Jeanie Buss Calls out Free Agents Afraid of Kobe Bryant: ‘Losers’

From the not-so-magnanimous media coverage to his much-ballyhooed return from injury, Kobe Bryant has lately found himself under a microscope of nearly unprecedented intensity—and that’s saying something.

Scorching spotlight though it may be, Bryant has at least one stalwart in his corner (via Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post):

Jeannie Buss, for those who don’t know, is the daughter of longtime Lakers owner Jerry Buss, who passed away in February 2013. After the elder Buss’ death, control of the Lakers was essentially divvied up between Jeanie Buss and her brother, Jim.

Since then, speculation has abounded over the two’s relationship, which Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding (writing then for the Orange County Register) reported as far back as 2013 had been severely strained following the awkward Phil Jackson non-hire.

If anything is going to compel the two to circle the family wagons, it’s a full-frontal attack on their franchise’s biggest, most lucrative star. Not to mention the insidious implication that the Lakers are somehow about anything other than winning.

On Monday, ESPN The Magazine published a piece by Henry Abbott that took a not-so-flattering look at Kobe Bryant’s role in the demise of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Key to Abbott’s thesis was the notion that future free agents might be dissuaded from signing with the Lakers due to Bryant’s hypercompetitive, hypercritical personality. In fact, Abbott—quoting an anonymous source—suggests this was likely a motivating factor behind Dwight Howard’s tumultuous departure following the 2012-13 season.

Coming off the team’s worst season in nearly six decades, the Lakers are a team at a crossroads: Do they try and use the upcoming free-agent classes to build around Bryant one last time? Or do they hold off on a rebuild until their ailing legend—injuries to Achilles and knee barely in the rearview mirror—limps languidly into the sunset?

As Bleacher Report’s Grant Hughes recently wrote, the looming narratives are nothing if not compelling:

Bryant is the same man—evolved. To use a baseball analogy, he’s pitching instead of throwing these days, replacing physical skill with tactical smarts.

We’ve seen the unstoppable drives, the one-dribble pull-ups, the relentless transition attacks. But we haven’t seen the measured (though still aggressive) post technician. We haven’t seen the guy who might operate almost exclusively as a draw-and-kick facilitator on the block.

When a superstar fundamentally changes his game in an effort to stay on top, well…it’s fascinating.

Even if reports of Bryant’s difficult demeanor are true, that shouldn’t dissuade the Lakers from continuing to pursue free-agent gold; they should be selling the history and legacy of the franchise itself, not its fading face.

Rest assured, the Lakers have no intention of resting on their playoff-less laurels. Not with Kevin Durant, Rajon Rondo and LeBron James all slated to hit the open market within the next two years.

Many will read Buss’s barb as a veiled shot at Howard. Others might see swipes at James or Carmelo Anthony, both of whom bypassed the Lakers en route to richer paydays.

Whoever the target or whatever the intended tone, Jeannie Buss’s harsh words should be seen first and foremost in familial terms—the angered but earnest attempt to protect one’s own from the cruel caustics of the outside world.

Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com

View full post on Bleacher Report – NBA

Lakers News: Latest Updates on Kobe Bryant, Xavier Henry and More

The 2014 NBA preseason is quickly coming to a close, and it looks like the Los Angeles Lakers will still be working out quite a few kinks well into the regular season, which begins for the Purple and Gold on Oct. 28 against the Houston Rockets.

Head coach Byron Scott has preached defense all summer long, but the Lakers have put in some shambolic performances on that end of the court during exhibition play. 

Scott hasn’t had much of a chance to put together his optimal lineups due to a litany of injuries and some strategic handling of his aging stars, not to mention an excess of players looking to latch onto this historic organization.

With all eyes set on the regular season, the Lakers’ health and roster shape are the focus of this latest news roundup.

 

Kobe Bryant Sits Out Final Exhibition Games

According to ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Jovan Buha, Scott has elected to sit Bryant for the Lakers’ remaining preseason games.

“I just think he needs some rest,” Scott said on Wednesday, via Buha. “I think he’s shown me enough. I think we’re all pretty happy with where he is.

Sure enough, Bryant was on the bench for the Lakers’ 94-86 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night. In six preseason games, Bryant has averaged 19.0 points, 4.0 assists and 3.0 rebounds in 26.7 minutes per contest.

The Lakers have just one more preseason game left in 2014, an Oct. 24 matchup against the Sacramento Kings.

Fans were treated to some vintage play from Bryant in the Lakers’ 114-108 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday. The Black Mamba poured in 27 points and shot 50 percent from the field. His fadeaway jumper looked sublime and was his go-to move in one-on-one situations.

Bryant’s health is essential to the Lakers’ chances of success this season. His scoring abilities are hardly in doubt, but putting in the hard work on defense every night will take a lot out of him.

Basketball Insiders’ Alex Kennedy noted that general managers around the league still consider Bryant one of the toughest players around:

That doesn’t necessarily mean they still fear his defensive prowess, but it does speak to his importance to the Lakers from both a performance and perception standpoint.

The team will almost certainly be counting on their talismanic guard to work for more than 26 minutes a night, making any early rest that much more important. Scott is wise not to take any further chances with his superstar. Bryant doesn’t have anything left to prove in the preseason.

 

Xavier Henry Seeks Treatment for Knee Injury

One player whom Scott would really like to have back in a defensive stance is small forward Xavier Henry. Unfortunately, he’s been unable to suit up for the Lakers as he recovers from a knee injury suffered in December 2013.

In an effort to return to the hardwood as soon as possible, Henry is seeking out some advanced treatment. ESPN.com’s Baxter Holmes has the story:

In the coming days, the 23-year-old will travel to New York City to see Dr. Keith Pyne for a second opinion. Then Henry will travel to Dusseldorf, Germany, to receive Regenokine treatment from Dr. Jens Hartmann.

Kobe Bryant has had similar Regonkine treatments several times in his career. The noninvasive procedure involves blood being removed from his knee and spun in a centrifuge before doctors create a serum that is then injected back in the knee to fight off proteins and molecules that cause inflammation.

Henry’s absence from play might have been lost in the shuffle considering how many other Lakers have dealt with injuries this offseason. ESPN Los Angeles’ Arash Markazi noted the Lakers had seven players out for their Oct. 21 contest against the Utah Jazz:

Henry’s wingspan, hustle and athleticism make him a valuable asset on defense. It’s certainly disconcerting that an entire offseason of rehab hasn’t resulted in a healthy Henry. Guard Nick Young is recovering from a torn thumb ligament, which means the Lakers could be relying heavily on Wesley Johnson out on the wing to start the season.

Henry played in just 43 games last season because of this knee injury. It’s a long absence from competitive basketball, which could severely limit his effectiveness when he does return to the lineup.

 

Lakers Waive Two Players

If the regular season weren’t right around the corner, one would think the Lakers couldn’t afford to trim players from the roster with so many sitting courtside in street clothes and spending more time on the trainer’s table than on the hardwood.

Alas, cuts have to be made as teams excise the expendables in preparation for the games that count. On Tuesday general manager Mitch Kupchak waived two fringe players, point guard Keith Appling and center Jeremy Tyler, according to a report from NBA.com.

Neither player had much of a chance at securing a spot on the regular-season roster. 

The Lakers already have a deep reserve of frontcourt players, especially at center. Jordan Hill looks set to start at that position, with Robert Sacre and Ed Davis rotating in at the 5-spot. In fact, Scott recently stated that Davis will be playing center and center only to start the season, per Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times. This left no need for Tyler on the roster.

Appling, a point guard, suffered a shoulder injury in the Lakers’ second preseason game and hardly played, per Pincus. The Lakers already have floor generals in Jeremy Lin, Steve Nash and rookie Jordan Clarkson.

Should Nash struggle with injuries this season, Appling could be one of the first names Kupchak looks up in his Rolodex due to his (admittedly brief) time spent with the team this fall.

These cuts leave the likes of Ronnie Price, Roscoe Smith, Jabari Brown and Wayne Ellington to fight for the final spots on the roster.

Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com

View full post on Bleacher Report – NBA

Exposing Kobe Bryant Exposes the “Winner” Myth

ESPN’s Henry Abbott wrote a scathing piece on Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, attributing the royal franchise’s barren free agency exploits of last summer and repeated inability to acquire big name talent to the icon’s alpha-male presence.
The piece read like a barely authorized glimpse into the NBA’s underworld, a piecemeal compilation of backroom meetings and firsthand accounts. The anonymous sources in Abbott’s article threw shots at the 5 time champion with the same calculated venom he’d use to ice a 17-footer with three seconds left.
After a tumultuous NBA adolescence, Kobe had nursed a renewed, almost regal reputation in the last few years. After the Kobe-Shaquille O’Neal era went up in dust with Shaq’s exodus to the Miami Heat, Bryant went on to two more NBA titles. He was the old pro, taking on all new challengers. He was the last remnant of bygone basketball. He was the closest thing to Michael Jordan’s iron-willed do…

View full post on Yardbarker: NBA

Julius Randle’s Development Poses Final Leadership Test for Kobe Bryant

LOS ANGELES — His basketball legend already written in stone, Kobe Bryant‘s virtue as a man again has found itself bandied about the digital arena today the very same way as in newspapers, radio and TV 10-to-15 years prior.   

Meanwhile, Bryant spends his time working out with Wesley Johnson, teaching Nick Young how to watch film and offers secret tips to Jeremy Lin, so maybe Kobe isn’t the troll scaring away potential teammates some media reports suggest.   

In reality, Bryant is only doing what he has done for quite some time. He wants to win, and he’s doing what he has learned from Phil Jackson about pushing buttons as soft or hard as might help guys grow immediately and give him and the Lakers a better chance.

Now comes Julius Randle, 19. He is here to build his own legacy, but how he does it will very much be a reflection on Bryant. Either he will support what Bryant forged with Pau Gasol or reinforce that Bryant sparred with Shaquille O’Neal and failed to connect with Dwight Howard.

The big relationships are the make or break.

Bryant became an NBA champion in the post-Shaq era by giving his personal shooting program to Trevor Ariza (“I used it like it was the Bible,” Ariza said), mentoring Sasha Vujacic on video analysis and defensive focus and befriending and mentoring Shannon Brown.

But it was Bryant’s deep, effectual understanding with Gasol that marked that group.

And what makes a team go or stop is whether its stars are aligned or cross.

A fair interpretation was put forth in Henry Abbott’s recent ESPN article about some top players, as in the case of Howard, not being excited about the idea of joining Bryant with the Lakers. There lies a fundamental risk for any star joining the Lakers of losing his precious status of “the man” because of two factors: Bryant’s control freak tendency limits your opportunities—or you are exposed at not being up to his level of commitment and excellence.

(The thrust of the article blaming Bryant for the demise of the Lakers is way out of scale, however, and the recaps of Ramon Sessions leaving and Paul George not coming are flat-out wrong. Sessions had hoped to return to the Lakers but they went and got Steve Nash; George has patterned his career after Bryant and reveres him.)

 

The Lakers need Randle to be such a player that his personality has to be considered in the makeup of the team. Even if that ascent doesn’t fully happen alongside Bryant, it still qualifies as torch passing if Randle shows right now that he’s going for great, not good.

And if Randle shows right now that he is truly a Kobe guy, then this can become a real bridge to the Lakers’ future.

As it is with any relationship, there has to be a match.

Bryant made headlines by loudly and profanely suggesting late Sunday night that Randle would be a fool if he failed to take advantage of mentors such as himself, his own once-upon-a-time rookie mentor Byron Scott, future Hall of Famer Steve Nash and a proven veteran at Randle’s power-forward position in Carlos Boozer.

“If you f— this up,” a laughing Bryant told reporters about Randle, “you’re a really big idiot.”

As eye-catching as Bryant’s words were, the more important ones were spoken by Randle just minutes before in another corner of the Lakers’ locker room at Staples Center. Randle reflected on the advice Bryant has offered him privately—and you can decide how closely Randle was listening.

“It’s up for me to mess it up,” Randle said, keeping it PG. “Kob said, ‘You can’t mess it up—unless you want to.’ Intentionally, I can mess things up. Having a coach like Byron, learning from greats like Kob, Booz, Nash, all those guys—on top of that, playing for the Laker organization, which has had much success in the past and knows how to deal with it and knows how to prepare for it—I’m in the perfect situation.”

And speaking specifically about Bryant’s example, Randle said: “The only answer to why he’s so advanced is he’s put in the work. He’s unbelievable.”

Randle grew up in the Dallas area being a Kobe fan more than a Lakers fan. (Even when Randle posted a throwback photo of himself to Instagram with the caption: “Oh y’all didn’t know I grew up a LAKER fan?” the boyish Randle was actually wearing his white jersey backward—showcasing the No. 8 and “BRYANT”—and you know what they say about playing for the name on the front of the jersey, not the back.)

Randle is most definitely on board with Bryant now, including on one fundamental principle. Bryant once shared the same suggestion with a raw Blake Griffin: If you can shoot, you should shoot.

The upshot is simple. The sooner a guy who can get to the basket with ease establishes his counterpunch, the sooner he graduates to unstoppable.

The truth is that Randle is not a polished post player, no matter how much he filled that role at Kentucky because the Wildcats offense worked best with Randle drawing multiple defenders.

Kentucky put a damper on Randle’s face-up game and nice jumper, and he has been trying to get back to that this preseason. That stuff is what blew the Lakers away in Randle’s predraft individual workout—the quickness, finesse and shooting to go with the power.

So when a switch results in 6’6″ Jazz guard Carrick Felix guarding the 6’9″ Randle on Sunday night and Randle drives into a tough leaner that misses, every Lakers assistant coach gestures to Randle with a just-shoot-it motion. Randle does a minute later, stepping confidently into an 18-footer.

After that, Randle puts the stutter-step fake drive on Jazz center Enes Kanter, shuffles slightly to his right and sinks the jumper from the right elbow, Bryant can be seen sneering on the Lakers’ bench at just how nasty that is. Unstoppable, even.

So, hurry up and have Randle learn all this and join Bryant on the starting unit, right? The inverted possibilities of Bryant’s post play and Randle’s first step could be fascinating together.

Well, Lakers coaches have already seen how Randle, even when his motor is revved up, defers to Bryant and dumps the ball to him or just wants to set screens for his idol when they play together. There’s also the thorny issue of Boozer’s pride in remaining a member of the starting lineup.

When the day comes that Randle’s development might need a jump-start, perhaps starting him will be considered. Kupchak made it plain just before camp, however, what it should feel like when a kid first joins the team:

“It doesn’t do any good,” Kupchak said, “to have high expectations of a player like that.”

Fair enough, yet Randle is clearly not out of his league right now. And what will he be in, say, one month, when he turns 20?

When Bryant was 20, in his third NBA season but without the physique Randle possesses, Bryant started every game for the Lakers and averaged 19.9 points on 46.5 percent shooting.

Is it possible that Randle’s mom really means it when she says her son is mature beyond his years—and perhaps he is more prepared to excel at his first job than even the Lakers brass thinks?

“I know what I can do,” Randle said.

Randle has been readying for this life longer than you know.

He was in fifth grade when he joined a select team in Dallas with elite private coaching and training—funded by a billionaire dad, Kenny Troutt, who had the kids staying at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas for a tournament, according to the Dallas Morning News. They even took road trips on the Mavericks‘ and Spurs‘ team planes.

Bryant’s unshakable belief in himself and his destiny that isn’t for everyone? Randle gets it, he really does.

The sooner Randle can prove that he gets it, the sooner the stories about the Lakers move forward instead of back.

 

Kevin Ding is an NBA senior writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @KevinDing.

Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com

View full post on Bleacher Report – NBA

Kobe Bryant on ESPN article: ‘I just kind of roll with it’

Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant said Tuesday that he understands the media cycle and knows when to react to criticism and when to let it go. Bryant responded to the ESPN The Magazine, which suggested Bryant was to blame for the Lakers recent struggles, with a diplomatic answer. “It’s not the first one and it won’t be the last one,” Bryant said, via ESPN.com. “One thing I’ve come to understand over the years is that you’ll have a bad story that comes out on a Monday and it seems like it’s the end of the world and it seems like everybody’s taking shots at you. But time goes by and then you look back on it and it was just a Monday. “Then you have another great story that comes out maybe a month later, or something like that, and it’s a fantastic story. And then there’s a bad story that comes out one month after that. So you understand that it’s a cycle, and things are never as good or as bad as they seem in the moment in time.” “Stay focused on the bigger picture and things

View full post on Yardbarker: NBA

Skip Bayless Says Being Accused of Sexual Assault Helped Kobe Bryant Sell Shoes

According to Skip Bayless, Kobe Bryant wasn’t an in-demand athlete for sports merchandisers before being accused of a serious crime.

ESPN’s most dogged Pez dispenser of unconventional wisdom went on a First Take tangent Monday claiming that Bryant developed an “edge” and “sizzle” after being accused of sexual assault by a 19-year-old hotel employee in 2003. 

AwfulAnnouncing’s Matt Yoder spotted video of the segment. Bayless’ commentary came on the heels of a discussion involving Dallas Cowboys running back Joseph Randle and the endorsement deal he received following his recent shoplifting arrest.

Bayless told co-hosts Stephen A. Smith and Cari Champion that Randle’s new underwear deal is much like Bryant’s shoe deal in the aftermath of the Lakers superstar’s sexual assault allegations. He claimed shoe companies in 2003 believed Bryant, then a three-time NBA champion, didn’t have a bad boy persona and therefore wasn’t a hot commodity until the Colorado allegations.

“Remember Kobe, pre-Eagle, Colorado?” Bayless asked. “He failed in his first sneaker deal because he was just too clean-cut. …He couldn’t sell sneakers because he didn’t have enough edge. Then post-Eagle, Colorado, he became…you know, it brought a little attention to him. …It gave him a little bit of…sizzle.”

These are the faces of two people wishing desperately to dissolve into the fabric of their chair backs. 

Let’s put aside for a moment that Bayless tied a line between sexual assault allegations and toiletry theft. We’ll also move past the fact that “clean-cut” Bryant was getting in fistfights in the NBA in 2000. 

We’ll move to the crux of Bayless’ obscured point, which is that some athletes can break the law and ostensibly benefit from it. This is true, although typically an exception to the rule. 

What Bayless may not realize is that Randle’s situation is a rare product of opportunistic guerilla marketing. Bryant, on the other hand, ended up having sponsorship deals fade into oblivion after his sexual assault allegations arose. The Black Mamba eventually sold shoes in spite of past accusations, not because of them. 

To his credit, Bayless does not endorse stealing in the name of self-promotion.

Bayless’ remarks come in a year where ESPN analysts continue to be hit with suspensions for controversial comments.

His First Take colleague Stephen A. Smith found himself on a forced week-long hiatus in July after relaying some inflammatory advice to women in the aftermath of the Ray Rice domestic abuse case.

The “World Wide Leader in Sports” followed this with a three-week suspension of Bill Simmons in September after the Grantland.com founder went on an expletive-filled tirade during a podcast discussion of Roger Goodell’s bungling of the Rice case.

 

Follow Dan on Twitter for more sports and pop culture news.

 

Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com

View full post on Bleacher Report – NBA

Watch: Alec Burks crosses up Kobe Bryant

TweetUtah Jazz guard Alec Burks is a talented young guard with a bright future ahead of him. But what he did Sunday night to Kobe Bryant was downright vicious.
Watch as Burks mixes Kobe on the wing and finishes in the lane:
.embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; height: auto; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; }

That was just mean. Didn’t anyone ever teach Burks to respect his elders?
Kobe may very well defy Father Time on the offensive side of the court, but defensively age may be getting the better of the Black Mamba.
-ALR

View full post on Yardbarker: NBA

Paul George blasts media over Kobe Bryant report

Paul George put the media on blast over a report saying he’s one of many free agents who was deterred by the Lakers because of Kobe Bryant. In a story for ESPN the Magazine published Monday, Henry Abbott explored the topic of how many key free agents were disinterested in the Lakers because of Kobe….Read More

View full post on Yardbarker: NBA

Kobe Bryant to Julius Randle: Don’t Be an Idiot and Mess Up This Opportunity

Los Angeles Lakers rookie Julius Randle was the No. 7 overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft. He is in a good spot to succeed, so if he messes up, it’s on him. That’s how Kobe Bryant sees things.

With Bryant, Steve Nash and Carlos Boozer on the Lakers roster, Randle will have plenty of veterans around him. Not only does he have veteran teammates he can talk to for advice, he also has a lot of talent. That combination means that he should be able to succeed in the NBA.

Bryant—with some expletives—made sure that Randle knew that he can’t mess this opportunity up. The statements come not too long after Lakers coach Byron Scott benched Randle in the second half of Thursday’s preseason game. Randle had developed blisters on his heels, but the coach also said that the forward wasn’t playing hard enough.

Before the Black Mamba talked to the media about Randle, he had already had the talk with his rookie teammate. At least everyone is on the same page here.

Playing in the NBA is something the 19-year-old has worked his entire life for, so now that the opportunity is here, Randle needs to take advantage of it.

[Lakers Nation, h/t USA TODAY's FTW]

Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com

View full post on Bleacher Report – NBA

Bryant scores 26, Lakers rally past Jazz 98-91

Kobe Bryant scores 26 points, Lakers use big 3rd-quarter surge to rally past Jazz 98-91

      
 

 

View full post on USATODAY – NBA Top Stories

Next Page »