Through Purple and Gold Frames

Lakers Hype

“Obviously, being one of our own guys, I tune in and check him out,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said of following how Russell is doing. “He’s been playing great. I’m happy for him. He’s shooting the ball well. Putting up big numbers. And they’re having some success right now.” Ball, meanwhile, is averaging 10 points, 7.7 assists, 7.5 rebounds and 31.1 percent shooting. Lopez, whom the Lakers were thrilled to get in hopes of having a stretch center to spread the floor and play pick-and-pops with Ball, is averaging 11.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 26.9 percent shooting from 3-point range.

LeBron James’ business partner Maverick Carter said James — in the final year of his deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers — won’t start thinking about his next career step until about a week after the NBA season comes to an end. And when that time comes, location won’t play much of a role. “These days it doesn’t matter anymore,” Carter said during an interview on The Rich Eisen Show early Wednesday morning when asked specifically about the importance of where James plays. “The Lakers and the Knicks have been bad. The Knicks for a very long time and the Lakers since Kobe (Bryant) kind of aged out of being the best player or one of the best players in the league and basketball is doing as great as ever with teams in Oklahoma City and Cleveland. These days it doesn’t matter because you can be known and be a star from anywhere in the world. It doesn’t actually matter.

So if James, who owns a house in Los Angeles, wants to go in that direction when his NBA career starts winding down, doesn’t playing there make perfect sense? “I understand people keep saying that and thinking that. But the reason it doesn’t make sense is because if he does play in L.A. or he plays on the moon he can only shoot movies for three months,” Carter said. “It doesn’t matter. Even if he played in L.A. and wanted to be in a movie, he can’t shoot from basically September to June.

LaVar Ball fired back at Patrick Beverley after the LA Clippers guard shouted an obscenity as he walked into the locker room that was presumed to be about Lonzo Ball. After the Clippers routed the Los Angeles Lakers 108-92 and held Ball to three points, four assists and nine rebounds in his debut, Beverley was heard screaming, “weak ass m—–f—–. Bring him out on the court with me and I will tear his ass up,” as he walked off the court and into the locker room. “Yeah, you shut the m—–f—– down,” LaVar Ball told ESPN after the game. “And your check still ain’t going to go no higher than what it is. Yeah, you shut him down. OK … Who is Patrick Beverley? He played all last year and nobody said nothing about him. Now we are looking at your first game. Why? Because Lonzo’s name is attached to it.

But other veterans around the league, such as a fellow slender No. 2 overall pick Kevin Durant — a player with whom Brandon Ingram was compared before the draft — have also passed along some wisdom. “[Durant] is always sending me motivational things. Though some things may need to be censored,” Ingram told Yahoo Sports. “He sees a lot in me. He actually told me to block out everything and be the killer that I am. To get a lot of guys around this league that see what I can be, it does nothing but make me want to work harder.”

Being basketball means he knows talent when he sees it. So I’m curious: What is it really like to raise a child prodigy? “It’s really the joy of the game,” Joe ‘Jellybean’ Bryant told me on Scoop B Radio. “I think as a parent, you figure he could play as long as he wants, as long as he enjoys the game. I think he made some comments about mentally…he’s fine. He likes the challenge. It’s your body. Your body takes you long to recuperate. That’s the challenge.”

“As a fan, just watching him play and putting up all those points and playing at such a high level at such a great organization like the Lakers. I think that’s probably one of the important things,” he told me. The fundamentals and doing things the right way is what Joe ‘Jellybean’ Bryant respects about his son. “These kids come out of school and they worry about being a number one pick, number two pick, I think it’s more important that you get with the right organization and Kobe was able to do that and as you see, playing with one organization is really something special.”

He will be the anchor in turning this thing around or not. The Nets, front office, coaching staff and front office get how important he is. He is already the face of the Nets, despite their team-first mentality. And yes, players will want to play with him because he’s going to make them better (and a lot of money). He also gets that he needs to understand his role better than he did in L.A. “I think guys enjoyed playing with me,” Russell told Zach Lowe. “Now I’m going to make sure they do instead of not really taking it into consideration.

Ingram received a 76 rating in the game, which some believed was too low. In an interview with Mike Bresnahan of Spectrum SportsNet, Ingram disagreed saying it could’ve been even lower considering the season he had last year: “I can’t control it, I know it’s just a game. Of course with the season I had this year I could’ve expected it even lower. I know what I’m capable of and a lot of guys, especially my fans, know what I’m capable of and that’s why they were mad at it, but it’s kind of based off how the season went this year.”

The Los Angeles Lakers know that point guard Lonzo Ball is good at basketball. It’s why they drafted him with the No. 2 overall pick this past June. But what might be more surprising to them and the rest of the NBA is Ball’s musical talent. The 19-year-old graced the airwaves with his debut rap single titled “Melo Ball 1” on Friday. And, no, the lyrical flow is not about New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony. Rather, the two-minute song is a tribute to his younger brother, LaMelo, who just became the first high school player to have his own signature shoe. Released by the Big Baller Brand, LaMelo’s kicks are called the “Melo Ball 1s.”

While Kuzma talks, Lakers President Magic Johnson drains a series of mid-range jumpers at the other end of the gym. The 58-year-old then stops to hold court as a group of about 10 basketball operations staffers form a semicircle to hear a tale from his legendary playing career. And Kuzma — a self-described “basketball junkie” — pauses to listen to what the Hall of Famer has to say. “For me to be a Laker and work beside him is an unbelievable feeling and pretty surreal because he’s one of the greatest.”

During halftime at The Lakers game on November 6, 2016, UCLA Health and The Lakers honored six retired servicemen who received specialized medical, surgical and mental-health care through the UCLA Operation Mend program. Army corporal Pablo Mena, army specialist Joey Paulk, marine staff sergeant Octavio Sanchez, army rangers staff sergeant Oskar Zepeda, army sergeant Jason March, and navy petty officer Michael Lammey were honored on the court after meeting with coach Luke Walton and receiving a practice-facility tour.

Ask Luke Walton to cite something he’s been pleased with early in the season, and you might be surprised where he goes. He doesn’t point to Nick Young’s resurgence, Julius Randle’s emergence or Timofey Mozgov’s effective play. Not right away, anyway. No, the Lakers’ coach recalls Brandon Ingram’s final three minutes in Los Angeles’ win over Atlanta last week — minutes the rookie forward watched from the bench. Up three late in the fourth, Walton pulled Ingram for Young. When Young canned a game-clinching three-pointer minutes later, Walton smiled watching Ingram leap off the bench and holler at his teammate. “When I took him out, you could see it in his face, he wanted to be out there,” Walton told The Vertical. “But he was right there, cheering for Nick. I think it’s good. Supporting your teammates late in games gives you perspective for what it’s like to be out there on the court.”

“A lot of ideas and philosophies come from Golden State,” Walton said. “And Steve took a lot of things from Pop [Spurs coach Gregg Popovich] in San Antonio. All the spacing and cutting, that came from Phil’s influence on Steve and I. Now, we can’t play like Golden State because no one else has the shooters they have. But we can still play an up-tempo style. Everyone is getting opportunities because we are sharing the ball. We have a deep team. We want to attack for 48 minutes.”

SLAM: Jordan Clarkson recently said that aside from himself, you, Larry Nance Jr, Roy Hibbert and Anthony Brown were the top Call of Duty players on the team last year. Is anyone else nice at COD? D’Angelo Russell: I honestly don’t know. We got a lot of vets on our team so I’m not sure if they even know what Call of Duty is, but I would say that’s about it. Maybe Julius [Randle]. He’s a fan and is good at it. SLAM: If you could pick one or two other players and form a squad, would you guys come out with the W against one of these top teams participating in the Call of Duty Championships? D’Angelo Russell: Oh yeah, I’d get my boy Devin Booker and Karl-Anthony Towns and we’d be successful.

That drive led him to Wednesday’s free agent minicamp at the Lakers’ practice facility, where General Manager Mitch Kupchak labeled him as “one of the players that we did want to take a look at.” The Lakers only have so many spots left to fill for their 20-man training camp roster, and space for Henry is far from guaranteed. But it is nonetheless a major step for a player whose career could have very well been over. “I’ve been doing a lot of workouts this summer with a lot of different teams and getting feedback and seeing how I feel,” he said. “I’ve been feeling really good. I’m feeling blessed that I can even play basketball again.”

Three of those present at the Lakers’ practice facility — Jeff Ayres, P.J. Hairston and Johnny O’Bryant — played in the NBA just last season. Three more — Xavier Henry, Orlando Johnson and Travis Wear — also have experience in the world’s top league. Still, Kupchak cautioned that the team isn’t looking for a roster-shaking player with this one-day camp. “I don’t think we’re looking at players here that would be in the rotation, although you never know,” Kupchak said. “They come to camp and earn whatever they can get. But what I think we’re looking at here are known players. They’re free agents and we do have roster spots open in terms of our team. But also we have roster spots open in terms of training camp.”

Henry credited Santa Cruz’s training and coaching staffs with assisting his rehab and never letting him get too down on himself. In spite of this, it was still a far-from-perfect path for Henry, who only played nine games for the team. Nonetheless, his dedication to grinding his way back to the court was noticed from afar by his former general manager. “I think it’s a testament to a great kid,” Kupchak said. “That’s nothing new to us. We know the kid and we know what kind of heart he has. He’s had several different types of injuries and he’s worked his way through it. He’s still young enough to make a run at the NBA and playing basketball professionally, so we wish him the best.”

Q: I know you love the city and LA atmosphere, but you guys are still a young and developing team. With that usually comes a lot of losses and learning through mistakes. What went into your free agency decision of not wanting to look at other options? Jordan Clarkson: It really didn’t have much to do with the city and the lifestyle, even though it is a plus. I’m a big believer in the process, the struggle, and finding that light at the end of it all. I wanted to be a part of these tough times, so when we turn it around here it’s going to be a great feeling. That will be something we will always remember and will be amazing once we do.

Are you talking with teams right now? Metta World Peace: I’m waiting for teams. I can still play. I can play, it’s not even a question man. But, you know, sometimes you don’t get in the game, man. What are you going to do? I’m not going to be upset, I’m going to support. So if I don’t play, like this year on the Lakers I could have averaged 15 or 20 on the Lakers if I played, easily. But you know, I’ll be supportive [if I don’t play]. But the only thing that gets me frustrated with the whole basketball is people think I can’t play anymore. So as a man, I take that personally. But at the same time I’m able to still focus on making sure Julius Randle is doing his thing, and he’s focused, making sure I can give back. But when the season’s over, then I like to explain that I can play, and I can bust people’s ass. But the fans have to understand, it’s not up to me. It’s so frustrating to keep hearing it from the fans. ‘Come back to New York, come to Chicago. Why didn’t you play.’ It’s so frustrating at times.

Giannis Antetokounmpo: For me there are a lot of very good players in the NBA that “say” that they work hard but they don’t show it. I mean, everyone can come to you and tell you to work hard, right ? I remember in that meeting, when Kobe was talking he said to me, “My friend, when i was working i was working for 8 hours each day, I was shooting a thousand shots per day.” When i was hearing him saying those words, looking into my eyes I knew that he did those things, I knew it immediately .You could feel that wasn’t him saying bullshit just to impress you. He pointed out also how important a summer is for a player. He said in the summer I need to work as hard as possible and be as exhausted as possible and get used to it , so when I am playing during the regular season the exhaustion wouldn’t be visible.

Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan have already retired after this past season, and Kevin Garnett still hasn’t decided whether to return for another year. “It may go down as the greatest retirement summer in NBA history,” Rivers said, hailing the competitiveness of that group. “The biggest thing, I think, those guys knew how to play. Kevin’s knowledge of the game — and Kevin doesn’t want to hear it, I literally talked to Kevin last night — but Kevin could be the greatest big man teacher in the game right now if he wanted to be. Whenever he did do it in practice there’s no one better than that. Paul Pierce is an NBA encyclopedia. You can ask Paul Pierce any historical question about the NBA. He knows it, he studies it, he loves it. Duncan’s the same way. What’s neat about all three of them (is) they’re all completely different individuals. I’ve never seen three different people, and Kobe can be four different individuals, yet all great in their own right.”

As a member of the Heat’s summer league team, Winslow played in three games and averaged 16.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists. But he still struggled to make shots from beyond the arc, hitting 23.5 percent of his 3-point shots. “It’s time,” Riley said of Winslow. “I remember when James Worthy came to the Lakers and Jamaal Wilkes was the incumbent and then there came that time, there came that time when it was just a matter of time when James Worthy was going to take his position. Are we ready for Justise Winslow to start at the three? I am. I’m not just throwing him out there. This guy has been thrown out there last year and played significant minutes and significant time. I trust him. So you guys put too much on the things that he can’t do versus what he can. And those things that he can’t do, he’s going to be able to do better with more minutes.”

DeRozan may have grown up idolizing his hometown’s most glamorous franchise. He may have grown up admiring Kobe Bryant, imitating his moves and later dubbing him “the top five greatest player of all time.” Yet, DeRozan refused to compromise the same affection he has for the Raptors after they selected him ninth overall in the 2009 NBA draft. “When you have an opportunity to go home, that’s something that certainly would cross your mind. But it wasn’t anything,” DeRozan told Southern California News Group. “After I finish playing, I’m pretty sure I’ll live in L.A. But I just wanted to do something special and leave a legacy of my own in Toronto.”

With rim protection and perimeter shooting ranking as the Lakers’ foremost areas of concern heading into the open market, sources told ESPN.com that Whiteside has emerged a priority target for L.A. The Lakers, like the Heat, are still hopeful of securing a face-to-face recruiting meeting with Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant once free agency season commences at 12:01 a.m. on July 1. But the Lakers, sources say, are highly intrigued by Whiteside and what he could bring them as a double-double presence inside.

Roland Lazenby recently joined the Triple Threat Podcast to discuss his upcoming book about Bryant. While bound to an understandable secrecy agreement with his publishing house (Little Brown), Roland Lazenby was able to describe the project as a 600-page journey through Kobe Bryant’s life and the path his basketball career took. Outside of his most recent book (Michael Jordan: The Life), Lazenby has also written a biography on former Laker Jerry West and taken in-depth looks at the life and career of both Phil Jackson (while he was coaching the Bulls) and even a young Bryant. Roland Lazenby also acknowledged that the book does spend some time focusing on the life of Bryant’s father Joe “Jellybean” Bryant as an NBA player and the parallels Lazenby described as “a pretty compelling story about Kobe being the force of nature” that he has been, and how their two stories are interlinked in the obvious father/son ways and beyond.

While Roland Lazenby described Bryant’s final year as sub par when compared to the incredible standard he established throughout his Hall of Fame career, he said a portion of the book will also center around the vintage 60-point scoring performance Bryant left us with and how unique of a farewell game that truly was. He also described the project as a view of Bryant as both a cultural and sports figure and said his basic focus was on the 20-year career and all the relationships that played a role in developing and maintaining Bryant’s greatness along the way.

Of course, his son Luke is the top Warriors assistant coach under head coach Steve Kerr and already has accepted the job as new head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. But before Luke Walton took the Lakers job, he was considered a potential candidate for the Knicks job that eventually went to Jeff Hornacek. Asked if he advised his son about his career path, Bill Walton said, “I’m a huge Phil Jackson fan, and I love New York. But I’m just Luke’s dad. All the decisions and choices are up to him.”

Lakers co-owner Jeanie Buss was our guest, in studio, on ESPN radio this morning. I asked if her fiancé, and Knicks president, Phil Jackson would ever join her back in LA. “No,” Buss said, “To visit, yes..but in terms of basketball, he’s committed to New York for many years. He’s building something there. He has a mission, he’s on that journey to get the team back to where he believes it can be and it will be. He’s a former Knick…he loves New York, he loves the fans, he wants to make them proud. In terms of the Lakers, we have a front office.

Los Angeles Lakers co-owner Jeanie Buss says that Phil Jackson, her fiancé and the president of the Knicks, will not be leaving New York to rejoin the Lakers. “No. To visit, yes … but in terms of basketball, he’s committed to New York for many years,” Buss said Monday on ESPN Radio’s Beadle and Shelburne Show. “He’s building something there. He has a mission, he’s on that journey to get the team back to where he believes it can be and it will be. He’s a former Knick … he loves New York, he loves the fans, he wants to make them proud.”

“We talked about it as a family,” Jeanie Buss said Monday of Jim Buss’ stance. “My brother spoke about it publicly. It is something that I think he’s very sincere in when he says that if he can’t get this team to where we’re competitive, being in the playoffs, second round, competing for the Western Conference final. He would feel that he isn’t living up to the job that my father left to him, and he [Jim] made it clear if he couldn’t do the job that he would step aside and make sure that somebody would come in and do that because that’s how much he loves the Lakers. That’s how much my family loves the Lakers.”

Late Lakers owner Jerry Buss, with his new Staples Center and expensive skyboxes set to debut, changed his mind once Jackson expressed interest. Buss felt he needed a marquee name. Rambis was removed from the staff completely, demoted to broadcaster and, according to the controversial biography “Mindgames,” conducting arena tours. According to the 2002 biography, Buss’ daughter, Jeanie, who didn’t know Phil Jackson from Andrew Jackson, was furious. Jeanie had been close friends with Rambis’ wife, Linda, since the 1980s. “Mindgames” described Rambis as “discouraged, confused and bitter.’’ Two years later, in 2001, at Jeanie’s behest, Jackson promoted Rambis to his staff, demoting triangle legend Tex Winter. But Rambis’ head-coaching career never took off.

Q: On getting free agents to come to the Lakers when so many other teams have cap room: Kupchak: Everybody’s gonna have room. I’ll call it financial flexibility. … We could bring one (max) player on board. This year, we can bring multiple players on board. That doesn’t mean we’re going to have the inside track to one particular free agent. … The players are going to decide where they are going to go; financial considerations and where they can win. We have the natural advantage of living in a great city with great fans that I think will continue to be an advantage. Something we have this year that we didn’t have last year is more talent, and I think free agents may look at us and say, “Well, I like the group they have. Who else can they get this summer with me?” We have the ability to do that. We could quickly go from a team that’s young to a team that’s young and has some veterans and hopefully will win a bunch of games.

Q: On hiring Walton so quickly: Kupchak: We didn’t have to spend a lot of time getting to know Luke. As a player, we drafted Luke, signed him to two or three contracts. We traded him to Cleveland, which, to this day he hasn’t forgiven us for (laughs). When he came back, he worked with us for our D-League team (the Los Angeles D-Fenders) for one year. We didn’t have to spend a lot of time getting to know him. We know him as a person. Jim (Buss) and I spent six or seven hours basically talking basketball. We had a lot of questions. “What kind of offense? What kind of defense? How do you see our team playing? What do you think of our players? What do we need?” A lot of “What if?” scenarios. And he was well thought out. He was prepared. He had an offensive and defensive playbook. He actually had another pamphlet that he handed out with his picture on the front of it and his name underneath: Luke Walton. I looked at it and said, “Really, Luke?” And he said, “This is something my agent made me do.” (laughs)

Upon being drafted, the Jheri-curled Green, 21, was thrown to the wolves. And his randy teammates did whatever they could to tempt him. “We’d say, ‘A.C., come on, go out with us,’ and he’d say, ‘No, I won’t go out with you guys but I’ll pray for you guys,’” says a chuckling Michael Cooper, Green’s teammate, in the film. “We joked about how long it would last before he had sex,” adds teammate James Worthy. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar remembers how Green would carry a Bible around with him at all times.

They started a pool during his ’85-’86 rookie season to see if he’d cave and it got as high as $600. “You don’t get laid once in two months, the money’s yours,” said Magic. “But there’s no fucking way…” They even went as far as sending a gorgeous, scantily clad woman to his hotel room during a road trip, but Green remained steadfast. “So, you get a knock on your hotel room door. You look through the peephole and you see a half-naked woman who wants to come in. What do you do?” asks Ferrell in the film. “I would just start saying prayers super loud,” Green replies.

Should Clarkson accept the Lakers’ one-year qualifying offer in June, he would end up as a restricted free agent again in 2017. Clarkson could explore the open market in hopes for a better deal, which the Lakers will have three days to match. The Lakers will have up to $60 million in cap space available. “I feel confident I’ll be back here. I want to be here,” Clarkson said. “I want to be one of those guys that is not bouncing around from team to team. I want to be somewhere where I can come home and leave my mark or legacy or somewhere I can call home. I feel like this is the place I can do that.”

He used to be close to Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss. They’d meet for lunches at California Pizza Kitchen or this Italian restaurant in Marina Del Rey. Before Buss passed away in 2013, he told Kobe he hoped he’d be a Laker for life. I ask what it meant to him that Buss chose him over Shaquille O’Neal in 2004. “Shaq demanded the trade first,” he says. “Right, but he actually traded him. He wouldn’t trade you.” “I look at it from a business perspective,” he says. “I would have made the same call. If you’re going to bet, you got to bet on the horse that you know is obsessive about what they do, day in and day out, and is going to be hell bent on trying to win a championship. If you’re going to bet on a horse, you always bet on the one that eats, sleeps and breathes the craft.”

Fox eventually did. After O’Neal was traded to Miami and Jackson’s contract wasn’t extended, Fox wasn’t sure he could deal with the Black Mamba unchained. He already had a bad foot injury and a neck problem. So he told the Lakers he was going to retire with one year left on his contract. The team tried to change his mind. He wouldn’t, and so they traded him to Boston. He never played another game. “I knew [he] was going to be hard-core all the time,” Fox said. “I thought I would reinjure myself and be walking with a cane the rest of my life. … I just couldn’t do it.”

Sixty points?! On 50 shots?! “It was like I was forced to,” Kobe says. “By the crowd and mostly by teammates.” What was more ridiculous? That his 60 points was twice as many as any Hall of Famer has scored in his last regular-season game. That, at age 37, he was five years older than anyone else who has scored 60 points? That no one has taken 50 shots in an NBA game in 49 years? Or that his teammates didn’t want him to pass? “I challenged him to score 50 points and that motherfucker got 60,” O’Neal said as he stood on the court long after Kobe had left it, trying to process his final brazen act. “It would have taken me four months to get 50 shots on any of the teams I played for,” Horace Grant said. “And that motherfucker took 50 in one night.”

Kobe scores one point in the first half. McGrady has 21. The Magic are beating the Lakers. He’s finally at the bottom of the ocean. “I remember sitting in the locker room at halftime and saying to myself, ‘You know what, you may lose everything in life because of the situation that you put yourself in,'” Kobe recalls. “‘You may lose your family, your freedom, but I’ll be damned if I lose basketball. Because this shit I can control.’ “Sitting in that locker room, that’s where I made the decision, fuck it. I can’t control any of that other stuff. But I’m going to take these motherfuckers out.” He scored 24 points in the fourth quarter and locked down McGrady, and the Lakers won in overtime. “After the game, I go back to the house and pick all my shit up,” he says. “I take my motorcycle and go to a motel.”

Did he notice anything different about Kobe that night? “He wasn’t as aggressive in the first half,” McGrady says. “That I remember.” I tell him the story of what really happened before the game. McGrady is stunned. “It was that game?” McGrady says. “Oh, man. “Listen, I knew this cat was insane. He fucking went through that trial and was coming back and forth and was still fucking going nuts. That right there, I knew he was obsessed with basketball, like this was his fucking life.”

Paul appeared to be on his way to Los Angeles to join Bryant in the Lakers’ backcourt after the team struck a deal to acquire the MVP-caliber point guard from the New Orleans Hornets. Bryant said the phone call lasted about 20-30 minutes, and they weren’t talking about how many games they planned to win together. “You know me. My dream isn’t to win games,” Bryant recalled to ESPN this week. “It’s like, ‘How many of these titles are we going to win [together]?’ Because if we don’t win, we’re a failure.” “It was crazy,” Paul told ESPN this week. “It was exciting. We talked about potentially being teammates and all that stuff like that. Then, in the blink of an eye, gone.”

“Butting heads is fine,” Bryant said. “If we didn’t butt heads, we wouldn’t have won championships. There’s different variations of healthy butting heads and not healthy. [Shaquille O’Neal] and I would butt heads in a very unhealthy way, but then we figured out how to make it happen. “But I think Chris and I are really two completely different players, and where Shaq and I really butted heads was in the work ethic, because his size and injuries prohibited him from working as hard as he could have been working. So what I used to get on him about was that. That’s what we really disagreed on — the amount of focus and physical attention that it takes to win this damn thing. And so Chris and I would never have these issues.”

As of now, Young has not accepted any apology. Young also declined to field questions from reporters before the game and only offered a statement that lasted for about a minute. “I don’t want to get into my personal life right now,” Young said. “I think it’s best me and D’Angelo handle the situation we have in a private manner outside of the media. I think it’s something we do need to sit down and talk about. That’s about it. What happened is what happened. We have to work on it.”

The Lakers are not happy that Russell has cast the franchise in this light now—and there are those in the organization fearful that he has made himself another hurdle to be overcome in the franchise’s effort to add much-needed, proven free-agent talent. But the club is not about to give up on him over this: a foolish, ill-conceived undertaking that was at least not malicious in intent. The Lakers believe in Russell’s talent and hope he learns a lesson the hard way about needing to be more professional. Russell has been glad to have another young teammate to experience off-the-court life with him in 23-year-old Jordan Clarkson, who got embroiled in his own controversy earlier this month—riding in the car with Young, actually

If Bryant and Wade both play, it’ll be the 20th head-to-head meeting. Wade — who, like Bryant, has worn only one professional uniform — and the Heat have an 11-8 edge in those matchups. Bryant didn’t play when the Lakers visited Miami earlier this season. Players have taken to asking for Bryant for certain souvenirs like jerseys or sneakers this season. Wade will have a request as well for a memento from their final matchup, though he isn’t sure what yet. “Trying to think of something different,” Wade said. “I’m asking for something. It’s crazy that it’s our last time playing him and we’re asking for something.”

Nick Young and Kobe Bryant have a history that goes deeper than just being teammates. When Bryant sidelined during the 2013-14 season, it was Young that stepped in to debut Kobe’s ninth signature sneaker on court. As one of the league’s biggest sneakerheads, it was the perfect opportunity for Young, who’s never had his own signature model, to pay tribute to his teammate. It’s something that Young continues to do even this day, despite changing sneaker brands earlier this season. In fact, securing pairs from Bryant’s original signature line was one of Young’s first orders of business after signing to adidas. “I asked for the old Kobes and all that,” Young told us.

In February of 2010, his left leg had to be amputated when the cancer spread. A month later, the cancer had entered Joey’s lungs. In May, with fluid filling his lungs, Joey was airlifted to a Los Angeles-area hospital. Through it all, Joey continued to follow his beloved Lakers and Bryant, his favorite player. It was Joey’s refuge from reality. “How cool would it be if I actually got to meet Kobe,” Joey told his family. They knew that would be the ultimate boost for his sometimes sagging spirits.

“Hey, Joey where were your seats?” Bryant asked, going on to describe his own experience watching a game as a teenager. They chatted. Bryant signed every item Joey had brought with him and then took pictures with the family. When Bryant finally left, Joey’s face was glowing. “He talked to me like he had known me for years,” Joey said. “We chatted like we were old buddies.” “What a class act,” Linda said of Bryant. “He took the time in the middle of all he had going on to light up a young man’s life.”

“I blame himself a lot for that for not making it more organized,” D’Angelo Russell said. “It comes real chaotic at times. Me being a point guard, I don’t do a good job of playing together and running the set and anything like that. I put that on myself.” Russell then rolled his eyes and sounded dismissed on how he can fix that issue. “I don’t know, man,” Russell said. “If I knew, I would do it. But I don’t know. That’s why I’m figuring it out.”