Lakers GM says he's in contact with Nash

January, 29, 2015
Jan 29
Holmes By Baxter Holmes
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Lakers guard Steve Nash has basically been a ghost since October, when he was declared out for the season because of back injuries.

Nash hasn't been a visible presence at games, and while Lakers coach Byron Scott said he has hoped that Nash would be around to help mentor younger players, Scott strangely added that he's had consistent trouble reaching Nash by phone.

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak has a different view.

"He’s around," Kupchak said after shootaround at the Lakers' practice facility Thursday. "I’ve had multiple meetings with Steve. We have breakfast once a month. He will work with some of our players. He may have already started doing that. He’s not going to go out and advertise [but] he’s doing it. ... As the season progresses, he’ll be more engaged."

Health troubles sidelined the 40-year-old Nash for all but 15 games last season. And because of back, knee and hamstring issues, the two-time MVP played in just 65 of a possible 164 regular-season games the past two seasons with the Lakers.

"We always had concerns about Steve Nash, of his inability to make it through the season," Kupchak said. "So I was not that surprised that Steve couldn’t make it through the season."

Nash decided not to retire this offseason and instead returned to the Lakers, who will pay him about $9.7 million in the final year of a three-year, $28 million deal. Nash said this past summer that he believes this season -- his 19th -- will be his last.

"We’re forgetting the career that Steve Nash had and the decision he had to make back in October," Kupchak said. "Very emotional and difficult decision. We supported it 100 percent."

Kupchak on tanking: L.A. 'instructed' to win

January, 29, 2015
Jan 29
Holmes By Baxter Holmes
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said the team was "as aggressive as we could be" this past offseason, yet the Lakers struck out on marquee free agents, including LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.

They also lost Pau Gasol, who took less money for a fresh start with the Chicago Bulls, one summer after losing Dwight Howard, who took less money and joined the Houston Rockets.

In terms of building the team going forward, Kupchak, speaking Thursday after the Lakers' shootaround, first mentioned the Feb. 19 trade deadline. Then Kupchak mentioned the June 25 draft, though the Lakers will lose their first-round pick to the Phoenix Suns if it falls outside the top five.

"Our coaches and players have been instructed to win games," Kupchak said when essentially asked about the notion of tanking games to make sure they keep that pick.

Kupchak later added, "A top-five pick is always a good thing."

Once the draft is over, Kupchak said, "We’ll look at the free-agent market and see what our needs are and what’s realistic. We do have an awful lot of financial flexibility."

The Lakers should be in position to sign one max-level free agent, and several big names are available, including Marc Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge and Goran Dragic. Kevin Love could also opt out of the final year of his contract.

In the meantime, Kupchak said the Lakers will look to develop and evaluate players.

"We want [Lakers coach] Byron [Scott] to establish and maintain a culture that he’s comfortable with," Kupchak said. "And the players have to adhere to that culture, which [is], clearly, play hard, play to win, work before practice, work after practice, work before games, show high character under adverse conditions. That’s what we’re going to look at going forward."

Mitch Kupchak expects Kobe back

January, 29, 2015
Jan 29

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said he fully expects Kobe Bryant to play next season after the Lakers star suffered a recent season-ending shoulder injury.

"I don't think he's retiring," Kupchak said Thursday after the Lakers' shootaround. "He said he's looking forward to training camp. That's what we expect."

Bryant is expected to need nine months to recover from his third straight season-ending injury, a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder suffered last week that he had surgically repaired Wednesday. If Bryant meets that timetable, he could return to basketball shortly before the start of the 2015-16 season, the final year of his contract with the Lakers.

Bryant, who will be 37 this summer, is the NBA's highest-paid player at $23.5 million this season. He is under contract for $25 million next year, which would be his 20th NBA season.

Kupchak shot down the notion that Bryant's heavy minutes load earlier in the season -- he played a team-high 35.4 minutes per game through the team's first 27 games -- led to his injury.

"I don't think that had anything to do with anything [and] certainly not the injury," Kupchak said.

And when asked what the Lakers could do to help Bryant play out the final year of his contract, Kupchak said, "I think a big key will be [that] we have to improve the talent level on the team."

He added, "As you get older and you experience injuries in this league -- and he's played what will be 20 years -- it's difficult to play when you're going to lose three or four games or five games.

(Read full post)

Pau Gasol among Lakers -- as a Bull

January, 29, 2015
Jan 29
[+] EnlargePau Gasol
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesPau Gasol spent 6½ seasons in a Lakers uniform.

LOS ANGELES -- Pau Gasol knows Thursday night's game against the Los Angeles Lakers will be different. After spending six and a half years with the Lakers, the veteran big man decided to sign with the Chicago Bulls last summer, a decision that looks very wise given how poorly the Lakers have been playing.

Even so, Gasol knows that facing off against his old team will be a different experience for him.

"It's going to be emotional," he said recently. "It's going to be special for sure. A lot of thoughts and emotions and memories will come back at that time. So I'll just try to contain them as much as I can and try to focus on playing my game and helping my team win."

The Bulls visit the Lakers a couple of nights after their most impressive win of the season, 113-111 in overtime over the Golden State Warriors. Gasol had 18 points, 16 rebounds and eight assists in the win.

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3 Points: Can Kobe come back again?

January, 29, 2015
Jan 29
Kevin McHale, Kobe Bryant, and Byron ScottGetty ImagesWhen it comes to Kobe Bryant's future, who's closer to the truth, Kevin McHale or Byron Scott?

Each week, Lakers beat writer Baxter Holmes, along with NBA writers Ramona Shelburne and Arash Markazi, will weigh in on three questions that are on the minds of Los Angeles Lakers followers.

1. Kevin McHale says he isn't sure Kobe Bryant can rebound from his latest injury. Byron Scott says he doesn’t see Kobe leaving his legacy on these terms. Who is closer to the reality?

Holmes: Byron is right. Kobe doesn't want to go out like this and he won't. He'll rehab and come back. What will he look like then? Hard to say. But he'll at least be out there on his own two legs at the end, which at this point is good enough considering all his body has gone through lately.


What do you predict will be Kobe Bryant's future?


Discuss (Total votes: 343)

Shelburne: I think Kobe has one last comeback in him, if only because going out on a note this sour is so distasteful. But this is going to be a tough one. Not as tough as the Achilles' injury, but still very painful and frustrating nonetheless. The first few months, he won't be able to work out much at all, which is maddening for a competitor like Kobe. But after that, he should be able to train as maniacally as he usually does and come into training camp in fantastic shape. It'll all be a lot easier if there's a decent team to come back to. But that'll be up to the Lakers' front office to deliver this summer.

Markazi: Scott. There's no doubt in my mind that Kobe will be back next season. Recovery time for his surgery was thought to be five to six months, though Lakers officials said it would be nine, but he'll still be back in time for the start of training camp. Playing 20 seasons for the Lakers and walking off the court on his terms is important to him and his legacy, and he's committed to making it happen.

2. Will the recent second-half benching of Nick Young be a positive for him?

[+] EnlargeYoung
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsNick Young will have to respond after his recent benching now that Kobe Bryant is out.
Holmes: The hopeful answer here is yes, but Young can get down on himself and struggle with bouncing back from that, so it's hard to say. Young also mentioned that all the losses have been affecting him, in that "you get tired of getting beat up." The very least he can do is show some effort on defense. If not, he deserves to stay on the bench.

Shelburne: Hard to say. So much of Young's success is dependent on his confidence, err, swag. How do you have swagger when you've been benched? At some point, however, every athlete has to deal with failure. How they bounce back and respond to it is what determines how long and successful of a career they have in this league. That's Young's challenge now.

Markazi: That's the hope. Sometimes tough love is the best love, and for Young, who laughs off everything, perhaps a benching was the best way to get through to him.

3. Should Lakers fans care that Kobe admitted he wanted to play with Michael Jordan at one time?

Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan
Getty ImagesKobe Bryant admitted recently he wanted to play with Michael Jordan in Washington.
Holmes: Lakers fans shouldn't sweat it, because Kobe ultimately stayed in L.A. and helped bring the city more championships. Besides, it would've been pretty cool to see him team up with Jordan, even if it was in Jordan's later years. If anything, the fact that Kobe almost left underscores just how sour his relationship was with Shaquille O'Neal at that point.

Shelburne: Yes, but not in an emotional way. This wasn't a rejection of the Lakers, as some are making it out to be. This was an admission of how much Kobe really did look up to Jordan. For years, Kobe denied that he measured himself against MJ. But this year when he passed him on the all-time scoring list, he acknowledged how much Jordan inspired him. I loved that this story finally came out, as it humanizes two of the most competitive people on the planet.

Markazi: Not really. Who knows how much of that is revisionist history anyway. Either way, the fact that Kobe considered playing with Jordan in Washington or for the Clippers a decade ago doesn't really mean anything now.

Kobe Bryant expected out 9 months

January, 28, 2015
Jan 28

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Kobe Bryant is officially done for the season after having surgery to repair his torn right rotator cuff Wednesday.

The Los Angeles Lakers also made it official that their superstar doesn't believe his career is finished.

Bryant is expected to need nine months to recover from his third straight season-ending injury. If Bryant meets that timetable, he could return to basketball shortly before the start of the 2015-16 season -- and the Lakers expect to see him in purple and gold again.

Neal ElAttrache and Steve Lombardo performed the two-hour surgery at the Kerlan Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles.

"I expect Kobe to make a full recovery, and if all goes as expected, he should be ready for the start of the season," ElAttrache said in a statement provided by the Lakers.

The Lakers formally declared Bryant out for the season by acknowledging the expected recovery time for his injury but also effectively confirmed he won't retire and will attempt to play his 20th season in the fall. Bryant, who will be 37 years old this summer, is the NBA's highest-paid player at $23.5 million this season, and he is under contract for $25 million next year.

"In my mind right now, he's coming back next year, unless he tells me something different," coach Byron Scott said at practice Wednesday.

Of Bryant's impending rehabilitation, Scott added, "It's pretty painful from what I've heard, and the rehab is long."

"But I think the biggest thing with Kobe, as long as [the media are] saying that he's done, he's going to come back," Scott said. "I think he proved his point this year that he still has a lot left in the tank. He's still one of the best players in the league."

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Scott: Gasol deserves standing O in L.A.

January, 28, 2015
Jan 28
Holmes By Baxter Holmes
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Pau Gasol on Thursday will face his former team at Staples Center for the first time since leaving the Lakers to join the Chicago Bulls last summer.

And Lakers coach Byron Scott said fans owe Gasol one thing:

"A standing ovation," Scott said. "This is a guy that was here that helped to win two championships. He deserves that. Pau was a great player when he was here and is still a great player. He’s having a lot of success in Chicago. But I think fans should show him the respect that he deserves."

The 7-foot Spaniard joined the Lakers in a 2008 trade with the Memphis Grizzlies and helped turn around a franchise still searching for an identity after Shaquille O'Neal left in 2004 via trade to Miami.

In the first three seasons after O’Neal’s departure, the Lakers missed the playoffs once and twice failed to reach the second round. After Gasol arrived, they reached three straight NBA Finals, winning in 2009 and 2010.

But Gasol's later years in L.A. were riddled with injuries, mixed results and trade rumors, including when he was involved in a nixed 2011 deal that would've sent Chris Paul to the Lakers.

Ultimately, Gasol left the Lakers after 6½ seasons to accept a three-year, $22 million deal from the Bulls while spurning a richer offer from the Lakers and a plea from Kobe Bryant to stay.

"I thought here in L.A., for whatever reason, he was getting beat up a lot," Scott said. "I thought it took a toll on him. That’s probably one of the main reasons he decided to go to Chicago."

Gasol, a 14-year veteran who was named an Eastern Conference All-Star starter last week, is averaging 18.3 points a game -- his best mark since 2010-11 -- and a career-high 11.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game. Scott said that when the Lakers played in Chicago on Christmas Day, Gasol looked "totally different."

"Offensively, he really doesn’t have a whole lot of weaknesses," Scott said. "He’s probably the best passing big man in the game besides his brother [Marc Gasol of the Grizzlies]. When he’s on the post, he’s a guy that can get it done on the post with turnaround jump shots and hook shots over either shoulder.

"And if you double him, he can make you pay by the way he passes the ball out of a double-team. He’s just one of those guys that you hope that he’s missing shots that night."

Scott said he expects Gasol to face a range of emotions Thursday, when the Lakers plan to honor Gasol with a video tribute.

"I think at the very start [of Thursday's game], he’ll think about his time here and the great success that he’s had here and he’ll probably think about some of the other times as well," Scott said.

"I think there will be a mixture of emotions going through him. But once again, when it’s all said and done and the game is over, hopefully he’ll know that the people here do appreciate him."

Lakers one away from longest losing streak

January, 28, 2015
Jan 28
Holmes By Baxter Holmes
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Lakers set a franchise record for most losses last season (55). Now they could tie another franchise futility mark Thursday if they lose to the Chicago Bulls.

A loss would mark 10 consecutive defeats, tying for the longest losing streak in franchise history. The Lakers also lost 10 straight in April 1994, when Magic Johnson was the interim coach.

"If that happens, I’m going to feel pretty messed up about it," Lakers coach Byron Scott said Wednesday.

But Scott also stressed that he's more focused on the big picture.

"Right now, just trying to go through the process of trying to get us better, seeing some of our young guys and develop some of those guys," he said.

The 12-34 Lakers have the worst record in the Pacific Division, the second-worst in the Western Conference and the fourth-worst in the league behind the New York Knicks (8-37), Philadelphia 76ers (8-37) and Minnesota Timberwolves (7-37).

The Lakers' 2015 draft pick is top-five protected. If it falls outside of the top five, it will be conveyed to the Phoenix Suns, as part of the 2012 offseason sign-and-trade that sent Steve Nash to Los Angeles.

Scott expects Kobe back next season

January, 28, 2015
Jan 28
Holmes By Baxter Holmes
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Shoulder surgery performed Wednesday morning will likely end Kobe Bryant's season, but Lakers coach Byron Scott emphasized that he expects the 36-year-old to return next season.

“In my mind right now, he’s coming back next year, unless he tells me something different,” Scott said.

The injury, which Bryant suffered last week in a road loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, will almost certainly mark Bryant’s third consecutive season-ending injury. Bryant, now in his 19th season, has seen his past two seasons cut short by Achilles and knee injuries.

Scott said he communicated with Bryant on Tuesday night after the Lakers’ loss to the Washington Wizards, which marked the team's ninth straight defeat -- its longest losing streak since it lost 10 straight in April 1994.

“He didn’t seem to be struggling at all. He was calling me to console me, which is Kobe,” Scott said with a laugh. “He’s texting me, talking about, ‘Are you OK?’ He’s the one going into surgery ... not me. But that’s just him, and that’s basically our relationship.”

Of Bryant’s impending rehabilitation, Scott said, “It’s pretty painful from what I’ve heard, and the rehab is long.”

Bryant will make a league-high $25 million in 2015-16, the final year of a two-year contract extension he signed in November 2013. Scott is already envisioning how he will use the star shooting guard.

“For Kobe, play him at mid- to low-20s minute-wise,” Scott said, a stark difference from the team-high 35.4 minutes per game that Bryant played during the Lakers’ first 27 games this season.

But Scott said future plans involving Bryant greatly depend on this summer.

“I got to wait until August until we have a good idea of what we've brought in and who we bring back,” he said, alluding to free agency and the draft. “Then we go from there.”

Scott said he expects Bryant to be active in recruiting free agents.

“But I think the biggest thing with Kobe, as long as [the media are] saying that he’s done, he’s going to come back,” Scott said. “I think he proved his point this year that he still has a lot left in the tank. He’s still one of the best players in the league.”

Bryant, who was voted in by fans as a Western Conference All-Star starter last week, played 35 games with the Lakers this season, averaging 22.3 points per game on a career-low 37.3 percent shooting.

LOS ANGELES -- John Wall had 21 points, 13 assists and nine rebounds, and the Washington Wizards rallied from a 19-point deficit to send the Los Angeles Lakers to their ninth straight loss, 98-92 on Tuesday night.

Bradley Beal scored 19 points for the Wizards, who won their fifth straight over the Lakers with a tenacious fourth quarter after falling far behind in the first half of their third stop on a four-game West Coast trip.

Wayne Ellington scored a career-high 28 points and rookie Jordan Clarkson had a career-high 18 for the Lakers, who are on their longest skid since April 1994.

The Lakers' inexperienced starting backcourt still played exceptionally well against the Wizards' star duo, with Ellington and Clarkson combining for 33 points in the first half.

Wall said after the game that he also has been dealing with a migraine but thinks he'll be able to play Wednesday against the Phoenix Suns.

ESPN's J.A. Adande and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Wizards 98, Lakers 92: Nine straight losses

January, 27, 2015
Jan 27
Holmes By Baxter Holmes
LOS ANGELES -- The Lakers haven’t been on a skid like this in nearly two decades.

They lost their ninth consecutive game Tuesday, blowing a 19-point lead before falling 98-92 to the Washington Wizards at Staples Center. Their record dropped to 12-34.

It marks the Lakers’ longest such streak since they lost 10 straight in April 1994. The Lakers’ coach then? Magic Johnson.

Turning point: The Lakers held an 11-point halftime lead but were outscored by 10 in the third quarter. Then the Wizards just leaned on their superior talent to carry them home in the fourth. Though the Lakers led big early, it never really felt like they had the horses to bring home a win.

Player of the game: John Wall had a sneaky quiet all-around game, finishing with 21 points, 13 assists and 9 rebounds. The Wizards star point guard made 8 of 12 shots.

Rookie impact: Lakers first-year guard Jordan Clarkson played with a lot of confidence and had his best game yet, scoring a career-high 18 points on 8-of-18 shooting.

Top Lakers scorer: Wayne Ellington started at shooting guard -- a position that will be open the rest of the season with Kobe Bryant sidelined -- and picked up the scoring slack by pouring in a career-high 28 points.

Swaggy P update: Nick Young missed the game with a sprained right ankle that he suffered in Monday's practice. Lakers coach Byron Scott said Young was slated to get some tests done on that ankle, but Scott already had doubts Young will be ready to play Thursday as the Lakers host the Chicago Bulls at Staples Center.

High praise: Wizards coach Randy Wittman joined the ever-growing list of those around the league to praise Bryant, who is expected to miss the rest of the season with a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder. “Players like him come around once in a lifetime,” Wittman said. “You’re not going to see another one probably like him, as gifted as he was, as competitive as he is, to do the things he’s doing. What he did this year coming off the injuries that he had was remarkable. You cherish players like him, even as an opposing coach.”

Metta! Former Laker Metta World Peace was in the building and spent much of the first half shaking hands and giving hugs to pretty much everyone in sight, including Jeanie Buss. He also received some hearty cheers from Lakers fans when he was shown on the JumboTron.
[+] EnlargeBryant & Pierce
Geoff Burke/USA TODAY SportsPaul Pierce and Kobe Bryant for years battled for championships on opposite sides of the NBA's most storied rivalry. Pierce's Celtics won in 2008, while Bryant's Lakers won a rematch two years later.

LOS ANGELES -- They battled for championships on opposite sides of the NBA's most storied rivalry.

Paul Pierce's Boston Celtics won the first round in 2008. Kobe Bryant's Los Angeles Lakers won the rematch two years later.

Pierce on Tuesday lamented Bryant's latest injury, a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder that will require surgery and is expected to keep Bryant sidelined for the remainder of the 2014-15 season.

"It always saddens me, knowing that Kobe, who is one of my NBA brothers, we lose [him] due to injury," Pierce said during shootaround before the Washington Wizards beat the Lakers 98-92 at Staples Center. "It always saddens me."

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Kobe Bryant
22.3 5.6 1.3 34.5
ReboundsJ. Hill 8.0
AssistsK. Bryant 5.6
StealsR. Price 1.5
BlocksE. Davis 1.2