MLB’s era of ‘load management’ is just getting started

first_img Angels offense breaks out to split doubleheader with Astros Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Jose Suarez’s rocky start sinks Angels in loss to Astros Dodgers’ Will Smith: ‘I feel like it’s been five years’ since his 2019 debut Angels’ Shohei Ohtani spending downtime working in outfield Absent any sophisticated specificity, then, we see a general trend toward more rest. A manager might hope that sitting his third baseman on Monday will make him more effective on Tuesday, but for now it is still a hope. The hard data to support that conclusion just isn’t there yet. This is more true for position players than pitchers, whose velocity, spin rate, and spin efficiency might offer clues about his health.Still, said one MLB pitching coordinator, there’s “still a lot of work to be done.”None of this will console the fan who came to the ballpark expecting to see his or her favorite player, only to learn he got the day off because he’s played 20 games in a row. Maybe 20 games is a bit too ambitious for 2019.Cal Ripken Jr. famously holds the record for most consecutive games played, with 2,632. That record will never be broken. Entering the 2020 season, the active leader in consecutive regular-season games played is Kansas City Royals outfielder/second baseman Whit Merrifield.Merrifield has played 247 consecutive games.center_img Harvard-Westlake alum Lucas Giolito throws no-hitter for White Sox The same goes for the bottom of every batting order. Only four and a half players per team, on average, received enough plate appearances in 2019 to qualify for the batting title. The rest of a lineup is more of a rotating cast than ever. Except when it comes to the best of the best players, managers and general managers seem content to divide their team’s workload at the cost of individual accolades.What’s going on?Injuries are partly to blame. The number of days lost to the injured list (formerly the disabled list) shot up 24 percent among position players in the last year, according to Spotrac. For starting pitchers, IL days lost increased by 4 percent.Something else is at work, too. It’s tied directly to the collection of analytical data by major-league front offices. The specifics differ from team to team, but the end result is the same: The days of the 250-inning starting pitcher, or the batter who plays all 162 games, “are gone,” said Dr. David Altchek, an orthopedic specialist with the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York.“There’s not going to be a sudden reversion,” Altchek said. “We have our highest-paid players not playing. It’s ridiculous.” Welcome to MLB’s era of “load management.” The hottest buzz phrase in the NBA has been part of baseball’s fabric forever, if not its lexicon. Take the five-man starting rotation. This built-in system of rest has been the norm for generations of pitchers. Ask Danny Ozark about Steve Carlton’s “load management,” however, and he might assume you said stevedore by mistake.The change has really taken hold among position players – and not just back-of-the bench substitutes. Some degree of load management has become the norm, even among stars. In the last 11 seasons, four position players won a Most Valuable Player award while playing fewer than 140 games. That equals the number of sub-140-game MVPs from 1964 to 2008, excluding strike-shortened seasons.“Load management is probably another term for recovery,” Altchek said. “Just like any athletic endeavor, or your own training, if you go too hard too often, you start to go backwards instead of forwards. Baseball season is very long and very repetitive. It’s a challenge because you have to let these athletes recover. Nobody has a scientific measure of how much recovery they need, or don’t need. We tend to base it individually on past history.”Altchek went on to make an important distinction. Teams are collecting plenty of biomechanical data on their players these days. The proliferation of wearable tech has provided reams of information about the forces baseball players exert swinging a bat and throwing a ball. This is more true for minor leaguers than major leaguers, whose union prohibits teams from collecting certain data without the player’s permission.The question guiding baseball’s load management movement is what to do with all that data. Nestled in Altchek’s quote is a rather damning conclusion: teams are still relatively clueless.“Everyone’s more in a measurement phase than an execution phase,” he said. “Nobody really knows yet. We’re more in a data-collection phase, the first inning of this sport science phenomenon.”Related Articles In 1998, a record 96 pitchers qualified for an earned-run average title. Major League Baseball had just expanded to 30 teams. There were more players, and more pitchers, than ever. In the years that followed, the number of ERA qualifiers – pitchers who threw at least 162 innings in a season – hovered in the eighties and nineties.Then after the 2014 season, a funny thing happened. Qualifying for an ERA title became somewhat rare. Only 78 pitchers qualified in 2015, then 74, then 58. By 2018, MLB had only 57 qualifiers or fewer than any individual season from 1901 to 1944 (when there were only 16 teams!).This coincided with a similar trend among position players. To qualify for a batting title, a hitter must make 3.1 plate appearances per team game. The trend line since 1998 isn’t as steep or as steady. Still, from 2018 to 2019, the number of batting-title qualifiers fell from 141 to 135 – the lowest number since 1992, the final season of the 26-team era.On a fundamental level, this forces us to think differently about what to expect when we watch a baseball game. It’s long been true that a starting pitcher isn’t expected to complete all nine innings, save for rare occasions. Now it’s also true that only two pitchers per team on average will throw 162 innings in a season. The Angels, in an extreme example, saw only one pitcher (Trevor Cahill) throw even 100 innings in 2019. For many clubs, the idea of using a consistent third, fourth and fifth starter over a full season is a chimera.last_img read more

Clippers trade Austin Rivers to Wizards for Marcin Gortat, perhaps setting up DeAndre Jordan’s exit

first_imgThe Clippers appeared to solve two problems with one trade Tuesday afternoon, when they swapped guard Austin Rivers for Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat. ESPN first reported the trade, which comes days before the start of free agency on Saturday night.Rivers was one of nine guards on the Clippers’ roster, as of Tuesday, after he opted to exercise his option on the final year of his contract. The Clippers also added guards Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Kentucky) and Jerome Robinson (Boston College) with their lottery picks in the NBA draft last week, creating a glut in their backcourt.The acquisition of Gortat gives the Clippers flexibility in case center DeAndre Jordan decides to opt out of his contract before a Friday deadline and pursues free agency. Lawrence Frank, the Clippers’ president of basketball operations, said Monday talks on an extension were ongoing.“We are excited to welcome Marcin Gortat to the Clippers, a respected player that brings years of NBA experience and additional toughness to this team,” Frank said in a statement. “We’ve been a fan of Marcin’s for some time and this decision we help re-balance the roster by adding another proven big man to the frontcourt.” The 6-foot-11 Jordan, who turns 30 next month, averaged 12 points and 15.2 rebounds in 2017-18.Gortat, also 6-11, averaged 8.4 points and 7.6 rebounds for the Wizards last season. The 34-year-old has spent the past five seasons of his 13-year career in Washington.Jordan has played 750 games in the NBA, all with the Clippers. Last season, he passed Randy Smith who had held the franchise record for the most games played with 715. He also holds the club record for rebounds with 7.988 and blocked shots with 1,277.Even if Jordan decides to opt in on his $24.7 million contract, the Clippers reportedly could seek to trade him to another team, thus ending the longest tenure in franchise history. The Clippers drafted Jordan in the second round (35th overall) from Texas A&M in 2008.Sign up for Home Turf and get 3 exclusive stories every SoCal sports fan must read, sent daily. Subscribe here.The Wizards had been trying to trade Gortat for several months, according to reports. His scoring and rebounding averages for last season were well off his career averages of 10.2 points and 8.1 rebounds. He averaged 25.3 minutes, his fewest since 2009-10 with the Orlando Magic. Kawhi Leonard’s playmaking is more than a passing fancy for Clippers Luka Doncic injured, Kawhi Leonard dominant; Social Media reacts after Clippers 130-122 victory over Mavs What’s more, Bradley could re-sign before Saturday or test free agency.Gilgeous-Alexander and Robinson are expected to join the Clippers’ summer league team, which begins play July 6 in Las Vegas. They also are expected to battle for playing time when training camp opens Sept. 24 at the University of Hawaii.Doc Rivers seemed unconcerned about having too many guards during an interview Monday.“It always washes out,” Doc Rivers said. “You know how that stuff works out. It’ll be figured out by the time the season starts. I don’t think we’ll go into (training) camp with 11 or 12 or 13 guards. We’ll figure out how that goes.”Austin Rivers joins a youthful, athletic backcourt that includes Bradley Beal and John Wall in Washington, his third NBA team after New Orleans selected him 10th overall from Duke in 2012.“Acquiring Austin gives us another versatile, experienced player who provides scoring and playmaking,” Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld said in a statement. “He is coming off a career year and his ability to create offense for himself and others will help our second unit and allow us to play a variety of lineups throughout the season.” Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorcenter_img Gortat, who will make $13.6 million in 2018-19, can become a free agent next summer.Rivers played 243 games over parts of four seasons with the Clippers, averaging 11.1 points and 2.5 assists while primarily filling a reserve role. Because of season-ending injuries to Patrick Beverley, Milos Teodosic and Avery Bradley, Rivers started 59 of 61 games last season.The 25-year-old Rivers, who was drafted No. 10 overall in the 2012 NBA draft by the New Orleans Hornets, averaged career highs of 15.1 points, 4 assists and 2.4 rebounds and shot 37.8 percent from 3-point range in 2017-18.It was generally assumed that Rivers would remain with the Clippers as long as Doc Rivers, his father, remained their coach. Doc Rivers agreed to a contract extension last month and last year relinquished his management duties in owner Steve Ballmer’s front-office shakeup.Austin Rivers’ departure might not be the last from the Clippers’ backcourt. Although he decided to exercise his option on next season’s contract, it’s believed that Teodosic might want to return to play in Europe next season. Only $2.1 million of his $6.3 million contract is guaranteed. The Clippers could waive Teodosic before July 16, when the deal becomes fully guaranteed.Related Articles Video highlights, social media reaction after Clippers’ 118-110 victory over Mavericks Morning Wrap: Full coverage from Lakers-Clippers thriller; Angels, Dodgers going in different directions; Whicker pays tribute to legendary Mike Gillespie Minnesota wins NBA draft lottery, Golden State gets No. 2 pick last_img read more

Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard named an All-Star starter

first_imgThe Clippers’ Fun Guy is going back to the All-Star Game.Kawhi Leonard’s first appearance as a Clipper will mark his fourth All-Star appearance overall, all of which have been as a starter. After representing the San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors in previous All-Star Games, Leonard will become the seventh player in league history to appear on behalf of three franchises.The league announced Thursday that he joined Lakers teammates LeBron James and Anthony Davis as frontcourt starters representing the Western Conference. The other starters – as selected by a combination of fan, media and player voting – are Houston’s James Harden and Dallas’ Luka Doncic.The Eastern Conference will be represented by Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, Boston’s Kemba Walker, Toronto’s Pascal Siakam and Atlanta’s Trae Young. Leonard might not have been keeping count at home, but he finished third in the Western Conference fan vote, with a total of 3,917,190 tallies, according to the NBA. George – who is averaging 23.5 points, but who missed the first 11 games because of rehab on his shoulders and has been sidelined for the past seven games with a hamstring strain – came in fourth among fans, with 1,505,691 votes.James led all Western Conference fan vote-getters with 6,275,459.Antetokounmpo got 5,902,286 fan votes, far and away the most in the Eastern Conference captain race. Like James, Antetokounmpo will captain his conference’s team for the second consecutive year after his side lost to Team LeBron last season. Clippers hope they can play to their capabilities, quell Mavericks’ momentum For Lakers’ LeBron James, Jacob Blake’s shooting is bigger issue than a big Game 4 victory Related Articles Game 4 photos: Luka Doncic, Mavs shock Clippers in overtime center_img All-Star reserves chosen by the coaches from each conference will be announced next Thursday and the All-Star draft is set for Feb. 6, when James and Antetokounmpo will draft the starters and then the reserves. The All-Star Game will be played Feb. 16 at the United Center in Chicago.Last summer, Leonard further increased his profile by leading the Toronto Raptors to their first NBA title, earning recognition as the Finals MVP for the second time. Then he opted to join the Clippers this offseason as a free agent, teaming up with Paul George, who arrived in a blockbuster trade.Leonard is averaging a career-high 27.1 points, 7.4 rebounds and 5 assists this season. He’s stuck to an injury management regimen, skipping half of every set of back-to-back games and which has, in part, limited him to appearances in 34 of the Clippers’ 45 games, during which they’re 26-8.“It’s great,” Leonard said recently in regard to the fan vote, of which early results had him consistently in third place among frontcourt players. “I’m happy that I have some fans or people that like to enjoy watching me play. I thank them. I love them for voting for me.“But,” he added, “I’m not keeping track (of the voting).” Clippers’ Paul George: ‘If I make shots, this series could be a little different’ What the Clippers are saying the day after Luka Doncic’s game-winner tied series, 2-2 Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img read more

How well do you know the Los Angeles Dodgers? Find out.

first_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error How well do you know the Los Angeles Dodgers? Find out in this quiz.Viewing on mobile? Go here.last_img

Dodgers’ Dave Roberts suspended one game for Friday incident

first_imgSAN DIEGO >> Dave Roberts was able to choose his own wine Saturday night.The Dodgers manager was suspended one game for his role in Friday night’s benches-clearing incident. Roberts charged San Diego Padres manager Andy Green during a meeting with plate umpire Greg Gibson between the first and second innings. Green triggered Roberts’ reaction when he made comments about Dodgers pitcher Alex Wood. Wood set the whole thing in motion during the first inning when, according to Gibson, Wood threatened to hit Padres baserunner Jose Pirela with a pitch if he continued signaling from second base to the Padres batter.Roberts, Green and Wood were each fined an undisclosed amount.Roberts served the suspension Saturday night with Dodgers bench coach Bob Geren filling in as interim manager. Roberts was not allowed to be in the stadium for the game so he went through the pre-game workout with the team, threw a round of batting practice then headed to his home in the San Diego area, about 25 minutes from Petco Park. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Though he asked and answered the questions with a smile, Roberts left a clear impression that he feels no obligation to reach out to Green to smooth things over after Friday’s scuffle.“Did I talk to him (since Friday’s game)? No,” Roberts said. “Did I find him? No. Did I look for him? No.”Neither Roberts nor Green were willing to specify what Green said to anger Roberts Friday. Roberts only said Green was “talking about one of my players (Wood) in a very derogatory way” and “that’s unacceptable.”The consensus in the Dodgers’ clubhouse was clear, though.“Doc is the nicest guy in the world,” Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen said of Roberts. “To get him going like that, you’ve gotta say something pretty slick, pretty bad about his team.”center_img The Dodgers closer was in the clubhouse when the fireworks broke out Friday. His first reaction – send a clubhouse attendant to a nearby store to buy Roberts a bottle of wine. Jansen delivered the Knights Valley offering to Roberts (who co-owns his own wine label ‘Red Stitch’) in the manager’s office during the second inning.“He’s always got our backs so I wanted him to know we have his back,” Jansen said. “I knew he was going to feel awkward watching the rest of the game in his office. So I thought, let me do something for my manager.”Barnes stormBackup catcher Austin Barnes was back in the starting lineup Saturday a night after hitting two home runs and driving in seven runs. It was his 23rd start of the season – but his third in the past four days and fourth in the past seven.“Austin is playing well and we are seeing some lefties,” Roberts said, adding that the additional playing time was about a desire “to put him in good spots and keep Yazzie (Yasmani Grandal) fresh” not any change in the two roles.“Yazzie is our No. 1 catcher,” Roberts said. “He’s going to get over 500 at-bats this year which is a good load. Right now, it just more continuing to give Austin the opportunities he deserves.”Over his 11 games before Saturday, Barnes was 9 for 28 (.321) with an 1.100 OPS.“There’s definitely something to be said for getting in there more and getting consistent at-bats,” Barnes said. “Last year, going up and down (between Triple-A and the majors), you make those games bigger than they are.”Roberts agreed the consistency of Barnes’ role has been good for the young catcher.“Knowing that he’s going to stick, things have slowed down for him,” Roberts said. “The quality of at-bats has been so good, the defense, on the bases — he’s coming into his own. There’s an exhale and every at-bat he has seems to be a quality at-bat.”AlsoWhen the Dodgers clubhouse opened to the media Saturday afternoon, there was a note taped to the chair in front of Cody Bellinger’s locker that said, “Same answer as yesterday (Derby).” The note (which might or might not have been written by Bellinger or a veteran teammate) referred to Bellinger’s pending decision on participating in the Home Run Derby during the All-Star Game festivities in Miami. Bellinger has been invited but will only participate if his father, Clay, is able to get time off work and pitch to him in the Derby.Infielder Mike Freeman was sent back to Triple-A Oklahoma City Saturday afternoon and right-hander Josh Fields was recalled from OKC. Fields made three appearances with the OKC Dodgers during his demotion. He pitched three scoreless innings, allowed one hit, walked none and struck out three.last_img read more

Report: Woman died after being hit by foul ball at Dodger Stadium

first_img“Mr. and Mrs. Goldbloom were great Dodgers fans who regularly attended games,” a Dodgers spokesman told ESPN. “We were deeply saddened by this tragic accident and the passing of Mrs. Goldbloom. The matter has been resolved between the Dodgers and the Goldbloom family. We cannot comment further on this matter.”According to ESPN’s research, there have been two other reported deaths linked to balls that left the field of play during an MLB game. A 32-year-old man died one day after he was hit in the head by a thrown ball on Sept. 29, 1943, at Griffith Stadium in Washington. Fourteen-year-old Alan Fish died after he was hit in the head by a foul ball on May 16, 1970, at Dodger Stadium. Dodgers outfielder Manny Mota was batting against San Francisco’s Gaylord Perry when Mota hit a line drive down the first-base line, near the dugout, that struck Fish who was seated two rows from the field. Goldbloom was taken to L.A. County-USC Medical Center, where she underwent emergency surgery for a brain injury. Goldbloom was unresponsive following the surgery and was placed on a ventilator. Her family had her removed from life-support machines and Goldbloom died on Aug. 29.The Dodgers made no comment on the incident until ESPN contacted them.Related Articles LOS ANGELES — A woman who was hit by a batted ball at Dodger Stadium last August died a few days later, according to documents obtained by ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” and details the woman’s daughter provided.Linda Goldbloom, 79, was struck in the head by a foul ball during the Dodgers-Padres game on Aug. 25. According to a Los Angeles County coroner’s report obtained by ESPN, Goldbloom died as a result of “acute intracranial hemorrhage due to history of blunt force trauma.”Goldbloom was at the game with her husband, Erwin, a brother-in-law and sister-in-law to celebrate her recent birthday and wedding anniversary. The Goldblooms had purchased partial-season tickets each of the past 10 years, according to their daughter.The group was sitting in section 106 on the loge level, to the first-base side of home plate and above the seating area protected by netting which has been extended in recent years. The accident occurred when a San Diego batter fouled off a pitch from Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen in the ninth inning of the Aug. 25 game. The batted ball struck Goldbloom in the head. An usher responded and an EMT was summoned. How Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling topped the baseball podcast empire Fire danger is on Dave Roberts’ mind as Dodgers head to San Francisco Cody Bellinger homer gives Dodgers their first walkoff win of season Dodgers’ Max Muncy trying to work his way out of slow start Dodgers hit seven home runs, sweep Colorado Rockies Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img read more

Lakers’ Pau Gasol deals with being on trade block again

first_imgGasol did that last month, lamenting that D’Antoni’s offense featured him outside of the post. D’Antoni then questioned Gasol’s work ethic and reluctance to dive toward the basket off pick-and-rolls. But with Gasol fielding criticism for sitting out during his recent illness, D’Antoni defended him. A source familiar with D’Antoni’s thinking, though, said he also remained frustrated with Gasol for sitting out instead of trying to contribute. But in the past two games since his return, Gasol has averaged 24 points, 11.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 3.5 blocks. “He should almost average a triple-double every night,” said D’Antoni, noting Gasol reached those numbers in three of the Lakers’ final seven games last season. “That’s also a product of the team. You can’t just blame one guy. It’s all connected on how the ball moves.”D’Antoni also cited Gasol’s improved health, which he credited toward recently taking antibiotics and a nasal spray to clear up congestion. Gasol plans to take those medications for the following two weeks.“The respiratory thing is not a joke,” Gasol said. “I feel good and, luckily I was able to recover well. On those days I couldn’t play, if I decided to play through that, I probably would still be hurting.”D’Antoni argued Gasol’s defensive weaknesses go beyond his medical reports.“If you’re happy on offense and you’re happy with the team, it comes through on your defense,” D’Antoni said. “It shouldn’t be that way, but it is that way. It’s human nature.”That changed in the Lakers’ win Friday against Utah. Gasol collected three blocks and helped the Lakers hold the Jazz to a season-low 12 points in the first quarter. D’Antoni also believes Robert Sacre’s presence at center made it easier for Gasol, who could use his length to stop opposing power forwards instead of his muscle to stop centers.“I just want to play hard and play well and give it as much as I can to this team now that we’re so short-handed,” Gasol said. “I owe it to myself and I owe it to my teammates. I just want to be that guy for our team.”It remains to be seen if the Lakers’ front office feels the same way. The Lakers have until the Feb. 20 trade deadline to deal Gasol and his $19.3 million contract that expires after this offseason. It also appears unlikely the Lakers will re-sign Gasol this offseason once he becomes a free agent. “You see flashes of Pau and other times you realize he’s carrying an injury or has a lot of miles,” Lakers guard Steve Nash said. “But I wouldn’t want to give up on a guy like Pau.”Gasol has no assurances the Lakers will operate the same way. Yet, he vows he won’t give up, either.“You just stay focused on the game as much as you can and stay positive,” Gasol said. “It’s not easy sometimes. But at the same time, you try to do your best.” Pau Gasol walked out of the Lakers’ locker room, fully aware it could mark the last week he’d put on a purple and gold uniform.Sound familiar? It should. Ever since the Lakers unsuccessfully traded Gasol just over two years ago in a deal that would’ve landed them Chris Paul, Gasol has become linked in deals that have never materialized.But the latest one might just happen. The Lakers have talked for the past week about a possible deal that would entail Gasol going to the Cleveland Cavaliers, while Andrew Bynum returns to the Lakers. According to a source familiar with the situation, the Lakers remain weary of the proposal. The Lakers would never keep Bynum. His bulky knees and behavior issues that contributed toward Cleveland suspending him have overshadowed his efforts that led to the Lakers winning two NBA championships during his seven seasons here. The Lakers also want assets beyond the ability to waive Bynum, rid themselves of half of his $12.5 million contract and save nearly $20 million in luxury taxes. Such a deal would have to happen by Jan. 7 so Bynum could clear waivers by Jan. 10, when his contract becomes guaranteed. So how does Gasol process what could be the 1,000th trade scenario ever since NBA Commissioner David Stern determined Paul wouldn’t become a Laker?“I’m ready for it,” Gasol told this newspaper. “I can’t control what they’re going to do as a team. But I’m going to try to play as well as I can for as long as I’m here. If I’m somewhere else, I’ll try to continue to do that.”Gasol wasn’t envisioning reliving such uncertainty again. With Dwight Howard in Houston, coach Mike D’Antoni featuring Gasol more on offense and an offseason procedure to heal the tendonitis in both of his knees, the Lakers (14-19) widely expected Gasol would earn his fifth All-Star appearance. Gasol hoped so, too. Yet, Gasol enters the Lakers’ game tonight against the Denver Nuggets (15-17) at Staples Center hardly averaging 15.3 points on a career-low 44.9 percent shooting. “There were certain things that affected that,” said Gasol, citing the Lakers’ persisting injuries and a recent upper respiratory issue that kept him out for three games last month. “I don’t really dwell on expectations. I wished things would work out better. But at the same time, I can’t complain.”center_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img read more

LA Lakers’ Kobe Bryant misses second consecutive game with back soreness

first_imgORLANDO >> The legions of fans waited outside of the Lakers’ locker room eager to catch a glimpse. Once Kobe Bryant emerged, screams reached a fever pitch. The volume level increased as Bryant walked out of the entrance tunnel. Just imagine the fanfare Bryant would have received if he played in the Lakers’ 101-99 loss to the Orlando Magic on Wednesday at Amway Center. Instead, Bryant sat on the bench sporting a blue, pin-striped suit. That marked the second contest in consecutive days the 37-year-old Bryant remained on the sideline because of back soreness. “It’s still too tight,” Bryant said. “I stretched it down as much as I can and iced it down as much as I can.” Lakers coach Byron Scott and Bryant still expressed optimism he would return when the Lakers (1-7) play in Dallas on Friday. But Bryant stressed that the “back pain has to go away” after admitting he “had trouble walking” prior to Tuesday’s loss in Miami. Scott conceded, “I don’t know how this will play out,” mindful that Bryant suffered three season-ending injuries in consecutive seasons. Bryant also missed two weeks of training camp after bruising his lower left leg.“In the games he’s ready to play, he’ll play,” Scott said. “If he has some ailments that are bothering him, we’ll give him the day off.”Bryant reported his back injury “comes and goes” after first feeling pain at the beginning of training camp through normal “wear and tear” of a 20-year NBA career. Bryant also admitted the ailment affected his play. Through six games, Bryant has averaged 16.5 points per game on a career-low 32 percent mark from the field and a 20.8 percent clip from 3-point range. But Scott said he did not become aware of Bryant’s back issue until he reported feeling “a little stiff” following last Saturday’s practice in New York. Even when admitting Bryant’s competitive nature, Scott has noted that Bryant remains open with him on how his body feels through both good and bad days. Will Scott become more skeptical about Bryant’s self-evaluations? Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorcenter_img “He’s still been honest,” said Scott, who said he shared a similar mentality during his 14-year NBA career. “If I had a back that was a little sore, if I knew I could play, I didn’t tell nobody. I just played. When it got to the point where you can’t play, that’s when you have to tell people.”That explains why Bryant said he likely will not change how he reports injuries to Scott and Lakers trainer Gary Vitti.“I’ll talk to Gary and talk to Byron about it when I can’t physically be out there to play,” Bryant said. “When it’s something minor and it’s not going to keep me off the court, probably not.” Bryant stayed off the court in Orlando for the third consecutive season because of an injury. But that did not stop fans from posing for pictures with Bryant in a hallway once the game ended. One fan pleaded to Bryant to play for “one more year” considering his $25 million expires following the 2015-16 season.Bryant will try to play another game first. Energy boostBryant gushed about Lakers rookie forward Larry Nance Jr. posting 13 points on a 6-of-6 clip in 20 minutes off the bench against Orlando. “Larry played really well,” Bryant said. “He played with a lot of energy, was active and all over the place. Defensively he did some really good things. Offensively he showed some range.”New opportunityFormer Lakers guard Jabari Brown signed a contract to play for the Foshan Long Lion in China, according to a league source familiar with the situation.last_img read more

Lakers’ D’Angelo Russell fighting frustration amid fourth-quarter absences

first_imgSaid Russell: “No.”Scott has favored 10-year NBA veteran Lou Williams, who posted 14 points on 3-of-11 shooting in 26 minutes off the bench against the Heat (5-3). But Scott did not explain Russell’s fourth-quarter absence amid a double-digit deficit. “I didn’t really think about bringing him back at that time,” Scott said.That left Russell with his own theory.“I got to get better on each read,” Russell said. “I try to force it, getting the ball to guys.” Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error MIAMI >> Through all the hiccups accompanying his rookie season, Lakers point guard D’Angelo Russell has stomached something far more frustrating than adapting to the NBA. The most trying times have happened when he has sat on the bench.Russell did not play in the fourth quarter of the Lakers’ 101-88 loss to the Miami Heat on Tuesday at American Airlines Arena, marking the third time in only seven games this has happened for the team’s top draft pick and No. 2 choice overall. The Lakers (1-6) have lost all of those games.“I got to figure out what I’m doing wrong,” said Russell, who posted four points on 2-of-6 shooting, four rebounds, four assists and two turnovers in 21 minutes. “So I can correct it.”Did Lakers coach Byron Scott offer any feedback?center_img Russell still described his confidence as “through the roof in space somewhere.” Yet, Scott and Russell both confirmed he has only called about 50 percent of the team’s plays. Scott said he has “no timeline” on when Russell will have full autonomy.“I want him to get to the point where he can really, really run the offense and understand who hasn’t touched the ball, who’s hot and who’s not,” Scott said of Russell. “That’s going to take him a while. But I like the direction that he’s headed.”More GamesIt appears possible Kobe Bryant will play basketball even if he retires after the 2015-16 season. He sounded open to making his third U.S. Olympic appearance in the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. Bryant initially ruled out another stint after winning gold in the 2012 Summer Games in London. Bryant also won a gold medal in Beijing in 2008.“I also probably thought I wouldn’t be playing still,” Bryant said, smiling. “Never say never.”USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo had reported that Bryant expressed interest last summer.“I don’t know if that’s an indication on what he plans on doing for next year,” Scott said. “But that’s cool to me.”That hinges on one obvious variable.“It’s just a matter if I could” make the team, Bryant said, “and if I’m physically able to do that.” Heat forward and former U.S. Olympic teammate Chris Bosh joked that Bryant just wanted “a free trip to Brazil.” But Bosh then gushed about Bryant’s work ethic on the 2008 U.S. Olympic team, shortly after the Lakers’ NBA Finals loss to Boston.“I don’t know if it was motivation or just how he normally is. But he was beating everybody to the gym and working on off-days,” Bosh said. “He could have every excuse to come in and rest. But there’s a reason why he’s one of the greatest of all time.” Passed upThe Lakers originally viewed Heat guard Goran Dragic as a free-agency target. But they changed their mind after falling in love with Russell in pre-draft workouts and holding optimism they could land a front-court player in free-agency. “I didn’t think about it. The Miami Heat came first and they offered a good deal,” said Dragic, who re-signed with the Heat to a five-year contract worth $90 million. “This was the right place for me and my family. It’s a winning culture here and they are doing an amazing job.” last_img read more

Kobe Bryant wants to relish his final NBA All-Star game

first_imgTORONTO >> The noise became louder with every move Kobe Bryant made. He stood up from a press table and groaned. Bryant moved his feet and winced. Bryant then uttered “Oh God,” before stepping from the platform to the ground. He then walked gingerly after sitting for almost 12 minutes. Moments earlier, the Lakers’ 37-year-old star provided a sober analysis on the state of his body. “I feel horrible,” Bryant said following the Lakers’ loss to Cleveland on Wednesday at Quicken Loans Arena. “Seriously. My ankles, knees, everything. This stretch couldn’t come at a better time.” Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Quote box: “This stretch couldn’t come at a better time.” — Lakers guard Kobe Bryant on NBA All-Star break It could be better, though. The Lakers (11-43) will rest during the nearly week-long NBA All-Star break that started Thursday and concludes on Wednesday. Lakers coach Byron Scott will vacation in Mexico. Lakers forward Julius Randle will relax in the Bahamas. And other Lakers players will stay in Los Angeles. But Bryant will spend the first part of the break participating here in NBA All-Star weekend. He will start for the Western Conference on Sunday at Air Canada Centre in what marks his 18th selection to the All-Star game. That marks the second-most selections behind the 19 All-Star games former Lakers center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar played. As another reminder to his aging body, Bryant will appear in his first All-Star game after missing the previous two because of season-ending injuries to his left knee and right shoulder, respectively. Bryant’s itinerary will also remain endless, with countless media and endorsement obligations on Friday and Saturday. “It is busy, but it’s also very selective,” Bryant said. “So there’s certain things that we’ll do that’s short bursts of appearances. But nothing too long. Nothing where I’m on my feet for long periods of time.”In between, Bryant plans to receive endless treatment that will include ice baths, massages and rest. Bryant will also stay with his family at a hotel different than the one accommodating other NBA All-Stars, both to maximize recovery time and to maximize privacy. Bryant then pointed out he will have days off on Monday and Tuesday, during which he will “do nothing.”Scott joked he will watch Sunday’s game only if “they got the game on the golf course on the 15th hole.” Scott also joked that he will text San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich not to play Bryant 37 minutes considering the Lakers will then play next Friday against the Spurs at Staples Center. “Pop is great,” Scott said. “I don’t worry about that.”But Scott did worry enough about Bryant to voice concerns to him before parting ways during the break. “ ‘I know you’re not going to get a bit of sleep,’ ” Scott recalled saying. “ ‘I know it’s going to be very taxing on you. Everybody wants to pay a tribute to you in some form or fashion.’ ” And then there’s the game itself. Bryant has accomplished plenty, with four All-Star MVP’s (2002, 2007, 2009 and 2011). He has set All-Star game records for points scored (280), most field goals made (115) and most steals (37, tied with Michael Jordan). But amid Bryant’s last season, TNT analyst and former Lakers teammate Shaquille O’Neal suspected Bryant will try to collect an All-Star record fifth MVP award to surpass Bob Pettit. “If he can find his stroke and get it going a little bit, I can guarantee you he’s going to go for the MVP,” O’Neal said in a conference call this week. “It’s his last one. Why not go out with a bang?”Bryant reacted to O’Neal’s argument with the same dismissiveness as when they butted heads over their respective roles in their eight years together on the Lakers (1996-2004). “Why? I’m good. I’m good. I’m good,” Bryant said. “I’ll make a couple jump shots and try to play the best I can. But I’m OK.”Bryant’s eyes then lit up and his tone softened when he spoke giddily about what he wants to experience in his last All-Star game.“Enjoy being around the guys,” Bryant said. “Seriously, this is crazy. This is 20 years for me, that’s more than half my life playing in the NBA and being in the locker room.”Bryant then noted he could have “babysat” Golden State guard Stephen Curry when Bryant first entered the NBA. Bryant remarked he knew Warriors guard Klay Thompson “when he was a young kid.” Bryant expressed giddiness on appearing in his eighth All-Star game with Cleveland forward LeBron James and his fourth All-Star appearance with Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant.“I can’t wait to be around them and just talk to them and see how far the game has progressed and seeing all this young talent and the different generations of players,” Bryant said. “I’ll be able to sit in the locker room and seriously just look at it all and just smile and just take it all in.”By that point, Bryant’s nostalgia amid the adulation from peers and fans may overwhelm him enough that he will not think about the pain he currently nurses. last_img read more