“I don’t think anyone knows. He even doesn’t know,” D’Antoni said. “He’ll go full blow today [at practice] and then we’ll see how he feels tomorrow. If that happens tomorrow, Friday looks good and we’ll do that for sure.”
But . . .
“[Lakers trainer Gary Vitti] will talk with doctors and talk with Kobe and let me know if there’s restrictions or if it’s better for him to play in short bursts or longer. That will be decided probably the day of the game.”
In other words, check back again three times on Thursday and four times on Friday and five times every other day until Bryant puts on that uniform and declares himself fit to return to the court.
And make no mistake, it will be Bryant making the final call. He’s been cleared to play by the Lakers training staff for some time now. But with an injury this serious, and a recovery time that’s been this extensive, “cleared to play” isn’t nearly enough.
“I don’t want him to go until he’s comfortable and confident in playing and doing whatever he needs to do out there,” Lakers forward Pau Gasol said. “We don’t want him to play Friday if he’s not ready to play. We don’t want him to play Sunday if he’s not ready to play Sunday. . . . Just whenever he’s ready.”
Bryant is scheduled to address the media after Thursday’s practice, but there likely won’t be a final decision on his status for Friday until closer to gametime.
Just who will be playing point guard for the Lakers in the next couple of days is still up in the air, too. Starter Steve Blake has been limited with a sore right elbow. His backup, Jordan Farmar, is out four weeks with a torn hamstring. Steve Nash is just getting back on the practice court after receiving treatment for nerve root irritation in his back.
The Lakers have been discussing internally whether to add a point guard with so many injuries to their top three guards, but likely wont do anything until they have a better idea of when Bryant will be back. He’s capable of running the point, when healthy. So is reserve Xavier Henry. Blake will give them what he can, although he was shooting jumpers left-handed for the second straight day.
With the calendar flipping to December on Sunday, the Lakers open up the week with the same amount of wins as losses (nine), a schedule that will account for plenty of practice time (a rare four-day break before their next game), Gasol recovering from a lower-body injury (he plans to have an MRI exam on his right ankle Monday) and Nash less than 100 percent ...
All things equal so far. But let's finish the list.
Not bad, huh?
It's almost as if the Lakers get to press the reset button on their season this week, back to .500, with a mini training camp-like three straight practices looming and both Bryant and Nash appearing on the verge of returning to the mix.
Will this be the start of something good?
It's never as simple as ignoring the pitfalls of the past -- Gasol's health; Jordan Farmar's going out against Portland because of a right hamstring strain; Chris Kaman, one of the most candid players in the league, possibly just another DNP-CD away from rocking the boat -- to embrace the promise of future good fortunes. But the Lakers have good reason to feel as if things are lining up for them right now.
"This team is so great with one another that we look for each other and you never know who is going to be the high scorer for the game and who is going to be the guy every night," said Robert Sacre, who put up career highs in points (12) and rebounds (seven) against Portland in a performance that shouldn't be surprising for a team that has it stars change night to night as often as the next contestants on "The Price is Right" come on down the aisle. "I think once we add Kobe to it, it's the cherry on top."
Of course, Bryant has never been content to be the topping adorning the dessert. He's always operated more like the top banana in the banana split, so to speak.
Which raises the question if Bryant's return will be as much a challenge as it is a blessing in the early going, as he not only figures out a way to play basketball by himself for the first time competitively in nearly eight months, but also as he tries to play with mostly new teammates -- teammates who have developed an all-for-one identity without him.
LOS ANGELES -- Just when you thought they were out of it, the Los Angeles Lakers came storming right back. Twice.
The Lakers fell down by 17 points in the first quarter and found themselves up by two in the second quarter.
Then they trailed by 20 after the third and cut that all the way down to one in the fourth.
But L.A. never quite got over the hump in a 114-108 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.
Portland pushed its lead to five with a Wes Matthews (17 points) 3-pointer. Jodie Meeks got it down to three with a couple of free throws. Damian Lillard boosted it to four with a freebie. Nick Young got it back to two with a layup. Mo Williams doubled that back to four again with a pair of his own from the free-throw line. Meeks tried a pull-up jumper the next time down, but Lillard blocked him and added two more free throws and that sealed it.
A loss is a loss, but the Lakers have made strides even from, say, that Minnesota game when they were buried in the first quarter and never came back up for air.
How it happened: The Blazers outscored the Lakers 41-24 in the third quarter, with Lillard scoring 11 of his 26 for the game in the period as Portland shot 70.8 percent (17-for-24). The Lakers gave an honest effort in the other three quarters, but that clunker in the third was too much to overcome.
What it means: The Lakers' time above .500 was short lived as they've now settled back at 9-9. While it's never a good feeling to lose at home, the Lakers shouldn't dwell on this one too much as the Blazers are a good team (14-3) and their next three games are against three teams -- Sacramento, Toronto and Phoenix -- with a combined winning percentage of .355 (16-29).
Hits: Xavier Henry scored a career-high 27 points.
Robert Sacre had career highs in points (12) and rebounds (seven).
Nick Young continued his Sixth Man of the Year campaign with 17 points off the bench.
Meeks scored 20 and Steve Blake had 13 points and nine assists.
Misses: Jordan Farmar left the game after playing only one minute in the first quarter because of a moderate strain of his left hamstring and did not return.
Pau Gasol shot 3-for-15.
Stat of the game: The Lakers started the game 0-for-8 from the field as Portland built an 11-0 lead.
Up next: L.A. has an off day Monday followed by three days of practice before its next game on Friday in Sacramento when it could have both Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash back in the lineup.
Nash spent last week in Vancouver, British Columbia, working out with his longtime personal trainer, Rick Celebrini, while the Lakers were on a three-game trip through Washington, Brooklyn and Detroit.
"I think he made some improvements, but we'll see," D'Antoni said of Nash.
Nash, 39, is averaging 6.7 points and 4.8 assists this season while shooting 26.1 percent from the field. L.A. went 6-3 in its first nine games since Nash went out, thanks in large part to Steve Blake (9.8 points and 7.6 assists per game) and Jordan Farmar (9.7 and 4.6).
"They're playing great and I thought they would, as long as they have enough time and space," D'Antoni said before Sunday's game. "They were playing well with Steve too, so it's not crazy that they're doing well."
Before Farmar left Sunday's game because of a moderate left hamstring strain, ending his night early, D'Antoni was asked about the possibility of Nash coming off the bench when he is ready to return to game action.
"We'll see," D'Antoni said. "We haven't got there yet."
Similarly, D'Antoni said he had yet to discuss the Lakers' next game on the road Friday against the Sacramento Kings with Kobe Bryant as to whether that will be the date Bryant makes his long-awaited return to the court followed Achilles surgery in April.
Like Nash, D'Antoni expects Bryant to be a part of the team's practices Tuesday through Thursday leading up to the Kings game.
"Three days of practice, then we'll evaluate it," D'Antoni said. "It might happen, it might not. The only way we'll be able to evaluate it is let these three days go by and check it out. I have no idea how he'll respond to practice -- if he has to back off, if he can turn it up, if he's ready. After those three days we'll decide and it will either be or not be. But, I don't have the slightest clue whether it's Friday or not. No clue whatsoever."
Kobe Bryant, coming off 5-on-0 drills at Saturday's practice, underwent individual drills after shootaround ranging from one-dribble pull-up jump shots from the top of the key and either wing to cutting baseline to receive passes at the rim. Most of Bryant's workout appeared to be at half speed, however.
Whenever Bryant does return -- D'Antoni said Friday in Sacramento is possible if the shooting guard has a productive week of practice -- he will likely be on the court less than the 38.6 minutes per game he played last season prior to his Achilles tear.
"His word he always uses is be 'dynamic,' " said Johnson after L.A's 106-102 win over the Detroit Pistons on Friday.
Johnson's offensive outburst might have seemed to come out of nowhere, but really, it fits the type of season the predictably unpredictable Lakers are having. Friday marked the sixth time in the past seven games the Lakers had a different leading scorer.
What does that say?
"It says a lot," Johnson said. "You never know what's going to happen each night. Nick [Young] was last [game], the previous night it was, I think, Jordan [Farmar]. It's like you never know. It's just us playing off one another. Whoever is hot, we keep feeding him."
And when it's not your night to be fed the ball, D'Antoni is trying to get the group to buy into feasting on the defensive end.
While Johnson, who still managed three blocks, shined more on offense than through his normal defensive-stalwart role Friday, for Young it was the complete opposite.
Coming off a season-high 26 points against Brooklyn, Young shot just 3-for-12 against Detroit but still came up with the biggest play of the game, drawing a charge on Josh Smith with 2.7 seconds left and L.A. holding a precarious two-point lead.
The Lakers are so unpredictable this season, they even surprise themselves. It was like "Freaky Friday" out there, with the role reversal featuring Johnson as the scorer and Young as the stopper.
"I know that everybody is all chimed in as a team," Johnson said. "I know that he sacrificed his body ready to take that charge, get that win. That let us know that everybody as a team is all one now."
Said Young: "That felt good to win like that. That's the stuff you only see on TV."
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- The Los Angeles Lakers came into their three-game trip with only one win away from Staples Center all season.
They'll return to L.A. with three times that many.
Not a perfect trip, but mission accomplished overall.
The Lakers went 2-1 on the jaunt, getting back above .500, at 9-8, for the first time since their opening-night victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.
How it happened: L.A. took a one-point lead into halftime before the Pistons came alive in the third quarter, outscoring L.A. 32-21 to take a 10-point cushion into the fourth. The Lakers' bench unit of Jordan Farmar, Nick Young, Xavier Henry, Robert Sacre and Shawne Williams cut it to two midway through the fourth quarter, when coach Mike D'Antoni put some of his starters back in. That's when Detroit's Brandon Jennings went on a personal 6-0 run to put the Pistons back ahead by eight.
Farmar responded with five straight of his own to bring L.A. to within three points with less than three minutes left. Young found Williams in the corner to tie it with a 3-pointer, 99-99, and Farmar made a pull-up jumper with 1:25 to go to give L.A. the lead. Young and Jennings exchanged buckets and Pau Gasol made a free throw, setting up Jennings' 3-point attempt with 16.7 seconds left to try to tie the score.
Farmar was called for a foul on Jennings' release, leading to three free throws for Detroit, which needed all three to tie. Jennings missed the first two and made the third, cutting L.A.'s lead to two.
Then it was Farmar's turn to miss two free throws, setting up Pistons' possession with 15.2 seconds left, trailing by two. Rodney Stuckey missed a baseline fadeaway jumper with 8.0 seconds left, but the ball skirted out of bounds off the Lakers, setting up another chance for Detroit.
Josh Smith drove the ball in from the top of the key and Young set up to take a charge, drawing the offensive foul and giving L.A. the unorthodox game-winning defensive stop.
What it means: With Kobe Bryant seemingly close to getting back in the fold and the Lakers now winners of five of their past six games, L.A. is clearly a team with momentum on its side.
Hits: Wesley Johnson scored a season-high 27 points (two off his career high 29), shooting 9-for-11 from the field and 6-for-7 from 3 to go with 6 rebounds and 2 assists.
Williams had 20 points and nine rebounds.
Gasol had 13 points and 12 rebounds.
Steve Blake had 10 assists.
TLC was the halftime show. Yes, they're still chasing waterfalls.
Misses: A game after scoring a season-high 26 points, Young shot just 3-for-12.
Jordan Hill played just 14 minutes, collecting 2 points and 4 rebounds, before suffering a sprained left ankle.
Chris Kaman did not play for the fifth straight game, with the past three coming by coach's decision.
Stat of the game: The rest of the Lakers other than Johnson shot a combined 27-for-69 (39.1 percent).
Up next: The Lakers head back home with an off day Saturday followed by a home game Sunday against the red-hot Portland Trail Blazers (13-3). The Portland game is followed by an important week in terms of Bryant's comeback status. L.A. has no games from Monday until Friday night, and Bryant said he planned to use the week of practice to ramp up toward a return.
"I knew he was going to get caught," D’Antoni said before the Lakers played the Detroit Pistons on Friday when asked about Kidd's being fined $50,000 by the league for the incident. "You can't do that. That's crazy. He can't do that. It's cute for a lot of people, but you can't do that."
With 8.3 seconds left and his team out of timeouts in the Lakers' 99-94 win over the Nets on Wednesday, Kidd, who was holding a cup of soda on ice, appeared to say "hit me" to point guard Tyshawn Taylor to delay the game and give him and his team time to draw up a last-second offensive play.
Both Kidd and Taylor initially denied the collision was planned but on Friday Kidd basically admitted it was intentional. "Paul [Pierce] got a great look, but the league fined me for something that I probably shouldn't have done," Kidd said. "We'll move on."
Said D'Antoni of Kidd initially claiming innocence: "I don't buy it."
D'Antoni said he did not notice how the spill happened, but his players picked up on it immediately. Both Steve Blake and Xavier Henry hovered around the Nets' impromptu huddle to spy on the play being drawn up.
"I'm glad they did," D'Antoni said of Blake's and Henry’s bit of gamesmanship in response to Kidd's move. "They should have."
D'Antoni said "you can't do that" or "he can't do that" no less than seven times in the two minutes he discussed the incident Friday, adding that it was "nuts" to try such a stunt.
"That's against the rules," D'Antoni said. "I don't think that's very savvy or cool. I love Jason to death, he's going to be a great coach, but no, you don't do that."
D'Antoni, the NBA's Coach of the Year in 2004-05 with the Phoenix Suns, admitted there are tricks that a coach can attempt to try to affect the outcome of a game outside of simply drawing up plays, making substitutions, working the referees and calling timeouts, but that Kidd crossed the boundary of fair game.
"You can catch somebody's eye on the baseline on foul shots and stuff, as long as you stay off the court and in the rules," D'Antoni said. "You can do those things, but you shouldn't get on the court. You shouldn't run into people on the court. You shouldn't drop things on the court, especially when they're not warranted [from an accident]. You can't do that."
Harris, who signed a partially guaranteed deal as an undrafted free agent after a solid run with L.A.'s summer league team, appeared in two games with the Lakers this season, registering one rebound, one assist and one steal in 11 minutes.
"I think he has a chance," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said of Harris. "I think he has a chance to be a good player -- not this year, it's going to take a little bit -- but if he continues to develop, he's somebody we should watch and hope the best for him. He was great and I think he's got a future in this league."
The Gonzaga University product was not with the Lakers on their three-game trip this week, staying in L.A. on assignment with the Los Angeles D-Fenders, the Lakers' D-League affiliate.
Harris appeared in one game for the D-Fenders and had 18 points, two rebounds and two assists before fouling out.
The Lakers' roster is now at 14 players.
The Los Angeles Lakers debuted their black alternative “Hollywood nights” uniforms in Wednesday’s 99-94 win over the Brooklyn Nets, and the new look was a hit with the team.
“This is Hollywood nights, baby,” said Nick Young. “It’s my life, baby. Hollywood. I like these all-black jerseys. It’s mean.”
While Young has taken up the mantle as the team’s fashion guru after recently being named the No. 19 most stylish athlete of 2013 by GQ Magazine, he’s not the only one to express that the clothes, or uniforms in this case, can make the man.
“They definitely give you that look when you come in, definitely, with those black jerseys,” Wes Johnson said. “You see the Oakland Raiders having black on and you think of meanness and toughness, so, the ‘Hollywood nights,’ I hope it brings some different energy out of us.”
The Raiders are 4-8 this NFL season. The Nets, who also wear simple, black uniforms on the road, fell to 4-11 with the Lakers loss. So the color doesn’t guarantee that you will play well.
“Those are amazing,” Steve Blake said. “I love them.”
“They’re cool,” Chris Kaman said.
“I like the black,” Jordan Farmar said. “I like switching up. They keep it classic. They don’t too much different. It’s the same cut, same everything, but just twisted it a little bit.”
The alternative uniform is part of the league's city-pride series, joining the Detroit Pistons’ "Motor City" uniforms and the Portland Trail Blazers' "Rip City" set, but unlike the others, it still says "Lakers" across the chest.
The Lakers will wear them five more times this season: Dec. 31 (against Milwaukee), Jan. 31 (Charlotte), Feb. 28 (Sacramento), March 21 (Washington) and April 11 (Golden State). All five of those games are at home, and four of those dates are on a Friday, similar to how the Lakers normally wear their white alternative uniforms -- introduced for the 2002-03 season -- only on Sundays.
The schedule also means that by the next time L.A. wears the uniform, a certain No. 24 (Kobe Bryant) will most likely be on the court.
“It’s a pretty good look, I think, for the Lakers,” Kaman said. “They have the Black Mamba and everything. I think he probably likes it.”
Added Young: “I’m shocked we’re wearing them without Kobe.”
Bryant actually beat his teammates to the punch, donning the jersey on the cover of Sports Illustrated back in October.
The rest of the Lakers had to settle for taking their own snap shots of the jerseys rather than pose in them for a magazine spread.
“As soon as we came in the locker room, people pulled out their cell phones, taking pictures and stuff,” Johnson said of the pregame scene Wednesday.
The black uniforms also inspired Lakers players to accessorize with footwear they wouldn’t usually sport with their normal purple-and-gold kits.
“People got different sneakers and stuff for it, too, trying to match it up with it,” said Johnson, who wore a black color way of the adidas “Crazy 97,” the shoe Bryant wore as a rookie with the Lakers. Kaman wore a black pair of Nike IDs with “Sasquatch,” a nickname he said he picked up in college, printed on the tongues.
“I’m just a super hairy dude, and that’s how it goes,” Kaman said.
Blake said he couldn’t wait to wear the black shorts come the summertime. How many other uniforms double as beach and barbecue wear? Young wasn’t going to wait that long. He was already crestfallen to see his alma mater, USC, add a black uniform to their kit after his days on campus as a Trojan. This time around, he planned on leaving Barclays Center with the shorts in his bag rather than putting them in the hands of Lakers equipment manager Carlos Maples at the end of the night.
“I already told him I’m not giving my shorts back,” Young said. “He said it’s cool. So I’m already taking my shorts.”
While Maples lost some of the items from his equipment haul, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni was mostly at a loss for words when asked for his take on the look.
“Black Friday comes up pretty soon, right?” D’Antoni said with a grin before looking down at the cross-hatched, lavender-colored tie he was wearing. “I won’t clash, will I?”
Former Lakers forward and current ESPN LA 710 radio color analyst Mychal Thompson, who won two rings with the team during the “Showtime” era, said the jerseys clash with the Lakers’ history.
“I just love that purple and gold I fell in love with as a young boy and got to wear myself,” Thompson said. “So, when they change out of that, it’s to me, as an old-fashioned type of Laker fan, it just doesn’t seem right. But, I understand that it’s the new fad these days, the multiple, [University of] Oregon style of fashion where you get as many uniforms as possible. So, you just have to adapt to the new era, I guess.
“The good old home golds and the road purple, that’s what I like. But that’s just me. I don’t have a vote in it. I just like staying with the old-fashioned kind because, to me, you don’t see the [New York] Yankees changing, or even the [Boston] Celtics, and to me, the Lakers, Yankees and Celtics are the standard of what everyone tries to be, so I think we should just stick with what we have.”
Alternative jerseys just aren’t for everybody. But the black uniform seems to be more agreeable than the next alternative Lakers look on the schedule: tapered, short-sleeved jerseys for their game on Christmas Day against the Miami Heat.
“I think we got the tight jerseys coming up,” Kaman said. “That’s not going to be my friend. I got some spots [on my body] where that’s not going to be the best on me.”
Farmar left nearly $3 million on the table to play for the Lakers for a veteran's minimum deal after being bought out of his contract with Anadolu Efes of the Turkish league this summer. Even though seven of his teammates are earning more than him this season, Farmar has proven to be a valuable member of the team.
"He knows his role and I think he embraces it," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said after Farmar had 15 points, four rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks off the bench, helping L.A. to its first win on the second night of a back-to-back all season after starting 0-3.
With that kind of production, should his role increase?
Farmar played 22 minutes against the Nets, a night after putting up 22 points on 9-for-11 shooting along with eight assists in 26 minutes against the Washington Wizards.
While Farmar was selfless about his salary to come to L.A., he can't help but wish for more playing time.
"I think the more opportunity I get to play and the more I'm on the floor, the guys respond to me differently and let me lead them," Farmar said. "[They] let me put guys in positions to be successful. Get Nick [Young] where he needs the ball. If I'm playing with Jordan Hill, run pick-and-roll with him. That's my job though. And the more I'm out there I start getting into a comfort zone, a rhythm, start knocking down shots. And I think when my minutes are spotty, that's the one thing that's going to go, is my shooting."
Indeed, the magic minute marker for Farmar this season seems to be 20. In the eight games he has played 20 minutes or more, he's averaging 13.3 points on 49.3 percent shooting. In the eight games he has played 20 minutes or less, he's averaging 5.8 points on 37.1 percent shooting.
"I'm a rhythm kind of guy," Farmar said. "Once I get a feel for the game, it's much easier for me to make shots at a consistent level."
The key for Farmar is doing something productive with the first set of minutes he plays to give himself a longer leash with D'Antoni. Sometimes he never gets a chance to find that rhythm if his play isn't as sharp as the coach wants from the start, so he goes in another direction.
“He should have taken the money,” World Peace said Wednesday. “God damn, Kobe, take the money. Take it and run. He should have let me negotiate for him. I would have said, ‘Hey, Mitch, c’mon, make it happen. Make it happen.’ The standard cut is 4 percent, but I would have taken 10.”
World Peace returned to Los Angeles on Wednesday night with the New York Knicks to play the Clippers in his first game back at the Staples Center since the Lakers amnestied him in the offseason. He has played with six teams during his 15-year career, but said he was happy Bryant will only play with the Lakers during his 20-year career.
“It’s a lot of money,” World Peace said. “I think it’s smart. I think it’s good. He could have gotten whatever he wanted. Whatever he would have asked for, he would have probably gotten. It’s good because it leaves them money to bring in another player, so it was very smart of them.”
The question is what player will want to come to Los Angeles and play with Bryant at the end of Bryant’s career?
“He’s a five-time champion, is hungry, has a killer instinct,” World Peace said. “Everybody has flaws. We all know this. Even the greatest person, except Gandhi; I don’t think Gandhi had flaws. Did Gandhi have flaws? What about the Dali Lama? They had no flaws. So there are a few people with no flaws.”
World Peace thinks at least one other superstar will take “the risk” and play with Bryant in Los Angeles and make a push for a championship.
“Kobe has a few flaws, but he has some good things about him also,” World Peace said. “He has a killer instinct and sometimes he channels it in a way that’s not relatable. But at the same time he has this drive that he wants to win. So I can see somebody taking the risk and coming here. I don’t know who. I’m very intense, but Kobe ... he channels his better than me.”
Last season, things got so bad between D'Antoni and Antawn Jamison that the coach and player got into a verbal spat on the sidelines during a road game in Houston and Jamison aired his grievances through the media. This season, it's Chris Kaman feeling like the odd man out, but doing his best to be diplomatic about it.
Before Kaman received his fourth straight DNP in Wednesday's 99-94 win over the Brooklyn Nets, the Lakers' center said not only was he over the back injury he recently suffered in practice, he was cleared to play in the Lakers' 116-111 loss to the Washington Wizards on Tuesday but D'Antoni did not call his number.
"I was actually good last game, I just couldn't get in there, I guess," Kaman said. "I don't know. I'm ready to go."
The 11-year veteran is averaging 8.3 points and 5.3 rebounds this season and started three games for L.A., however he had already begun to find himself on the outskirts of D'Antoni's rotation before the back injury.
Kaman played only six minutes in his most recent game action -- a 114-99 win over the Detroit Pistons -- going 1-for-4 from the field for two points to go with one rebound off the bench, while Jordan Hill put up career highs in points (24) and rebounds (17) in 36 minutes as the starter alongside Pau Gasol.
This isn't the first time Kaman has found himself searching for his role in his first season with the Lakers. The 11-year veteran performed well in the preseason before coming down with salmonella poisoning during the team's trip to China, causing him to miss 10 days of training camp and lose his spot in the starting lineup to Shawne Williams when the regular season opened.
"I thought I was playing pretty well before I got sick and then I come back and things are kind of changed for me," Kaman said. "I didn't plan on getting sick, it just happened. And then at the start of the regular season I thought I played pretty well and then we change all the lineups around."