The Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets will get the first opportunity to meet with LaMarcus Aldridge Tuesday night shortly after the free-agency period officially begins at 9:01 p.m. PT in Los Angeles.

Aldridge will also meet with the San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns and Toronto Raptors on Wednesday and with the New York Knicks on Thursday, league sources told ESPN.com.

According to one source, the chances of Aldridge staying with the Portland Trail Blazers is "very unlikely."

Knicks star Carmelo Anthony has already called Aldridge, sources told ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard.

The Knicks will emphasize that in the Eastern Conference, the road to becoming an All-Star and a playoff team is much less clogged than in the West.

ESPN.com reported in May that both the Spurs and Mavericks strongly believe they'll have a great shot to lure Aldridge back to his home state of Texas next month. But sources said this week that Aldridge is actually thinking more and more about a free-agent jump to the Lakers.

The Lakers, sources added, firmly believe they will now be in the Aldridge hunt.


(Read full post)


video

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- A half hour before D'Angelo Russell was introduced to local media at the Los Angeles Lakers' practice facility here Monday, the team's No. 2 overall pick in last week's draft stood in the second-floor office of team president Jeanie Buss.

There, the former Ohio State standout marveled at the 10 Larry O'Brien Championship trophies lining her window that overlooks the practice court, each one from a title the organization has won since it moved to Los Angeles.

The promising 19-year-old guard stared at them, touched them and posed for pictures alongside them, at one point stretching his nearly 6-foot-10 wingspan across seven of the glistening gold trophies as he smiled for the cameras.

"I've never seen the trophy," he told ESPN.com. "The big guy that everybody wants to play for, I've never seen it. Never touched it. So I wanted to take advantage of it. It's something that I definitely want to be apart of -- getting a new one up there. There's room."

Winning a title is an annual expectation for the storied franchise, and there are already equally enormous expectations for Russell, the team's highest draft pick since taking James Worthy No. 1 overall in 1982.

When Russell was drafted, Lakers coach Byron Scott said Russell had the potential to be a "superstar" and mentioned him in the same breath as Magic Johnson (whom Scott played alongside) and Chris Paul (whom Scott has coached).

And when Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak called Russell on the night he was drafted, Kupchak referenced the retired jerseys hanging in the Lakers' facility and said he hoped Russell would one day join them.

Indeed, there's pressure on Russell to not only live up to the hype but to help the franchise rebound after missing the playoffs each of the last two seasons and finishing a franchise-worst 21-61 last season.

Russell, the team's most dynamic point guard since Johnson, feels the pressure, too.

"Definitely," he said. "It's a whirlwind. These guys aren't used to losing, so for them to pick me and pick these other guys, you know they're ready to start the rebuilding process over. We don't know how much Kobe [Bryant] has left in the tank, but he's a part of it. He's a leader of it. For us to learn under him and all these young guys we have, it's something that can really get going quick."

Russell comprises a young core that includes fellow first-round pick Larry Nance Jr.


(Read full post)


video

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Lakers first-round draft pick Larry Nance Jr. said he was "terrified" of his new teammate Kobe Bryant's potential reaction to a tweet Nance sent in 2012 that referred to a sexual assault case involving Bryant.

"You hear all the stories about how Kobe, or Mr. Bryant, is so intense and just always on edge," Nance said when he and the team's other draft picks were introduced at the Lakers' practice facility on Monday.

"I was nervous to send him a long message and then just get an 'Okay,' or not a response at all. I'm just so, so glad he handled that in the manner he did. I still could be up here with a stomach in my knot, or a knot in my stomach. But he did a terrific job and I can't thank him enough for forgiving me."

Speaking at the BET Experience at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles on Saturday night during a sit-down interview with ESPN's Jemele Hill, Bryant said "there's no need" for any further discussion about the matter with Nance, the Lakers' 27th overall pick out of the University of Wyoming.

"The kid figured it out himself," Bryant said. "He's a kid, man. He actually sent me a great message [Friday], which is really funny. I looked at it [the message], and it was like, 'This is when you know it's about time to hang these things up, when your teammate writes you, Hi, Mr. Bryant.'


(Read full post)


video

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Monday afternoon, four days after D'Angelo Russell was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers, minutes after he held up his gold No. 1 jersey in front of the Lakers-logoed backdrop to provide all the tangible evidence he needed, Russell still said he was "shocked" that the whole thing happened at all.

We were shocked too, shocked that the Lakers would stray from history and pass up a big man like Jahlil Okafor to take a point guard. Except it shouldn't be shocking. Not at all. The Lakers' history of winning with big men, from Mikan to Wilt to Kareem to Shaq to Pau, is the very reason they needed to grab a great point guard.

Supreme centers have been easy to come by for this franchise. Point guards have been more elusive. Here's the list of everyone who has spent time as the Lakers' primary point guard for at least one season since Earvin "Magic" Johnson retired on Nov. 7, 1991:

Sedale Threatt • Nick Van Exel • Derek Harper • Derek Fisher • Ron Harper • Lindsey Hunter • Gary PaytonChucky AtkinsSmush Parker • Steve Nash • Kendall Marshall • Jordan Clarkson

That averages out to a new point guard every couple of years. Yes, Payton is in the Hall of Fame and Nash is on his way, but their time in Lakerland was much like Smokey Robinson and Patti LaBelle on the mike at Sunday's BET Awards show: more of an acknowledgment for what they'd done in the past than a recognition of current contributions. Fisher had the longest and most productive time of those on the list, contributing to five championship teams. His success also came in the triangle offensive scheme that did not emphasize point guards.

No point guard has represented the Lakers in an All-Star Game since Van Exel in 1998. Shaquille O'Neal, Pau Gasol


(Read full post)


video

The Los Angeles Lakers will not be picking up their $9 million team option on forward Jordan Hill, league sources told ESPN.

The Lakers have an interest in re-signing Hill during free agency, but the move was made at the moment to help add salary-cap space as the Lakers enter free agency in pursuit of several big-name players, sources said.

Hill was in a tight spot, as the Lakers face a logjam at the forward position with Julius RandleLarry Nance Jr.Tarik Black and Ryan Kelly currently on their roster. There is also Ed Davis, who declined his $1.1 million player option for a longer, more lucrative deal.

After declining Hill's option, the Lakers will have about $23 million in spending power as they target several frontcourt players in free agency, including Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge, Memphis' Marc Gasol, the Clippers' DeAndre Jordan, Cleveland's Kevin Love and Detroit's Greg Monroe.

Hill was a bright spot in an otherwise dismal 2014-15 season for the Lakers.


(Read full post)


video

Chris Broussard says Grizzlies center Marc Gasol will be the first big man to sign because he believes Gasol will stay in Memphis. Broussard thinks Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge will be the first domino to fall in free agency.
video

The Dallas Mavericks are widely considered the likeliest team in the league to persuade free-agent center DeAndre Jordan to leave the Los Angeles Clippers, according to league sources.

Sources told ESPN.com that the Mavericks are the team feared most by the Clippers even though Jordan is expected to meet with at least two more teams: the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers.

Mavericks small forward Chandler Parsons, who regards himself to be Dallas' lead recruiter on free agent matters, visited Jordan in Houston last weekend and traveled to Los Angeles immediately after Thursday's draft to spend more time with the big man.

Both Parsons and Jordan are represented by L.A.-based Relativity Sports and agent Dan Fegan. Parsons helped recruit Dwight Howard, another Fegan client, to Houston two years ago.

The Milwaukee Bucks, sources say, are also among teams hoping to get a meeting with Jordan, who was an All-NBA third team selection this past season after leading the league in both field goal percentage (71.3) and rebounding (15.0 per game).

But sources close to the situation said Sunday night that Jordan's decision most likely will come down to the Clippers and the Mavericks.


(Read full post)


Kobe's advice to Lakers rookies: 'Ask why'

June, 27, 2015
Jun 27
10:17
PM PT
Holmes By Baxter Holmes
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive

Two days after the NBA draft, during which the Los Angeles Lakers selected three players, Kobe Bryant said he has one thing he wants them to do.

“Ask why -- why did things happen?” Bryant said Saturday night at the BET Experience held at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles during a sit-down interview with ESPN's Jemele Hill.

“I think players nowadays have become conditioned to do x, y and z. So you have coaches at the high-school level, college level, then the professional level, they tell you, ‘Do this, do that, do this, do that,’ as opposed to teaching players what questions to ask.

“So when you’re watching the game or playing the game, and he runs a pick-and-roll and all of the sudden the man is open in the corner and he hits the man in the corner and he knocks down a shot, you don’t want to just have that thing happen on accident. You want to know why that happened.

“So you want to be able to read defensive packages and say, ‘OK, when I come off the screen-and-roll, the big did this, the weak side did that, therefore that’s open. And if I come here, now they make an adjustment; now that’s not open and that’s why that’s open, but now that’s not open and that means this one is open.’ It’s to get them thinking why things happen. I think that’s the most important thing for young players to understand."

The Lakers drafted Ohio State guard D’Angelo Russell second overall, University of Wyoming forward Larry Nance Jr. 27th overall and Stanford wing Anthony Brown 34th overall.

Kobe still undecided about when he'll retire

June, 27, 2015
Jun 27
10:01
PM PT
Holmes By Baxter Holmes
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive

The 2015-16 season will mark the final year of Kobe Bryant's current contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, during which he’ll be paid a league-high $25 million.

But it remains unclear if Bryant, who will be 37 when next season begins, will want to play beyond that, even though Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak has said that Bryant has indicated to him that next season will be his last with the team.

“It might be,” Bryant said Saturday night at the BET Experience held at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles during a sit-down interview with ESPN's Jemele Hill.

“You gotta retire sometime," he said. "I’m not Benjamin Button, man.”

Bryant said he has yet to make a decision about his future in the NBA beyond 2015-16.

“At the end of the season, if I feel like going through this again and doing it all over again, I will. If I feel like, I don’t, I won’t,” he said. “I won’t make a big deal about it or whatever. I’ll be ready to move on. I’ll be ready to do something else.

“I’ll be ready to take on that challenge and try to show athletes, listen, we are more than this. I think that’s the challenge that I’m ready to take on, too. It’s like, we can do more than play basketball. We can do more than simply sit here and be puppets for brands and for an industry and this that and the other. We can build our own s--t. When that time comes, I’ll be ready to do that.”

What will a retired Kobe Bryant do?

“Work,” he said. “I love the concept of storytelling. I love inspiring. I love trying to help people reach their full potential ... I think there’s a myriad of businesses where storytelling can then connect to because it’s all centered around that ... It’s all storytelling.”

Kobe: Friends can come and go, but banners hang forever

June, 27, 2015
Jun 27
9:51
PM PT
Holmes By Baxter Holmes
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive

Earlier this year Kobe Bryant said that “being a ‘great friend’ is something I will never be.” The Los Angeles Lakers star guard explained that comment at an event Saturday, saying, “I meant that friends can come and go, but banners hang forever.”

Bryant, a five-time NBA champion, made his remarks at the BET Experience held at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles during a sit-down interview with ESPN's Jemele Hill.

The question posed by Hill alluded to Bryant’s comments made in a GQ Magazine piece that was published in March 2015.

“It’s crazy, right?” Bryant said Saturday, speaking of his mindset. “It’s like, ‘This dude is nuts.’ But when you grow up, I loved the game so much. It wasn’t on purpose to be a bad friend or not to be as good of a friend. It takes time to do that. It takes a lot of energy to do that.

“Consciously, all my energy was focused on one thing [basketball]. It’s like, friends, I have friends that have known me since I was 11. They know that that’s how I am. But nine times out of 10, that’s how they are too. Because they’re as driven at what they do as what I am. It works out.”

Hill asked Bryant about what he has learned from his many strained relationships with various teammates over his 19-year NBA career.

“Don’t be an a-hole,” Bryant said, laughing. “No, I mean, I’ve never been the most patient person in the world and one of my pet peeves is laziness or people who make excuses. I can’t stand it. Working with Shaq, the guy, he’s a freak of nature. He’s mean when he plays, which I relate to.

“But there are other parts that I just didn’t relate to. So there are certain things that were strengths of his, like putting his arm around the guys and helping them be better emotionally and giving them support. I wasn’t very good at that.

“But my strengths were my focus and my dedication to the game. I had to sit back and say, ‘We have these disagreements, but what can I learn from him? What does he do well?’ And once I was able to look in the mirror and say, 'OK, maybe you are being an a--hole?' [Then] you’ve got to self-assess. All this stuff ain’t coming from [nowhere]. It’s not just made up. So once I learned that, I think we were able to go to a higher level as a team.”

Did Bryant un-learn how to be, as he put it, an “a-hole”?

"There’s two ways to do that,” he said. “One, you can stop. Or two, you can just be extremely consistent and then the people will get used to it. So when I said, 'I stopped being an a--hole,' what I’m really saying is people just got used to me being an a--hole. Then it was like, ‘OK, that’s just him.’”

On the subject, Bryant then recounted a memorable interaction with a former Lakers teammate.

“Honestly, I remember Rick Fox said something in a meeting that stuck with me forever,” Bryant said. “Because we were having a discussion and he said, ‘Kobe, we just want to feel like you’re a part of us.’ And I never looked at it that way. I thought, ‘What do you mean? I am. I’m practicing hard every single day.’

“But that’s not what he meant. For me, stop being an a--hole really meant you’ve got to start approaching the game on a human level and understand that we are people and we need to have that connection versus this hard drive all the time. Because no matter how skillful you are, it’s an emotional game. If you don’t have that emotional connectivity with somebody or with a group, you’re not going to get at your highest level of potential.”

Bryant said he’s still close with several of his former teammates, such as Lamar Odom, Derek Fisher, Ronny Turiaf and Shannon Brown.

“Now, to them, if you ask them, they’ll sit here and say, ‘No, he’s not an a-hole,’” Bryant said. “But if you go to some of the other guys who show up to practice an hour later. You know what I’m saying? You know them. They’re easily identifiable. Those guys will say, ‘Yeah, he’s a big a--hole.’”

He added, “Your job is to imprint a DNA on a team. You have to push buttons. The trick is figuring out when to push them and how to push them. You’ve got to do that.”

What's the worst thing Bryant has ever said to a teammate?

“Oh, Jesus,” he said with a laugh. “Uh, let me think. I’m not sure if the fact that I’m thinking about the worst things that I’ve said really means that I haven’t said that many or maybe I’ve said too many. I’m scrolling through them [in my mind]. I’m like on iPod shuffle.

“I have made somebody cry before.”

Who?

“There’s certain players that I’ve made cry,” Bryant said. “If I can make you cry by being sarcastic, then I really don’t want to play with you in the playoffs if that’s making you cry.

“But let me see. There was one teammate that was just so bad. He was so bad. It wasn’t Kwame [Brown]. Kwame wasn’t actually that bad. I tease Kwame. It wasn’t Smush [Parker]. It was a player that you guys won’t even remember if I said who his name was. I can’t even pronounce his name. It was some European kid.

“But he was really, really bad. I said, ‘Dude, you might want to reconsider what your life purpose is. Maybe it’s not this.’ It came out that way. I was like, maybe 20-something years old. I don’t know, really young.

“You know how you think one thing in your head, like, ‘I’m going to say this and it’s going to sound like this.’ Then it comes out and it’s like, ‘Oh, s---. That’s not what it sounds like. That is not how I envisioned it coming out.’ No, I meant, maybe you’re not reaching your highest potential by doing this. Maybe it’s something else.”

Bryant was asked to explain where the perception first developed that he is difficult to play alongside, a well-documented perception that has reportedly deterred several free agents from coming to play for the Lakers as long as he’s on the team.

“From people that want to take the easy route with stuff,” Bryant said. “You want to come? You want to play and play your heart out and compete and win? We’ll have no issues. It’s the people that ... say these things and the people that don’t show up to practice and the people that don’t want to work hard and the people that aren’t committed to it. We will never have anything in common. We just won’t. I’m completely fine with that. I’m completely OK with that. We can’t converse.”

Bryant also said growing up in Italy influenced not only his playing style but also his relationships with people.

“It shaped a lot,” he said. “In that situation, you wind up being in isolation a lot, so you have a lot of time to think. I gravitated to basketball even more because of the lack of common ground that I had with friends over there. So I wound up playing the game a lot by myself, imagining and dreaming and envisioning.

“But also, on the flip side of that, it makes you play things closer to the chest. Which is why I’m more comfortable shooting the ball off the double-team than passing to somebody in the corner for a game-winner. No joke. Because you grow up really relying on yourself. So I had to learn, no, it’s OK to work with others. But when you grow up in isolation, especially in pressure moments, you always kind of go back to your nature.”

video

Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant says he has talked with first-round draft pick Larry Nance Jr. about a tweet Nance posted in 2012 that referred to a sexual-assault case involving Bryant.

Speaking at the BET Experience held at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles on Saturday night during a sit-down interview with ESPN's Jemele Hill, Bryant said "there's no need" for any further discussion about the matter.

"The kid figured it out himself," Bryant said. "He's a kid, man. He actually sent me a great message [Friday], which is really funny. I looked at it [the message], and it was like, 'This is when you know it's about time to hang these things up, when your teammate writes you, Hi, Mr. Bryant.'

"I was like, 'What the f---?' But it was really nice and apologetic about what had happened. I said, 'Dude, listen. We've all said things and done things that we regret and wish we could take back. It's water under the bridge, man. Welcome to the team.' He writes back, 'Thank you, sir.'"

Nance's tweet, which was deleted within minutes of his selection by the Lakers with the 27th overall pick Thursday, read: "Gee I sure hope Kobe can keep his hands to himself in Denver this time." It also included the hashtag "#rapist."

Later Thursday night, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said the team had spoken to the former Wyoming forward about the tweet and that it was something Nance and Bryant needed to talk about between themselves.


(Read full post)


video

D'Angelo Russell let SportsCenter join him for the ride on draft day, when he went No. 2 overall to the Lakers.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Kobe Bryant
PTS AST STL MIN
22.3 5.6 1.3 34.5
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 7.9
AssistsK. Bryant 5.6
StealsR. Price 1.6
BlocksE. Davis 1.2