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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Phoenix survives Lakers in overtime (Yahoo Sports)

ANAHEIM, CA - OCTOBER 21: Ronnie Price #9 of the Los Angeles Lakers loses control of the ball while defended by Isaiah Thomas #3 of the Phoenix Suns in overtime at Honda Center on October 21, 2014 in Anaheim, California. The Suns defeated the Lakers in overtime 114-108. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Isaiah Thomas scored 26 points including the buzzer-beater at the end of regulation and Gerald Green made 10 of his 21 points in overtime as the Suns topped the Lakers 114-108 in Tuesday’s preseason game.


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Los Angeles Lakers’ Biggest Red Flags Entering This Season

A new season brings increased expectations and the promise of a fresh start for many NBA teams. For the Los Angeles Lakers, however, hope is being tempered by red flags.

Unable to entice any major free agents over the offseason, management has once again surrounded 36-year-old Kobe Bryant with a ragtag army of walking wounded, chronic underperformers, castoffs and untested rookies.

That’s not to say there isn’t any potential, or that the roster is utterly lacking in talent. It is to say, however, that the path forward is cluttered with waving symbols of doom and gloom.

 

Injuries

The No. 1 red flag is injuries and has been for years. At the end of the 2012-13 season, trainer Gary Vitti said, per the team’s website: “It wasn’t a tough year, it was a tough 10 years in one.”

Last April, during an interview with Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times, Vitti said: “I didn’t think it was going to get any worse than that. And then we had this year, which was worse.”

Here we are six months later, and the injury bug has already reared its ugly head.

Here’s the rundown: Nick Young tore the radial collateral ligament in his right thumb the first week of training camp, and that injury necessitated surgery. He is expected to be out until early December.

Steve Nash is dealing with the same back and nerve issues that have plagued him since arriving in Los Angeles. He’ll turn 41 in February, and his basketball future looks less than bright—it may be nonexistent.

Xavier Henry flew to New York City to get a second opinion on his surgically repaired right knee and will then travel to Germany for Regenokine treatment. The 23-year-old swingman has yet to play more than 50 games during any of his four NBA seasons—injuring his right knee repeatedly and also tearing ankle and wrist ligaments.

Jordan Clarkson strained his right calf, Jeremy Lin tweaked both ankles and Ryan Kelly injured both hamstrings.

Is this cyclical injury pattern some kind of strange curse for the Lakers? Or is it just simply random bad luck? Has new Lakers head coach Byron Scott run some of his players too hard during training camp?

Whatever the reasons, the team simply can’t seem to hop off the carousel of poor health.

As Scott recently said, per Lakers.com:

Every day right now in our coaches meeting, we’re saying, ‘OK, who are we going to have today? Who’s going to be able to practice?’ So we’re trying to figure out combinations just to have 10 guys on the floor to be able to go through things on both ends of the floor. So yeah, it does affect the game planning. It affects your practice, because you want to have those guys out here. It messes up a lot of things.

It’s not optimal for training camp, and if the situation doesn’t improve soon, it won’t be a good way to kick off the regular season.

 

Aging veterans

Injuries can go hand in hand with age. Bryant played only six games last season after fracturing his knee—that coming on the heels of a ruptured Achilles tendon. So far during the preseason, he has looked healthy, leading the team in scoring at 19 points per game.

His age is a concern given that so much rides on his ability to deliver wins. But, as Drew Garrison for Silver Screen and Roll recently wrote: “Kobe regressing with age isn‘t his fault, and isn‘t the leading reason why the Lakers are where they are today.”

The failure of Nash to deliver on what he was signed to do also isn’t his fault. Time and injuries have simply caught up. The oldest active player in the league isn’t able to be particularly active at the moment. That could still change for some number of games, but how many? Nobody can predict.

Carlos Boozer was claimed off amnesty waivers this summer and at age 32, he is starting down the slippery slope of decline. The veteran power forward averaged the fewest points and rebounds last season since his rookie year.

 

Positional deficiencies

There’s an old spiritual song in which a fragment of the lyrics are as follows: “The knee bone’s connected to the thigh bone, and the thigh bone’s connected to the hip bone, and the hip bone’s connected to the back bone…” and on and on.

Injuries, age and positional deficiencies are also connected, resulting in yet more red flags.

Ronnie Price was signed on the cusp of training camp to add depth to a dangerously thin guard rotation. In short order, Nash, Lin and Clarkson went out, leaving a 31-year-old role player as the last point guard standing. Price has done an admirable job, but a guy with a career average of 3.4 points in 11.7 minutes per game can’t hold down the fort forever.

The small forward position has also been a weak spot, with starter Wesley Johnson staying true to his reputation of being consistently inconsistent. The 27-year-old former No. 4 draft pick has never lived up to his promise, and this preseason is no different—he’ll follow a couple good sequences with careless turnovers or extended periods in which it’s hard to tell he’s even on the floor.

When you add the injuries of Young and Henry to the equation, the hole at the 3 becomes downright gaping.

If there’s one area that seems relatively solid, it’s the frontcourt. Boozer may not be the player he once was, but Jordan Hill, Ed Davis and Robert Sacre have all played well.

And then there’s 19-year-old Julius Randle. The team’s No. 7 draft pick has been receiving tough love from his coach and from Bryant.

The rookie power forward has played with increased confidence as the preseason has progressed, however, and represents at least one example of how youth, strength and versatility can help forge a way through the danger zone.

The rash of red flags cluttering up the Lakers preseason are worrisome. It is not a given that they will define the team’s future, but they serve as warning signs nonetheless.

Can the team thread past them, to caution flags and then green?

The health situation is a mixed bag. Lin played well in his return Tuesday night against the Phoenix Suns with 15 points, five assists and four rebounds. Nash’s season, however, seems increasingly tenuous.

The positional weaknesses are simply what they are, and they are not likely to change unless through fortuitous midseason trades.

Yet, the Lakers are pushing hard as the preseason advances, coming from behind to win against the Utah Jazz and falling in overtime to the Suns.

Bryant’s ragged coalition seems determined to give it a shot, regardless of questions, omens or flags.

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Julius Randle’s Development Should Be Priority No. 1 for Los Angeles Lakers

Julius Randle is the only thing standing between the Los Angeles Lakers and a lost season.

The Lakers are going to make noise this year, but that’ll mainly be because they’re surrounded by more microphones than most NBA teams. The sound will signify little in terms of on-court relevance, though.

You don’t have to agree that L.A. might be the worst team in the league by season’s end, but you must concede that the playoffs feel like a long shot.

This is a stopgap period between eras. Kobe Bryant playing out two more years, short-time vets filling out the roster and Byron Scott running the show with an alarmingly old-school style ill-suited for whatever future the organization has—all signs of the holding pattern.

Because the Lakers are stuck in neutral for the time being, the only thing that should matter is the development of young players who might still be around two years from now, when they shift into drive.

That’s a short list. Randle is the only one on it.

Perplexing then, isn’t it, that Carlos Boozer is on the roster. At 6’9″ and 250 pounds, Randle is suited only for the power forward spot at this stage in his career. He’s not quick or athletic enough to guard wings, and until he flashes a reliable jumper, he must play to his strengths as an interior scorer on offense.

Yet Boozer has started ahead of Randle in every Lakers preseason game, logging 116 minutes to Randle’s 95 through five contests. This is difficult to comprehend.

Regularly pilloried for his defensive failures, Boozer is doing a heck of a job denying Randle the ball.

It takes time—years, really—to develop a prospect. So focusing on the first exhibition season of Randle’s career is shortsighted. But you’d think that if the Lakers were as focused as they should be on grooming him, Randle would be collecting as many minutes as possible in games with no consequences.

Because Randle needs reps.

A flawed but promising player, the 19-year-old Randle should be getting ample time (now, and during the season) to add to his game. Broadly speaking, he doesn’t fit the current power forward model because he can’t shoot from range and does not impact the paint on defense.

Proof: Randle made just three triples in his one season at Kentucky and averaged less than one block per contest. As his game stands now, he’s a little like Kenneth Faried with a better handle and a lower-RPM motor.

That’s not to say he can’t get better in those key areas; it’d be foolish to discount the potential for development in any 19-year-old project. It is to say, however, that Randle needs a chance to make those improvements.

He has to play.

Key figures in the Lakers organization seem aware of Randle’s importance.

Bryant has taken on a larger mentoring role than he has in the past, though the Mamba’s not-so-nurturing track record didn’t set a very high bar. He seems interested in Randle’s growth, though he expresses it in his own special way:

Scott has been rough on the rookie, though it’s an old truism that coaches are hardest on the players they believe they can push furthest:

Besides, the Lakers head coach has offered praise when warranted as well:

And Randle seems to be handling the scrutiny nicely. Either that, or he knows enough to go with the program—pressure-packed as it may be:

The Lakers must hope that attention and the tough-love treatment don’t backfire. It’s going to take years before L.A. knows what it has in Randle. And it’s hard to know whether the Lakers’ unique situation will hasten or hinder his development.

On the one hand, there’s usually value in the ample playing time and consequence-free environment of a lottery-bound team. On the other, it’s not always ideal for a prospect to form his NBA habits and identity in a losing culture.

Say what you will about the Lakers, but they have not outwardly embraced the tank.

That refusal/inability to rebuild conventionally (thanks mostly to Bryant’s contract extension) means there will be distractions aplenty this year. Scott is catching nonstop heat for antiquated offensive ideas:

And Bryant will continue to have his every word, gesture and field-goal attempt picked apart by the media.

In that sense, the Lakers will learn one thing about Randle right away: whether he can focus amid chaos.

The overall aim should be to find out much more about Randle—beyond how he responds to Kobe’s tutelage. Because, harsh as it sounds, Bryant isn’t relevant to the Lakers’ future.

Randle is.

Even though much of the criticism aimed at Bryant, Scott and the rest of the Lakers of late has been fair, it’s missed the mark. Whether pertaining to overall team construction, offensive strategies, contracts hampering progress or anything else, we’ve all been zinging L.A. from the wrong angle.

One question should color the way the Lakers view any criticism: How does it affect Randle?

The Lakers are (perhaps detrimentally) obsessed with their past, and they seem reluctant to accept the realities of the present.

They’d better do everything possible to develop the one guy on the squad who’ll be a part of their future.

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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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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

      
 

 

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Bryant scores 26, Lakers rally past Jazz 98-91 (Yahoo Sports)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kobe Bryant scored 26 points and Carlos Boozer added 19, leading the Los Angeles Lakers to a 98-91 preseason victory over the Utah Jazz on Sunday night.

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Utah Jazz vs. Los Angeles Lakers 10/19/14: Video Highlights and Recap

The Utah Jazz squared off against the Los Angeles Lakers in a preseason matchup Sunday night. 

Kobe and the Lakers find themselves in unfamiliar territory, struggling to remain relevant in the fiercely competitive Western Conference. 

The Jazz won just 25 games a season ago and will need to get in a rhythm to avoid another disastrous campaign this season. 

Watch the video for full highlights.

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Utah Jazz vs. Los Angeles Lakers: Live Score, Highlights and Reaction

Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and the Utah Jazz will get their second preseason meeting with Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers Sunday in L.A.

The Jazz won the first meeting by a final score of 119-86.

 

Tipoff: 9:30 p.m. ET

Coverage: TWC SN/Root Sports

 

Keys to the Game

The Jazz overwhelmed the Lakers with a combination of athleticism and balanced scoring in the first game. Five players reached double figures, and 10 scored at least seven. If they push the pace again, the Lakers defense is likely to look every bit as hapless.

For L.A., this preseason continues to be about how Kobe Bryant looks. He scored 27 in the first meeting against Utah, but it took 23 shots to get there. Age and injuries have clearly taken their toll, so much of this season could be about adjusting for him.

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