Nationals

Bryant still iffy as Lakers approach season opener

201210252342853490321-p2.jpeg

Bryant still iffy as Lakers approach season opener

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) Kobe Bryant has missed the last week of practice with an injury. His teammates still don't know their new offense. And the Los Angeles Lakers just finished the first winless preseason in franchise history.

Ready or not - and most signs point to not - the Lakers' regular season has arrived.

Bryant sat out Monday while his teammates went through a lengthy workout ahead of Tuesday night's opener against Dallas. It's the first of four games in six days for a star-studded club with championship aspirations, but plenty of work ahead.

``I think all of us are ready (for) the popcorn and the lights to come on tomorrow,'' said Dwight Howard, who played in just two preseason games while returning deliberately from back surgery. ``It's not going to come overnight. We all understand that. We just have to stay patient through the whole process. We have to keep working, and we'll be fine.''

Bryant might not be fine for a bit longer. The fifth-leading scorer in NBA history is resting his right foot, which was bruised and strained last week, and the Lakers won't decide whether he'll play against the Mavericks until game time.

He showed up at the Lakers' training complex Monday for treatment and practice, yelling at his teammates from the sideline while Jodie Meeks ran with the Los Angeles' starters.

``We've got to worry about that when it comes, but I can see him playing tomorrow, definitely,'' Metta World Peace said of Bryant. ``When Kobe is hurt, whether it's the preseason or the playoffs, he plays. ... Kobe has never been afraid to be hurt and play. I think his mind is different from other people.''

Indeed, Bryant has played through all manner of injuries in his career, particularly in the past few seasons, so his absence from practice concerns coach Mike Brown. Bryant's leadership and court sense is particularly valuable while the Lakers integrate two new starters and a revamped bench into a new offense, but Kobe hasn't been available for significant stretches of camp.

``If there is one guy that's capable of sitting out and then playing in a game, it's Kobe,'' Brown said. ``There's concern there, because you want him to be healthy, but that's why we're a team. He has bounced back from a lot of stuff. You know it had to be serious if he's been out this long.''

At least Brown had good news on other injuries Monday: Howard is good to go for the Lakers' season-opening back-to-back games and beyond, with no limitations on his minutes, while backup big man Jordan Hill also is expected to play after taking the day off from practice.

While his players heal, the coach is still waiting for his club to grasp the intricacies of its new Princeton-inflected offense. Brown deliberately installed the new schemes slowly, but the absences of Howard and Bryant from several preseason games set back the team's development.

``It obviously gets in the way of our growth when we don't have a full lineup, especially two key guys,'' said Steve Nash, who played sparingly in his first preseason with Los Angeles. ``I think in the long run, we'll get plenty of time. It's just a matter of how quickly we can get some chemistry and some success.''

But the losses couldn't have helped the Lakers' confidence in that offense, either. Los Angeles went 0-8 for the first time, blowing late leads and getting blown out with equal ineptitude.

Brown doesn't believe the preseason reveals anything about his starting lineup's progress or the depth of a bench that hasn't played well at all in October, and he sees the offense as the biggest problem for his defense so far. With more turnovers resulting from poor execution of the offense, Los Angeles' theoretically sturdy defense in front of the dominant Howard has been giving up transition points in bunches.

Yet even amid all of the losses and injuries, the Lakers know they've got the chance for a remarkable season. They've largely avoided commenting on Oklahoma City's trade of James Harden to Houston, ostensibly weakening the defending Western Conference champions and opening the door for Los Angeles a bit wider.

Until the Lakers get a few wins in their own column, they won't be thinking about other teams' losses.

``I see it, I feel it, and I know it's going to be great for us later on,'' Pau Gasol said. ``We just have to stay with it and be persistent.''

Quick Links

With Ross placed on 60-day DL, Nationals agree to 1-year deal with veteran reliever

With Ross placed on 60-day DL, Nationals agree to 1-year deal with veteran reliever

WASHINGTON  -- The Washington Nationals say they have agreed to a one-year deal with 40-year-old reliever Joaquin Benoit.

The team announced the move Wednesday, along with placing pitcher Joe Ross on the 60-day disabled list as he recovers from Tommy John surgery in July.

The Nationals didn't release terms of the agreement, though a person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press on Monday that it was for $1 million.

The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the deal wasn't official at the time.

MORE NATIONALS: FULL 2018 SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE

Benoit is a right-hander who first reached the big leagues in 2001. 

He has played for eight teams, finishing last year with Pittsburgh.

He has 764 career appearances, going 58-49 with a 3.83 ERA and 53 saves.

RELATED: 2018 MLB BETTING ODDS

Quick Links

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: The Caps add two defensemen, problem solved?

faceoffepisode65.png
NBC Sports Washington

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: The Caps add two defensemen, problem solved?

The Capitals got their trade deadline started early by trading for defensemen Michal Kempny and Jakub Jerabek. Washington has been struggling of late, but do their new acquisitions address the team's weaknesses?

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir evaluate the two trades and talk about where they could fit into the lineup.

You can listen to the latest episode here on the Capitals Faceoff page or with the player below.

Want even more great Capitals coverage? Follow @TarikNBCS and @JJReganNBCS on Twitter!