Lakers must find a way to blend Kobe Bryant with young trio

November, 28, 2015
Nov 28
Holmes By Baxter Holmes


PORTLAND, Ore. -- There were flashes, the brightest yet, of what the Los Angeles Lakers hope their promising trio could become some day.

Julius Randle mixing midrange jumpers with his punishing drives to the hoop.

Jordan Clarkson attacking in transition and in the half-court with his top-flight athleticism.

D'Angelo Russell zipping passes, sinking jumpers, filling up the stat sheet with his all-around game.

Saturday night delivered all of the above for the Lakers, though it didn't bring a win, as the team lost to the Trail Blazers, 108-96, to fall to 2-13.

But wins are an afterthought at this point. The Lakers are awful and will remain that way for a while. For now, their best bet is to develop the young players who could make their future more exciting -- Russell, Randle and Clarkson.

The trio put forth their best collective game of the season thus far at the Moda Center.

Randle, the No. 7 overall pick in 2014, scored 16 points on 8-of-13 shooting to go along with 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and a block in nearly 30 minutes.

Clarkson, a first team all-rookie selection last season, had 19 points on 8-of-15 shooting to go along with 4 assists, 4 steals and 3 rebounds in nearly 36 minutes.

And Russell, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 draft, had 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting, 5 assists and 4 rebounds in nearly 38 minutes.

"All three of those young guys played pretty well," Lakers coach Byron Scott said. "All made a bunch of mental mistakes."

Mistakes will happen; it's part of being young. And their defense -- along with the Lakers' defense in general -- was not up to par, especially as Damian Lillard (game-high 29 points) and C.J. McCollum (28 points) sliced up the Lakers.

But this season is the perfect environment for the Lakers to grow, as there's nothing at stake for this team as it is. Plus, the more losses the Lakers accrue, the better their chances of keeping their 2016 top-three protected first-round pick.

Kobe Bryant, Damian LillardAP Photo/Steve DykesKobe Bryant scored 21 points on Saturday but missed 13 of his 20 shots.

In that sense, the losing Lakers find themselves in a possible win-win situation.

The main obstacle the Lakers face in developing their young core is, of course, Kobe Bryant.

The 37-year-old had another off-shooting night, finishing with 21 points on 20 shots. He missed 13 attempts from the field, more than Russell even attempted.

"I'm fine, man," said Bryant, who air-balled his first shot and air-balled another in the first quarter. "It's tough. Twenty years, it's tough. Legs aren't what they used to be."

Scott said he believed Bryant's rhythm issues could linger all season, Bryant's 20th in the NBA.

"The timing and the rustiness is probably going to be an issue for the rest of the season because he can't -- and we wouldn't do it anyway -- but he can't practice every day," Scott said.

"He can't go through all that where you get your timing. So he's going to have his ups and down days where he's making shots and where he's missing shots."

The way Bryant is playing now is probably how he'll play the rest of the season, more or less. There will be some nights when he's better, some nights when he's worse, but, on average, nights like Saturday are probably going to be typical.

Scott told ESPN on Friday he would "never, never, never" bench Bryant for poor play at any point during what could be Bryant's final NBA season, a declaration that isn't surprising considering how much Scott admires Bryant, a former teammate.

So this season, the Lakers will have to figure out how to blend the old (Bryant) with the new (their young trio), and it feels at times as if it's an impossible task.

For as much as Bryant has said he needs to defer to the young players, deferring has never been in his DNA and he almost certainly won't relinquish control of the team until he's gone. Once that happens, then the development will begin in earnest.

Until then, the Lakers can only hope for games like Saturday, when the kids show tantalizing glimpses in between Bryant's pump-fakes and contested jumpers. And in the games Bryant sits to rest, then the kids can really get out and run, providing flashes that give Lakers fans something they haven't felt in a while: hope.

Blazers hand Lakers 5th straight loss with 108-96 win

November, 28, 2015
Nov 28

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Damian Lillard scored 29 points and the Portland Trail Blazers handed the Los Angeles Lakers their fifth straight loss with a 108-96 victory on Saturday night.

CJ McCollum added 28 points for the Blazers, who have won three of their last four games after a six-game losing streak.

Kobe Bryant scored 21 points in the Lakers' seventh straight road loss.

It was Portland's seventh straight victory over the Lakers.

Jordan Clarkson added 19 points for the Lakers.

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Trail Blazers G Damian Lillard lobs up to C Mason Plumlee for a nice, third-quarter alley-oop against the Lakers.

Lakers' Byron Scott says he tries to block out noise from 'angry fans'

November, 28, 2015
Nov 28
Holmes By Baxter Holmes

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Los Angeles Lakers coach Byron Scott has an Instagram account that he says a family member monitors on his behalf, keeping him up to date on, for instance, what kind of messages and comments fans are sending his way.

“There’s been a lot of angry fans,” Scott said Saturday after the 2-12 Lakers' morning shootaround at the Moda Center in advance of their game against the Portland Trail Blazers.

“She says she’s trying to hold her tongue and not respond. And I tell her, look, don’t respond back to anybody. Because she’s family, she takes it personal. And I don’t read it because I know me -- I take it personal and I might say something and I don’t want to get into that with people.”

Byron ScottJennifer Stewart/USA TODAY Sports"They just see the end product, so they have no idea," Byron Scott said of some of the Lakers' disgruntled fans.

There is growing chatter from a fan base upset with the team’s start, but Scott said he blocks it out.

“The one thing I’ve always said, and a great old coach told me this a long time ago, when you start listening to the fans, you’ll be sitting with them next,” Scott said.

“I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to fans because fans are fans. Fans aren’t at practice every day. They don’t know the preparation. They don’t know what goes into it. They just see the end product, so they have no idea. And they all have their opinions, but I don’t put a lot of stock into it.

“That’s why I don’t go on my Instagram and all that stuff, because as [she] would tell me, a lot of them are pissed off and hot and all this and then you’ve got some that are very supportive that say, ‘Hey, we know it’s a process. We know it’s going to take a few years.’ But this is L.A. You want to win right away.”

One common message that Scott said he received from fans via Instagram late last season concerned the team’s top-five protected first-round draft pick.

In short, as part of the Steve Nash trade, the Lakers faced losing their pick to the Philadelphia 76ers if it fell outside the first five slots. However, the Lakers finished with the league’s fourth-worst record (21-61) last season and ended up with the second overall pick in the draft, which they used to select point guard D’Angelo Russell out of Ohio State.

The Lakers are in a similar situation this season in that they face losing their 2016 first-round draft pick, which carries top-three protection, meaning it will fall to the 76ers if it goes outside the first three slots.

While there are surely many Lakers fans who hope the team loses enough to ensure they keep their pick after what expects to be another loss-filled season, Scott said that is not his focus.

“I don’t think about that stuff right now,” he said. “To me, it’s impossible to think about the team and trying to get our young guys better and try to get our team better and then also think about a pick that’s six months away that you might not even get.”


EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- No matter how much Kobe Bryant struggles during possibly his final season in the NBA, the Los Angeles Lakers star will not be benched for poor play, coach Byron Scott told on Friday.

Scott said that under no circumstances would he sit the 37-year-old Bryant, who is shooting a career-worst 31.1 percent from the field and 19.5 percent from 3-point range.

"I would never, never, never do that," Scott said after practice at the Lakers' facility. "That's not an option whatsoever. No, that's not an option."

Scott and Bryant were teammates during Bryant's rookie season. Bryant is now in his 20th NBA season, all of which he has spent with the Lakers.

Bryant is averaging more field goal attempts per game (a team-high 16.4) than points (15.2). His field-goal percentage ranks 122nd out of 122 qualified players, and his 3-point percentage ranks last out of 105 qualified players.

ESPN's real plus-minus, which measures a player's impact on team performance per 100 possessions, placed Bryant 379th in the NBA and 73rd for small forwards, the position he has largely played this season. Last season, Bryant ranked 301st in the NBA and 55th among shooting guards, the position he primarily played.

In Tuesday's loss to the Golden State Warriors, Bryant shot 1-of-14, tying the worst shooting performance of his career in which he attempted at least five shots. He also shot 1-of-14 in November 2014, in a loss to the San Antonio Spurs.

Scott has been adamant that he won't lessen Bryant's minutes (30.5 per game, second-highest on the Lakers), nor will he change Bryant's role (Bryant starts).

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If you can physically tolerate watching Kobe Bryant play basketball this season, if you can somehow manage to watch despite wincing at all the missed shots and the acid reflux they induce, you'll realize that this bottoming out actually makes things easier for Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.

At this rate -- specifically, 15.2 points per game on 31.1 percent shooting from the field and 19.5 percent from three-point range -- Kobe should not feel compelled to come back for another season. More significantly, if he does want to return, the Lakers are now under no obligation to accommodate him.

If Kobe kept dropping 20 points a game and maintained confidence that he could keep imposing his will on the rest of the NBA, he could have put the Lakers in a difficult position. He could have forced the Lakers to either bring him back next season at a salary more in line with his career accomplishments than his current abilities or face the wrath of their fan base as he went off to finish his career in another uniform. Not now, not after the best Kobe could do against the Golden State Warriors was 1-for-14.

Even the most loyal Kobe-ites, the ones with several versions of both the No. 8 and No. 24 Laker jerseys, don't want to see this continue. If Kobe pressed the Lakers and they pushed back, not a single person could blame them.

Kobe's poor play liberates the Lakers. They'll be ready to move on to a new era without Kobe's high salary and high usage rate combining to reduce cap space and congest the offense.

It would have been easier for everyone involved if Kobe had transitioned to a secondary role, the way Tim Duncan

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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Lakers coach Byron Scott said he has not considered reducing Kobe Bryant's minutes or role even though Bryant's struggles have continually worsened, hitting rock bottom Tuesday, when, in a 111-77 loss to the Golden State Warriors, Bryant tied the worst shooting performance of his career in any game in which he attempted at least five shots.

Against the Warriors, Bryant shot 1-of-14 from the field and scored four points. Bryant also shot 1-of-14 in a loss to the San Antonio Spurs last season.

On the season, Bryant is shooting a career-worst 31.1 percent from the field, and he is 2-for-21 from 3-point range in his past four games.

"I haven't thought about reducing his role," Scott said Wednesday at the team's practice facility. "I think his role is pretty defined for us right now. So is his minutes."

Bryant, 37, is struggling mightily in his 20th NBA season, during which he's averaging more shots (a team-high 16.4 field goal attempts per game) than points (15.2). Bryant is second on the team in minutes (30.5) to Jordan Clarkson (30.8).

Scott said he doesn't believe minutes are taking a toll on Bryant, whose past three seasons have all been cut short by injury.

"Maybe it is, but my opinion, watching him, I don't think so," Scott said.

Scott also said he's not counseling Bryant.

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Lakers' Byron Scott believes Showtime Lakers could stop Warriors

November, 24, 2015
Nov 24
Holmes By Baxter Holmes

AP Photo/Reed SaxonLakers coach Byron Scott believes the Lakers of the 1980s, led by 6-foot-9 point guard Magic Johnson, would have presented matchup problems for this season's unbeaten Golden State Warriors.

SAN FRANCISCO -- The 2-11 Los Angeles Lakers face an incredibly tall task in trying to slow down, much less stop, the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night -- especially with the Warriors looking to improve to 16-0, setting an NBA record for the best start to a season.

But Lakers coach Byron Scott believes the "Showtime" Lakers of the 1980s could beat these Warriors. Of course, Scott played for the Lakers during that era, winning three NBA titles, so perhaps he’s a bit biased.

Even still, he said that in a seven-game series, the "Showtime" Lakers would "absolutely" win.

"It would be interesting," Scott admitted after the team’s morning shoot-around at a local club here in advance of the game in Oakland.

"The one thing I think this [Golden State Warriors] team couldn’t do on a daily basis against us that they’re doing against everybody else is go small. You have Magic [Johnson] and James [Worthy] and Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] as post-up players that demand a double-team. It would be a whole lot harder [for the Warriors]. [Warriors forward] Draymond [Green] is a great defender and I have a lot of respect for him, but guarding James Worthy? Or guarding Kareem? That wouldn’t happen. It would be interesting. It would be very interesting."

How would the modern-day Lakers fare in a seven-game series against the Warriors?

"I think they would probably win that series right now," Scott said with a smile. "Let’s just say that."

With regards to the matchup, Lakers star Kobe Bryant said this week that he’s seen "stranger things happen."

"He’s right," Scott said. "Stranger things have happened."

Scott then referenced Game 1 of the 1995 Eastern Conference semifinals between the Indiana Pacers and New York Knicks.

Scott was a guard with the Pacers then, and he watched fellow Pacer Reggie Miller score eight points in 8.9 seconds to help the Pacers pull off a historic comeback and win 107-105 at Madison Square Garden after trailing by 6 with 18.7 seconds left.

"So things can happen," Scott said. "All the stars have to be aligned correctly as well. Obviously, we’ve got to play our best game of the season against the best team in the league. It’s obviously not a very easy task."

Scott also said of the Warriors, "It’s easy say [stop them]. I think there are 15 other teams that have tried it, too, and it hasn’t worked. We can go back to the NBA Finals, where they won the last three games as well. Right now, they’re just playing at an unbelievable level and I think their confidence is probably at an all-time high. Everybody says the same thing -- you’ve got to take away their threes and layups and make them a mid-range type shooting team. That’s easy to say."

A #HateHard Thanksgiving

November, 25, 2015
Nov 25


Amin Elhassan delivers a very special #HateHard edition of thanks.

OAKLAND, Calif. -- A thin line separates confidence and delusion, and Kobe Bryant is straddling it. It's the only conclusion one could reach after judging the Los Angeles Lakers star's comments Tuesday after he tied the worst shooting performance of his career in any game in which he attempted at least five shots.

In a humiliating 111-77 loss to the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena, Bryant shot 1-of-14 from the field, including 1-of-7 from 3-point range, and scored four points. He also shot 1-of-14 in a loss last season to the San Antonio Spurs.

Bryant is the first player this season with four or fewer points on 14 or more field goal attempts.

Many of his shots hit the front of the rim. Some 3-point attempts were air-balls. He blew one layup that should have been a dunk -- and probably would have been years ago, before all his injuries. And one shot, perhaps the cruelest of all, became lodged where the rim and backboard meet. An opposing player had to help pry it loose.

The performance was his worst so far this season, yet, frankly, it wasn't too dissimilar from those that preceded it. In his 20th NBA season, the 37-year-old Bryant has looked his age. His body has performed as if it's carrying a ton of NBA mileage and has endured three consecutive season-ending injuries, which it has.

But once again, Bryant said he's fine, that his health is fine, that his shot is fine, and he diverted the conversation elsewhere, largely to his teammates and the team's overall scheme.

"I'm not really worried about it, honestly," Bryant said. "My shooting will be better. I could've scored 80 [Tuesday]. It wouldn't have made a damn difference. We just have bigger problems. I could be out there averaging 35 points a game. We'd be what, 3-11? We've got to figure out how to play systematically in a position that's going to keep us in ball games."

Read the above quote again, or a few times, if necessary. Specifically, re-read the part about scoring 80 points in a game or averaging 35.

Those comments were made by a player who is averaging more field goal attempts per game (a team-high 16.4) than points (15.2); a player who is shooting a career-worst 31.1 percent from the floor; a player who has now had 12 consecutive games scoring fewer than 25 points while shooting worse than 50 percent, the longest such streak of his career.

(For those interested,'s Tom Haberstroh did the math

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Freddie Coleman and Nicole Briscoe discuss whether it's been harder to watch Kobe Bryant or Peyton Manning this season.

ESPN NBA reporter Brian Windhorst discusses the Warriors' 16-0 start to the season and how a team built on defense is leading the league in offense.



Kobe Bryant
15.7 3.4 1.0 30.8
ReboundsJ. Randle 8.4
AssistsK. Bryant 3.4
StealsJ. Clarkson 1.1
BlocksR. Hibbert 2.1