Considerable excitement came to the historic franchise when it drafted D'Angelo Russell No. 2 overall in this year's draft. Many are eager to see how the supremely confident rookie blossoms and how much Bryant's role as a mentor will impact the new face of the franchise.
One former "Black Mamba" teammate in Jordan Hill didn't have the kindest words to say about how Bryant treats those around him.
Bryant has a strong personality that Russell may be able to handle. Whether the other young Lakers can—including recent standout summer-league performer Julius Randle—is another matter that may have a big impact on their development.
Jordan Hill Sounds Off on Kobe Bryant
Hill wasted no time in taking a bit of a shot at L.A.'s biggest basketball star—albeit without any detectable contempt or vitriol—during his introductory Pacers press conference.
"When he's on the floor it's like (exhales), all you hear is Kobe's mouth," said Hill, per Hoops Habit's Shane Young (h/t Pro Basketball Talk's Kurt Helin). "He's on the floor all you hear is Kobe's mouth, like during practice and games, it get loud. It get loud. A lot of people can't handle that I guess."
It's not exactly breaking news that Bryant is ultra competitive and rubs some of those who encounter him the wrong way. There's at least some method to the Black Mamba's madness, considering he's won five championships in his magnificent career.
Most interesting about this bit of news is Hill will do what he can to contribute to a new-look Indiana frontcourt while the Pacers' former All-Star center Roy Hibbert mans the paint for the Purple and Gold.
A possible reason Bryant may have been on Hill's case at times was because the latter has the talent to be a star but hasn't fulfilled his promise to date. Changing scenery to a more defensive-minded Indiana squad, away from Bryant, may be what Hill needs to realize his potential.
Apparently Hill wasn't able to stand up to Bryant's antics and perform at a high level even when Bryant was injured for most of the past two seasons. There's a fine line between how well Bryant can guide and how he can possibly alienate those around him.
Randle Shows Signs of Summer-League Life; Russell's Struggles Persist
Although the Lakers lost their most recent summer-league contest to Dallas 88-86, they can take solace in the fact that 2014 lottery draft pick Julius Randle fared extremely well.
Randle was playing on a minutes restriction that limited him to 21, but he still managed to score 17 points in that span.
"It's killing me, man, but I have to keep it all in perspective," said Randle afterwards about the limited minutes, per the Los Angeles Times' Eric Pincus.
The former Kentucky standout must be patient, which has to be most difficult for him after he broke his leg in his NBA regular-season debut last year and will essentially be a rookie in 2015-16. But Randle was 5-of-17 shooting in his two prior contests, suggesting he was pressing a bit.
Bleacher Report's Howard Beck observed how the scene amid Monday's 76-66 loss to New York may have played a part:
Pressing is what is getting Russell into trouble. There have been moments—most notably as a passer—where he has looked every bit the part of the second overall draft choice.
Russell's usually accurate shooting has been well off, though, adding up to 31.7 percent from the field and misfires on 12 of 13 three-pointers. The Ohio State product is averaging 5.75 turnovers to just 3.8 assists too.
The shooting slump figures to be temporary, and Russell's instincts as a passer will inevitably lead to a better assist-to-turnover ratio. One can't help but wonder if he is a bit too adamant about being great right away, as Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding suggested recently:
They know what is expected of them, and they welcome the challenge. But for now, that challenge comes with pressure that is making it harder for them to shine in summer league. The nature of these games, with thrown-together rosters and little practice time, makes spacing and teamwork hard to find. But Randle is over-dribbling and Russell is over-passing as they overdo their efforts to succeed.
Responsibility comes with taking up the mantle as the new leader of the Lakers organization on the court after the presence Bryant has had. There are many years ahead for Russell to prove himself in that capacity. He has to make sure the hype, expectations and pressure don't catch up with him.
Better for Russell to get these early jitters out of the way in the summertime. He has all of the makings of being a big-time NBA star. He ought to take a page out of Randle's book and exercise a bit more patience before the real games begin.
Note: Summer-league stats courtesy of NBA.com.