Bryant looming large for LeBron, Lakers at NBA restart

Bryant looming large for LeBron, Lakers at NBA restart
LeBron James
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Updated 22 July 2020

Bryant looming large for LeBron, Lakers at NBA restart

Bryant looming large for LeBron, Lakers at NBA restart
  • The Lakers enter the NBA restart having already assured themselves of a playoff berth

LOS ANGELES: LeBron James said on Monday memories of Kobe Bryant are still looming large for the Los Angeles Lakers as the team step  up preparations for the NBA’s relaunched season in Florida.

Six months after Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven other people died in a helicopter crash in Los Angeles, James said he still thinks of the late Lakers legend every day.

“A day doesn’t go by where I don’t think about him,” James said when asked about Bryant. “A day doesn’t go by where our organization does not remember him and think about not only Kobe, but Gigi, (wife) Vanessa, and the other girls.

“They’re part of this family. Just as big as anybody in this organization’s history, so we still wear 24 and 8 and No. 2 with pride and remembrance of how great they were.”

Lakers coach Frank Vogel said he believed Bryant’s death, which sent shockwaves around the world of sport, had bound his team closer together.

“Any time a group like ours goes through something so emotionally deep, I just think it forms bonds, strengthened our group,” Vogel told reporters in Orlando.

“You never want something like that to happen, but I do think that’s the effect of something like that. We always, even prior to this happening, we wanted to embody what he stood for and even more so now with what happened. We want to honor his memory.”

Vogel said the sense of shared purpose among the Lakers squad could serve the team well once they enter the playoffs determined to honor Bryant’s legacy.

“I think there’s going to be a daily mindset of honoring the work and having that toughness about us,” Vogel said.

“When we get into the playoffs, there will be opportunities and situations where we’ll refresh our mindset of things that he stood for and what his approach was from a competitive spirit standpoint.

“I think will help us in our mission this year.”

The Lakers enter the NBA restart having already assured themselves of a playoff berth.

When the season was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic on March 11, the Lakers led the Western Conference standings with 49 wins against 14 losses, 5.5 games ahead of the second-placed Los Angeles Clippers.

James, meanwhile, said he was unfazed by news that this year’s NBA Most Valuable Players award would be decided before the league restarts on July 30.

That decision by the league leaves Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo in pole position to claim MVP honors.

“I’m not disappointed because things happen,” James said Monday. “Control what you can control, and I can’t control that.”

James instead took satisfaction from the fact he had proven himself in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.

“There was a lot of conversation about, ‘LeBron can do those things in the East, but if he ever came to the West, what can he do?’,” James said.

“I heard all of that. To be able to have our team at the top of the Western Conference and playing the way that we were playing at that time and the way I was playing, that’s definitely a good feeling.”


Arteta eyes new signings as Arsenal shed fringe players

Arteta eyes new signings as Arsenal shed fringe players
Updated 22 January 2021

Arteta eyes new signings as Arsenal shed fringe players

Arteta eyes new signings as Arsenal shed fringe players

LONDON: Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta is focusing on potential signings in the January transfer window after trimming his squad but refused to be drawn on a loan move for Real Madrid’s Martin Odegaard

Sokratis Papastathopoulos was released from his contract this week, while Mesut Ozil is on the brink of a transfer to Turkish club Fenerbahce.

Sead Kolasinac and William Saliba have already left on loan deals as Arteta seeks to re-balance his squad.

The Arsenal boss, speaking ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup fourth-round match at Southampton, would not be drawn on reports linking the club with a loan move for Real’s attacking midfielder Odegaard.

But he said the focus would now turn to the entrance door rather than the exit at the Emirates.

“We are in that process now,” Arteta said on Thursday when asked if it was now time to start bringing players in.

“We have done the first part more or less and we are focusing now on the second phase.

“Obviously this market and the context makes it difficult, but we are looking at options and we will see what we can do.”

Arteta, whose team are FA Cup holders, said the departures had left his squad short in certain areas.

He said a left-back could be on the radar, with the decision to allow Kolasinac to join Schalke until the end of the season leaving him with only Kieran Tierney as a natural option.

“With the departure of Kola we are a little bit short with left-footed fullbacks at the moment,” he added.

Both Ozil and Sokratis were omitted from Arsenal’s Premier League and Europa League squads for the first half of the season.

Arteta had stressed several times he was unhappy with the bloated nature of the squad and feels the departures will help him achieve a better balance.

“We could not carry on with 31 players in the squad,” he said. “It is unmanageable. And when you have to leave some of the foreign players out, it makes it even  more difficult.

“To do it for a few weeks is OK, to do it for months and maintain the health, the ambition and the chemistry is really complicated.

“So one of the main objectives was to make some decisions about how we are going to offset that. We have done it.”