Archive for the 'Off-Season' Category

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Summer League Gallery: Vegas

Lakers.com spent four days in Las Vegas for the NBA Summer League, enough time to catch L.A.’s draft picks from the past two seasons with some extra credit along the way:

Lakers.com manager of new media Ty Nowell starts the trip by checking his camera at LAX so we can shoot video in Vegas. Nonetheless, I complain about the extra time we’ll have to wait at baggage claim upon landing.

This airport tray for laptops and personal belongings at the security line featured a french bulldog that is apparently owned by Mark Cuban. This is more meaningful because Ty made my own french bulldog into a desktop background (see below) with the Lakers 2011-12 schedule.

Lyla is a pretty big Lakers fan; she always likes to hear the voices of Bill Macdonald and Stu Lantz on the TV.

With Darius Morris warming up in the foreground for L.A.’s first game, GM Mitch Kupchak chats with his former boss Jerry West, who is sitting next to his son, Ryan (a scout for Kupchak). One of the best things about summer league, for reporters at least, is the easy and immediate access to front office executives.

The fountain show at the Bellagio is always aesthetically pleasing, and for many recalls the famous Oceans 11 scene. L.A.’s summer league crew wasn’t feeling similarly euphoric, however, after being blown out 91-50 in the opener by a talented Golden State squad.

The Lakers played better basketball in their second game, an 84-72 loss to Sacramento during which we focused on No. 55 pick Darius Johnson-Odom and his potential to help the senior squad on defense. While finished the story, we enlisted the help of a buddy to find the best burger/shakes place in Vegas, and he recommended Holstein’s at the Cosmopolitan. As you can see from Ty’s “Campfire Smores” shake (a warm up to “The Longhorn” burger [Beef Patty Topped With Texas Smoked Beef Brisket, Whiskey BBQ Sauce, Creamy Cole Slaw & Dill Pickle]), it was awesome.

The obvious highlight of the trip. No explanation necessary.

The hotel at which the Lakers stay in Vegas is close to the corner of Koval Lane and Flamingo Road, a.k.a. where 2pac was shot and killed in 1996. It’s still sobering driving by, just like it is driving through Wilshire and Fairfax in Los Angeles, where Biggie Smalls was shot. Of course, both rappers remain in heavy rotation in NBA locker rooms.

L.A. suffered another blow out loss in their third contest, falling 106-56 in a disjointed effort against Miami, but on the bright side, this gave us some time to catch up with Kupchak on Steve Nash and more.

Assistant coach Chuck Person’s team bounced back with a better Game 4 against San Antonio despite a 92-81 loss. Darius Morris was terrific, making all nine of his field goal attempts en route to 24 points in just three quarters of action.

Before recording a podcast with us, hoops legend Bill Bertka – L.A.’s Director of Scouting/Basketball Consultant – put in some serious work at the hotel fitness center. There’s nobody more fun to talk to about basketball than Bertka, who’s rightfully revered in the NBA universe.

There’s no basketball relevance to this Marilyn Manson picture in the Hard Rock Casino, unless you want to compare L.A.’s first and third games to the feelings it evokes. But the Lakers did manage to get some positivity from a team standpoint thanks to a 75-69 win over the Clippers in their fifth and final contest. Even though winning games isn’t the primary goal of the Lakers in summer league since they’re simply looking to develop players for the senior roster, getting the one at least kept songs like “Beautiful People” off iPhones on the plane ride home. You know, if any of the players had any Manson on their playlists … OK they likely don’t. But you get the idea.

Alas, we’ll be back in Vegas for an October 19 preseason game against Sacramento. Thanks for following along, folks.

Kobe Helps Team USA Beat Argentina

The eldest member of Team USA pulled out some of his old tricks in an 86-80 win over Argentina, as Kobe Bryant scored 18 points to help the Americans in an exhibition tune up for the Olympics from Barcelona, Spain.

The fifth leading scorer in NBA history wasted no time filling up the cup after he’d taken only three shots in Thursday’s blowout win over Great Britain, this time scoring 10 points in the first few minutes with a pair of threes and a layup and then dunk at the rim.

In a 19-3 USA barrage to open the contest, Kevin Durant — the player who narrowly edged Bryant for the league’s 2011-12 scoring title — had the other nine points, on three triples, one of the assists coming from a between-the-legs Bryant dime. Oklahoma City’s star finished with a game-high 27 points.

With NBA vets like Manu Ginobili and Luis Scola, however, Argentina wouldn’t give up, rallying from 20 down in the third quarter to cut the lead to as few as four down the stretch.

Bryant came out with 4:58 left in the fourth with the USA up 78-68, but Coach Mike Krzyzewski called his number again after an Argentina triple cut the lead to seven, which preceded a Ginobili and-1 (missed free throw) that made it 78-74.

But Durant and Chris Paul hit back-to-back triples to put the game on ice, bringing the USA exhibition record to 4-0 ahead of a showdown with Spain in the team’s final warm up game ahead of the London Games.

Laker Girls Off & Dancin’ at Auditions

On Saturday morning at 9 a.m. sharp, roughly 500 hopeful young ladies assembled at the Lakers practice facility for a day full of nerves and of course, dancing.

We caught up with Laker Girls Kelsey and Lindsay from the 2011-12 team to get an idea what to expect from the auditions:

Q: On coming back to auditions as a Laker Girls veteran:
Lindsay: In your first year, you have nothing to lose. You’re just so excited, wondering if you’ll make it and anticipating that it could be the most joyful thing you’ve experienced in dance. But coming back the following year, you know what you could lose, so there’s a real fire that’s driving all of us returners.
Kelsey: I completely agree with Lindsay. I think I’m coming back a little more confident knowing what to expect at the actual audition, but I’m that much more nervous because I want it that much more.

Q: On learning what to expect from the previous season’s audition process:
Lindsay: I feel like everyone who tries out has to be humble, and even if you think you’re the greatest dancer in the world you have to come into this organization very much respectful of the process and the opportunity. There’s a difference between confidence and cockiness, a fine line that you have to keep in mind in front of the judges.
Kelsey: This is definitely humbling as we watch the (new prospective dancers) do the “Across the Floor*” segment. There are so many incredible dancers that have come here trying to be a part of the team. It makes me grateful for what I had last season. If there’s anything that might help those of us returning it’s that we had a year to work within the Laker Girls style, which is very sharp, very crisp and very energetic. Having practiced that for a year does make me feel a bit more ready, but at the same time, there are a lot of girls here that are all bringing it.
*This is the segment where all of the new prospective Laker Girls run across the floor doing a basic routine taught quickly by Director Lisa Estrada’s assistants in groups of three. When the girls get to the end, they’re either given a wristband that means they’ve made it to the next round, or not, meaning they’re thanked for coming and cut. Returning Laker Girls do not have to go through this segment.

Q: On what to expect during the long day:
Lindsay: After the Across the Floor segment, we learn a dance combination for about 20 minutes, and then perform it. If you survive that cut, you make it to another round of choreography. And so on…
Kelsey: Right, and you try to pick that choreography up as soon you can, then try to get the style down and all the corrections you can have for yourself. Then you give it your all, with your energy, personality and everything else they might be looking for.

Q: On waiting to hear one’s number get called after a routine:
Lindsay: I think I just held my breath last year, every time. Then if you hear your number, it’s just this huge exhale. It’s crazy.
Kelsey: My heart beats very, very hard. And meanwhile you’re rooting for your friends to make it as well. We’re very excited!

Kobe, Team USA Cruise past Great Britain

Kobe Bryant and Team USA coasted to a blowout 118-78 win over Great Britain in Manchester, England, on Thursday evening across the pond in the most recent tune up for the upcoming London Olympics.

With buckets so easy to come by for the uber-athletic Team USA, Bryant had to do little of what he does best (you know … scoring), instead focusing on moving the ball with some extra passes and locking down on the defensive end.

Likely to the pleasure of Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak and coach Mike Brown, Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski kept his oldest Olympian’s minutes down, saving Kobe’s legs for the games that count.

During the 18 minutes he was on the floor, Bryant took only three shots towards his five points (3 of 4 free throws) plus three assists and five boards with two steals. His personal highlight came on a pretty turnaround J in the first quarter after a ball fake sent a doubling defender the wrong way.

Bryant found Brooklyn’s Deron Williams for two of his five triples, and it was D-Will that blew the game wide open with a 14-point scoring barrage in the first four minutes of the third quarter, putting Team USA up by 30.

The Americans shot 60 percent from the field, dunking here, there and everywhere (the Beatles are from Liverpool, not Manchester, but who’s counting), and forced 26 Great Britain turnovers with great ball pressure on defense.

Up next for Kobe and Co. is a Sunday contest against Argentina, a matchup expected to be more closely contested than what we saw on Thursday.

Steve Nash: Focus on Hoops

If you watched Steve Nash’s introductory press conference* on Lakers.com last week, you saw him field a variety of questions regarding the details behind his acquisition and his excitement about being in Los Angeles on one hand, and hoops questions on the other.
*Here are Part 1 and Part 2.

Let’s focus on the basketball, shall we?

Below is a transcription of Nash’s responses to hoops questions, followed by some editor’s notes to expound a bit on what the two-time MVP had to offer:

Q: On why running the pick and roll is a team concept and not just a two-man set, and on teammates ideally making the game easier for one another:
Nash: I look forward to playing the pick and roll with everybody. The great thing about the pick and roll is that it’s a five-man set, even though we call it a two-man game, because the defense has to use all five guys to stop it. It’s the most difficult play to stop in basketball. When they choose to guard it one way, we can make them pay somewhere else. It hopefully is a situation where the Lakers can continue to play the way they’ve been playing, and perhaps I can bring a new angle to the team as far as running pick and rolls to add to the offense and make us more difficult to guard, take pressure off Kobe (Bryant) and the big guys to make plays and make the game a little easier for everybody. I think the beauty of it is that when you’re running pick and rolls, everyone just by being on the floor in their positions makes each other better by what they bring to the table. The idea is for us to make the game easier for each other, and not just (to) highlight Andrew (Bynum) … Kobe … Pau (Gasol) or myself, it’s (to) all make this game easier for each other and put the defense in positions where they have to make choices that they’re not comfortable with and make them pay for it.

Editor’s Note: The specific question to Nash was which player he most wanted to run P&R with, and his answer shows how he thinks about basketball in a full team concept. While playing against L.A. last season in particular, Nash could notice that the offense didn’t flow smoothly at times, but often relied upon one of the three stars to create individually. That’s not how he likes to play, instead favoring a style that “makes this game easier for each other.” That can help not only on the court but in the locker room, fostering a better team vibe.

Q: On where Nash sees his addition helping L.A. the most, and his theme that he tries to bring:
Nash: I feel like most importantly I can help (the Lakers) with pick and rolls and facilitating, making decisions, making the game easier and taking some pressure off Kobe. Frankly, I think he’s had to take on so much, that it will be nice for him to maybe get a few more easy baskets, to not have to expend so much energy. And hopefully I can spread the floor a little bit with my shooting ability so that Andrew and Pau have a little more room to roam. The theme for me is to try and make each other better by putting ourselves in a position to play to our strengths and make the defense make tough decisions. We have a lot of guys on the team that can score or make plays on their own accord without having to share or to use each other, but the power of those pieces increases exponentially when you use them in concert and can allow the ball to do a lot of the work, allow your intelligence and cohesion to do a lot of the work.

EN: Nash’s “theme” as expounded in bold is eloquently stated and makes too much sense. He acknowledged that there’s a difference between saying it and doing it, but such a plan is very much more possible for a team with Nash than one without. Lamar Odom was able to foster some of that style of play during the two championship runs, but it’s been a hallmark of Nash’s career to push the collective through individuals joining together. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he’ll have the ball in his hands a lot.

Nash also mentioned how his shooting can take pressure off the bigs. Certainly, teams won’t be able to throw brazen double teams — as they did in the 2012 postseason — towards Bynum or Gasol (or Kobe when posting up) if Nash is spotting up. His career shooting numbers are among the best in NBA history.

On the work to be done towards meshing his style with what L.A. has on the roster:
Nash: Everyone has to be unselfish and willing to work for the greater good, but I don’t think that’s a problem. These guys have won championships, so they know what that’s all about. Hopefully that’s been an ethos of my career. I look forward to it. I think it’s going to be a fun opportunity for us to figure how we best fit and to work every day to get there. Basketball is basketball; people can sometimes get carried away with, ‘Well, Steve Nash is a run and gun player.’ Frankly the Suns haven’t run for about five or six years, that much. (Phoenix was) a pick and roll team (that) liked to move the ball and create penetration and kick opportunities because we never had a post up player. With a post up player, I’m sure it’ll make the game easier for me, and we have a couple of those (plus) Kobe’s ability down low as well. I think that’s the exciting part is there’s a lot of versatility, a lot of different ways to go about this and that brings a lot of work, to figure out how to become efficient in all those ways that we can be potent.

EN: Nash almost shrugged when he said “basketball is basketball,” which could be translated as, “We’ll figure it out.” When you have four guys that are All-Star level players, meshing styles can be easier than having players lacking as many skills. Nash sees the versatility on offense as increasing the ceiling for the team, with peak efficiency being the goal.

Q: On if he has thought about playing with 7-footers Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum:
Nash: ‘Thought’ is not the word, ‘dreamt’ is the word, to get to play with two guys with the ability that they have, the size and length is a dream come true for a point guard. Not to mention Kobe (Bryant), one of the greatest players to ever play the game. It’s an exciting project to take on to say the least.

EN: Nash has played with some excellent big players in his career, from Dirk Nowitzki to Amare Stoudemire and still-improving Marcin Gortat, but no true back-to-the-basket centers like Bynum, or a player like Gasol that excels in the pivot and can also play in the high post. It’s thus an exciting prospect for Nash to have those new options, as he’s so adept at putting defenses in jeopardy.

Q: On basketball as his top priority and passion:
Nash: I enjoy playing basketball. All the other stuff I do is secondary to basketball. I don’t feel peaceful unless I come in early to practice, get my shots up, lift weights, have a good session and get ready to play in the games. I could care less how much or how little attention the team gets; I’m (focused on) getting ready to play.

EN: Nash was asked what he thought about the increased media attention in Los Angeles, and obviously, it’s very much secondary to him (like his film interests). Earlier, the Canadian discussed the bond he shares with Bryant over hard work, something the two can sense (takes one to know one). You don’t build the kind of skills each has without near-maniacal dedication.

Vegas Game #1: Lakers – Warriors

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Friday evening summer league debut in Las Vegas, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Starters
Lakers: Darius Morris, Andrew Goudelock, Christian Eyenga, Chinemulu Elonu, Robert Sacre
Warriors: C. Jenkins, K. Thompson, H. Barnes, F. Ezeli, J. Tyler

FIRST QUARTER
5:00 Calling the first five minutes a “slow start” would be an understatement … a series of clanked LAL jumpers resulted in Warriors run outs, and along with two Klay Thompson triples produced a 15-2 deficit. In fairness, Thompson, Jeremy Tyler and Charles Jenkins all started for an injury-depleted Warriors squad for the final few NBA weeks, and their experience/confidence showed early.

2:57 Then we got our first look at Darius Johnson-Odom, the team’s draft day acquisition from Dallas (No. 55 pick) out of Marquette. He immediately offered two solid possessions of perimeter D, reminding us that GM Mitch Kupchak said we’d like his energy and attitude on the floor. An ability to inject a shot of energy plus some perimeter D from the guard spot (he’s a classic combo guy) is perhaps DJO’s best chance at earning some minutes off the bench should he make the roster. Alas, after one, L.A. trailed 24-12.

SECOND QUARTER
6:47 Showing that he didn’t forget how to score, Goudelock converted another J, and Johnson-Odom added free throws to get L.A. within 13. DJO’s D continued to be a boost.

2:50 Nobody spent more time at L.A.’s practice facility since season’s end than Christian Eyenga, who routinely worked with player development coach Phil Handy and other coaches on his handle and shot in particular. He had a slow start from the field, missing his first four, but announced his presence with an emphatic put-back slam off a miss in the lane. Eyenga’s athleticism has never been questioned, but he’s still working towards learning the game to the point of being a consistent contributor. The half closed at 40-26 GSW after four straight Darius Morris points, L.A. being outscored only by a point (25-24) after the 15-2 Warriors start.

THIRD QUARTER
3:43 With Thompson and Barnes again leading the way, Golden State pushed its lead back up to 19 at 52-33. Morris had a few nice slashes to produce buckets for teammates (three assists with four boards), and Goudelock added a triple (12 points), but L.A. was shooting only 26.1 percent. In other news, the media room had chicken fingers with buffalo sauce, which was nice.

0:00 With his father and Lakers broadcaster Mychal Thompson watching in the stands, Klay buried four triples in the quarter alone, six in the game, to blow the game open at 68-36. Barnes added three more triples himself, reaching 23 points to Thompson’s 24, the two a combined 17 of 26 from the field. #lotterypicks

FOURTH QUARTER
5:00 With the deficit growing to 77-38, L.A. coach Chuck Person continued to give burn to Goudelock, Morris, Johnson-Odom, Eyenga, Ater Majok and Sacre, the six guys selected in the second round of the past two drafts. Goudelock led the way with 14 points, Morris 11 and Eyenga eight, but being doubled on the scoreboard preempted any individual stats.

0:00 The bright spots were few and far between in a tough opener for the Lakers, simply outclassed by Barnes and Thompson, though Johnson-Odom’s D, Goudelock’s scoring and some driving and dishing from Morris showed something. We’ll see if L.A. can get better tomorrow against Sacramento, but your final in this one: GSW 91, LAL 50.

Summer League Tip Off

Click here for L.A.’s Summer League schedule

Vegas, anybody?

At 5 p.m. in Sin City on Friday night, the Lakers tip off the 2012 Summer League with a roster including at least three members of next season’s senior squad, set to team with several others looking to impress Mitch Kupchak and Mike Brown.

Christian Eyenga, Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock already have spots sewn up on the 2012-13 roster, but are each out to show that they deserve a place on the basketball court, and not just the bench, once Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash get to the gym.

Meanwhile, rookie second round picks Darius Johnson-Odom and Robert Sacre are eager to show why Kupchak and his staff drafted them on June 28, while Ater Majok wants to show why he was a Lakers selection late in the second round of the 2011 Draft.

The summer squad will be coached by assistant Chuck Person, who will run Brown’s offense and defense throughout a 5-game schedule, opening with lottery pick Harrison Barnes and the Golden State Warriors.

Lakers.com will be there to cover the contest live, detailing what’s always an extremely competitive series of games, every player trying to show why he should be playing when the real games start.

2012 Lakers Summer League Roster:
Chinemelu Elonu, F/C, 6-10/235, Texas A&M/Pau-Orthez/Nigeria
Christian Eyenga, G/F, 6-5/210, DKV Joventut/Lakers/DRC
Andrew Goudelock, G, 6-3/200, College of Charleston/Lakers/USA
Garrett Green, F, 6-11/240, San Diego St./USA
Eric Griffin, F, 6-8/190, Campbell/USA
Lawrence Hill, F , 6-8/235, Stanford/Maine RC/USA
Darius Johnson-Odom, G, 6-3, Marquette/USA
Julian Khazzouh, C, 6-10/231, Sydney Kings/Australia
Ater Majok, F, 6-10/225, UCONN/Nitra (Slovakia)/Australia
Darius Morris, G, 6-5/195, Michigan/Lakers/USA
Toure’ Murry, G, 6-5/199, Wichita St. /USA
Reeves Nelson, F, 6-8/235, UCLA/Zalgiris (Lithuania)/USA
Robert Sacre, F/C, 7-0/260, Gonzaga/Canada
Greg Somogyi, C, 7-3/242 UC Santa Barbara/Hungary

Follow Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) on Twitter.

Mitch Kupchak On Nash Acquisition

“The opportunity to play for one of the (league’s best franchises) was too good an opportunity for me to pass up. This is going to be a really exciting chapter of my career. I’ve always wanted to win, I’ve always competed the best I can to try and win; to be back in a position to win again is a phenomenal feeling.
- Steve Nash, 7/11/12

Throughout most of a 30-plus minute press conference in which Mitch Kupchak flanked his newest signing, twice-MVP point guard Steve Nash, the Lakers GM had a steady (if subtle) grin on his face.

Considering L.A.’s financial situation, Nash didn’t even seem like an option at first when free agency began on July 1, the Lakers having only the mini-mid level exception to offer, but executive vice president Jim Buss kept stressing to Kupchak that they had to “make the call.”

After the Nash press conference, we asked Kupchak how the process to acquire Nash began and was ultimately executed. Below are his answers, along with two addition responses to questions about where else L.A. must improve (bench depth) and the difficulty in acquiring star players:

On how the Lakers acquired Steve Nash:
Kupchak: That is very interesting, because beginning with free agency, we always do a list — (Jim Buss and I) work with my staff — of the players that we’re going to contact on July 1 at 12:01 a.m. We always like to call our players that are free agents first, Ramon Sessions and Jordan Hill and players that were on our roster. So we did that, and coincidentally, Steve Nash is also represented by Jordan Hill’s representative. Steve was at the top of our list in terms of point guards, but it never occurred to me that he’d actually be available. All we had was the mini-mid, which is a $3 million exception. Jim Buss kept saying, ‘Hey Mitch, don’t forget to call.’ Of course (Nash) was at the top of our list, and I said, ‘Jim I’m not sure this is something that can even begin to work out.’ But I said, ‘You never know unless you try.’ So when I spoke to Bill Duffy, we talked about Jordan Hill and Steve Nash, and (Duffy’s) first comment was ‘Well Mitch, would you like to speak with (Nash).’ I said ‘Of course.’ And then 10 seconds later, (Nash) was on the phone. (Duffy) was with Steve Nash when I called at 12:01 a.m.; I think they were together in New York. So that doesn’t happen very often. Looking back on it, maybe it was a sign, if you believe in those things. I didn’t hear much for a day or two, and then we got a call from Bill Duffy saying ‘Steve thought about the conversation we had and he’d like to make this work.’ So that started the whole thing with Phoenix in motion.

On how the complicated sign and trade with Phoenix was figured out:
Kupchak: It was a long process. As everybody knows, we used Lamar’s exception*. It had to be a sign and trade. The market for Steve was pretty vibrant out there. He had other options. I believe some of those options would have resulted in more compensation. This was the largest deal that we could offer, provided Phoenix cooperated.
*The Lakers had a large trade exception from a preseason trade that sent Lamar Odom and a second round pick to Dallas for the exception and a first round pick they later moved to Houston.

On the need to improve the bench from where it was last season:
Kupchak: We didn’t have a great bench last year, and I think we have to look to improve our bench a little bit. We have challenges in front of us, and hopefully in the next couple of weeks we’ll be able to figure it out. A lot of it has to do with our coach and how many minutes the guys are going to be playing, of the five starters. One is under 30, and the other four are above 30. I don’t think any of them would ever ask to play less, so we’re going to have to manage minutes. Therefore, you’re going to have to have guys that come off the bench that could do no worse than keep things at the same level they were before the starter’s left the court. You hope to get a player that can add (to the score margin) coming off the bench, so that will be a challenge. The new (CBA restrictions) make it difficult, but we’ll find a way to improve the team.

On the difficulty of acquiring stars in an NBA offseason:
Kupchak: Going into the offseason, every general manager tries to get that one player that can dramatically improve their team. If you can get one every five or seven years you’ve done pretty good. We think we got one this year. You’re asking me if I think we can do that twice?* I’m not sure that’s possible.
*Kupchak was asked about trade rumors surrounding Orlando’s Dwight Howard, but declined to comment.

Kobe talks Team USA on NBATV

During NBATV’s hour-long special on Saturday to announce the 2012 U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball team set for London, Kobe Bryant joined the network’s Matt Winer and Steve Smith, fielding the following questions:

On returning to play for Team USA after winning gold in 2008:
Bryant: It was such a great experience the first time around, just being around the guys, the camaraderie, being a part of the Olympic experience and seeing so many great athletes in their environments. It was just fun to be a part of, so, it was kind of a no-brainer for me to join again.

On playing with a small line up due to the plethora of injuries to big men that won’t be going to London (Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh, LaMarcus Aldridge):
Bryant: You have to make adjustments. That’s all. You have to play to your strengths that you have on your roster, which is our versatility, our speed, causing matchup problems at the other end of the floor. But at the same time, we still have a roster that’s full of great rebounders. We can all rebound the ball; when people talk about size, that’s the first thing that comes to mind, the ability to rebound. We have great rebounders: Chris (Paul) is a phenomenal rebounder, I can rebound, LeBron (James) can rebound, Kevin Love is the best in the league. So we have guys that can crash the boards.

On going through the process a second time for many of the players, referring to the 2008 Olympics and 2010 World Championships:
Bryant: It was comfortable the first time around as well, I just think the second time, we know what to expect form a scheduling perspective, from corporate sponsorships, commitments, things of that nature. With Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski) it’s been a seamless transition from 2008 until now. He’s a great communicator, he’s easy to play for, so it really hasn’t been any type of adjustment required from 2008 until now, it’s just the experience that goes along with it.

On the Lakers and the Clippers building a rivalry, as asked to Bryant and Chris Paul (seated next to him):
Bryant: I’ve been following probably a little bit more aggressively than Chris has because of all the rumors the Lakers have been involved in in terms of trade talks. They’ve obviously made some incredible additions.
Paul: We have our conversations, we talk. We keep our eye on what each other have going on.

Lakers Summer Update – July 6

At least once per summer week, Lakers head athletic trainer Gary Vitti exchanges text messages with every player on L.A.’s roster, just to find out “where they are in the world and what they’re doing.”

On Friday, Vitti gave us an update on some of the players with whom he’s connected in the past day or two:

Kobe Bryant: Ran his camp in Santa Barbara before heading to Las Vegas to join the U.S. Men’s National Team in preparation for the 2012 London Olympics. Vitti texts regularly with Bryant about No. 24′s body, and provided great detail into Bryant’s plans to get the same Orthokine/Regonokine treatment on his knee that was successful last summer either before, during or subsequent to the Olympics.

Pau Gasol: The Spaniard, who turned 32 on Friday just a few days removed from watching his Spanish National Team soccer brothers win the Euro 2012 championship, is already with the hoops national squad prepping for the Olympics. Can we request a Kobe-Pau gold medal game, please?

Andrew Bynum: Training in his Atlanta home working to continually strengthen his knees in particular after a season he came into healthy, remained healthy — missing only one game due to an ankle sprain — and left healthy. Like Bryant, Bynum will go to Germany to look into the same procedure as his All-Star teammate.

Metta World Peace: Vitti sent this message along: “Metta is in Vancouver working hard, and will be heading home to New York City soon.” Before World Peace went north to train, he was seen working out at the team’s practice facility. Last summer, the lockout particularly hurt World Peace, who was unable to rehabilitate an imbalance in his kinetic chain (details to come in a piece with Lakers head physical therapist Dr. Judy Seto) and therefore came into camp hurt and out of shape. By season’s end, thanks in part to Vitti, Seto and strength/conditioning coach Tim DiFrancesco, World Peace was running, cutting and jumping all over the place. Vitti said he looks fantastic.

Christian Eyenga, Andrew Goudelock, Darius Morris: The three youngsters have been into the team’s facility often, working in the weight room with DiFrancesco and on the basketball court (individually only) with player development coach Phil Handy. All three will play in the Las Vegas Summer League alongside rookies Darius Johnson-Odom and Robert Sacre.

Steve Blake and Josh McRoberts, the only other non-free agents* on the current roster, are training regularly as well.
*Free agents: Matt Barnes, Devin Ebanks, Jordan Hill, Troy Murphy, Ramon Sessions

We’ll check back in with Vitti and the players momentarily … the 2012-13 season is only a few months away, folks.