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Lakers star Nick Young hits a 3-pointer at the buzzer of the second overtime in the Drew League.
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Charles Barkley joins Mike & Mike to discuss Kobe Bryant not contacting his new Lakers teammates and who Barkley reached out to during his playing career.

Roy Hibbert leads new Lakers trio looking for fresh start

July, 22, 2015
Jul 22
3:26
PM PT
Holmes By Baxter Holmes
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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videoEL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Lakers had hoped to be introducing a top-flight free agent (or two) this offseason, a big-name acquisition who could help revive the franchise that's in the midst of a full-on rebuild. But their top targets went elsewhere, leaving them with limited options.

They ended up signing forward Brandon Bass and guard Lou Williams while also acquiring former All-Star center Roy Hibbert in a trade with the Indiana Pacers.

[+] EnlargeRoy Hibbert
Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY SportsRoy Hibbert looks for a return to prominence in Los Angeles.

Sure, none of the three players are expected to contend for MVP status anytime soon, but they still represent quality additions to a roster that, as Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak has said, needs plenty of help at every position after finishing a franchise-worst 21-61 last season.

The Lakers introduced those three players at a Wednesday news conference held at the team's practice facility here, and each of the players delivered a similar message, one that holds true for each of them just as much as it does for the Lakers themselves: They're all looking for a "fresh start."

Perhaps no player embodies that idea more than Hibbert, who two years ago was runner-up for NBA Defensive Player of the Year honors before everything turned sour in Indiana.

Hibbert's production and involvement in the offense slumped as the Pacers looked to play faster. There were sharp public comments from management, and, in the end, Hibbert was dealt away for just a second-round pick.

"They wanted to go in a different direction and I understand that," said the 7-foot-2 Hibbert, who spent his first seven seasons with the Pacers after being drafted by them in 2008.

"It’s a business. I’m really happy that I was able to land with a team that has such a rich tradition of big guys and have a winning tradition as well. I always say, embrace change."

Williams, the 2014-15 NBA Sixth Man of the Year, is also looking forward to a new beginning after parting ways with the Toronto Raptors, who didn't even offer him a new contract after his expired deal after last season. Asked why that happened, Williams said, "No idea. That's in the past."

Williams signed a three-year deal worth $21 million with the Lakers, a team he said kept coming up during early talks with his agent.

"Once it came down to it, I felt like I needed a new start," Williams said. "I’ve been in the [Eastern Conference] the first 10 years of my career. To have the opportunity to play in the West was very intriguing to me."

Bass joins the Lakers after playing four seasons with their biggest rival, the Boston Celtics.

"I haven’t thought so much about it," Bass said of the teams' rivalry. "All I’ve thought about is me playing in purple and gold when I was in college [at LSU]. It kinda got me back to my roots. I remember being in college and being a Laker fan. I haven’t thought about the rivalry, but I know I’m going to get a lot of questions."

Bass did say of joining the Lakers that it gave him "a fresh start. I just thought it was a great opportunity to play with one of the greatest to ever play the game [Kobe Bryant]."

Hibbert faced several questions about what went wrong with the Pacers, but he focused more on the future. He also said he was happy to waive $2.2 million of his trade bonus to join the Lakers.

"That was a no-brainer," Hibbert said. "Indiana wanted to go in a different direction, wanted to go younger, and the Lakers wanted me, so I said, who wouldn’t want to be in L.A.? That was a no-brainer. I talked it over with my agent and I didn’t think twice about it."

He also said he's focusing solely on defense, unlike with the Pacers.

"In the past, I was asked to do a little bit of both, but looking at the team here, they have a lot of [offensive] firepower," Hibbert said. "My job is to make sure I clog up the paint, [offer] help-side defense and whatever else I get on the offensive end is candy. My main presence is going to be on defense to make sure these guys know that I have their backs out there."

Kupchak is hopeful Hibbert, whose contract ($15 million) expires after next season, can regain his old form.

"I think it starts with him," Kupchak said. "I think he used the expression of 'fresh start' or 'new start.' I think that’s important."

Kupchak added: "I don’t think he’s going to be the person that averages 26 points and 15 rebounds a game. I do think that he can be a consideration for an All-Star [spot]. But he has to really choose –- and it sounds like he has -– the style of basketball that he wants to play. To me it sounds like he wants to star on the defensive end, which is what we need."

However, Kupchak said it's not as though Hibbert solves all their defensive problems in the middle; opposing teams scored 18.9 field goals per game within 5 feet of the basket against the Lakers last season, the third most in the league.

"If you’re on the perimeter, you can’t just let your guy get past you and say, ‘Oh, Roy is back there,’" Kupchak said. "It doesn’t work that way. Everybody is going to have to buy in defensively and make a commitment defensively. But it’s nice to know that if something breaks down, there is somebody back there who can protect or roam the paint."

Williams is known for providing a scoring punch -- he averaged 15.5 points per game last season -- off the bench. But when asked who would shoot the ball when he and fellow volume shooter Nick Young were on the court together, Williams smiled.

"Whoever has it," he said.

He added: "I’ve played in systems with multiple guards, with having two or three guards on the court at the same time. I’ve played in systems like that. I think the most important thing is not to pin Nick and I against each other. We’re teammates now. We both have similar games. We both like to score the basketball. That’s been one of our strong suits. That’s one of the things we hang our hat on. But once we’re on the court, I like to play team basketball."

Bass played under Lakers coach Byron Scott when both were in New Orleans, and said that experience gave him plenty of motivation.

"My first two years, I didn't play as much," Bass said. "I knew I had to get in the gym and get my grind on."

Bass, who averaged 10.6 points with the Celtics last season, said he hopes to be a two-way presence with the Lakers.

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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- When a new player joins the Los Angeles Lakers, it's almost custom to ask whether he's heard from the franchise's longtime star Kobe Bryant and what -- if any -- advice, wisdom or expectations the veteran guard shared.

That question was posed Wednesday to forward Brandon Bass, guard Lou Williams and center Roy Hibbert, all of whom the Lakers acquired this offseason, the first two through free agency and the last through a trade with the Indiana Pacers.

And all three players, who were introduced at the team's practice facility, offered the same answer: silence.

They looked at one another; Hibbert shook his head "no," and they sat there. Bass smiled.

Bryant, who turns 37 next month, is entering the final year of his contract, which will pay him a league-high $25 million next season.

The five-time champion and NBA's third all-time leading scorer has suffered season-ending injuries in each of the past three seasons, including a shoulder injury in January that he still is rehabbing.


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Kobe Bryant and FC Barcelona

July, 22, 2015
Jul 22
11:06
AM PT
By One Nación
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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FC Barcelona landed and spent its first full day in the United States earlier in the week.

The club got in a some practice as well as some interviews and photos at StubHub Center outside Los Angeles. Oh, and a huge fan just happened to be in the area, so he stopped by.

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Shaquille O'Neal posted a Lakers vs. Bulls debate and sparked an epic social media battle with Scottie Pippen.

Beginning with last month's draft and culminating with the summer leagues, the focus has been on the NBA's youngest players since the Golden State Warriors finished off the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals several weeks ago.

It's part of the annual cycle in the league and it makes for a nice balance. One team's fans get to celebrate, while those who root for the handful of other top contenders plot to overthrow the newly crowned champions. The rest are left to hope for the future, and this is the time of the year to dream of all these young pieces growing into something special.

Today we're ranking the top young cores across the league using projected three-year WARP. The error bars on these kinds of forecasts are large by nature. For one thing, young players are inherently more difficult to project than veterans. And once you get beyond the coming season, the picture changes in ways that even the best projection model can't foresee.

But we do the best we can with the data available, and try to anticipate aging curves using factors like age, experience, athletic indicators and draft slot. Nevertheless, if a player has a low statistical baseline from whence to grow a projection, it's tough to predict All-Star production.

In the end, the system is a little biased toward players with at least some positive NBA production already under their belts. Still, this is a great way to glimpse the teams strictly through the prism of the young talent that they have accumulated. That's defined here as any player likely to be on the roster who won't yet be 26 by the end of the 2015-16 regular season. For some teams, including our top-ranked club, the good news just keeps getting better. For others, well, you can always just disagree.


THE TOP TEN

1. Milwaukee Bucks (Projected three-year WARP: 92.5)
Key young players: John Henson, Greg Monroe, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Michael Carter-Williams, Jabari Parker

The Bucks cemented this spot when they signed free-agent Monroe this summer. Monroe doesn't turn 26 until June of next season, yet he likely will be the oldest member of a Milwaukee starting lineup that will grow together over the next few years. Middleton has already established himself as one of the top 10 shooting guards in the league, and if we were re-selecting the 2013 draft, Antetokounmpo might be the first player taken (though it would probably be Utah's Rudy Gobert). And these numbers are almost certainly underselling Parker, whose rookie numbers don't give him a great baseline from which to project.

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Who has been the top rookie and vet at the Las Vegas Summer League? Who or what has been the biggest surprise? Our 5-on-5 panel weighs in.


1. Who was the best rookie in Vegas?

Kevin Arnovitz, ESPN.com: Norman Powell, Toronto. When a guy touted as a potential defensive specialist averages 18.3 points on better than 50 percent shooting, and 4.3 boards in 25.5 minutes per game, it bodes well -- and that's especially true when he's a second-rounder. The knock on the Raptors' shooting guard is his size (6-foot-4), playmaking and accuracy from distance, but he shot the ball well from beyond the arc this week.

Amin Elhassan, ESPN.com: Emmanuel Mudiay. The physical gifts were expected (although he looks a lot bigger in person than he does on film), but I was really surprised by the maturity and poise he exhibited. He rarely seemed rushed or forced, and was able to dictate the tempo at a level far beyond his young age of 19.

D.J. Foster, TrueHoop: Jerian Grant. No rookie looked more ready to run a team, as the Knicks' point guard made a concerted effort to keep the ball moving in the triangle and pick his spots within the offense. The displayed combination of floor vision and 3-point shooting is enticing, but it was Grant's poise in the chaos that impressed most.

Kevin Pelton, ESPN Insider: Alan Williams. The undrafted rookie from UC Santa Barbara led all rookies in both scoring and rebounding, capped by a 20-20 performance in Friday's finale. He's earned some guaranteed money for training camp.


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Stephen A. Smith breaks down why the Spurs did well in free agency while the Knicks and Lakers didn't do much to improve.
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Los Angeles Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson drops one of the nastiest dunks of the NBA summer league against the Utah Jazz.

PHOENIX -- The Phoenix Suns have announced the signings of four players, including guard Brandon Knight.

Knight, a restricted free agent, signed a five-year, $70 million deal, the same as was given fellow guard Eric Bledsoe last year.

The Suns also said Friday they had signed free agent forward Mirza Teletovic, guard-forward Sonny Weems and point guard Ronnie Price.

Teletovic signed a one-year, $5.5 million deal and Weems a two-year, $5.8 million contract with the second year a team option.

Price, who has played for six teams in his 10 NBA seasons, got a one-year deal at the veteran's minimum $1.5 million.

There were multiple reports of all four signings earlier this month.


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Although the NBA summer league continues in Las Vegas through Monday's championship game, today will be the last action for the 16 teams that did not advance to the quarterfinals of the current tournament format.

Since I'm back home after watching the first six days of play, this is a good time to wrap up the action on the UNLV campus with my annual superlatives. Here are my picks for the top players, best skills and more during the summer league.


Best rookies

1. Alan Williams | Houston Rockets


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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Kobe Bryant
PTS AST STL MIN
22.3 5.6 1.3 34.5
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsC. Boozer 6.8
AssistsK. Bryant 5.6
StealsV. Blue 1.5
BlocksR. Sacre 0.6