Kobe Bryant's sudden death has only strengthened the Los Angeles Lakers' tight bond, according to head coach Frank Vogel.

Lakers legend Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among nine people killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on Sunday.

Vogel said it had been an "extremely emotional" and "deeply saddening" time for everyone involved with the storied franchise, with whom five-time NBA champion Bryant spent his entire 20-year career.

But after returning to training on Wednesday, having postponed their game against rivals the Los Angeles Clippers, Vogel vowed his team would grow more unified.

"I don't think it could break us apart in any way," Vogel said. "It's just a feel thing. You observe those around you, you observe your own feelings and emotions, and you proceed at the right pace at the right time."

"It's just strengthened what we've felt all year about our current group," he continued. 

"We've become a family in a very short time. It's something you talk about in the NBA with the teams, but this group in particular has grown to love each other very rapidly.

"We understand the importance and opportunity we have this year, and this has just brought us closer together."

The league's MVP in 2008 and an All-Star 18 times, Bryant wrote his name into NBA record books during his two decades in Los Angeles.

The Lakers are this season competing for their first championship since 2010 and Vogel said the team intended to do their former superstar justice.

"We want to represent what Kobe was about more than anything," he said.

"We've always wanted to make him proud and that's not going to be any different here. We want to represent what he stood for. That's the most important thing for us."

Los Angeles are due to return to the floor against the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center on Friday.

Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis said he is nearing a return from a gluteus maximus contusion.

Lakers forward Davis has missed the past three NBA games due to the injury suffered against the New York Knicks last week.

The six-time All-Star escaped serious injury after landing heavily on his backside and he told reporters on Tuesday: "Right now, just talking to you? Zero [pain] right now.

"It's the movement that kind of gets me. But ... I'm getting closer to getting back on the floor with these guys."

"It was very painful," Davis continued. "Hard for me to walk, obviously. It was pretty tough for me to just roll over on my back and on my side at the initial point of contact.

"It was tough. I didn't want any speculation, but I was just praying that it wasn't anything too serious."

Davis – who has been averaging 27.1 points, 9.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game this season – added: "Very relieving knowing that just based on how it felt, a day-to-day thing, [rather] than a fracture or anything like that where you need surgery and you're out weeks or months or whatever. I'm glad [that my return timeline], it's just based on how I feel.

"Every day it's getting better and I'm a lot closer than I was three days ago. Made some more progress today. When I feel like I'm able to get back to my old self and do the moves I've always done and be successful at it, that's when I'll be able to get back on the floor."

The Western Conference-leading Lakers (33-7) have not missed a beat in Davis' absence, extending their winning streak to nine games.

"This is L.A. You know everything I say will be quoted out of context. So I was going to make a joke, but I'm not going to joke because we definitely need Anthony Davis," said Lakers head coach Frank Vogel.

"But we are undefeated this week without him. Something along the lines of, 'Well, if you look at the statistics ...' I don't know what the joke would be. I'm not very funny."

LeBron James has hailed the Los Angeles Lakers' defence after the team made 20 blocks in Sunday's 106-99 victory over the Detroit Pistons.

James starred offensively with 21 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists, although it was the defence that claimed the headlines as they made more blocks than any other NBA team since March 2001.

Their tally of blocks was one shy of the Lakers' franchise record, and James insisted Dwight Howard, Anthony Davis and JaVale McGee made it easy for him to run the show offensively.

"I think it's an unbelievable, remarkable feat. They make it easy on us," James told reporters in the Lakers' locker room when asked about the team's defensive display. 

"We try to contain these small, quick guards and attackers. To know that you have that safety net behind you is a hell of a luxury.

"We can pressure up on a lot of guards. This is a three-point shooting league. You can get beat a lot in this league with three-point shots, so we just try to force them wide.

"I don't think [block shots] is an underrated stat. Any time you can protect the rim or someone can get back and make a block. Some of the greatest block-shotters have dominated the history of the game.

"We have one in Dwight who has done it through the course of his career, JaVale and obviously AD. When you have guys who are able to change the trajectory of the shot and also either block the shot or make guards or forwards change their shot, it's key to the defence.

"When we acquired AD and when we re-signed JeVale we knew we'd be able to impact a lot of shots. When we acquired Dwight we knew we'd be able to add even more, so we know we can do certain things offensively that other teams can't because of the protection we have. We just try to take advantage of it."

"Obviously it was a huge factor in the game," Lakers head coach Frank Vogel told a news conference.

"Our three big guys just played exceptional basketball. I think we as a group were not happy about giving up 68 points on the paint against the Pelicans. Those guys took a lot of pride in protecting our rim, 20 points is pretty special, the guys did a great job."

The Lakers lead the Western conference with a 29-7 record for the season.

LeBron James and Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel poured praise upon Anthony Davis after his 50-point display against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Davis reached 50 points in a game for the first time since joining the Lakers, leading the team to a 142-125 victory on Sunday.

With his star team-mate in such form, James suggested his role was fairly straightforward, with the four-time MVP contributing 13 assists to go with his 32 points.

"Just keep feeding him," James said of Davis. "He was efficient all night, getting the ball exactly where he wanted it - either near post, low post, perimeter.

"He can do it all, so it's our job to continue to give him the ball."

James is happy with how he and Davis are performing together, inspiring a 21-3 start to the season, but he was always confident the former New Orleans Pelicans star would be able to lead the Lakers.

"For me and AD, it starts with us," he said. "If we're on the same page, it makes it much easier for the rest of the ball club. That's both on and off the floor.

"We're just trying to lead by example, lead by our voices, lead by our play, and see where it takes us. It's been pretty good for us so far.

"[Davis] had to carry a franchise before, so I don't think it's anything that's foreign to him. The best thing about what it is today is that he has an opportunity to be great every night.

"No matter if he's making shots or not, it's just his presence alone. And us, as his team-mates, continue to make him comfortable. He's great. There's nothing more that you can say."

Davis was 20-for-29 from the field but did not need a single three-point shot to get to a half-century.

The 26-year-old also weighed in with seven rebounds, six assists, four steals and a block, leaving coach Vogel to marvel at his player.

"The first thing that sticks out to me was that he had four steals, a block and great defense all 39 minutes he was out there," Vogel said.

"To be able to perform on that end of the floor and anchor us and still go for 50 - with what I feel is an old-school smash-mouth way of getting 50: no threes, 20-for-29 and living at the free-throw line, post-ups, offensive rebounds, crashes, all those type of things - it's just an old-school performance.

"It's one for the ages."

LeBron James said he wanted to give Kobe Bryant a reason to attend another game after the Los Angeles Lakers great watched the win over the Atlanta Hawks.

Bryant sat courtside as his former team the Lakers beat the Hawks 122-101 at Staples Center, where James shared an embrace with the five-time NBA champion.

James, who posted 33 points and 12 rebounds on Sunday, acknowledged Bryant in the opening quarter as the past met the present before nailing a three-pointer in Los Angeles.

"He is one of the greatest players to have played this game," James told reporters post-game. "I'm just trying put on a show for him.

"I know he came to a game last year and just having him in the building, just knowing what he meant to this franchise, to L.A., and for me and my team-mates, what it means to be a part of Laker Nation and Laker family, is a beautiful thing.

"I grew up watching him, admiring him. I was one of the kids obviously who had the chance to come straight outta high school. He did it.

"It's just so surreal for me. Just for a kid from Akron to have a guy like Kobe, just take time out of his day, even at this point of my career, it's still special."

James – a three-time NBA champion and four-time MVP – also used Instagram to hail Kobe, who is not known for attending many Lakers games in LA.

"I'm just trying to continue the legacy you left behind in the purple and gold," James wrote. "At the same time make you proud!! #TheBlackMamba #LakeShow."

James continued his stunning start to the season against the Hawks, with the 34-year-old averaging 25.0 points, 11.2 assists and 7.6 rebounds per game this season.

His performance helped the Lakers – who have missed the playoffs for the past six consecutive seasons – improve to 11-2.

Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said: "He's playing at an extraordinarily high level and dominating. His effort on the defensive end has really spread throughout the group, and the group has bought into being dominant on the defensive end of the floor.

"We saw that in the first quarter, with how we just controlled the game from the start. Offensively, his shot-making, his decision-making, zero turnovers, 12 assists… Are you kidding me?"

Frank Vogel lauded the "terrific" LeBron James after he set the tone for the Los Angeles Lakers' 120-94 defeat of the injury-hit Golden State Warriors.

Lakers superstar James scored a game-high 23 points and laid on 12 assists at Staples Center on Wednesday.

James starred with Anthony Davis ruled out due to shoulder and rib soreness as the Lakers sealed back-to-back wins after seeing off the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday.

Lakers head coach Vogel was full of praise for the four-time NBA MVP after the Western Conference leaders improved to 9-2.

"Historically he's played really well in the second night of back-to-backs," Vogel said of the 34-year-old forward. "He was terrific early and really the whole night.

"But for him to come in and set the tone for our group, with regards to the importance of this game and how we're going to plan, how we're going to approach it, everybody else followed the lead and really competed.

"We know Golden State is under-manned but you still have to go out and play with energy and perform and LeBron set the tone for our whole team with that."

James took great satisfaction from the Lakers showing their unselfishness by amassing 31 assists on the night and knew he had to step up in the absence of Davis.

"I think we pay attention to detail in our game plan, I think offensively once again had another 30 assists, it's huge for our ball club, everyone involved," James said.

He added: "With AD being out, knowing I had to pick up the load offensively, but I was just trying to set the tone early in the game, see if my shot was going in - and it was. Just trying to be aggressive."

LeBron James credited his improved health for his inspired start to the NBA season with the streaking Los Angeles Lakers.

James endured a forgettable debut campaign in Los Angeles, where a groin injury restricted the three-time champion to 55 games in 2018-19 as the Lakers missed the playoffs for a sixth successive season.

However, four-time MVP James is fit again and at the forefront of the Lakers' five-game winning streak after Los Angeles dropped their opener against the Los Angeles Clippers.

James posted 21 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds for back-to-back triple-doubles as the Lakers topped the San Antonio Spurs 103-96 on Sunday.

Reflecting on his impressive start to 2019-20, the 34-year-old – who became the first Lakers player with consecutive triple-doubles since 2006 – said: "I'm playing injury free. I'm not injured. My quick twitch is back. My speed is back, my strength is back.

"Playing with a torn groin last year - even when I came back it was still partially torn - it was difficult to be able to move and shift like I'm capable of doing that defensively.

"For me, I just take the challenge. I love being challenged. Head coach [Frank Vogel] challenged me, AD [Anthony Davis] challenged me, I challenged myself.

"I put a lot of hard work into my offseason by getting my quick twitch, getting my bounce back, getting my speed back, my reaction time back. My mind has always been there. That's what it's all about."

On James' performance against the Spurs in San Antonio, Vogel added: "Well it's contagious, and his commitment on that end of the floor has been a great surprise for us in terms of just how proficient he's been.

"He's leading the charge with care factor on that end of the floor. When he's working that hard and caring that much about getting stops, it carries over to everybody else, and you see it on the floor."

LeBron James said the Los Angeles Lakers are looking forward to welcoming Kyle Kuzma back from injury.

Kuzma has yet to feature for the Lakers this NBA season due to a stress reaction in his left ankle, missing the team's opening four games.

However, Kuzma – who suffered the injury whilst on duty for Team USA ahead of the FIBA World Cup – is set to make his season debut against the Dallas Mavericks on Friday.

"It's going to take him a little bit to get into game shape," James told reporters of the 24-year-old after Thursday's practice.

"He hasn't played since USA basketball when he had the stress reaction. Obviously he's been training and working out, but like I always tell you guys, there's no substitution for game fatigue and game stamina.

"That will come, though. It's great to have him back on the floor. We definitely missed him."

Kuzma averaged 18.7 points and 5.5 rebounds in 2018-19 as the Lakers missed the playoffs in James' first season in Los Angeles.

"Yesterday [Wednesday] was kind of the most running I've done, so to wake up and not really have too much discomfort was a good sign," Kuzma said.

"Getting out here and doing the same thing [on Thursday], and so hopefully it's the same for tomorrow's game."

Lakers head coach Frank Vogel added: "[The training staff is] saying around 20 minutes. So there'll be a little bit of a restriction there."

 

 

Anthony Davis was determined to lead the Los Angeles Lakers against the Memphis Grizzlies despite a shoulder injury – and did so to spectacular effect.

Superstar signing Davis revealed after the 120-91 victory that he had suffered a knock when missing a dunk in a recent game, and the ailment threatened to keep him out in the first half on Tuesday.

However, the 26-year-old returned to produce a devastating display, recording 40 points and 20 rebounds to brush aside the Grizzlies.

"I'm here to be a leader of the team and it's tough for me to do that from the sideline," he explained to reporters.

Davis became the first Laker to have a 40-20 game since Shaquille O'Neal in 2003 and the sixth in total.

Also joining George Mikan, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Davis said: "It's an honour – great company. To be here as part of this franchise and to do something special like that and be on that list with those legends means a lot to me.

"What's more important is I'm happy that we got the win. It was a grind there in the first half. My team-mates trusted me, told me to get going, and that's what I tried to do."

Davis, who managed 30 minutes, expanded on how he managed to perform despite niggling shoulder pain.

"I was really just trying to figure it all out. It was bothering me a lot, very sore," he said. "But I didn't want to come out the game.

"I just came to the back and adjusted some things and felt good to go back out. I went back out and, late in the second, felt good.

"I did some more stuff at half-time and then went out in the third, just to test it out in the third, and it felt good. That was that.

"I'm fine. It's still a little sore. I got hit a couple of times tonight. But there's a couple of days before we play again, so hopefully I'll feel better by then."

Coach Frank Vogel added: "He gutted it out despite playing in some pain. He was dominant – that's probably the word. He impacted the game on both ends of the floor."

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel warned NBA rivals "you're going to get smashed in the mouth" when facing LeBron James and the team.

Following six consecutive seasons without a playoff appearance, the Lakers head into 2019-20 with huge expectations after acquiring All-Star Anthony Davis and Dwight Howard to join James in Los Angeles.

The Lakers finished their first of two-a-day session on Saturday, and after, Vogel told reporters the tough play is what other teams can expect when they face the Los Angeles squad.

"You're coming to play [the] L.A. Lakers, you're going to get hit," Vogel said. "You're going to get smashed in the mouth."

Vogel is entering his first year at the helm after replacing Luke Walton and the Lakers coach is stressing the importance of defence early.

"He's a defensive coach and wants to have a defensive mindset," Davis said. "We're going to be a defensive team. We made sure we covered a lot of defensive schemes today."

Davis – a six-time All-Star – added: "Obviously, you're not going to try to injure anyone or do anything stupid. We know we have to play with physicality. We did a good job doing that today. So in a way, that makes it a lot easier against our opponent."

The Lakers are hoping to improve on their efforts last season, where they finished ranked 13th in defence.

Los Angeles allowed 108.9 points per 100 possessions, but on the other end of the floor, the Lakers were actually worse. The team ranked 24th in offense by scoring 107.4 points per 100 possessions.

"You know we got a lot of firepower offensively," Vogel said. "But establish that defensive mindset of playing hard and playing tenacious and being physical. And on offense, just beginning to get organised and talking about the importance of playing for each other."

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel explained his approach to working with stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis this season.

Vogel will lead the Lakers in the upcoming NBA season after Luke Walton left Los Angeles, where it has been six successive campaigns without playoff basketball.

The Lakers have boosted their postseason and championship chances by luring Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans to team up with superstar James.

Vogel knows he is facing big expectations entering his first season and in a Q&A with NBA.com, the former Indiana Pacers and Orlando Magic coach said: "Talent-wise, they're the two best players I'll ever have had the opportunity to coach. 

"That brings a lot of fun, a lot of excitement to what we're able to do on the court. It brings a lot of challenges too. You have to make sure you're managing them the right way and putting them in the right positions to feel good about their roles and what's happening around them. There are challenges involved with that. So I'm looking forward to how that all is going to play out."

Vogel replaces Walton, who parted ways with the Lakers after three seasons and just one with James.

Walton and James built a 20-14 record before the 15-time All-Star missed five weeks due to injury.

Vogel acknowledged some of the concerns that coaches have when it comes to leading James, but said he is not relying on the three-time NBA champion's past relationships with coaches to determine how the two will bond on the court.

"I only know how he's been with me. That's the only measuring stick I'm going to use," Vogel said. "I'm not going to look at how it's been with his past coaches. That really doesn't concern me. I want to shape my own opinion of him as a person and one of the greatest ever. I'm going to take my approach and work together with him to hopefully do something special."

As for Davis? Vogel explained that it will be important to determine whether the six-time All-Star plays forward or center.

"To me, he's effective in both positions. But I don't think it's wise when your mindset is to be at your best going into the playoffs, to have him banging with centers for 82 games full time," Vogel added. "Does that mean he's never going to do it in the regular season? No, of course he's going to play some center in the regular season. But we want to make sure we keep the end goal in sight and getting him to April, for that playoff run, the right way."

Vogel said despite the high expectations, he is prepared for whatever this season may bring.

"We have the pieces to compete for a championship. To have expectations that it's all going to come together immediately might be reaching a little bit," Vogel said. "I'm sure we’ll have some bumps in the road. But hopefully as these guys gel … we have a number of guys with terrific resumes, but they have to learn each other. And they'll have to learn each other quickly.

"Then we'll be in the mix for the regular season and positioning ourselves for a playoff run. You just never know how quickly that process is going to play out. So hopefully, whatever the regular season looks like, by the time you get into the playoffs you're gelling at the right time and playing your best basketball."

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