Mentoring Mamba shares what he knows

October, 3, 2015
Oct 3
Holmes By Baxter Holmes

Kobe Bryant, D'Angelo RussellAndrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesLakers rookie D'Angelo Russell has a mentor in Kobe Bryant this season.

HONOLULU -- Los Angeles Lakers rookie guard D'Angelo Russell was eight months and 11 days old when Kobe Bryant made his NBA debut.

"D'Angelo could probably be my son," the 37-year-old Bryant quipped after the Lakers' practice Saturday at the University of Hawaii at Mona's Stan Sheriff Center.

The 19-year-old Russell isn't alone, though. The Lakers are populated with several young promising players, including 20-year-old forward Julius Randle and 23-year-old guard Jordan Clarkson.

While a generational gap no doubt exists between Bryant and the team's fledgling trio that it hopes will be its future core, Bryant is doing his best to help bridge that gap.

"The universal language is the game," Bryant said. "These guys, they're really, really thirsty for knowledge."

And so after practices, several players have been gathering, whether back at the team hotel or elsewhere, just to talk.

"The other day, we sat around and talked for about 2 1/2 hours," Bryant said. "They just wanted to know some of the things that I've been through, some of the things that I've learned, some of the things that I can help them with. The game really connects us."

What do they chat about?

"The process and the journey and things to look out for," Bryant said. "Not so much tactically about the game, more so emotional -- kind of what separates good players from great players. What happens when players come in, first pick, second pick, third pick, and some go on to have great careers and some just fall by the wayside. And why do you think that is? What do you see?"

When asked if players are responding to what he has shared, Bryant said that isn't exactly the point.

"It's not really responding to me," he said. "It's just talking and sharing some of my stories and they want to know about how I did it. I'm just very frank and candid with them. I think it sinks in. It's important that they find their own way. I can only provide them with some of the knowledge and information that I have."

Bryant said he had hoped to be in this position one day.

The universal language is the game. These guys, they're really, really thirsty for knowledge.

- Kobe Bryant

"I always felt like it would be fun," Bryant said. "It's just, when I was younger, who was I able to pass knowledge off to? I’d do camps and clinics for kids that are 10-12 years old. They'll listen. But who's going to listen to a 20-year-old? So now, my peers are more willing to listen because of everything that I've been through."

Bryant said he realized other NBA players looked up to him around 2008, and although he had plenty of knowledge about the game from his father, Joe, who played in the NBA, Bryant recalled learning from veterans when he was a young player as well.

"When I came in the league, I was surrounded by golden greats," Bryant said. "I remember '98 in the All-Star Game in New York, it was like a kid in a candy store. Because I had Michael [Jordan] that I was playing up against and I had always picked his brain for stuff, but then in the locker room, I was next to Gary Payton, Clyde Drexler, John Stockton, Charles Barkley. So I'd go around just asking everybody questions."

For now, Bryant says he enjoys being around those younger players.

"They're hungry," he said. "They want to be great."

Although many years separate Russell, the Lakers' No. 2 overall draft pick in 2015, and Bryant, the game is one subject that will help connect them.

"It's not listening to the same music, it's not going out to a club, I’m too f---ing old to do that s--t anyway," Bryant said. "But it's just talking, being in his ear whenever he needs it and however I can help."

HONOLULU -- Los Angeles Lakers coach Byron Scott said earlier this week that he wasn't sure if Kobe Bryant would play in the team's preseason opener Sunday against the Utah Jazz.

But speaking after practice here Saturday, the 37-year-old Bryant left no doubt about his status.

"I'm definitely playing," Bryant said at the University of Hawaii at Manoa's Stan Sheriff Center.

It would mark Bryant's first game since late January, when he tore the rotator cuff in his right shoulder, ending his 2014-15 campaign after 35 games. Bryant's last three seasons all have been cut short by injury.

"I feel great," Bryant said. "It's just getting the sea legs under me. Getting up and down ... I'm feeling in great shape. I feel strong, feel healthy."

Bryant, who is entering his 20th season with the Lakers, has said that he expects to play limited minutes throughout the preseason in an effort to help him stay healthy.

His priority, as of now, is to try to regain his rhythm.

"I haven't played in so long," Bryant said. "It's just timing. Defensive timing. Offensive timing. That stuff, you can't get back in training, man. You've just got to play."

Playing alongside rookie point guard D'Angelo Russell, the Lakers' 2015 No. 2 overall draft pick, means Bryant won't be expected to handle the ball as much or set up the offense.

"I do not like setting up the offense," Bryant added. "I hate it. [Former Lakers coach Phil Jackson] made me do it years ago, and I had to learn how to do it years ago, to set up the triangle [offense].

(Read full post)

The Milwaukee Bucks gave their fans the chance to buy something new, as the team announced at its Fan Fest on Saturday that it will sell a four-game ticket package in which the team not only will wear a new alternate jersey but also will play on a new alternate court.

"The idea has always been to take the fan experience to the next level," said the Bucks vice president of marketing Dustin Godsey. "We rebranded with the alternate uniforms, but other teams have done that."

No NBA team has ever played on different surfaces in its home arena within the same season.

For the four games against the Los Angeles Clippers (Dec. 9), Chicago Bulls (Jan. 12), Los Angeles Lakers (Feb. 22) and Oklahoma City Thunder (March 6), the Bucks will get dressed in their new "Fear The Deer" alternates, which are black and feature the new deer logo in green with no team name.

The alternate court, which the team will lease at an undisclosed price, features mostly black trim with dark green and a stylized "M" in green at center court.

Godsey said that getting approval for the alternate court was a process with the league. The price for the four-game packs starts at $215 and will come with unique giveaways for each game.

The team is selling sponsorship packages to the series, offering company logos on giveaways, TV-visible signage and an opportunity for company employees to play on the court.

(Read full post)

D'Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson working on chemistry

October, 2, 2015
Oct 2
Holmes By Baxter Holmes

Jordan ClarksonAndrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesJordan Clarkson could be more of shooter than distributor when paired with D'Angelo Russell.

HONOLULU -- When the Los Angeles Lakers invited D'Angelo Russell back for a second pre-draft workout this summer, Russell was more than a bit surprised.

After all, the team already had a promising young combo guard in Jordan Clarkson, an All-Rookie First Team selection, so why would they add another one, thus crowding their backcourt?

"He already assumed we had a ballhandling guard,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said last week. “Our position with him was, ‘The reason we’re bringing you in a second time is we feel like you can play together.’ He was taken aback. He said, ‘Really?’ We said, ‘Really. That’s why we’re bringing you in a second time. We feel you guys can play together.'"

Still, there was concern. And when the Lakers drafted Russell No. 2 overall, many wondered if he and Clarkson could co-exist.

It remains one of the most intriguing storylines facing the Lakers this season, but, so far, there doesn’t appear to be much tension between those two.

Quite the opposite, in fact.

“They seem to get along pretty well,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said after Friday’s practice at the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Stan Sherriff center here.

D'Angelo Russell Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesD'Angelo Russell says he will be looking to pass more with Clarkson in the backcourt.

“For both those guys, they want each other to do extremely well, and their chemistry is undeniable when you see them on the court and off the court.”

Part of the reason the two players seem to mesh well is that they believe their skill sets complement each other more than they overlap.

“His mentality is more [to] score,” Russell said. “I’m looking to pass, and he’s in a position to score most of the time.”

Said Clarkson: “We’re two totally different players. He’s an excellent passer and I’m real aggressive and it just kind of comes together.”

The players also come together outside of basketball.

“We hang [out] a lot off the court,” Clarkson said, “so it kind of makes it easy on the court.”

“We just relate to each other,” Russell said. “He’s not one of those real serious vets that you can’t crack a smile around. He’s a young dude, second year, still learning, still growing. Me, the same way. I’m a goofy guy, he’s a goofy guy. So we kind of complement each other.”

They played alongside each other at times during summer league, and there seems to be a legitimate chance both are in the starting lineup together with Kobe Bryant playing the small forward position.

Scott said he has faith both Clarkson and Russell can play either guard position.

“That’s what these guys can both do,” Scott said. “There’s going to be times when Jordan is going to initiate the offense. There’s going to be a bunch of times when D’Angelo is going to initiate the offense. I don’t think neither one of those guys are worried about that phase of it. They’re more worried about wins than anything.”

Notes: Metta World Peace has missed the past two days of practice with a calf injury. “Obviously, it’s not the way we planned it,” Scott said. ... Russell practiced for about 15 minutes before the bone bruise in his right foot started bothering him. He sat out the rest of practice.

D'Angelo Russell limps off with bone bruise

October, 1, 2015
Oct 1
Holmes By Baxter Holmes

HONOLULU -- Los Angeles Lakers guard D'Angelo Russell, the team's No. 2 overall draft pick this year, limped off the court during practice here Thursday with a bone bruise in his right foot.

Lakers coach Byron Scott said they would monitor Russell to see if he could participate in the team's second practice of the day, scheduled for later Thursday afternoon.

“If he has a little pain in there, we’ll sit him down for precautionary reasons," Scott said. "We’ll get him ready for [Friday]. But right now, he’s not ruled out for [Thursday night's] practice.”

Russell downplayed the injury while sitting in a padded chair off to the side.

"It's just a bruise," he said. "It's all good."

However, Russell later walked away with a noticeable limp.

The Lakers have been plagued by injuries lately, leading the NBA in back-to-back seasons in games missed due to injury.

Julius Randle gaining with this pain

September, 30, 2015
Sep 30
Holmes By Baxter Holmes

Julius RandleLeon Bennett/Getty Images

HONOLULU -- Julius Randle missed it all so much, not just the game but all that comes with it, the hidden side effects that he might have neglected before -- but not after spending his rookie season sidelined by a broken right leg sustained in his NBA debut.

Something that the Los Angeles Lakers forward -- and the No. 7 overall draft pick in 2014 -- never knew that he’d miss?

Simply feeling sore.

“I forgot about that,” Randle said after the first of the Lakers’ two practices on their second day of training camp held here Wednesday. “Yeah, it’s cool. I’d rather be sore than on the sideline.”

The Lakers held two practices at the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Stan Sheriff Center, their first two-a-day of training camp. But Randle enjoyed the grind. After being without basketball for so long, he wants as much as he can get.

“It’s true, especially after last year,” Randle said.

While Randle played with a minutes restriction during summer league in Las Vegas, he has no minutes restrictions during training camp, so he’s able to play without looking at the clock.

“It’s been good,” he said. “It’s been a year [since I’ve played]. It’s been amazing.”

Physically, Randle has transformed his body, losing about 18 pounds both through commitment to a diet (less carbs, fried food, sugars) and the weight room.

But Lakers coach Byron Scott notices another change in Randle.

“His confidence,” Scott said. “I think now he feels that he can definitely play at this level. Last year, I think he was guessing and wondering if he could, even though he didn’t play this year.

“Just sitting and watching and going through the process of watching all the games and the process of watching the rehab and then summer league and getting back on the court on a day-to-day basis, I think now he feels that he definitely belongs at this level.”

Randle credited his improved confidence to all the time he’s spent in the gym lately and to what he learned a year ago.

“Obviously I got a little bit of experience last year, so I kind of know how to prepare more,” he said.

But Randle is still an unknown commodity, in many ways. Even the Lakers don’t quite know what they have in him.

“I know enough, but I’m still not sure,” Scott said. “I’m still probably going to find out some things day to day. I’ve got a pretty good idea of what he can do, what he’s going to be able to accomplish. But I’m sure he’s probably going to show me some things that I didn’t know as well.”

For now, Randle is running well and impressing his teammates.

“He’s playing great right now. I’m really excited,” said Lakers forward Metta World Peace. “He’s playing really, really well right now. I’m looking forward to seeing him make progress.”

D'Angelo Russell starts on the good foot with Kobe

September, 29, 2015
Sep 29
Holmes By Baxter Holmes

D'Angelo RussellGary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports

HONOLULU -- D'Angelo Russell couldn’t help but stare at Kobe Bryant as the two practiced side by side Tuesday, when the Los Angeles Lakers opened training camp at the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Stan Sheriff Center here.

“You try to keep it off your mind like, yo, this guy is not right beside you running the three-man drill,” said Russell, the Lakers’ No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 draft.

“Something you got to get past, if we want to be the best we can be. We’ve got to look at him as a mentor, not look at him as a fan [would].”

Russell was eight months and 11 days old when Bryant made his NBA debut, and now this could well be Bryant’s final NBA season, during which he’ll be expected to mentor the team’s young players, especially Russell.

“Just little details about the game here and there, but he loves the game, you know?” Bryant said of Russell. “When you have a player that loves the game it’s really just my responsibility to make sure he never loses sight of that. Through difficult moments and even the great moments, always just focus on the love of the game. Once you have that you’ll problem solve everything. Right? Once you stay focused on that. It’s my job to really keep him locked in.”

Bryant said he’s already been impressed by Russell.

“Great poise, he has a lot of poise out there, he’s very calm under duress,” Bryant said. “Doesn’t really seem fazed by much.”

And Russell has already been impressed by Bryant.

"I got here as early as everybody else,” Russell said. "And [Kobe Bryant] was already here."

Lakers coach Byron Scott is obviously pleased that Bryant can mentor Russell.

“He’s going to get some wisdom from one of the greatest players that ever played the game,” Scott said. “Kobe, obviously during the drills, is taking him to the side and talking to him and I saw that this morning. D’Angelo is one of those guys that’s a sponge. He wants to learn. That’s a great relationship to have and to be able to talk to somebody that’s been there so many times and been so successful.”

Scott praised Russell after the first day of camp.

“He looked good,” Scott said. “Conditioning-wise, he looked good. He shot the ball extremely well. On the defensive end, just working on some of the things that we want him to do on that end of the floor as far as communication and understanding to be back and where he needs to be were good. For a first day overall with D’Angelo and some of our young people and overall just the team, I was very happy.”

For Russell, the first practice came after a restless night because he was too eager to get back on the court.

“I couldn’t sleep last night, I woke up really early just ready to get here. I know Kobe got here early. I know I plan on getting here early also. It was like the first day of school honestly.”

That first day featured plenty of running, too. Scott pushed the team hard in conditioning drills, but he said he was happy with how everyone performed.

“I would say half the guys were in great shape, or in terrific shape, and the other half were in very good shape,” Scott said. “So there was not one person where I said, he didn’t come ready for camp, which is a good thing.”

It was also unusual, Scott added.

“Usually I have a couple guys that are throwing up, falling out. They went longer. We put 20 minutes on the clock and I said, if we get to 15, we can probably stop it, but I made them go a little bit longer and everybody was good.”

For Scott, it’s also part of a new approach for the Lakers this season.

“If we’re going to lose some games this year, it’s not going to be because we’re not in shape -- a lack of condition,” Scott said. “If we’re going to lose games, it’s going to be because some teams are just better than we were that night. But the one thing I want our team to be is, in that fourth quarter, I want our team to be strong mentally as well as physically and then we’ll see what happens.”

Russell jokes that he always views running as punishment, which might leave a sour taste in his mouth in terms of how he views Hawaii -- at least for now.

"Getting through the week, I probably wouldn’t want to come back, knowing that it’s a lot of running," Russell said. "That won’t get past me. If I come back it would have to be with my family and no basketball shoes. Just take it as vacation."

Kobe feels good, looking to stay that way

September, 29, 2015
Sep 29
Holmes By Baxter Holmes

videoHONOLULU -- It felt beautiful, Kobe Bryant said, the cyclical nature of returning to the scene of his first NBA training camp in 1996 and, nearly two decades later, quite possibly his last.

“It’s a little strange,” the Los Angeles Lakers star guard said with a smile Tuesday after the team opened camp at University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Stan Sheriff Center, “because I remember [it] like it was yesterday and being here and all of my teammates that were here before that are now either retired or coaching [or on TV].”

In that first training camp, Bryant was limited after having broken his left wrist during a pickup game in Venice Beach weeks earlier.

Now, the Lakers' star is limited for multiple reasons, such as his age, the total mileage on his body and the injuries that have ended each of his past three seasons. Tuesday's session, in fact, marked his first practice in nearly nine months since a season-ending shoulder injury.

The 37-year-old Bryant said he “felt good” and that he’s in great condition.

“I could run all day,” he said.

Lakers coach Byron Scott agreed.

“He looked great,” Scott said. “I told him I’m not surprised, but I’m surprised on how great his conditioning was. … He was ahead of the pack on a bunch of things that we did this morning.”

But Bryant won’t be participating in every minute of every practice. And when the team holds two sessions in one day, Bryant is expected to take part in only one of them.

For him and the Lakers, it’s about being smart.

“You don’t push it too much,” Bryant said. “You do enough running to get a sweat in, get a nice push, get your legs activated a little bit. Truthfully my conditioning is at a high level already. There’s no need to push that or you don’t want to beat up the joints, beat up the ligaments any more than you have to. It’s more so getting some game activation, the drills that we do, contact drills, timing, things like that, because I haven’t done that in a long time.”

Said Scott: “Each practice we’ll ramp it up a little bit more. We don’t want to get crazy. I thought [Tuesday] was a great start. I thought he was fantastic in our first drill and he was great in our shell drills -- pretty much everything that we did. But we wanted to keep it at a minimum, so if we went 20 minutes on one thing, we wanted to keep him at 15. We’ll keep monitoring that as we go along this week.”

Kobe BryantGary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY SportsKobe Bryant is looking good as camp begins in Hawaii.

Their plan this week is also part of a grander scheme that both the Lakers and Bryant hope will help preserve him for his 20th NBA campaign. Bryant would like to participate in each of the team’s eight preseason games, including their two here against the Utah Jazz on Sunday and Wednesday. But he’ll be limited, as he’s expected to be throughout the season.

Bryant has to strike a balance, though. On one hand, he wants to put on an offensive show. On the other, he must listen to his body, which has failed him each of the past three seasons, with shoulder, knee and Achilles injuries cutting each campaign short.

“When I’m out there and I’m playing, I give 110 percent,” Bryant said. “That’s what you have to do. Whether it’s 15 minutes, 20 minutes or it’s 10 minutes. It’s my job to approach it with playoff intensity and playoff focus. And if I can go, I will definitely play. I’m sure we’ll limit minutes and things of that nature. But it’s definitely my responsibility to step out there and play.”

With all the miles on his body, and the severity of his injuries recently, can Bryant reasonably be expected to play all 82 regular-season games after playing just 41 games in the past two seasons? It’s unclear. Prior to 2013-14, Bryant had never missed 20 or more games in a single season. Only two players have ever played in 60 or more games in their 20th season or beyond (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Robert Parish both played in 74 games), according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

“It’s my job to train to be prepared for all 82,” Bryant said. “And then whether you want to scale back or I can’t play, we’ll figure it out when the time comes. It’s my job to be physically ready to play all 82. That’s always the goal.”

Bryant said he’s hopeful that however many minutes he plays -- Scott has said there will be a hard cap -- he won’t need to carry a heavy load because he can rely on some of the team’s younger players.

“All minutes definitely aren’t created equal,” Bryant said. “I think we’ve got some guys here this year that can really take a lot of load off, man. D’Angelo [Russell] and [Jordan] Clarkson and their ability to handle and create and make plays, and Julius [Randle] making plays. The minutes that I do play won’t be as heavy of minutes as they have been in the past.”

Scott is also being tentative with Bryant because Scott still feels some measure of guilt for the heavy minutes Bryant played early on last season, which led to Bryant becoming fatigued and having to miss several games before suffering his injury, a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder.

“I still think about it,” Scott said. “You try to forget about it as much as possible, because last year is last year, this is a new year and you try to move on. But it creeps into your mind every now and then. I think when it creeps into my mind is when I tell myself, 'OK, I’m not going to make that same mistake this year.' That’s the biggest thing that I think about.

“Like I said, with KB, it’s really listening to him, because he knows his body so much better than anybody else and he knows what he can tolerate and what he can’t. Mentally, we know that he’s probably the toughest guy in this league. He’ll play through everything, but I don’t want him to have to play through anything. I want him to play hopefully relatively injury-free and pain-free where he can have a fun year this year.”

Bryant said he doesn’t dwell on last season or the thought that he played too many minutes.

“To me it’s not much of a big deal, honestly,” he said. “Last year [I] looked at minutes that I played [and] still felt pretty good and then none of us knew I was playing with a torn shoulder all season long. But the legs felt fine. When you look at the minutes, the first thing that you’ve got to look at is the legs.”

He also said he doesn’t feel tentative about his shoulder.

“It’s a little easier to get through, honestly,” he said. “The truth is, even with a completely torn shoulder I was playing and shooting, and it felt strong still. Now that it’s fixed up, [it] should be fine. Legs are different. Everything you do on the court centers around legs. You can’t hide that stuff, you know what I mean. It’s a lot easier than dealing with the lower-leg injuries.”

In terms of staying healthy this season, Bryant is just hoping for luck.

“You just knock on wood and hope you don’t have a serious injury,” Bryant said. “The injuries I’ve had the last three years have been serious injuries. It’s not a thing where you have sore muscles or little things like that -- [just] serious injuries that are serious injuries. You just got to hope you don’t have one of those.”

Another injury could mark a sour end to a Hall of Fame career, which is the last thing Bryant and the Lakers want.

“If this is indeed his last year, I want him to go out standing,” Scott said. “I want him to go out his way. I don’t want him to be injured.”

The end of the Swaggy P era?

September, 29, 2015
Sep 29


The His & Hers crew talk about how Lakers F Nick Young no longer wants to be called by his nickname, Swaggy P.

Mike Golic and Cris Carter discuss how Lakers guard Kobe Bryant will deal with being a mentor to younger Lakers players.

Kobe Bryant on youthful Lakers: 'I don’t know what to expect'

September, 28, 2015
Sep 28
Holmes By Baxter Holmes

videoEL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Kobe Bryant thought back on his career and shook his head.

“It went by fast,” the Los Angeles Lakers star said at the team’s media day held at their practice facility Monday. “It went by fast.”

Bryant, entering his 20th NBA season, said he remains excited, maybe more so than some might expect entering a season in which his team is projected to miss the playoffs for the third straight season.

Yet it remains unclear how Bryant will play. The 37-year-old spent the offseason rehabbing from his third consecutive season-ending injury, this time a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder that ended his 2014-15 campaign after 35 games.

“I expect Kobe to play great,” said Byron Scott, now in his second year as head coach. “I expect him to be Kobe, but not to be the Kobe that we were so used to seeing maybe 10 years ago or five years ago. I just really got to watch the minutes and the workload that he has to take on a day-to-day basis.

“You’re not going to see Kobe jumping all over the rim like he used to do, you’re not going to see that type of athleticism. He’s still probably the smartest player in this league, he’ll still be able to get things done. But, like I said, I really got to micromanage those minutes, really watch him in practice. A lot of that, as we continue to talk, will be based on how he feels. Me and him, obviously, got to talk a lot during the season and during training camp and things like that.”

Scott said he is going to hard-cap Bryant's minutes and that it’s possible Bryant sits out some games to rest, including on back-to-backs.

Bryant said he doesn’t worry about managing his minutes.

“I don’t need to think about it,” he said. “You [media] can think about it for me.”

Or playing more small forward, a possibility Scott has mentioned before.

“I’ve been playing small forward for the past 10 years,” Bryant said. “The power forward thing would be different, but power forwards today are what 2-guards used to be in the ‘80s, so it doesn’t really matter.”

Kobe BryantFrederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

Bryant is more curious about the Lakers themselves -- a mix of veterans (Roy Hibbert, Lou Williams, Brandon Bass) and several promising young players (D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle).

"It's a big question mark. We have a lot of young guys," Bryant said. "It's a good mix, though. We have some veterans, as well, but guys who have never played together before.

"We've done the work to get to this point. Now it's trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together, so I'm not sure."

Is patience the key?

“It’s patience, but it’s an aggressive patience,” Bryant said. “You want to make sure that we’re pushing and pushing and pushing and trying to figure things out like yesterday so we can figure them out tomorrow.”

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said last week that he thinks Bryant will defer to young players only until Bryant believes he needs to take over games, and that Bryant could still be the team’s No. 1 option on offense this season.

When asked if he envisions his role changing, Bryant said, “Probably. It’s hard. I don’t know what to expect. My philosophy has always been: Whatever you are asked to do, try to be the best at doing it. Whatever the role, you’ve got to figure it out. Whatever it is, try to do it to the best of your ability.”

With so many key young players the Lakers must develop into the potential future core of the franchise, does Bryant now become more of a teacher and facilitator than their top option?

“I’m not really sure what that stuff means, honestly,” Bryant said. “I think a lot of that stuff is media conversation or debatable content. The reality is we’re all mentors, we’re all teachers in our own respects. Whether that means scoring a lot more or assisting a lot more -- whatever the case might be -- depends on the identity that the team takes on. It’s my responsibility to plug in those holes where we’re lacking.”

Bryant said he does like being around those young players. His locker will be next to rookie D’Angelo Russell’s, the No. 2 overall draft pick this summer.

“I don’t know how much longer he’s going to be around,” Russell said. “Just to get the opportunity to pick his brain a little bit, every day. I don’t have to make it weird by walking to his locker. I can look to my right.”

Bryant said he is optimistic about the rookie guard, who was 8 months, 11 days old when Bryant made his NBA debut.

“I think he has a good head on his shoulders,” Bryant said. “I think he has a lot of ambition and wants to be great. It starts there. Really, my responsibility is going to help him just to not lose sight of what’s most important, which is the game. That’s the heart of it all when you’re playing in this market with a lot of the distractions, a lot of criticism and critiques that may come his way throughout the course of the year. It doesn’t matter. Just focus on what you’re here to do and what got you here and that’s playing a game.”

Still, Bryant did say that he can’t remember entering a season in which there was so much uncertainty. How will he define a successful season?

“It’s wins and losses, but it’s also what we’re learning, what we’re grasping,” Bryant said. “Health is a big one. Last [two] years, we’ve been decimated by injuries. Knock on wood, that’s not a problem that we have to worry about.”

Especially after last season, when he was sidelined in January and the Lakers went on to finish with a franchise-worst 21-61 record.

“It wasn’t as bad as the Achilles,” Bryant said, referencing his 2013 injury, when he tore that tendon. “So when I have rough days, I can always kind of look back and remember what that summer was like, what that year and a half was like. It puts it in perspective for me.”


EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Kobe Bryant will face the question on an almost daily basis over the next seven months.

Will this be his final NBA season?

It's the most dominant storyline surrounding the team and Bryant, who at 37 is entering his 20th season with the Los Angeles Lakers, an NBA record for the most seasons a player has spent with one franchise. And it was the main topic Bryant faced time and again during the team's media day, held Monday at its practice facility.

Bryant repeated the same message he has delivered all offseason, saying he has not made a decision and that he's not sure what will ultimately sway him one way or the other.

"If it is, it is," Bryant said. "If it isn't, I'll be ready for next season. I don't spend too much time thinking about it. I've got enough to think about."

Bryant has spent the past nine months recovering from a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder, an injury that ended his 2014-15 season after just 35 games.

It also marked his third consecutive season ended by injury.

"I'm excited to be back on the court," Bryant said Monday. "I'm excited to be out there with the young players who are starting their careers, starting their journeys. I'm excited to help them out and kind of show them things I've learned. I'm as excited for this season as I've been in a long time."

New York Knicks president Phil Jackson, who coached Bryant for 11 years and to five championships with the Lakers, recently said he believes Bryant could play beyond this season.

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Popovich punks a reporter (and other top moments from media days)

September, 28, 2015
Sep 28

Basketball is just around the corner, and fans hungry for news enjoyed Monday's coordinated media days, hosted by the majority of the league's teams across the country.

Here were some highlights.

1. Classic Pop

Gregg Popovich clowned an NBA TV reporter who thought maybe he could ease the Spurs head coach into an interview with a softball question. Awkwardness ensued:

2. Steven Adams' wild look

The Thunder big man has put his clean-shaven look in the past.

3. Other new 'dos throughout the league.

Whose look do you prefer: Kevin Love or George Hill?

4. The Warriors bust out the emojis

5. The Suns go full Jedi

Promoting the team's Star Wars night later on this season, head coach Jeff Hornacek channeled his inner Jedi.

6. Lakers fans, he's back

Metta World Peace's return to Los Angeles was one of the day's most fun side plots.

7. Ribbing Rondo

NBA impersonator Brandon Armstrong went undercover at the Kings' media day and got a chance to show off his Rajon Rondo impression to the man himself.

8. Because, why not?

9. Just Timmy

10. We leave you with Dwyane

For a promo for the Miami Heat's '90s night, Dwyane Wade did some A+ lipsync work to Montell Jordan.

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Kobe Bryant
22.3 5.6 1.3 34.5
ReboundsC. Boozer 6.8
AssistsK. Bryant 5.6
StealsV. Blue 1.5
BlocksR. Sacre 0.6