Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell has marked his return to the starting lineup with some of the best performances of his rookie season. The No. 2 pick of NBA Draft 2015 is averaging 19.9 points and 5.0 assists while shooting 49.0 percent from three-point range in his last eight games. That stretch includes five 20-point efforts and the first 39-point outing by a Lakers rookie since Elgin Baylor in 1959. Russell leads all rookies with 106 three-pointers and ranks fourth among first-year players in scoring at 13.1 points per game.
Vander Blue of the Los Angeles D-Fenders was today named NBA Development League Performer of the Week for games played Monday, Feb. 15 through Sunday, Feb. 21. The honor is the first of Blue’s career.
Blue (6-4, 200, Marquette) helped Los Angeles to a 3-0 week, averaging 29.7 points (second in the league) on 46.7 percent shooting (28-for-60) to go with 7.0 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.0 steals. He connected on 28-of-31free throw attempts, good for 90.3 percent.
Other top performers considered include Austin’s Keifer Sykes, Erie’s Tyler Harvey, Idaho’s J.J. O’Brien, Iowa’s Andrew Harrison, Maine’s Coty Clarke and Malcolm Miller, Reno’s Ricky Ledo, Rio Grande Valley’s Will Cummings, Texas’ Brandon Ashley and Westchester’s Gani Lawal.
The Lakers (11-44) are getting 11.1 points and a very impressive 10.0 rebounds in 27.3 minutes per game from forward Julius Randle this season. Here’s the Los Angeles Daily News with good news from the head coach’s perspective:
The pouting Julius Randle showed as he went to bench left Lakers coach Byron Scott questioning the 21-year-old’s maturity.
Randle’s inconsistency with his jump shot prompted Scott to express skepticism whether he could fix it before this summer. An injury to Larry Nance Jr. still left Scott in doubt as to whether Randle could reclaim his starting spot.
But lately, Randle has given Scott a different impression.
“He’s been fantastic,” Scott said of Randle. “He’s not going overboard as far as trying to go too fast. He’s picking his moments and he’s rebounded the hell out of the ball.”
In his second NBA season with the Lakers (1999-2000), Lue played in a five-on-five scrimmage that in most circumstances would have suggested Bryant would pull off an endless highlight reel. Lue played on the reserve unit with Devean George, Brian Shaw, Mark Madsen and Slava Medvedenko. Bryant represented the starters that also included Shaquille O’Neal and Derek Fisher.
But as Bryant drove baseline for a layup, Lue recalled cutting from the elbow down toward the paint to block his dunk attempt against the glass. George then made a layup to seal the win. Shaw then teased Bryant for Lue’s scrimmage-defining block.
“He went crazy. Kobe wanted to fight me at first,” said Lue, who is now the Cleveland Cavaliers coach. “He wanted to play one-on-one after practice. He said, ‘We’re going to play one-on-one, me and you.’ I said, ‘No, I’m not playing you one-on-one.’ He was so mad. Then after that, every day we stepped onto the court and he just went after me every single day. It was crazy.”
Russell Westbrook is dominant on the basketball court, and has made a huge move off of it, as reported by the Oklahoman:
How does “Russell Westbrook Court” sound?
On Monday, UCLA announced that Westbrook has a made a “significant financial contribution” to its Mo Ostin Basketball Center project — the largest donation by a former basketball student-athlete in school history.
For his contribution, the university will honor Westbrook, who played two seasons at UCLA, by naming the new men’s basketball practice floor “Russell Westbrook Court.”
“When I heard that I was a little surprised,” Westbrook said Monday via conference call. “I can’t wait until it is all said and done to kind of go in there and shoot and see the court and see my name. It is going to be a great thing to see.”
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is always worth listening to — at least when he’s actually willing to talk and answer a question in straightforward fashion. Here’s the Los Angeles Times reporting Popovich’s views on Lakers great Kobe Bryant’s announcement that he will wrap up his career at season’s end:
Coach Gregg Popovich said he wasn’t surprised when Kobe Bryant announced this would be his final season, though Popovich added that the league will definitely be taking a hit.
“It will be a great personality gone,” Popovich said Friday before the Lakers played the Spurs. “He’s an iconic figure, and when those kind of guys stop playing, the league misses them. You miss them.”
Popovich said Bryant’s consistent intensity was a rarity.
“There aren’t too many people who understand how you bring it, night after night after night, for all those years at that level, and he’s one of the few guys who did that,” Popovich said.
Saturday night in Houston the Rockets (just 11-12 this season) host Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers (an NBA second-worst 3-20). Unless something crazy happens, this will be Kobe Bryant’s final season in the league. Here’s the Houston Chronicle reporting:
“Obviously, we know the game is extra hyped because of Bean,” Rockets guard James Harden said. “We still have to go out and win the game and focus on what we have to do.
“He’s somebody I watched growing up since I was little. This is his 20th year. I’m just 26 years old. He’s been playing a long time. Obviously, you definitely want to win the game. That competitive nature, going against him, no matter how old he is, he still has the competitive nature. He still wants to go out there and compete at a high level. I’ll definitely take advantage of it and cherish it.
“He’s a legend, not just here but every arena you go to on the road, games are sold out, ticket prices are going up to see a legend in his last year.”
The two players represent significant pieces toward the Lakers’ long-term future. But rookie point guard D’Angelo Russell and second-year power forward Julius Randle also represent the pawns in Lakers coach Byron Scott making his first starting lineup switch in hopes to turnaround their 3-17 record.
Both Russell and Randle will come off the bench when the Lakers visit the Toronto Raptors (12-9) on Monday at Air Canada Centre, while 10-year veteran guard Lou Williams and rookie forward Larry Nance Jr. will start in their place.
“Both of them are young, have a long way to go and have a lot of work to do. But this change wasn’t so much based on them not performing up to their capabilities,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said of Randle and Russell. “It’s based on where we are as a team.”
Here’s the Los Angeles Daily News reporting on Lakers forward Metta World Peace and his long-time interest in coaching:
“It started when I first started playing basketball, I went to five star basketball camp back in 1999. It was fun. I coached Danny Green. He was one of my players. I remember him being the best on the team and I remember him sometimes not shooting. I would tell him to shoot. I was like, ‘Shoot the ball. Shoot the ball.’ It was fun. He remembers it too. That was when I was 19 or 20. I was young.
I always wanted to learn the game because I was never athletic. I picked the triangle offense quick in Chicago. I picked it up pretty well under Bill Cartwright. Then in Indiana, I was picking up everything quickly. I was young. But with all the defensive coverages I faced, was picking up everything. I was also giving input, not verbally but by example. Coach Carlisle said something one day I might be able to be a coach. I was 24 when he said that. I was confident when he said that. I have continued to coach. I have a little league team called ‘Triple Threat.’ I train people. Triple Threat was a team that my foundation funded. It was a team that we funded. I would coach them sometimes.” …
“I want to coach one day. I definitely have interest in coaching. But I want people to know I’m staying in tip top shape. Just because I want to coach doesn’t mean I’m retiring. If something opens up, I might apply for the job. It doesn’t mean I’m not staying in tip top shape. I’m not a player where I want to coach because I’m done playing basketball. I love playing basketball. I’m preparing for both.”
Unless something unexpected happens, Kobe Bryant is retiring from basketball at the end of this season. He spoke about it in a press conference before tonight’s Lakers game in Philadelphia. Here’s the Orange County Register reporting:
When Kobe Bryant discusses his plans for post-retirement, basketball is rarely among them. Earlier this season he joked that he is uninterested in coaching because he doesn’t “feel like dealing with divas.”
But how about a different role?
Before his final game in his native Philadelphia, Bryant told reporters at Wells Fargo Center that it would be “an honor” to remain involved with the Lakers organization in some capacity.
“Me and the Buss family, we grew up together,” Bryant said, via a video stream of his press conference. “(Part-owners and top executives) Jeanie and Jimmy, they’ve known me since I was a kid. It would be an honor to help them with their transition to get them back to the top.”
In a subsequent interview on Time Warner Cable SportsNet, Jeanie Buss said, “I think Kobe can do anything. If that’s something that interests then absolutely I would talk to him about it.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver issued the following statement regarding Kobe Bryant’s announcement today that this will be his final season in the NBA:
“With 17 NBA All-Star selections, an NBA MVP, five NBA championships with the Lakers, two Olympic gold medals and a relentless work ethic, Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest players in the history of our game. Whether competing in the Finals or hoisting jump shots after midnight in an empty gym, Kobe has an unconditional love for the game.
“I join Kobe’s millions of fans around the world in congratulating him on an outstanding NBA career and thank him for so many thrilling memories.”
Here’s the Los Angeles Daily News reporting on the not-so-existent relationship between Lakers center Roy Hibbert and his former team, the Indiana Pacers:
Roy Hibbert’s past and present will collide on Sunday when the Lakers host the Pacers. He maintained he has “great memories” of his seven-year NBA career in Indiana. But his last season ended on a sour note amid a reduced role to accommodate a quicker and smaller lineup. The Pacers then traded Hibbert to the Lakers last summer for a second-round draft pick.
“I’m going to feel something,” said Hibbert, who will become a free agent next summer after making $15.5 million this season. “But I have to move on and try to get a win.”
Hibbert insisted he has no hard feelings, but admitted he has not kept in touch with anyone associated with the Pacers.
“I haven’t talked to them in a while,” Hibbert said. “I haven’t watched any of their games. No offense, but I don’t think many of them are on TV.”
The Lakers are struggling badly this season, as is the legendary Kobe Bryant. And each shot that Kobe takes is a shot that young players who represent the future of the franchise are not taking. But fans want to see Kobe, especially since this may be his final season. As for Kobe’s minutes, here’s the Los Angeles Daily News blog reporting:
Well before Kobe Bryant stepped on the court in his 20th and likely last NBA season, it appeared obvious the Lakers’ slate of 18 back-to-back games would represent a major factor in his workload.
But Lakers coach Byron Scott conceded uncertainty how will handle Bryant’s playing time when the Lakers (2-12) play the Portland Trail Blazers (6-10) on Saturday at Moda Center before hosting the Indiana Pacers (9-5) on Sunday at Staples Center.
“Tomorrow we’ll play him,” Scott said following Friday’s practice at the Lakers’ facility in El Segundo. “Then we’ll see how he looks for Sunday.”
Scott’s approach with Bryant changed through the Lakers’ first set of back-to-backs. Bryant wanted to play as many games as possible considering his admission this will likely mark his last NBA season. But Bryant missed games two weeks ago in Miami and Orlando because of back soreness. Last week, Scott played Bryant 36 minutes in a win over Detroit before deciding to sit him the next night in Phoenix.
Here’s ESPN.com reporting on Kobe Bryant, who may be playing his final season in the league and unleashed a brutal brickfest yesterday against the Golden State Warriors:
A thin line separates confidence and delusion, and Kobe Bryant is straddling it. It’s the only objective conclusion one could reach after judging the Los Angeles Lakers star’s comments Tuesday after he tied the worst shooting performance of his career in any game in which he attempted at least five shots.
In a humiliating 111-77 loss to the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena, Bryant shot 1-of-14 from the field, including 1-of-7 from 3-point range, and scored 4 points. He also shot 1-of-14 in a loss last season to the San Antonio Spurs.
Bryant is the first player this season with 4 or fewer points on 14 or more field goal attempts.
Many of his shots hit the front of the rim. Some 3-point attempts were air-balls. He blew one layup that should have been a dunk — and probably would have been years ago, before all his injuries. And one shot, perhaps the cruelest of all, became lodged where the rim and backboard meet. An opposing player had to help pry it loose.
The Los Angeles Lakers are 2-10 so far in what may turn out to be the final NBA season of Kobe Bryant’s career. And Kobe is struggling along with the entire team, scoring a team-high 16.1 ppg but on miserable 34.0% shooting. Here’s the Los Angeles Daily News blog reporting:
The concern made Kobe Bryant roll his eyes.
The Lakers’ 37-year-old star posted only 10 points on 5-of-13 shooting, five assists and four rebounds in the Lakers’ 102-91 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Friday at Staples Center. But the most glaring number involved his 37 minutes.
It marked the second consecutive game he played above last year’s season’s average of 34.5 minutes. It marked the second consecutive season Bryant became shrouded in controversy surrounding the minutes he played. So after lasting only 35 games last season before needing season-ending right shoulder surgery, what implications could Bryant’s heavier workload bring to his 37-year-old body?
“That’s the silliest question of the night,” Bryant said. “This is literally my second game where I played 35 minutes or more, so it’s premature to ask about it.”
This is probably Kobe Bryant’s final season in the NBA, and if so, every chance to see him play is special. But according to the Los Angeles Daily News blog, fans won’t see him in action tonight vs. the Magic:
Kobe Bryant will sit out when the Lakers (1-5) play the Orlando Magic (3-5) on Wednesday at Amway Center because of back soreness. This marks the second game in consecutive games the Lakers’ 37-year-old star will miss after reporting his back tightening up.
Bryant said on Tuesday night that he hurt his back during training camp through normal “wear and tear” of a 20-year NBA career. But he reported minimal issues up until Tuesday.
Here’s ESPN.com with the latest on Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, who may be playing his final season in the league:
Los Angeles Lakers coach Byron Scott and Kobe Bryant recently sat down to discuss how they will approach back-to-back games this season — if Bryant will play in some, rest in others, etc. But Bryant, in his 20th season, made it known he doesn’t want to miss any games.
“Coach, this might be my last year, so, if possible, I would like to try to play every game,” the 37-year-old Bryant said, according to Scott.
Initially, Scott said he was on board with the plan. But now, entering the Lakers’ first of 17 back-to-back sets this season — the Lakers play in Miami on Tuesday and then in Orlando on Wednesday — Scott appears to be having some second thoughts.
The Boston Celtics announced today that they have assigned forward Jordan Mickey and guard/forward James Young to the Maine Red Claws of the NBA Development League.
Mickey, a 6’8” forward, played in seven preseason contests with the Celtics this year and averaged 5.7 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 9.8 minutes per game. He was selected with the 33rd overall pick by the Celtics in the 2015 NBA Draft and in two regular season appearances with the team has recorded a total of five points, three rebounds, one assist and one block in five minutes of action.
Young, who is in his second NBA season, appeared in seven preseason matchups for the Celtics this year and averaged 4.4 points and 1.4 rebounds in 13.7 minutes per game over that span. He played in 17 contests for the Red Claws last season and averaged 21.5 points, including shooting 44.2 percent from beyond the arc, 4.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.5 steals in 32.9 minutes per game.