Tag:Kobe Bryant
Posted on: June 29, 2009 11:52 pm

Boozer's decision

A few months ago, Jazz forward Carlos Boozer was so convinced he would opt out of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent that he proclaimed, "I'm opting out, no matter what. I'm going to get a raise regardless."

Things change.

Less than 18 hours before Tuesday's deadline for players with early termination clauses or player options to notify teams of their intentions, there has been no word from Boozer's camp on whether he will choose to hit the unrestricted free-agent market at midnight Wednesday. One sticking point could be the part about Boozer believing he would "get a raise regardless." Due to make $12.7 million next season in the final year of his deal, Boozer may be stuck in the wrong free-agent class.

He's a 2010 free agent trapped in a 2009 free agent's body.

Only a handful of teams have enough cap space to sign a max player, the Pistons being chief among them. According to sources, the Pistons are expected to reach out to Boozer, Hedo Turkoglu, and Ben Gordon when the negotiating period begins. Oklahoma City and Memphis also are flush with cap room, but neither team is expected to make a big splash this summer. So does Boozer want to walk away from $12.7 million based on one team making it worth his while?

An Eastern Conference executive said Monday night it's feasible that Boozer backtracks on his opt-out guarantee, picks up his player option for next season, and makes another run at free agency in 2010, when numerous teams will have money to spend.

"That wouldn't be the least bit surprising," the executive said.

Boozer's agent, Rob Pelinka, did not return a call seeking comment Monday. Pelinka has another, more famous client in the same position as Boozer: the Lakers' Kobe Bryant, who is widely expected to terminate his contract with the intention of re-upping with L.A. But Bryant's situation is more complicated -- isn't it always? -- because he can make the Lakers sweat while they try to re-sign free agents Trevor Ariza and Lamar Odom and while Phil Jackson decides whether to return for the final year of his contract.

Posted on: June 25, 2009 1:00 am
Edited on: June 25, 2009 1:23 am

Suns agree to send Shaq to Cavs

Shaquille O'Neal is bringing his Shaqness and four championship rings to Cleveland, which hasn't won a pro sports championship in 45 years.

LeBron, no excuses anymore.

Finally ending a four-month flirtation on the eve of the NBA draft, the Phoenix Suns agreed Wednesday night to send O'Neal to the Cavaliers in exchange for Ben Wallace, Sasha Pavlovic, the 46th pick, and cash considerations, a person familiar with the agreement confirmed to CBSSports.com. "Very much agreed to," is how the source described the talks, which have been on and off since the February trade deadline.

So before Kobe Bryant got finished celebrating his first championship without Shaq, LeBron James will begin the pursuit of his first championship with Shaq.

Get the puppet commercials ready. 


Posted on: June 14, 2009 3:53 pm

Shaq to Cavs: Give it some time

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Cavaliers are taking an aggressive posture as they head into the draft and free-agent period, so it was only a matter of time before the Shaquille O'Neal talks heated up again.

Several media outlets began reporting Sunday that the Cavs and Suns have reignited talks about sending Shaq to Cleveland to help LeBron James in his quest for a championship. There wasn't much to reignite in the first place; widely hyped discussions involving O'Neal at the trade deadline were never on the verge of producing a deal. An executive familiar with the situation told CBSSports.com Sunday that the situation hasn't evolved much since then, expressing surprise at the flurry of reports. 

But when you have two teams desperate to move assets -- Phoenix with Shaq's $20 million expiring contract, and Cleveland with Ben Wallace's $14 million expiring contract and Sasha Pavlovic's partially guaranteed deal -- smoke often gives way to fire. Throw in the fact that the Cavs are coming off a debilitating loss to Orlando in the conference finals and an embarrassing week that featured a false report about coach Mike Brown's future, and you can see why the time may be right to shift to focus to the team's pursuit of O'Neal.

The executive involved in the teams' dealings said he fully expects the O'Neal situation to move to the forefront once the clubs begin fully exploring their options in the draft and free agency, which begins next month. The Suns, coming off a 46-win, non-playoff season, are highly motivated to move O'Neal in a bid to avoid paying luxury tax. Acquiring Wallace and Pavlovic, whose $4.9 million contract is only guaranteed for $1.5 million next season, would save Phoenix as much as $10 million, including luxury tax savings.

The Cavs view Pavlovic's partial guarantee and several players on minimum deals as a built-in trade exception they can use to improve the roster and give LeBron the big man he needs to compete for a championship at the highest level. A person familiar with the Cavs' thinking said the team is open to any and all possibilities and plans to take an aggressive approach in retooling a roster that won a league-best 66 games but failed to reach the NBA Finals.

A wild card in the Shaq talks is Wallace, who stated after the playoff loss to the Magic that he was seriously considering retirement. Cavs management has yet to speak directly with Wallace about his intentions, and as of now the club doesn't expect him to walk away from the $14 million left on his deal. If Wallace reiterated his desire to retire, it would spur buyout talks that would free up cap space immediately. Short of that, Wallace would get no money and the $14 million he is owed would come off the Cavs' books.

The idea of Shaq in Cleveland as a running mate for LeBron would present endless storylines and the delicious possibility of Kobe Bryant -- if he returns to the Lakers -- meeting his former and current nemeses in next year's Finals. The marketing people would have a field day adding a Shaq puppet to the popular Kobe & LeBron commercials. Bryant would be presented with the challenge of pursuing his fifth championship against the player he won with -- and feuded with -- in L.A. and the player who is trying to claim Bryant's title as the best player in the game.

It almost sounds too good to be true, except that it's not. Just give it some time.

Posted on: June 9, 2009 8:50 pm

Coach K not ready to commit to Team USA

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Mike Krzyzewski still isn't ready to renew his commitment to coaching Team USA, despite Jerry Colangelo's best efforts to push him for an answer.

"He was pushing the check," Coach K said of a recent dinner meeting in Chicago with Colangelo, the managing director of USA Basketball.

Krzyzewski said he expects to make a decision by July on whether he will return to the sideline for the 2010 World Championships in Turkey and the '12 Olympics in London. Participating in an announcement of iHoops, a new basketball collaboration among the NBA, NCAA, Nike, and adidas before Game 3 of the NBA Finals Tuesday night, Coach K said he had dinner in Chicago with Colangelo the night before, but didn't give him a commitment yet.

"I've met with Jerry to discuss the future, just these next four years," Krzyzewski said. "... By the time we have our [training camp] in mid-July, I think a lot of things will be put forward at that time. I think that’s a good launching point for USA Basketball."

Just as deftly as he passed on the question of returning to Team USA, Coach K nicely sidestepped a reporter who asked him to compare Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, since he's coached both of them.

"They’re both on my team," Krzyzewski said. "I think in Kobe’s case, in the NBA when you're six years apart, they have dogs’ lives in terms of their career. Kobe’s almost in a different part of his career. You can look at Kobe and say what he’s accomplished and what he’s still accomplishing. LeBron hasn’t done that. But can he do that? Yeah. 

"LeBron is a very very unusual athlete," Coach K said. "He has that tattoo on his back, 'The Chosen One.' One day I said, 'I'm going to get a tattoo. I'm going to get that 'Chosen One' put on my back. He leaned down and said, 'Coach, there’s only one chosen one.' But he could be.

"When it’s all said and done, I think you will be talking about two of the top 10. ... You know what the similarity is? They’re both brilliant and they’re both team guys."

Asked whether he'd want Kobe or LeBron to take the last shot in a game for him, Krzyzewski said, "I’d want LeBron to dribble it and hit Kobe, which is what happened in the Olympics. And we won."
Posted on: May 26, 2009 7:57 pm

Criminal justice, NBA style

LOS ANGELES -- I hope the bosses don't mind, but I'm going to be conducting interviews here in L.A. for a new position I'm creating at CBSSports.com. It's called Senior NBA Flagrant & Technical Foul Writer.

Yes, it's a full-time position, because covering the NBA criminal justice beat is nothing short of a full-time job.

In case you missed it, a flagrant-one charged to Orlando's Anthony Johnson for elbowing Cleveland's Mo Williams in the eye socket was rescinded Tuesday. Supreme Court Justice nominee Sonia Sotomayor, who has an extensive background in sports law, immediately struck down the decision in a scathing, one-paragraph opinion. President Obama issued a statement that he regrets the error; Orlando is not in Sotomayor's jurisdiction.

On to the Western Conference smackdown, the subject of two correct decisions and a hilarious one from the league office Tuesday. Andrew Bynum's two-handed block against Chris Andersen in Game 4 was downgraded to a personal foul (correct), Dahntay Jones' bush-league trip of Kobe Bryant in the same game was upgraded to a flagrant-one (correct), and Lakers coach Phil Jackson was fined $25,000 for criticizing the officials (ha!). Tune into the next episode of Jeanie Vision for the Zen Master's reaction.

Kidding aside, politics has taken center stage in both series. Magic coach Stan Van Gundy chided Mo Williams and Ben Wallace for flopping in the Eastern Conference finals, saying that in Game 3 they both "fell down more than a baby learning to walk." To which Big Ben replied that Van Gundy should "come out here and do something about it" or "shut the ___ up." Good comeback, Ben! Make the check payable to the National Basketball Association and mail it to 645 Fifth Ave., New York, NY, 10022.

In the Western finals, shifting to L.A. for Game 5 Wednesday night tied 2-2, Jones' second straight game with a flagrant-one is no laughing matter. As I wrote Monday night, that brings Jones' total to three flagrant points in the playoffs. One more flagrant-one will result in an automatic one-game suspension. If he's idiotic enough to get a flagrant-two, he'll be subject to a two-game suspension.

Applicants for the new position I've created are welcome to post their qualifications here, as well as suggestions on how they would bring clarity, consistency, and sanity to the NBA's pursuit of equal justice. Judge Sotomayor, unfortunately, must recuse herself. She has bigger fish to fry.

Posted on: May 24, 2009 6:17 pm

Melo: A.I. 'hurt' that he's not with Nuggets

DENVER -- When someone asked Carmelo Anthony on Sunday if he's still confident going into Game 4 of the Western Conference finals with a 2-1 deficit, his response reminded me of a certain All-Star who isn't here anymore.

"If we're not confident," 'Melo said, "we might as well not even dress up."

That was vintage Allen Iverson, whom I've heard say almost exactly those words hundreds of times over the last decade or so. I asked Anthony if he'd spoken with A.I. recently, given the Nuggets' meteoric rise to the conference finals without him -- and given that the point guard he was traded for has made all the difference.

"Yeah, I’ve talked to him a couple of times," Anthony said. "He just keeps saying, 'Go get it.' It kind of hurts him that he’s not here with us. That’s all he keeps saying is that he wanted to be with us. But he understands the situation."

So, too, did Kobe Bryant, who realized how significant the Iverson-for-Chauncey Billups trade was the minute he heard about it.

"When it went down, I called Carmelo and said, ‘You’re gonna like this trade,’" Bryant said. "Iverson is great. But for what this team needs, they needed a quarterback. And they have a quarterback. I knew it was going to be a problem as soon as it happened."

Bryant and Iverson came into the league together in the 1996 draft, but their careers have taken much different paths since they stole the show at the All-Star rookie game in Cleveland in '97. They were the brash new kids trying to nudge the venerable stars aside back then, and everyone wondered if Iverson with his cornrows and Kobe with his arrogance would be good or bad for the league. What a full-circle moment it would've been for Bryant and Iverson to meet again in the conference finals this year after colliding in the 2001 NBA Finals won by the Lakers. But of course, without the Iverson-for-Billups trade, the Nuggets most certainly wouldn't be here.

"That’s not what the team needed," Bryant said, when asked why things didn't work out in Denver with Iverson. "You can put together all the talent in the world. When I first came to the Lakers, we had four All-Stars. But it’s about what pieces go right with the others. And Chauncey was the piece that they needed. It just meshed extremely well."

Posted on: May 24, 2009 2:30 am

Kobe's answer to LeBron

DENVER -- In the final 30 seconds, after he'd ripped Nuggets fans' hearts out with a dagger 3-pointer, Kobe Bryant stepped to the free throw line twice. The Colorado crowd serenaded him with the usual assortment of boos, obscenities, and whatever else they could think of.

And Kobe regrets to inform them that they were the reason those free throws went in.

"It really helped me, to be honest with you," Bryant said. "I couldn't feel my legs one bit, not at all. And when they started chanting that, it just reminded me what we're playing for and where we're playing. And it was just kind of, 'You gotta man up, put these in the hole,' because of that."

Bryant sank all four free throws, and the Lakers preserved a 103-97 victory Saturday night to take a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference Finals. Game 4 is Monday night in Denver.

In case you're wondering, Kobe also enjoyed the silence of the crowd after his 3-pointer with 1:09 left gave the Lakers a 96-95 lead. Yes, even more than the "Kobe Sucks" chants when he was at the line.

"It's a great feeling," Bryant said. "It's a much better feeling, actually, than being at home and hearing the roar of the crowd. You enjoy it a lot more, because everybody's against you. And everybody's wanting you to lose, wanting you to fail. And when you hit a shot like that and everybody goes quiet, it feels good. It feels real good."

This was Kobe's answer to LeBron James' heart-stopping, series-saving 3-pointer with one second left against Orlando Friday night. That was at home, where the crowd was dead quiet before the shot went in and apoplectic afterward. Bryant's response, on the road, fit him perfectly. He's always worn the black hat well.

Which is why, despite his denials and those of his teammates, Bryant must've been playing with a little something extra on this night, at the culmination of a 24-hour period in which he played second fiddle to LeBron. The great debate -- LeBron or Kobe -- reached a tipping point with James' heroics. Don't think Kobe didn't notice. LeBron followed Kobe's 61 points at Madison Square Garden during the regular season with a 52-point, near-triple double. Don't think Kobe didn't want the last word this time.

"Kobe Bryant has been playing at a high level for a long time now," Lamar Odom said. "I think it would be childish to even entertain [the comparison]. It's fun for SLAM Magazine and for the newspaper articles, but I mean, how could you compare greatness? I mean, who's better, Bruce Springsteen or Frank Sinatra? What do you like? Are you having wine or beer? You know what I mean? Whatever floats your boat."

At the Lakers' shootaround Saturday morning, Bryant didn't have much to say about LeBron's shot; something about it being a "clean look." In the final question of his postgame press conference, Bryant peered incredulously at a reporter who asked him a "great debate" question.

"Are you serious? No, really?" Bryant said.

He went on to explain that he'd sent LeBron a text message congratulating him on The Shot. "We're all friends," Kobe said. "Everybody tries to make it out like this big thing, but we're all friends. And I told him it was a hell of a shot. He does what he does in Cleveland, and I do what I do here."

Posted on: May 23, 2009 5:01 pm

Kobe: 'This is the test'

DENVER -- The Lakers went to Houston tied 1-1 in their Western Conference semifinals series with the Rockets. They immediately recaptured homecourt advantage by playing well and winning Game 3, then proceeded to give it right back by mailing in Game 4.

Kobe Bryant doesn't want a repeat performance.

"This is the test tonight," Bryant said Saturday. "We play well at home, where everybody’s comfortable. We lost a tough one in Game 2, but for the most part, we played well at home. This is the test, because the last two times on the road we played horrible. Game 3 in Houston we played extremely well. This is the test to see how we respond."

Did the Lakers learn anything from the Houston experience?

"Nothing," Bryant said, before quickly reconsidering. "Don’t do that. Whatever we did, whatever we ate before [Game 4], don’t eat that."

The Lakers (29-12) had the best road record in the league this season. The Nuggets (33-8) had the third-best home record in the West behind the Lakers and Portland. The noise and home-court advantage Denver enjoys are among the most formidable in the league. And a proven truth about the playoffs -- young players and role players perform better at home -- plays right into Denver's hands. They know what they're going to get out of Carmelo Anthony, but contributions from J.R. Smith, Anthony Carter, Chris Andersen, or Linas Kleiza could be pivotal in Games 3 and 4.

"If we can get our transition game going at home, it's like a snowball effect," Chauncey Billups said. "If we get all those guys playing with a little more energy and confidence, you can make maybe one or two more mistakes and cover up for it when you're playing hard and you've got your fans." 

Two questions before I get ready to go back to the arena: 1) Which Lakers team shows up, and 2) Will they be able to withstand a fast start by the Nuggets, and all the noise and momentum that would go with it?

Category: NBA
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com