formative stage in my career. Besides being a better human than the rest of us, I’ll always owe him that.”

The outpouring of support might not seem groundbreaking considering Gasol was in L.A. for quite some time and accomplished so much during his stay -- namely two rings and three trips to the Finals -- but trust me, I’ve seen plenty of players come and go from the Lakers. This kind of response is rare.

Gasol wasn’t just the guy leading the team with nightly double-doubles; when a staffer brought his wife or girlfriend or family to a game he was the guy who would say hello, engage in a conversation or pose for a photo.

For everything that Bryant’s tremendous talents and undeniable will brought to the organization, Bryant was never that guy.

The two worked well together, however. Bryant made Gasol a better player, pushing and prodding him to spend more time in “Black Swan” mode, utilizing his skill set along with Bryant's own to create an unguardable tandem when they were clicking -- remember Game 2 of the 2009 Finals?

Gasol made Bryant a better teammate, coming to L.A. on the heels of Bryant’s most dominant individual run of his career and reminding him that he can’t do it all alone, even if Bryant was one of only two men to ever score 80-plus points in a game.

It led to a deep appreciation between the two. Bryant wrote the foreword to Gasol’s book that came out last fall, “Life/Vida,” and penned, “If I could choose my brother,” it would be Gasol. This was after Bryant’s initial response to Dwight Howard spurning L.A. for the Houston Rockets, when he posted a photo of him with his arm wrapped around the big Spaniard with the hashtags #vamos, #juntos, #lakercorazon and #vino.

Bryant has been quiet about the Gasol news thus far. Maybe he’s like the rest of us and trying to figure out exactly how Pau should be remembered for his time in the purple and gold.

Remember him for one game? That’s easy. His 19 points, 18 rebounds and 2 blocks in Game 7 of the 2010 Finals will forever be cemented into Laker Lore (and the sheer magnitude of that Game 7 performance will forever overshadow his equally impressive 17-point, 13-rebound, 9-assist, 3-block masterpiece in a must-win Game 6 two nights before).

Remember him for one stat? The one that always stands out to me is the fact that after the Lakers acquired Gasol in February 2008, they played their next 225 games (regular season and playoffs combined) before losing three in a row. He automatically raised their standard of play.

Remember him for one reputation-building series? How about when the Lakers swept the Nuggets out of the first round in Gasol’s first playoffs with the team in 2008? He averaged 22.3 points on 58.2 percent shooting, 9.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.8 blocks in the four games after going 0-12 in the first dozen postseason games of his career with the Memphis Grizzlies.

Remember him for one moment? For me it was talking to him about being recognized by the league as J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award winner following a shootaround back in May 2012 and seeing tears well up in his eyes as he spoke about his charitable efforts supporting children in third-world countries with malnutrition and no access to proper education.

"Every time that I visited, it's been an experience that stayed with me," Gasol said. "You always meet a patient or several patients that are very inspirational or get into you in a way that's shocking. So, every time there's a child, there's a family, there's several of them that are obviously facing a very tough situation, a very tough time in their lives and you're just there to contribute a little bit, make their day, get a smile out of them, inject them some strength, some energy so they can hopefully have a better chance. As much as you can do, nothing is really little. That's why I encourage everyone in their means to have an impact on somebody else's life.”

I’ll cover players who make game-winning shots again. I’ll cover players who turn in nightly double-doubles. I might even cover players who bring a championship back to L.A. in the future. But I’m certain when I say that I’ll never again cover a player so in tune with what matters in life that he tears up in a lavish gymnasium when taking a second to ponder the plight of others who are less fortunate.

That’s the true measure of the man.

The truth is, as sports writers we’re not always afforded the proper time or space to make sure that context is never lost on the reader.

Back in December, I criticized Gasol for not playing because of an upper respiratory infection when the Lakers went out and lost to a lowly Philadelphia 76ers squad.

I took plenty of flak for the piece, with readers chiming in and calling it a “hatchet job” and questioning my motives. Looking back at it, I stand by what I wrote -- Gasol could have played and he didn’t, and that’s not what guys like him get paid millions for -- but I suppose some context was lost in it all.

Gasol had been a true pro for years despite having his name twisting in the trade winds and seeing the Lakers hire coaches post-Phil Jackson who didn’t put him in situations in which he could truly succeed.

[+] EnlargePau Gasol
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesPau Gasol's departure has seemed inevitable for quite some time, but that didn't change how deeply the news affected those who've become close to him during his time in Los Angeles.
In the past he would have fought through an illness to play, but sometimes you get fed up with it all. I grew up as a Philadelphia Eagles fan and this was Gasol’s “For who? For what?” Ricky Watters moment.

Everyone has the right to be fed up once in a while.

He tried to become re-engaged as the season wore on. Bryant revealed that Gasol was so mad after a loss to an 11-32 Orlando Magic team in January that he threw his shoes in the locker room during a postgame tirade.

The following month, after a 20-point loss to Indiana, Gasol said, "I don't think there's a lot of discipline right now.” Without naming names, he called out both coach Mike D’Antoni for not cracking down on selfish play and the freshly acquired Kent Bazemore for ignoring team play on a wild 8-for-19 shooting night.

You see, all of Gasol’s worldly interests don’t diminish his love for the game of basketball. But they do frame how he wants to see the game played.

Just as he strives to enrich the community around him, he seeks a basketball environment that is built on teamwork, sacrifice and pulling for the common good. Not one that purposely lessens the role of one player to appease the ego of another (as D’Antoni admitted to me that the Lakers did to Gasol when Howard was around). And not one that allows individual agendas to run amok as soon as wins become hard to come by.

He’s hoping he can get back to that in Chicago, joining a basketball purist in Tom Thibodeau and a roster, headlined by Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, that has something to prove.

Gasol wrote a blog post on his personal website on Saturday explaining his decision. Unlike James, who was celebrated for going the personal essay route and ticked off the names of guys like Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao whom he would be playing with, Gasol didn’t mention any Bulls by name.

“While I take a new step in my career in the NBA, I have high hopes of playing with the Chicago Bulls and become an active person in the community of Chicago,” Gasol wrote, translating his Spanish words into English.

With Gasol, you know that those hopes are more like a promise.

The Lakers never really got a chance for a proper farewell with Gasol. He missed 12 of the final 13 games last season dealing with a bizarre bout of vertigo. There was no sentimental send-off at Staples Center after he played his last game, just merely Gasol, in street clothes, sticking around to sign autographs for fans following the home finale.

Little did anyone know it at the time, but the last game Gasol and Bryant would end up playing together as teammates was back on Dec. 17 in Memphis, a game in which Bryant fractured his left knee, ending his season prematurely.

Gasol scored 21 points, Bryant scored 21 points. Gasol played 33 minutes, Bryant played 33 minutes. Gasol had nine rebounds and three blocks, Bryant had four assists and a clutch 3-pointer down the stretch. L.A. ended up on top 96-92.

Gasol and Bryant finished as winners together.

How do you properly remember Gasol’s time in L.A.? Remember that.

Lakers mulling many 'Plan B' options

July, 10, 2014
7/10/14
7:15
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McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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It's no secret that the Los Angeles Lakers' primary plan in free agency was to bring the top two prizes available on the market in LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony into their possession. By bagging one of the top 10 players ever to play the game in James and arguably one of the top 10 most gifted scorers ever to lace them up in Anthony, combining them with Kobe Bryant in the twilight of his career (someone who fits on both of those top 10 lists), the Lakers felt as if they would automatically reboot their team back on a championship trajectory.

It was a solid Plan A. Or it technically still is a solid Plan A until James and Anthony officially inform the Lakers they have plans to the contrary. And even if James should choose to head back to Cleveland or stay in Miami or go elsewhere, and even if Anthony opts to stay in New York or entertain one of the other offers out there from Chicago, Houston or Dallas instead, it's a strategy that Bryant fully supports.

[+] EnlargeKobe Bryant, Mitch Kupchak
Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty ImagesKobe Bryant says GM Mitch Kupchak and Lakers management are doing everything they can to make the moves necessary to turn the team around.
"They're going for it," Bryant said Wednesday of Lakers management. "There's no ifs, ands or buts about it. They're being extremely aggressive and they have solid concepts and plans to be able to get it done. They're pulling out all the stops to ensure that we put a contender on the floor next year. That's all you can ask for. Same thing that they ask of me: When I step out on the court, they expect me to play my heart out. Right? To prepare and to give it my best shot. Sometimes it doesn't always work out the way you want it to, but at least the intention and the commitment was there."

Of course, if the Lakers don't land their top targets this summer, they have a contingency plan in place.

The philosophy behind the Lakers' Plan B is twofold: find a way to be competitive next season to get back on track after a disastrous 27-55 campaign in 2013-14 yet at the same time, protect their cap space flexibility to be able to pursue the biggest names in the summers of 2015 (Kevin Love), 2016 (Kevin Durant) and 2017 (Russell Westbrook).

"It's a good class, but in terms of today who might be at the very top, maybe it's not as large as it might be next year or the year after," Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said on draft night when asked about the free-agency market this summer. "And keeping that in mind, we structured our salary knowing that, hey, you might not get two or three guys, but we have enough room to get at least one. And if we don't have one and we choose to, we can go down the road and have flexibility next year and the year after that."

The Lakers' desire to maintain a star-based system is pretty understandable. When you are in one of the media capitals of the world and are charging $3,000 per courtside seat, there needs to be a draw on the court to expect those prices. When you are being paid upward of $200 million per season from your regional sports network television partner, Time Warner Cable SportsNet, there's a certain obligation to have not only a competitive team, but compelling characters to get people to want to tune in and watch.

The specific machinations of the Lakers' Plan B remain a mystery, however. There are many different directions in which they can head, depending on how other pieces fall into place around the league.

"We have several options," Bryant said. "Obviously depending on the timing of this process, it affects some of those. You have a plan that's flexible, but you have a Plan A and a Plan B. But some of the Plan B is affected by the timing of Plan A. So, you just kind of plan it out and wait and see what happens and respond from there."

Here's a look at several ways L.A. could end up responding if it loses out on its top choice:

SportsNation

What should the Lakers do with LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony out of the picture?

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Discuss (Total votes: 14,517)

1. Sign Pau Gasol
The way Gasol's season came to a premature end thanks to a bizarre bout of vertigo, it seemed as if his time in L.A. would finish with a whimper after 7½ seasons. Gasol posted on his personal website in February that, "My decision will be based purely on sporting considerations." Meaning, he wants to win. But how much money is he willing to sacrifice to do so? If the Lakers don't end up using max money on Anthony, they could try offering Gasol a big-money, short-term, two-year deal that coincides with the end of Bryant's contract. Think $10 million-$12 million range and even give Gasol a player option for the second year allowing him to skip town for greener pastures should he not feel as if the Lakers were heading in the right direction.

Not only would this allow Gasol to stay in the city he loves for its culture and community -- he has several charities in Los Angeles with which he is very involved -- but it would also keep him from having to suddenly uproot his life at 34 and settle someplace else. Not to mention, just like Gasol is being used as a potential selling point to try to bring in Anthony this summer, he'd be an intriguing potential teammate for the other big names that the Lakers go after in the coming years.

Yes, Oklahoma City and San Antonio -- two of the handful of teams vying for Gasol -- are much more equipped to win right now, but they can offer him far less money. Same goes for Phil Jackson and the New York Knicks. Putting Gasol alongside a healthy Bryant and a promising rookie in Julius Randle next season would not only get the Lakers back on track in the short term, but could help them get one of those other stars they covet in the future.

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Kobe changes tune on Buss siblings

July, 9, 2014
7/09/14
8:46
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McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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ISLA VISTA, Calif. -- Maybe Kobe Bryant was just having a particularly bad day and didn't really mean it. Maybe things have truly changed in the Los Angeles Lakers' organization in the past four months.

Whatever the case, Bryant sounded vastly different Wednesday when he talked about the relationship between Lakers president Jeanie Buss and her brother, Lakers executive vice president of player personnel Jim Buss, than he did when he referred to them during his news conference in March to announce he would be missing the final 18 games of the season because of his left knee injury.

[+] EnlargeKobe Bryant
AP Photo/Mark J. TerrillKobe Bryant seems to have a positive outlook about the Lakers' future, including how Jim Buss and Jeanie Buss are running the team lately.
First, a refresher of his previous comments, when he challenged the direction in which the franchise was heading:

"I think we have to start at the top in terms of the culture of our team," Bryant said. "What kind of culture do we want to have? What kind of system do we want to have? How do we want to play? It starts there. And from there, you can start building out your team accordingly."

Bryant wasn't finished.

"You got to start with Jim," Bryant said. "You got to start with Jim and Jeanie and how that relationship plays out. It starts there and having a clear direction and clear authority. And then it goes down to the coaching staff and what Mike [D'Antoni] is going to do, what they're going to do with Mike, and it goes from there. It's got to start at the top."

Bryant's words were prophetic. Just about six weeks after that news conference, D'Antoni resigned, accepting a buyout worth approximately half of the $4 million he was owed for next season.

And as the calendar creeped into the second week of July, Bryant on Wednesday expressed a renewed faith in the Buss siblings who are running the only professional team he has ever known.

"I am," Bryant confirmed when asked if he was confident in the members of the Buss family leading the Lakers. "I know Jim and Jeanie are on the same page. They're ready to go. They both understand what they need to do individually and how that works together as a unit to turn this organization around. I think you'll see some changes that really fall in line with the history and the culture of the organization. You're seeing James [Worthy] at the draft, and so forth and so on. You start seeing some of the legends from Laker past being around a lot more to make sure that that culture continues to exist."

Yes, it was a downright sunny Bryant on Wednesday, speaking to a throng of reporters during a news conference at the start of his eighth annual youth basketball academy on the campus of UC Santa Barbara.

Then again, Bryant is the same guy who back in 2011 said he truly believed the Lakers would become the first team to come back from an 0-3 series deficit to beat the Dallas Mavericks in the playoffs. He considers himself the eternal optimist.

But he's also a cutthroat competitor.

It's easy for him to have confidence right now. There are still infinite possibilities of what the Lakers can do with their free-agency dollars.

But where will that confidence level check in if the Lakers don't look anywhere close to a championship contender next season?

That's when his faith in the Buss family will truly be shown.

Lakers look beyond the big fish, too

July, 2, 2014
7/02/14
9:13
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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The first bold moves of the Los Angeles Lakers' free agency road map are already known: They met face-to-face with Pau Gasol on Tuesday, will meet in person with Carmelo Anthony on Thursday and hope to get in a room with LeBron James as soon as they can, as well.

But what is to follow?

The Lakers, like several other teams around the league with major cap space and daring dreams (Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Phoenix, Cleveland, etc.), are putting everything else on hold while they go big-game hunting.

When the James and Anthony dominoes eventual fall where they may, however, there will be other smaller pieces to fill, especially for a team like L.A., which has only six players penciled in for roster spots next season in Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Robert Sacre, Kendall Marshall and rookies Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson.

As much as the Lakers have centered their initial focus on those big-ticket players, general manager Mitch Kupchak has been sure to cast a wide net to let a host of players know that he would potentially like to see them wearing purple and gold next season.

This included Kupchak's reaching out to representatives to every single one of the players who were on the roster last season and are currently free agents, save for MarShon Brooks, who will play for the Sacramento Kings' summer league team, a league source told ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Some of those players have greater interest around the league than others, of course.

Kent Bazemore appears to be the most popular of the group. The 25-year-old swingman has also already been contacted by Dallas, Atlanta, Boston, Phoenix and San Antonio. The Celtics' initial contact included a personal call from coach Brad Stevens to Bazemore. He will sit down with representatives from both the Celtics and the Spurs next week, if not more teams. Helping his cause, no doubt, is the fact that his right foot is fully healed from the surgery he underwent in April to repair a torn tendon and he will be ready for full-contact drills by the end of July, according to a league source.

Jordan Hill was also on the minds of plenty of teams, with Boston, Dallas and Houston all inquiring about the big man coming off a season in which he averaged career highs in points (9.7) and rebounds (7.4) per game despite playing only 20.8 minutes a game in Mike D'Antoni's system that didn't necessarily fit his skill set.

Nick Young heard from Atlanta along with the Lakers, as well as "several other teams registering interest," according to his agent, Mark Bartelstein.

For others, they are still waiting to see what the market bears. Chris Kaman will wait to see which teams need a backup center once they spend their big dollars on starters. Jordan Farmar has already prioritized staying in L.A., but if the Lakers feel they're set with three point guards in Nash, Marshall and Clarkson already, maybe he gets a look from his former Maccabi Tel Aviv coach David Blatt, who is now manning the sidelines in Cleveland. Wesley Johnson, still searching to fully establish himself in the league after showing some bright spots last season, will search for the team with the greatest opportunity for playing time so he can continue that development. Xavier Henry, still recovering from left wrist and right knee surgeries from back in April, will have an on-court workout to prove himself with the Lakers once he's recovered, according to a league source, before he will look elsewhere.

And those are just the free agents who were actually on the team last season.

Don't forget that Kupchak has been canvassing the remaining free agents around the league -- both restricted and unrestricted -- as he awaits the chance to obtain Anthony and others.

While it might seem that it has been a relatively quiet start to free agency for the normally splashy Lake Show, there has been a lot going on beneath the surface.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Kobe Bryant
PTS AST STL MIN
22.3 5.6 1.3 34.5
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 8.0
AssistsK. Bryant 5.6
StealsR. Price 1.6
BlocksE. Davis 1.3