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Lakers News: Latest Updates on Kobe Bryant, Xavier Henry and More

Nate Loop@Nate_LoopFeatured ColumnistOctober 23, 2014

Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant bites his jersey during the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

The 2014 NBA preseason is quickly coming to a close, and it looks like the Los Angeles Lakers will still be working out quite a few kinks well into the regular season, which begins for the Purple and Gold on Oct. 28 against the Houston Rockets.

Head coach Byron Scott has preached defense all summer long, but the Lakers have put in some shambolic performances on that end of the court during exhibition play. 

Scott hasn't had much of a chance to put together his optimal lineups due to a litany of injuries and some strategic handling of his aging stars, not to mention an excess of players looking to latch onto this historic organization.

With all eyes set on the regular season, the Lakers' health and roster shape are the focus of this latest news roundup.

Kobe Bryant Sits Out Final Exhibition Games

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According to ESPNLosAngeles.com's Jovan Buha, Scott has elected to sit Bryant for the Lakers' remaining preseason games.

"I just think he needs some rest," Scott said on Wednesday, via Buha. "I think he's shown me enough. I think we're all pretty happy with where he is."

Sure enough, Bryant was on the bench for the Lakers' 94-86 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night. In six preseason games, Bryant has averaged 19.0 points, 4.0 assists and 3.0 rebounds in 26.7 minutes per contest.

The Lakers have just one more preseason game left in 2014, an Oct. 24 matchup against the Sacramento Kings.

Fans were treated to some vintage play from Bryant in the Lakers' 114-108 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday. The Black Mamba poured in 27 points and shot 50 percent from the field. His fadeaway jumper looked sublime and was his go-to move in one-on-one situations.

ANAHEIM, CA - OCTOBER 21: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers shoots the basketball during a game against the Phoenix Suns on October 21, 2014 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. NOTE TO USER:  User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

Bryant's health is essential to the Lakers' chances of success this season. His scoring abilities are hardly in doubt, but putting in the hard work on defense every night will take a lot out of him.

Basketball Insiders' Alex Kennedy noted that general managers around the league still consider Bryant one of the toughest players around:

Alex Kennedy @AlexKennedyNBA

When asked who is the toughest player in the NBA, GMs went with Tony Allen (25.9%). Kobe Bryant was the runner up (11.1%).

That doesn't necessarily mean they still fear his defensive prowess, but it does speak to his importance to the Lakers from both a performance and perception standpoint.

The team will almost certainly be counting on their talismanic guard to work for more than 26 minutes a night, making any early rest that much more important. Scott is wise not to take any further chances with his superstar. Bryant doesn't have anything left to prove in the preseason.

Xavier Henry Seeks Treatment for Knee Injury

One player whom Scott would really like to have back in a defensive stance is small forward Xavier Henry. Unfortunately, he's been unable to suit up for the Lakers as he recovers from a knee injury suffered in December 2013.

In an effort to return to the hardwood as soon as possible, Henry is seeking out some advanced treatment. ESPN.com's Baxter Holmes has the story:

In the coming days, the 23-year-old will travel to New York City to see Dr. Keith Pyne for a second opinion. Then Henry will travel to Dusseldorf, Germany, to receive Regenokine treatment from Dr. Jens Hartmann.

Kobe Bryant has had similar Regonkine treatments several times in his career. The noninvasive procedure involves blood being removed from his knee and spun in a centrifuge before doctors create a serum that is then injected back in the knee to fight off proteins and molecules that cause inflammation.

Henry's absence from play might have been lost in the shuffle considering how many other Lakers have dealt with injuries this offseason. ESPN Los Angeles' Arash Markazi noted the Lakers had seven players out for their Oct. 21 contest against the Utah Jazz:

Arash Markazi @ArashMarkazi

Steve Nash, Jeremy Lin, Nick Young, Ryan Kelly, Jordan Clarkson, Xavier Henry and Jeremy Tyler are all out for the Lakers tonight.

Henry's wingspan, hustle and athleticism make him a valuable asset on defense. It's certainly disconcerting that an entire offseason of rehab hasn't resulted in a healthy Henry. Guard Nick Young is recovering from a torn thumb ligament, which means the Lakers could be relying heavily on Wesley Johnson out on the wing to start the season.

Henry played in just 43 games last season because of this knee injury. It's a long absence from competitive basketball, which could severely limit his effectiveness when he does return to the lineup.

 

Lakers Waive Two Players

Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

If the regular season weren't right around the corner, one would think the Lakers couldn't afford to trim players from the roster with so many sitting courtside in street clothes and spending more time on the trainer's table than on the hardwood.

Appling, a rookie out of Michigan State, faced long odds to make the Lakers' final roster.
Appling, a rookie out of Michigan State, faced long odds to make the Lakers' final roster.Noah Graham/Getty Images

Alas, cuts have to be made as teams excise the expendables in preparation for the games that count. On Tuesday general manager Mitch Kupchak waived two fringe players, point guard Keith Appling and center Jeremy Tyler, according to a report from NBA.com.

Neither player had much of a chance at securing a spot on the regular-season roster. 

The Lakers already have a deep reserve of frontcourt players, especially at center. Jordan Hill looks set to start at that position, with Robert Sacre and Ed Davis rotating in at the 5-spot. In fact, Scott recently stated that Davis will be playing center and center only to start the season, per Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times. This left no need for Tyler on the roster.

Appling, a point guard, suffered a shoulder injury in the Lakers' second preseason game and hardly played, per Pincus. The Lakers already have floor generals in Jeremy Lin, Steve Nash and rookie Jordan Clarkson.

Should Nash struggle with injuries this season, Appling could be one of the first names Kupchak looks up in his Rolodex due to his (admittedly brief) time spent with the team this fall.

These cuts leave the likes of Ronnie Price, Roscoe Smith, Jabari Brown and Wayne Ellington to fight for the final spots on the roster.

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