Kobe Bryant’s problem is that he’s old and the Lakers are bad

Kobe Bryant is still the same guy, good or bad, it’s the Lakers who have changed.

      
 

 

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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.

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Phil Jackson backs Flea for slamming ESPN The Mag’s controversial Kobe story

It’s almost fitting that a man who goes by the moniker “Zen Master” would share like-minded viewpoints on certain issues with a guy known as Flea. Still, it nevertheless is somewhat surprising that Phil Jackson took to Twitter to publicly support the Red Hot Chili Pepper bassist’s brief but scathing critique of Henry Abbott’s damning…Read More
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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

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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.

 

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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:
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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

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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

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Report: Kobe has prevented Lakers from signing top talent

For the second consecutive season, the Los Angeles Lakers aren’t expected to do much this year as they find themselves in a rebuilding phase. ESPN The Magazine’s Henry Abbott put the blame for the Lakers’ recent misfortunes on the star largely responsible for their success in the 2000s — Kobe Bryant. Abbott says the Lakers’ lack of big name free agent acquisitions and Dwight Howard’s departure last summer is a result of how difficult it is to play and deal with Kobe and Abbot has plenty of sources to back it up, from agents to former teammates. One particular highlight was when in the 2012-13 season, Howard asked his Lakers teammates why they let all the blame for the season’s woes be placed on him. Kobe responded by giving a lecture about developing thick skin and learning how to win, which according to ESPN’s Chris Broussard, was “a complete turnoff” for the big man. Abbott also talks about one agent with NBA clients who says, “I’ve had a lot of clients in the last five years, good p

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How many superstars has Kobe cost the Lakers?

Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest NBA players to ever live, but he also has a reputation for being a tough teammate. Kobe holds everyone he plays with accountable, sometimes to a fault. Has that attitude resulted in the Lakers missing out on a number of superstars that could have helped them win over…Read More

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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]

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