Kobe on Mag article: 'I just roll with it'

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22
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ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant says he has learned the ebb and flow of the media cycle over the course of his 19-year career and that it has given him the perspective to decide when he wants to react to criticism and when he wants to let it go.

In his first time speaking to media after an ESPN The Magazine article suggested that he played a significant role in the Lakers' recent slide over the last few years, Bryant, known for speaking candidly, responded with a seemingly diplomatic answer.

"It's not the first one and it won't be the last one," Bryant said following the Lakers' 114-108 preseason overtime loss to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday. "One thing I've come to understand over the years is that you'll have a bad story that comes out on a Monday and it seems like it's the end of the world and it seems like everybody's taking shots at you. But time goes by and then you look back on it and it was just a Monday.

"Then you have another great story that comes out maybe a month later, or something like that, and it's a fantastic story. And then there's a bad story that comes out one month after that. So you understand that it's a cycle, and things are never as good or as bad as they seem in the moment in time."

Bryant continued, explaining his rationale behind remaining upbeat despite the current state of the Lakers franchise.

"Stay focused on the bigger picture and things are never as bleak as they seem at the time," Bryant said. "I just kind of roll with it."

Bryant's teammate, guard Jeremy Lin


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Frontcourt provides much-needed punch

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22
12:22
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Buha By Jovan Buha
Special to ESPNLosAngeles.com
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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."

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Phoenix survives Lakers in overtime

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
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ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Isaiah Thomas scored 26 points including the buzzer-beater at the end of regulation and Gerald Green made 10 of his 21 points in overtime as the Suns topped the Lakers 114-108 in Tuesday's preseason game.

Kobe Bryant led Los Angeles with 27 points, eight of them in last two minutes of regulation. Jeremy Lin, who missed the last three games with a sprained ankle, scored 11 of his 15 points off the bench during the fourth quarter before fouling out with 11.5 seconds left in regulation.

Shavlik Randolph helped seal Phoenix's win with a pair of free throws and a 3-pointer in the final 32 seconds.

The Lakers trailed by as many as 11 in the first half, and were down six points at the start of the fourth quarter.


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Jeremy Lin returns from ankle injury

October, 21, 2014
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ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Los Angeles Lakers point guard Jeremy Lin returned in a 114-108 preseason loss to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday after missing more than a week with a sprained left ankle.

Lin, who missed the previous three games, scored 11 of his 15 points off the bench during the fourth quarter before fouling out with 11.5 seconds left in regulation.

Despite Lakers coach Byron Scott suggesting last week that Lin could be the full-time starter because of Steve Nash's nagging injuries, Scott started journeyman point guard Ronnie Price against the Suns in an attempt to slowly reacclimate Lin off the bench.

"There's no thought process right now," Scott said before the game when asked about his decision. "Ronnie has been playing. Jeremy hasn't. So he's going to have to come in tonight and get his feet wet again, and we'll go from there."

The short-handed Lakers couldn't catch a break with the rest of their injured backcourt, as Nash (back) and Jordan Clarkson (sprained calf) both missed Tuesday's game. Scott said Clarkson is still day to day and offered no timetable for Nash's return.

"Jordan could probably go, but we're going to wait another day or so and just see how he feels," Scott said. "We're going to give him another day to get it a little bit better. With Steve, it's the same update. He's just not ready right now. He still has that tingling feeling or whatever it is right now, so he's the one that's out along with Jordan."


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NBA Windows: Kobe Bryant's last stand

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
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.

Keith Appling, Jeremy Tyler waived

October, 20, 2014
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Lakers have waived guard Keith Appling and forward Jeremy Tyler, reducing their training camp roster to 17 players.

The Lakers made the moves Monday.

Appling is a rookie from Michigan State. He played 20 minutes in two preseason games for the Lakers.

Tyler has played for Golden State, Atlanta and New York. He averaged 2.7 points and 3.3 rebounds in three preseason games with the Lakers.

Los Angeles faces the Phoenix Suns in Anaheim on Tuesday.


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Hope for healthy Lakers squad fading

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
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.

Bryant scores 26, Lakers rally past Jazz 98-91

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
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LOS ANGELES -- Kobe Bryant scored 26 points and Carlos Boozer added 19, leading the Los Angeles Lakers to a 98-91 preseason victory over the Utah Jazz on Sunday night.

Boozer also had nine rebounds and six of the Lakers' 17 steals. Los Angeles converted 29 Jazz turnovers into 34 points and outscored them 17-8 in second-chance points.

Alec Burks scored 21 for the Jazz, who had only one field goal after his jumper with 5:16 remaining. Enes Kanter had 14 points in 38 minutes before fouling out with 15.2 seconds left.

The lead changed hands six times in the fourth quarter before Ed Davis' hook shot put the Lakers ahead for good at 86-85 with 4:50 to play. Wayne Ellington added two free throws and a 3-pointer that extended the margin to 91-85 with 2:50 remaining, and Bryant helped close it out with five free throws in the final 1:24.


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Scott plays it tough with rookie Randle

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
1:05
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By Baxter Holmes
ESPN.com
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The criticism comes in waves, all of it soaked with a generous dose of old-school, tough-love philosophies.

Yes, Los Angeles Lakers coach Byron Scott said he is hard on Julius Randle, the team’s top draft choice. But that doesn’t mean Scott plans to ease up on the rookie power forward out of Kentucky, the seventh-overall pick in June’s draft.

[+] EnlargeJulius Randle
AP Photo/Alex GallardoJulius Randle is experiencing some rookie bumps as he prepares for his first NBA season.
“I think we all tend to forget too -- because we are in the National Basketball Association -- that he is 19 years old,” Scott said last week after a practice at their facility here. “He’s still a baby. I’ve been a little hard on him at times.”

Scott, whose Lakers play a preseason game against the Utah Jazz on Sunday, seemed sympathetic in those first few lines, but he quickly reversed course.

“He has a lot to learn,” Scott added. “It’s not that he’s not willing to learn; it’s that he’s got to be willing to put forth the effort. It’s a lot harder here than it was at Kentucky. This is big boy’s league. That’s the bottom line.”

Randle is the youngest player on the Lakers’ roster -- guard Steve Nash is more than twice his age, in fact -- but expectations are high, and so far, Randle has struggled, scoring just four points in each of the team’s last two preseason games.

Scott also sat the 6-foot-9, 250-pound Randle out the second half of their Oct. 16 exhibition loss to the Jazz, in part so Randle could sit and watch and learn.

“I still don’t think the last couple games he’s played as hard as he could play,” Scott said after the game, his team’s third straight double-digit loss. “He still doesn’t know everything we’re doing on both ends of the floor.”

Kobe Bryant saw Randle sitting and it reminded him of the 1999-2000 season, when the Lakers won their first title under Phil Jackson. Bryant was sidelined for the first 15 games because of a broken wrist, and sat next to Tex Winter, Jackson’s confidant, who is considered the architect of the triangle offense.

“I really studied the game from that perspective,” Bryant said. “There are myriad ways to learn. It doesn't just have to be on the court."

Scott has leveled other not-so-subtle charges at Randle, saying that his conditioning is lacking, and that, overall, Randle looks “lost” on the court -- a term that Scott has used on multiple occasions.

Randle doesn’t see it that way.

“Nah, I’m not really lost,” Randle said. “I would say it’s not even the pace of the game. We have to learn how to play with each other. That’s why we go through (the) offense and try to run the offense so much.

“Some people don’t know the plays, some people don’t know the pace, and so we all have issues that we’re struggling with individually. But the biggest thing is we’ve just got to learn how to play with each other and learn how to read each other.”

Is it the speed of the game then? That’s the classic go-to most coaches use when describing a rookie’s less-than-smooth transition from college to the NBA ranks.

Randle doesn’t see it that way, either.

“Honestly, I think college is, I wouldn’t say a lot faster, (but) I think because I’m playing with so many good (NBA) players, so many skilled players, that it slows the game down in a sense,” Randle said.

“But at college, especially at Kentucky, we got up and down. That was our game. We kind of sped up the game, pressed and stuff like that. The game is faster in a way, but you’re playing with so many great players, they make the game easier for you, it slows it down.”

The Lakers do play at a slower place in a Scott’s Princeton-based offense, which tends to be much more deliberate, grinding out sets in the half-court.

Perhaps the Lakers’ offense is just more complex, then -- a stark difference in the “big boy’s league” than at Kentucky.

Not surprisingly, Randle doesn’t it that way either.

“You’ve just got to make basketball plays,” he said. “In college, you started off with the dribble-drive, kind of one-on-one, creating, then we got into some more NBA sets, stuff like this. That’s why I’m kind of used to it."

The rookie spoke with his head down, in a quiet tone, but he said he understands Scott’s relentless criticism.

“I mean, he should (be),” Randle said. “Those guys are proven. I shouldn’t be treated the same as those (veterans). I haven’t done anything. I have got to hold myself responsible. I can’t worry about what other guys do. The only thing I can do is hold myself accountable and improve every day.”

Xavier Henry seeks more treatment

October, 18, 2014
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Xavier Henry
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty ImagesThe Lakers estimate that guard Xavier Henry, who averaged 10.0 points and 2.7 rebounds in 43 games last season, will return to the team Oct. 24.

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Lakers guard Xavier Henry continues to have issues with his surgically repaired right knee and will miss the team's final four preseason games while seeking further medical treatment, the team announced Saturday.

In the coming days, the 23-year-old will travel to New York City to see Dr. Keith Pyne for a second opinion. Then Henry will travel to Dusseldorf, Germany, to receive Regenokine treatment from Dr. Jens Hartmann.

Kobe Bryant has had similar Regonkine treatments several times in his career. The noninvasive procedure involves blood being removed from his knee and spun in a centrifuge before doctors create a serum that is then injected back in the knee to fight off proteins and molecules that cause inflammation.

The Lakers estimate that Henry, who averaged 10 points and 2.7 rebounds in 43 games last season, will return to the team Oct. 24, four days before their regular-season opener against the Houston Rockets at Staples Center.

Henry injured his knee last December, forcing him to miss most of last season. He had surgery in April, but apparently a full offseason of recovery hasn't helped.


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Nash optimistic, but return unknown

October, 18, 2014
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- In his first public comments in nearly a week, Los Angeles Lakers point guard Steve Nash said Saturday his health issues aren't as severe as those that kept him sidelined for all but 15 games last season.

But it remains unclear when Nash, who specifically has had trouble with his back, will rejoin the Lakers for a preseason game or even to practice.

He last played in an Oct. 12 exhibition loss to the Golden State Warriors, though he asked out of the game, saying something didn't feel right. Nash, who at 40 is the NBA's oldest active player, hasn't practiced with the team since. The team also stated that Nash tweaked his back carrying bags earlier this week.

"I expected things to happen. It's inevitable with everything I've gone through that there's going to be issues adapting back to the game," Nash said before practice at the team's facility. "On the other hand, I did get through seven or eight hard days well, which I didn't do last year. So there is some improvement, and if I can adapt continually once I heal up here, I'll be back on course."

Coach Byron Scott ruled out Nash for the Lakers' exhibition game Sunday against Utah.

"I really don't know what the future holds for Steve right now," Scott said. "The one thing I do know, like I said, in talking to him, [is] he wants to play. He wants to play badly."

Because of back, knee and hamstring issues, Nash played in just 65 of a possible 164 regular-season games the past two seasons with the Lakers.


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Scott: Lakers won't rely on the 3-pointer

October, 17, 2014
Oct 17
3:49
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By Baxter Holmes
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Three-pointers are in. They’ve been in for a while, too. NBA teams are firing from long range more than ever – a record 21.5 3-point attempts per game last season, which broke the record set the season before that (20), which broke the record set the season before that (18.4). You get the picture.

That figure has steadily risen through the years since the NBA introduced the 3-point shot in the 1979-80 season, but it has skyrocketed of late, especially as advanced statistics have shown it to be a more efficient option on offense, particularly if taken from the corner.

But the Los Angeles Lakers are bucking that trend, at least so far in the preseason. Through four exhibition games, they’re averaging about seven 3-point attempts and have made just six of 29.

Worse: the Lakers have shot 1-for-19 from long range in their last three games, including going 0-for-8 in their last two.

Even worse: the Lakers haven’t made a 3-point shot since the first quarter of their second preseason game – an 11-quarter drought.

ESPN.com’s Tom Haberstroh also found that there are 24 players who have made more 3-pointers this preseason than the entire Lakers team.

Though first-year Lakers head coach Byron Scott admitted that injuries to perimeter players such as Jeremy Lin, Steve Nash, Ryan Kelly and Nick Young have hindered their 3-point efforts, Scott didn’t hide how he felt about the league's steep rise in long-range attempts.

“You’ve got a lot of teams that just live and die by it,” Scott said after the team’s practice here Friday. “Teams, general managers, coaches, they kind of draft that way to try to space the floor as much as possible. But you have to have shooters like that; you also have to have guys that can penetrate and get to the basket, because that opens up the floor.”

But does Scott believe in that style?

“I don’t believe it wins championships,” he said. “(It) gets you to the playoffs.”

Seven of the last eight NBA champions led all playoff teams in 3-point attempts and makes.

And it’s not as though Scott isn’t familiar with the 3-point shot. During his second season with the Lakers as a player, he led the NBA in 3-point field-goal percentage in 1984-85 (43 percent) and was in the top-10 in that category in three other seasons. Scott also ranked sixth in the NBA in 3-point attempts (179) and ninth in makes (62) during the 1987-88 season.

But are the Lakers’ low 3-point attempts this preseason a reflection of injuries or of how the Lakers will really end up playing this coming season?

“I don’t think that’s an indication of what we’ll be when we’re fully healthy,” Scott said. “I think it will still be 12, 13, 14, 15 (attempts per game), somewhere in that area, when we’re fully healthy.”

Only two NBA teams averaged between 12-15 3-point attempts during the 2013-14 regular season: New Orleans (15.9) and Memphis (14). No team averaged fewer. Houston averaged the most 3-point attempts (26.6), and 20 teams averaged at least 20 attempts per game.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Nick Young
PTS AST STL MIN
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 7.4
AssistsK. Bryant 6.3
StealsK. Bryant 1.2
BlocksW. Johnson 1.0