Tag:Kobe Bryant
Posted on: April 15, 2011 6:21 pm
Edited on: April 15, 2011 6:58 pm

Anaheim Royals? Not so fast

NEW YORK -- NBA commissioner David Stern on Friday dismissed the last-ditch candidacy of Ron Burkle to purchase the Kings and keep them in Sacramento, and the league’s board of governors voted to extend the Maloof family’s deadline to apply for relocation to Anaheim until May 2. 

In calling the Burkle plan "not a high priority," Stern at the same time praised Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson’s presentation, in which he promised millions of dollars in new sponsorships and funding for a new downtown arena. But after a decade of failed efforts to get the Kings a new building in northern California, Stern expressed skepticism about last-ditch efforts to keep the team there. 

"In light of the history in Sacramento, that's usually an eye-roller," Stern said in a news conference after the end-of-season Board of Governors meeting. "We don't know if that's real or a pie in the sky. We don't know whether we can find that out in a couple of weeks, but we are going to knock ourselves out to do it."

Later, on a pre-playoff conference call with national media, Stern described Johnson’s presentation as "persuasive," and said the relocation deadline was extended so owners would have more time to evaluate both the Anaheim relocation plan and Sacramento’s save-the-Kings proposal. Stern said a presentation by the Maloofs and Anaheim city officials was made "in good faith," but left owners with an incomplete understanding of issues such as funding, TV rights, desired arena improvements and "what would be an appropriate relocation fee."

"It just seemed to be a good idea to put it off for a couple of weeks," Stern said. 

If the Maloofs follow through with their application to relocate to Anaheim, Stern said the board would then evaluate whether the market can support a third team. Two board members told CBSSports.com that owners have yet to take a tally of whether the Maloofs have the required 16 votes to approve the relocation. One owner noted that if the vote is close, it will call into question the fact that the league will be casting the vote for New Orleans, which is now owned and operated by the other 29 owners. 

Sources also told CBSSports.com there’s a feeling among representatives of at least one team that more consideration be given to moving the Kings to Kansas City, given the franchise’s roots are there and the city’s arena is more NBA-ready than Anaheim’s Honda Center. "Interesting position," said one team representative. The issue of Kansas City, however, was not formally raised during the two-day meeting. 

"I think they’re planning on looking more closely at the Sacramento situation before a final decision is made," the team rep said. 

One of the owners told CBSSports.com that he detected a "bias" against relocation among members of the executive committee, which consists of representatives from all 30 teams. "I don’t think anybody likes to see teams moving," the owner said. 

But this sentiment was not evident in the selection of Thunder owner Clay Bennett to chair the relocation committee. Bennett’s appointment was quickly panned for several hours online by those pointing out the apparent conflict on Bennett’s resume -- given that he moved the SuperSonics from Seattle to Oklahoma City, creating a public relations nightmare for the NBA. Stern, of course, rejected such a notion while praising Bennett for his "yeoman’s work" on various committees. 

"I don’t think there’s any conflict at all," Stern said. "What would the conflict be? … Maybe Sacramento will think the same thing you do, which I don’t, that he favors movement. In this case, he favors what’s best for the league."

Some other news items from Stern’s pre-playoff media tour with deputy commissioner Adam Silver on Friday: 

• On the issue of Kobe Bryant’s gay slur costing him a $100,000 fine, Stern said there were no plans to come up with a list of words players would be forbidden to utter on the court. "Our rules are what they are, and for the most part, our players conduct themselves in the manner we’d like them to conduct themselves," Stern said. "Kobe apologized for his insensitive remarks. I think he understood it. He was severely penalized, and we’re ready to move on."

• The sale agreement transferring ownership of the Pistons from the Davidson family to Tom Gores’ Platinum Equity group has been signed, and Stern said the deal will close no later than June 30. Gores and Karen Davidson have assured Stern it will be done by the end of May. Owners were impressed with Gores, whom Stern referred to as "really gung-ho to make this thing into a winner and a community asset."

• Owners had what Stern described as "a very energetic discussion" about resuming play promptly after timeouts and possibly reducing the number of timeouts. 

• Despite the threat of a lockout, Stern said season ticket sales for next season are "ahead of last year’s pace." But Stern noted the money will have to be returned to customers, with interest, in the event of a work stoppage. 

• In response to a question about the roughly one-third of NHL teams that lost less money by not playing during hockey’s 2004-05 lockout, Silver said, "We do have teams that are in that situation. I won't say the precise number, but there are several that will do better financially if we’re not playing. Having said that, it’s absolutely our goal to get a deal. And even those teams that would do better by not playing, I’m sure they would prefer to be playing and build their business. There’s no doubt that as a business, we’d do enormous damage to ourselves by not playing."

Posted on: February 10, 2011 8:41 pm
Edited on: February 10, 2011 9:31 pm

Allen breaks Miller's 3-point record

BOSTON -- Ray Allen broke Reggie Miller's career 3-point record Thursday night, hitting his 2,561st with 1:48 left in the first quarter against the Lakers Thursday night.

After tying the mark with 4:14 left in the first, Allen set up on the right wing in transition off a Lakers turnover and received a pass from Rajon Rondo. Allen hit the open 3-pointer and backpedaled down the court as TD Bank Garden erupted in a standing ovation. With Miller sitting courtside as an announcer for TNT, Allen became the NBA's career 3-point king against the Celtics' archrivals in a nationally televised game.

During a stoppage in play, Allen jogged to the broadcast table to embrace Miller, who made 2,560 3-pointers during an 18-year career -- all with the Indiana Pacers. Allen then went to the Celtics' bench and hugged Celtics coach Doc Rivers and assistant coach Lawrence Frank while Rondo shot free throws.

Allen shook hands with his longtime nemesis, Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who offered a wink and a nod. When the quarter ended, with the Celtics leading 27-20, Allen made the rounds again -- embracing his mother and kissing his wife and children, hugging Miller again, and soaking in a raucous ovation as a congratulatory montage was shown on the arena scoreboard.

"I think all of us who play sports want to put ourselves in a position where you can feel that kind of adulation," Allen said before the game, in the moments leading up to his record-breaking moment. "I know why I'm here. it required a lot of blood and sweat."

Standing in front of the Celtics' bench while a highlight film of his biggest shots through the years played during a second-quarter timeout, Allen's typically stoic demeanor finally cracked as he chomped nervously on his customary gum. Before the game, Allen said he wasn't sure how he'd react.

"I don't try to predict my emotions," he said.

Allen, 35, broke the record in his 15th season and 1,074th game; Miller did it over 18 seasons in 1,839 games. Miller said Allen breaking his record was "great for the game of basketball."

"When people ask me, ‘You’ve got to be a little bit upset or bitter,' why?" Miller said. "First of all, all records are made to be broken. I had a conversation with Ray earlier tonight and he was like, ‘When I was a rookie and I came to Market Square Arena and I saw you for three, three and a half hours before (the game) shooting, that’s how I wanted to patent my game.’ I’m just so happy for him because this is one of the best guys. He’s so humble, he’s so giving, he’s a great family man and I’m excited. ... This is great. You know why? We're focusing and talking about shooting. No one talks about shooting anymore.”
Posted on: February 8, 2011 2:18 pm
Edited on: February 8, 2011 4:11 pm

Sources: Melo-Bynum talks have some traction

The Lakers and Nuggets have achieved some traction with recent trade discussions involving Andrew Bynum and Carmelo Anthony, two people with knowledge of the talks told CBSSports.com Tuesday. 

Bynum-for-Anthony would be the obvious centerpiece in the proposed deal, but numerous other pieces that would have to be involved make it "very, very difficult to get this done," said one of the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss team business. 

The Lakers' early success in piquing the Nuggets' interest in Bynum represents a subtle shift in Denver's trade strategy. One of the people familiar with the talks said Nuggets officials have recently expressed a renewed desire to bring back a "star player" along with multiple draft picks in a trade for Anthony. A scenario involving the Knicks, Anthony's No. 1 choice in a trade, would not yield a star but would save the Nuggets significant money and provide cap relief to rebuild. 

UPDATE: ESPN The Magazine first reported the preliminary discussions between the Lakers and Nuggets Tuesday. Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak declined to comment on the level of the team's involvement with the Nuggets, and spokesman John Black said the team doesn't comment on "trade rumors."

A third person connected to the situation said he found it "suspicious" that the Bynum-Anthony scenario would become public so soon after it was publicly revealed that the Knicks have found a willing participant in the Timberwolves to contribute to a three-team scenario that would send Anthony to New York. That person said he received some signals early last week that the Lakers and Nuggets were at least considering entering into Bynum-Anthony discussions.

"Someone is trying to scare New York," the person said.
Although Anthony's representatives with Creative Artists Agency have recently stepped up their efforts to circulate Melo's long-held preference for a trade to New York, those close to the three-time All-Star believe there is no question he would sign a three-year, $65 million extension as part of a trade to the Lakers. Such a scenario would give Anthony everything he wants -- top-dollar in an extension, the big-market allure that comes with the Lakers' Hollywood surroundings, and the inside track to his first championship. 

But such a complicated trade is much bigger than Anthony's desires. Sources say the Nuggets would insist on the Lakers recruiting a third team that could provide attractive first-round picks. From the Lakers' perspective, they also would be looking for a backcourt upgrade in the deal -- and sources say Chauncey Billups could fit that bill as a short-term replacement for struggling Derek Fisher

Also, despite his denials, sources say Ron Artest has, in fact, privately discussed wanting to be traded -- and Lakers officials have been eager to take him up on it, with no realistic takers given the nearly $22 million he is owed over the next three seasons. Including Artest in the framework of a Bynum-Melo deal is highly unlikely, given that Denver would balk at taking on his contract and any third team willing to surrender valuable picks wouldn't want it, either. 

UPDATE: In addition, a league source told CBSSports.com Tuesday that he put little credence in reports that Artest could be headed to the Bobcats for either Gerald Wallace or Stephen Jackson. When Artest signed with the Lakers two summers ago, the notion of him going to Charlotte was posed to part-owner Michael Jordan and GM Rod Higgins, who indicated he wasn't the right "fit" for the organization. Also, sources say Artest has been advised of no serious talks that would lead to him being traded -- something the Lakers, who are aware of how Artest's play could be affected by trade rumors, would be sure to do if they were close to trading him.

For these reasons and plenty of others, a Lakers-Nuggets deal centered around Bynum and Anthony is "a long way from being made," one of the sources said. 

But if the discussions gained momentum, the Lakers would be giving up their most valuable advantage -- front-court size -- for a player whose scoring talents mirror those of Kobe Bryant. But of all the stars on the 2008 Olympic gold-medal team, Bryant and Anthony were the two who grew closest in Beijing. It's one thing to co-exist on the national team, and quite another on an NBA team with obvious championship ambitions. But at least Bryant and Anthony would have a solid relationship and mutual respect as their foundation. 

And look at it this way: Bryant is still playing at a high level, but he can't do this forever. The opportunity to cash in a valuable asset like Bynum for a player who could not only team up with Bryant and win a title now, but replace him in the future, is too good to pass up. 

But as has been the case in every Melo trade scenario, the wild card is Denver. Are Nuggets officials willing to send their superstar to a conference rival, only to watch him torture their souls for years? Is a potential star center with suspect knees the best they can do for Anthony? These are among the many questions this tantalizing scenario presents -- and as usual with Anthony, there are more questions than answers.
Posted on: December 27, 2010 7:11 pm

Lakers' scars more than skin deep

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – There was no direct evidence of the butt-kicking in practice that Kobe Bryant had promised. Head-butting, yes. But butt-kicking? 

“Not sure,” said Ron Artest, wearing the only tangible proof of what Phil Jackson called a “feisty” practice Monday in the form of a swollen cut under his right eye. 

Artest’s battle scar didn’t result from any contact with Bryant, who had promised after the Lakers’ listless loss to Miami on Christmas Day that distracted, unfocused, and unprepared teammates would be held accountable on the practice court. Artest’s wound, according to a source, resulted from a collision with Shannon Brown’s head during the 5-on-5 portion of practice, which was won by the second unit, an amused Jackson said. 

“Kind of fun and interesting,” Jackson said of the reserves’ victory. 

So the Lakers’ starters have now lost three games in a row – blowouts at home against Milwaukee and Miami, and now this. The impact of any tongue-lashings or motivational tactics from Bryant will be put to an immediate test Tuesday night in San Antonio, where the Spurs (26-4) are experiencing no such strife and enjoying the best record in the league – five games better than the two-time defending champion Lakers. 

“They’re doing something special this year and we have to understand what it is,” Jackson said. 

Bryant didn’t speak with reporters Monday; he was off the practice floor by the time media were allowed into the gym. But the simple fact that he practiced at all – he typically rests his 31-year-old body to save fuel for the championship run – should have sent a clear message. 

And apparently it did. The message was received, loud and clear, by Artest, who bristled at the notion that Bryant was pointing the finger at him during his postgame rant Saturday. The money quote from Bryant, “The game has to be the most important thing,” caused curious minds – including mine – to wonder if Artest’s championship ring raffle was deemed by Bryant to be an unnecessary distraction. 

After the game, Artest apologized to Lakers fans on Twitter, writing, “Every loss my fault.” On Monday, he shot down the notion that he was distracted Saturday and several times alluded to how “unfortunate” it was that Jackson kept him on the bench for most of the fourth quarter. 

“I didn’t get a chance to even let it be a distraction because I only played 20 minutes,” Artest said. 

With every teammate except Lamar Odom off the practice court, Artest said, “I’m the last one to leave the gym every day,” and urged one reporter to “pay attention to the surroundings.” 

"I work extremely hard on defense,” Artest said. “I’m the last one to leave every day. The game is extremely important.” 

Later, I asked Artest if his Twitter apology meant that he was responding to the notion of being singled out by Bryant. 

“If we keep losing, you’ve got to point to yourself first,” Artest said, aiming his thumb at the middle of his chest. “Always point the finger right there before you point the finger anywhere else. I point the finger at myself all the time. Even before I came here last year, I would point the finger at myself. I said, ‘If we lose, it’s on me.’ Before you point, you’ve got to look in the mirror first and say, ‘What could I have done?’” 

When asked about Bryant’s soliloquy about misplaced priorities on the team, Jackson said, “I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s been some distractions. … But we think that these guys are veterans and should be able to handle that.” 

When asked what distractions Bryant and Jackson may have been referring to, Artest said, “There were a lot of distractions, from my ring raffle to the green shoes. Nike came with the green shoes and adidas. There were a bunch of things going on.” 

It doesn’t get easier. Not only are the Spurs obviously a threat, but they’re beginning to put distance between themselves and the Lakers that will be challenging to close by the end of the regular season, when all-important home-court advantage will be determined. Clearly, before they get caught up in catching the Spurs, the Lakers have to get their own house in order first.
Posted on: December 26, 2010 7:22 pm

Gentry: Griffin is 'best athlete in the league'

LOS ANGELES – The best game of the weekend at Staples Center wasn’t on Christmas Day, but the day after. And it didn’t involve Kobe Bryant, LeBron James or Dwyane Wade, but rather a budding superstar whom one of the top coaches in the NBA called “the best athlete in the league” on Sunday. 

His name, of course, is Blake Griffin. And he does things like this

In front of a rare sellout crowd at Staples – for a Clippers game, that is – Griffin stole the holiday weekend show with his 18th consecutive double-double as L.A. beat the Suns 108-103. Griffin had 28 points and 12 rebounds, but that wasn’t the miracle. The miracle was that the Clippers figured out how to close out a tight game with Griffin sitting on the bench after fouling out with 2:52 left. 

After some nervous moments down the stretch, including a shot-clock violation in the face of the Suns’ improved defense after last week’s trade, the Suns cut the Clippers’ lead on Mickael Pietrus’ corner 3-pointer with 22.5 seconds left. But Pietrus, who came from Orlando with Marcin Gortat and Vince Carter in the trade that sent Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson and Earl Clark to Orlando, still giveth and taketh away. His turnover, forced by Eric Gordon as the Suns were angling for a 3-pointer to send the game to overtime, let the Clippers survive without their athletic and emotional leader. 

“He’s the best athlete in the league right now,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. “As a big guy, if guys are going to throw lobs and stuff like that, there’s nobody that’s even remotely close right now. You have to make him into a basketball player. You have to make him make basketball plays, not athletic plays. In the first half we let him make all of these athletic plays. And with Grant [Hill] guarding him, we made him make basketball plays. I’m pretty sure if you look at the time Grant guarded him, I don’t think he got a basket.” 

The Clippers (9-22) are a .500 team over their last 10 games, and with Griffin’s talent and attitude, there is reason to believe this team is heading for better days. 

“They’ve got good young players and they’ve done a good job with them,” Gentry said. “I think you’ll continue to see them get better over time. They got off to a rough start, but it’s not so much that. Are you getting better? Are you building up? You can see that they’re getting better.” 

The driving force is Griffin, a freakish athlete who has an emotional edge to go with his talent. He refused to back down from Hill, a savvy, 38-year-old veteran who was a year away from his freshman season at Duke when Griffin was born. After absorbing a hard hip-check from Pietrus on his way to the basket in the fourth, Griffin stood over the bodies that had fallen in his wake like bowling pins and screamed. He ran to the defense of teammate Al-Farouq Aminu, who moments earlier had been pulled down by Pietrus on a transition layup attempt. 

Gentry is right about Griffin’s athleticism, and the rookie is something else the Clippers have lacked for too long: a superstar with attitude, and by that I mean a good attitude.
Posted on: November 15, 2010 9:42 am
Edited on: November 15, 2010 9:52 am

Kobe rips owners: 'Look in the mirror'

LOS ANGELES – With labor talks reaching a critical stage between now and the All-Star break, Kobe Bryant weighed in for the first time Sunday night with some strong words for NBA owners.

“I think the owners need to look in the mirror,” Bryant told CBSSports.com when asked about the $750 million to $800 million reduction in player salaries being sought by the owners. “They need to make the right judgment themselves and stop trying to force us players to be the ones to make adjustments. They’ve got to look in the mirror and decide what they want to do with the sport, and we as employees will show up and do what we’ve got to do.”

Bryant, the highest-paid player in the league under what is likely to be his final contract, is scheduled to join Michael Jordan as the league’s only $30 million players in the final year of the deal in 2013-14. Asked where he stands in the labor dispute that could be more punitive to stars like Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard and Derrick Rose – who likely won’t get new contracts until a new CBA is in place – Bryant said, “I’m going to fight for our players.”

“It’s about making sure we have the best deal going forward,” Bryant said. “That’s my stance and that’s not going to change. I’m not going to waver. It’s about taking care of the generation that’s coming after us. That’s what the guys before us tried to do, and that’s what I’m going to try to do. I’m not going to waver from that.”

These were the strongest words yet spoken publicly by an NBA player about the owners’ pursuit of a hard cap, enormous salary reductions and a rollback of existing contracts. Coming from Bryant, they carried weight – both with the players and owners.

“The onus is not on us,” Bryant said. “People are trying to put that responsibility on us. It’s not our responsibility. It’s the owners’ job. This is what they do.”

Bryant’s vow to fight for players who didn’t get max deals under the current system and will likely have to accept less in a new CBA comes as a divide is forming between two camps – the paid, and the not-yet-paid. CBSSports.com has learned that players like Howard and Anthony, Chris Paul and Rose are growing wary of possibly getting shut out of the kind of max money that this past summer’s free agents scored. If owners aren’t successful in getting across-the-board rollbacks, but do negotiate a reduction in future max salaries and guarantees, the players subject to the haircut are “not going to have it,” according to an influential person involved in the players’ side of bargaining strategy.

“They’re not going to allow those guys to sneak in a year before collective bargaining and say, ‘We got paid,’” the person said. “They can’t have their cake and eat it, too. There are too many powerful players whose contracts are coming up to let that happen.”

Bryant isn’t choosing sides in that debate; he just wants a fair deal for everyone. His point was primarily directed at owners who went on a spending spree this past summer before quickly shifting gears to claim player costs must be brought down to stem hundreds of millions in annual losses. And his comments come at a time when, as on the court, Bryant perhaps senses that the bargaining game is about to get interesting. Commissioner David Stern, deputy commissioner Adam Silver, union chief Billy Hunter and president Derek Fisher of the Lakers will hold a 2-on-2 bargaining session Thursday to ramp up the intensity of talks heading into All-Star weekend, a key time-stamp in both sides’ efforts to avoid a lockout when the current deal expires on June 30, 2011.

Bryant’s comments also represent the strongest signal of commitment from the players since multiple All-Stars made a surprise appearance at a bargaining session during All-Star weekend in Dallas last February.

“If they’re gonna pay players to perform and this that and the other, then do it,” Bryant said. “It’s not on us.”

Posted on: November 12, 2010 3:15 am

Kobe, Melo in the middle of it again

DENVER – In two different locker rooms, separated by about 50 yards and five championships, Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony assessed the night’s developments in the NBA as we now know it.

The end of the Lakers’ 8-0 start. A significant victory by the Nuggets, who bounced back from consecutive losses that included an embarrassing meltdown in Indiana. The latest, ever-so-subtle shift in the Melodrama, with Anthony saying after the Nuggets’ 118-112 victory over the two-time defending champs, “I’m content with my situation.”

Across the continent, the Miami Heat lost again to the Celtics and fell to 5-4 – while the Cavaliers, LeBron James’ former team, are 4-4.

“Oh, ____,” Bryant said with a smile after being informed of the delicious irony. “That’ll make for a good story in Cleveland in November. But come April, I don’t think that’ll be much of a story.”

Somehow all the stories were intertwined Thursday night at the Pepsi Center. The best team in the league took one on the chin, giving up a 33-point fourth quarter to the small-ball Nuggets, who can do nothing more than view Anthony’s fragile future as a day-to-day proposition. The team the Lakers beat in the Finals, Boston, made mince meat of the mighty Heat – a 112-107 victory that, for now, has changed everyone’s perspective about how good this free-agent fabrication will be.

It is knee-jerk reaction time, because it is November in the NBA. Hours earlier, Bryant was sitting in a courtside seat at the Pepsi Center after shootaround, deflecting questions about whether the Lakers could win 70 games. Two weeks ago, everyone wanted to know if the Heat could win 73, eclipsing the NBA record established by Phil Jackson’s 1995-96 Bulls.

“You guys never stop that stuff,” Bryant said after the game, his knees wrapped in ice and a black, boxer-style robe draped over his shoulders. When asked if there’s too much dissection of the early returns, Bryant stood up and said, “What else are you guys going to do? Talk about Miami all the time?”

If nothing else, Thursday night, Nov. 11, was a turning point in this season of anticipation and unprecedented interest. It was the night when doubts about the Heat were driven home, and when the world exhaled with the knowledge that, no, the Lakers will not go undefeated. It seemed fitting that it all came together on a night when the old-guard Celtics humbled the new-look Heat – and when the young star of the league whom Bryant relates with the best showed why he belongs in the conversation about the top of the pecking order in pro basketball.

“We’re both brutally honest,” Bryant said. “I think that’s the thing. We don’t pull punches. We don’t sugarcoat how we feel. That’s what attracted me to him, and I think vice versa. We don’t pull punches. We hang out all the time and we can be harsh with one another, and it’s fun.

“He and I are like that all the time, and I’m like that with everybody,” Bryant said. “We rip each other pretty good back and forth. Obviously, I pull a little bit more weight because I’ve won a little bit more than him so I can talk a little bit more. We really just have a great relationship. We hit it off in Beijing and we’ve been tight ever since.”

After Anthony put up 32 points on 14-for-25 shooting from the field with 13 rebounds, Bryant hugged him and told him something.

“Just, ‘Good win,’” Melo said. “‘Keep it up.’”

Anthony is in the same position Bryant was in three years ago, wanting to find greener pastures. Bryant found them at home, in L.A., because the Lakers got lucky and got him Pau Gasol. They’ve been to the Finals three times and won two titles since then.

Melo said he isn’t looking ahead too far ahead, that he can’t see what December, February, or June have in store.

"I see the Phoenix Suns Monday night,” he said. “That’s what I see. … I’m content with my situation right now.”

It turns out there is an NBA beyond South Beach, and on Thursday night, Bryant and Melo were basking in it. Bryant, chasing his sixth title to equal the great Michael Jordan, was unusually jovial after a loss. Anthony, Bryant’s partner in brutal honesty, said he was “proud of my team” for the way it bounced back. And he promised to keep answering all the questions that result from his decision to leave his options open by refusing to sign a three-year, $65 million extension – a decision that has given the Nuggets no choice but to continue exploring what they can get for him in a trade. Because if Anthony doesn’t sign that extension by the February trade deadline, it will no longer a question of whether they trade Anthony, but what they get for him.

“I’m looking forward to just playing basketball, man,” Anthony said. “I’m not concerned about anything else right now. The only thing on my mind right now is winning, playing games, getting my guys back healthy and getting them back out there on the court. Everything else is irrelevant to me right now.

Down the hall, Bryant had just finished regaling his postgame audience with stories of why he respects Anthony so much – why, of all the stars on the 2008 Olympic team, he gravitated toward Anthony. For one thing, the elbows Bryant always makes a point of throwing at the new guys didn’t cause Anthony to recoil when he came into the league.

“He welcomed it,” Bryant said. “He just kept coming and coming and coming, so I respected that about him.”

Bryant respects his honesty, too, and can relate because he was once sitting in the same seat. The only advice Bryant said he’s given his friend is to make sure he’s sure about what he wants.

“Like I tell him, he’s got some catching up to do,” Bryant said. “It’s a long, rocky mountain to climb.”
Posted on: September 24, 2010 5:27 pm

Preseason Primers: Los Angeles Lakers

With one of the NBA's biggest stars, Carmelo Anthony, possibly on the verge of being traded, the offseason still hasn't ended. But it ended three months ago for the Lakers, who celebrated their second straight championship, made a couple of mundane moves, and got ready to do it all over again. The defending champs didn't make a Miami-like splash this summer, but they didn't need to. And the moves they did make clearly made them better. Word is that Kobe Bryant, entering his 15th season, can't wait to go to work. Miami won it all in July, but the Lakers are the undisputed Kings of June until proved otherwise.

Training camp site: El Segundo, Calif.

Training camp starts: Sept. 25

Key additions: Steve Blake (free agent), Matt Barnes (free agent), Theo Ratliff (free agent)

Key subtractions: Josh Powell (free agent), Jordan Farmar (free agent).

Likely starting lineup: Derek Fisher, PG; Kobe Bryant, SG; Ron Artest, SF; Pau Gasol, PF; Ratliff, C.

Player to watch: Andrew Bynum. As you can tell from his name being omitted from the training camp starting lineup (which matters only for scrimmaging purposes), Bynum is hurt again. Well, not so much hurt again, but rather still hurt – or better yet, not recovered. After the praise Bynum received for playing through a significant knee injury during the Finals, he’s receiving equal parts scorn for delaying surgery until after he completed a planned trip to the World Cup. Both were deserved. Coach Phil Jackson said Friday that he can’t see how Bynum will be ready for the start of the regular season.

Chemistry check: All the tension over Jackson’s future was relieved when the Zen Master decided to return for one more season. His unique ability to handle strange personalities (he has a few on this team) and his knack for getting under the opponent’s skin will be needed in a big way. If the Lakers started the NBA arms race by acquiring Gasol a couple of years ago, the Heat went nuclear by teaming Dwyane Wade with LeBron James and Chris Bosh. Suffice it to say, a certain Laker who wears No. 24 took note. Sources say Bryant’s competitive fire – always an inferno – has burning even hotter with the prospect of this challenge.

Injury watch: Besides Bynum, Bryant will be limited as he continues to recover from a laundry list of ailments that hindered him throughout last postseason. Lamar Odom is coming off a busy summer with Team USA, and Jackson plans to take it easy on him in camp. Luke Walton (back) will miss significant time, perhaps the entire season.

Camp battles: The Lakers really only face their usual battles with drama, with Kobe’s moods, and with Artest’s Twitter ramblings. Once Bynum is healthy, the rotation is pretty much set.

Biggest improvement: Mitch Kupchak watched LeBron’s decision only out of curiosity; the Lakers weren’t landing any marquee free agents this summer. But they did improve in a key area that will prove to be of utmost importance the deeper they get into the postseason. Their bench got a lot better. Blake is the best backup Fisher has had in a while, and his presence will allow re-signed Shannon Brown to be used more in a scoring role. Barnes brings Artest-like toughness to a second unit that also includes Odom, Ratliff, Blake and either Brown or Sasha Vujacic (until he’s traded.)

Biggest concern: They’re the two-time defending champs, so there are no glaring weaknesses. The biggest concern, as always, is Bynum. He is forever the wild-card for the Lakers. When it’s time to play the Spurs, Mavs, Celtics or Heat in May and June, the Lakers will go as far as Bynum can take them.
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