The Los Angeles Lakers' media day took place Monday at the Toyota Sports Center ahead of a 2015-16 season with a squad that sports a retooled roster and resultant uncertainty—but also plenty of excitement.
Rookie point guard D'Angelo Russell was the No. 2 overall pick in the most recent NBA draft. Russell joins a perimeter rotation featuring Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, another promising youngster in 23-year-old Jordan Clarkson and reigning Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams.
As for the top interviews of the day, Bryant is the logical individual to start with as the face of the historic franchise.
The 37-year-old is as ready as ever to roll as he juggles a mentoring role with his own contributions after a couple of injury-plagued years, as he stated on the Time Warner Cable SportsNet telecast:
The last few seasons, you got to a point during the season where you're showing up to the arena and the games mean nothing. That's a horrible feeling to have. So I'm hellbent on making sure we don't have a season like that. You want to make sure that you're playing late in the season for games that actually mean something—for games that have playoff implications.
When asked about his potential minutes restriction, Bryant expressed a willingness to play as little or as often as it takes for the team to thrive.
"I've worked extremely hard this summer to be able to play at a high level, regardless of whether it's 30 [minutes] or if it's 48, I'm prepared to do whatever is necessary, and that's my job to do so," said Bryant.
TWC SportsNet provided video of Bryant showing off his skills ahead of his 20th NBA season:
Bryant is always a draw because of his all-time great status and outspoken nature. The Black Mamba is nearing the end of his career, which only adds to the anticipation. But the numerous new additions made Lakers media day worth tuning in for even more.
The team's official Twitter account posted a snapshot of the club's young nucleus:
L.A. also brought in All-Star center Roy Hibbert and veteran Brandon Bass to bolster the frontcourt, which will welcome back 2014 lottery pick Julius Randle after the former Kentucky standout suffered a broken leg in his maiden NBA game. Oh, and the Lakers signed Metta World Peace this past week.
World Peace is known for his colorful personality and past on the hardwood, and he provided one of the better quotes of the day in discussing his second stint in Los Angeles.
"I don't know if it's a 'Metta-morphosis.' But it's a warm return," said World Peace, per the Los Angeles Times' Mike Bresnahan.
Randle is already benefiting from World Peace's presence, per the Lakers' official Twitter account:
"He's playing old-school where it's like a foul isn't a foul," said Hibbert of World Peace.
The team announced Monday it also hired former Lakers star James Worthy to work with coach Byron Scott's staff. Worthy is known for his prowess in the post, so that should only aid Randle's development and help Hibbert tap into his potential after a couple of wayward seasons with the Indiana Pacers.
HoopsHabit.com's Shane Young is optimistic about Hibbert's fresh start:
A number of men associated with some of the greatest heights the Lakers have ever reached are instrumental to this 2015-16 squad and are doing what they can to orchestrate a Purple and Gold revival.
Worthy and Scott were of a different era, while Bryant and World Peace were around the last time L.A. hoisted the Larry O'Brien Trophy. It's an interesting mix that bodes well for team chemistry and accelerating the progress of the younger players.
Williams just recently came into his own with his best NBA season to date with the Raptors in Toronto last year. He's had a taste of the playoffs but only recently played to his full ability in his 10th year as a pro. Williams made his own contribution on Monday by posting a photo to Instagram of his brand-new jersey at the dawn of media day:
It remains to be seen how Williams' presence on the roster impacts Nick Young's role. One of the few holdovers from last season's roster, Young's name surfaced in trade rumors this offseason, but his explosive scoring ability had to help him keep a spot on the team.
Michael Lee of the Washington Post could at least appreciate Young's personality on Monday:
Minutes figure to be tough to come by for Young because of Russell's presence and Clarkson's stellar rookie campaign. It stands to reason Bryant will start at the 3 as the Lakers' backcourt of the future begins to materialize and usher in a new age in L.A.
Russell expressed excitement about learning from Bryant—his locker is right next door—and teaming with Clarkson on the outside, per Lakers Nation's Corey Hansford:
The Western Conference has been the clear-cut better cluster in the Association. In order to even have a chance at the playoffs, a lot of things have to break Los Angeles' way.
Scott recognizes this and hinted that he won't be coaxing Russell and Co. along, courtesy of the Associated Press' Greg Beacham:
"Our goal is always to win a championship. That hasn't changed," added Scott, per the Los Angeles Daily News' Mark Medina.
Those are gaudy aspirations for a squad that is unrecognizable from the 2014-15 edition. Bryant must stay healthy and play at an above-average level to have any hope of winning a sixth NBA championship—all the while steering the younger players and teaching them how to win on the fly.
Promising as Clarkson was this last year, he posted stellar stats on a bad team. It's going to take a commitment to defense from Clarkson and everyone else to get into the West's postseason picture.
Hibbert has shown the ability to be dominant in the past but struggles with consistency, while Russell is a completely unproven commodity coming off a breakout freshman year at Ohio State. Those players are X-factors who will make or break L.A.'s fate this next season.