Tag:Kobe Bryant
Posted on: May 8, 2009 2:15 pm
Edited on: May 8, 2009 5:57 pm
 

Artest: There's Kobe, then there's me (UPDATE)

HOUSTON -- Ron Artest is enjoying the spotlight. He is speaking freely, with brutal honesty and a huge smile. And for once, the topic is something that is happening on the basketball court, not off it.

Artest was on a roll Friday at the Rockets' shootaround before Game 3, saying Kobe Bryant got away with an elbow to the throat that precipitated their verbal skirmish in Game 2 and that the referees treat him differently because of his reputation.

"I think (Bryant) knows he got away with one," Artest said. "That's the referees' job. They see the second reaction. They never see the first with me. Joey [Crawford] was doing a great job. He was involved in every play except the Kobe plays."

As for how Artest feels about being ejected for jawing with Bryant after the elbowing incident, he said, "That's not racial profiling. It's past history profiling."

That's just a preview of what Artest had on his mind in the hours before Game 3 Friday night at the Toyota Center.

UPDATE: For example: Artest called Crawford's decision to eject him "a bad ejection;" said that he told Bryant during their confrontation, "If you're gonna get out of line, I'm gonna get out of line;" and warned that he'll give the referees three chances to protect him in Game 3. And if they don't? Two things will happen, according to Artest.

Thing No. 1: "I'm gonna report it to the police," he said.

And Thing No. 2: "Then I gotta protect myself."

The league office ruled that Bryant's elbow landed in Artest's chest and not his neck, thus ruling out the possibility of suspending Bryant for Game 3. Artest had some fun with that one, too, saying, "Oh, OK. If they say so." But after Kobe's elbow, Artest's response, and Derek Fisher's hip-check to Luis Scola -- which did earn him a suspension for Game 3 -- tensions are high and threats are flowing freely in what has suddenly become the most physical and intriguing series in the conference semifinals.

The one place threats and yap aren't coming from would be Bryant's mouth. Kobe deflected all Artest-related queries at the Lakers' shootaround an hour later, but he finally caved in and offered this: "You guys know me, man. You know I don't back down from anybody. Simple as that."

It's not going to be so simple for the officiating crew: Steve Javie, Sean Corbin, and Ron Garretson. If it's any consolation, Javie was the crew chief for Game 7 of the chippy series between the Celtics and Bulls. In a series that saw Rajon Rondo slapping Brad Miller's face and throwing Kirk Hinrich into the scorer's table, cooler heads prevailed in Game 7.

"It’s just basketball, but it depends on how they want to ref the game," Artest said. "You can hit back, but are they gonna see the first one or are they gonna see the second one? ... So my team, we were just trying to play basketball, but they kept seeing the second one. So I got guys walking my players down, walking behind their back. If somebody walks behind my back, automatically I'm gonna turn around and I might smack them if somebody’s walking right behind me because that’s my natural reaction. So I mean, the referees, they should know that. I think they’re going to do a better job."

One thing about Artest: He knows how to jab you where it hurts. So he proceeded to join the chorus of arm-chair analysts who have suggested that perhaps the Lakers are overcompensating because of how the Celtics outmuscled them in the Finals last year. Except Artest said it better than that.

"Last year, what the Celtics did to them was more about manhood than basketball," Artest said. "They took their manhood. They took it right from under them."

Ouch.

Predictably, Lakers coach Phil Jackson had some fun with all of this while addressing the media on the Toyota Center court. 

"Oh, I don't know, there’s been a lot of that talk," Jackson said. "You have all those guys and they’re sitting at their desk speculating on what we have to do to win or not to win. But it’s about being aggressive. We’re not a heavy team. Guys like Artest, we only give up 20 or 30 pounds to him at all our spots. So he can walk guys to wherever he wants to down underneath the basket. If the referees aren’t going to call it, we have to provide support for ourselves. And that’s the way it is."

Asked if Bryant crossed the line with his elbow to Artest, Jackson said, "You know, what Kobe did happens every single game, maybe 20 times in a game. A big guy’s trying to shove a smaller guy out underneath the basket, and they’re going to have to fight for their life underneath there. It happens all the time. It’s just got a focus because of what happened. We can focus on it as a league and in the press in the playoffs, but those things happen all the time in our game. This is not a game for boys. This is a game for men."

I agree. But that doesn't mean I will deny Artest's right to use the incident as motivation.

"I think they did a good job getting us out of our game, because we were comfortable playing basketball," Artest said. "And it turned into like a fight. We've got to remember just to play basketball when it turns into a fight."

And that it will be, one way or another, in a few short hours.

Posted on: May 5, 2009 11:47 am
 

Here's how Rockets can beat L.A.

Are the Lakers in big trouble? Nah, they've been down this road before. They're a confident team with playoff experience, and they know how to win on the road.

But are they capable of losing a seven-game series to the Rockets? Oh, absolutely. Here's how:


1) Who defends Aaron Brooks? It became obvious while watching the second half of Game 1 in a social establishment near TD Banknorth Garden in Boston Monday night that one of my hunches about this series is absolutely true. The Lakers have no one to guard Brooks. He's quick, crafty, steady with the ball, and he looks like he will be able to get into the paint at will in this series. The only guy capable of stopping him is Trevor Ariza, but the Lakers would rather use him to grapple with Houston's wing players. Plus, if Ariza has to play big minutes to slow down Brooks, the Lakers are down a shooter. That may compel Phil Jackson to go with Shannon Brown against Brooks for long stretches, placing even more demands on the Lakers' bench.

2) Kobe Beef. There is an excellent Japanese restaurant on the outskirts of Houston called Azuma. One of the specialties there is the Hot Rock Kobe -- slabs or raw, 100 percent Kobe beef delivered to your table with a steaming hot stone. You take the slabs of Kobe and sear them yourself on the hot stone. For symbolism's sake, Ron Artest and Shane Battier should visit Azuma on the day off between Games 3 and 4, just to practice taking turns cooking Kobe. That's a luxury that is unique to the Rockets. They're the only team with two players capable of defending Bryant. If one gets into foul trouble, Rick Adelman hands the chop sticks and hot stone to the other one, and away they go. (Full disclosure: This theory was capably espoused by my friend and colleague, Chris Sheridan from ESPN.com, during numerous radio interviews Monday -- one of which was with a station in L.A. that introduced him as the dumbest man on the planet. Silly boys, they forgot about me.)

3) Luis Scola. He may look awkward at times, but Scola is a very capable post player with diverse skills who affects winning at both ends of the floor as much as any player in the NBA. His diversity of post moves gives the Lakers something else to think about in the paint besides Yao, and he has an uncanny knack for finding loose balls and rebounds. Plus, he's a very underrated defender. Few players are more efficient with their opportunities.

4) Yao. The knee-to-knee contact that crumped Yao to the floor in the fourth quarter could have been a turning point in the series. With
a frontcourt of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, the Lakers are better equipped than most teams to deal with Yao. But if he stays healthy and out of foul trouble, Yao is going to get his 25 and 10 on a nightly basis in this series despite the Lakers' best efforts to contain him.

5) Bench scoring. Other than Lamar Odom, the Lakers' bench has been inconsistent and much maligned at times this season. L.A.'s reserves outscored Houston's 18-16 in Game 1, and they still lost. For the Lakers to win the series, they will need consistent superiority from their bench.

6) The Artest factor. Not only is Artest equipped with on-board Kobe radar and weird hair, but he's also one of the few players in the NBA who can match Kobe's twisted competitiveness and flair for the dramatic. Yes, Artest will kill some possessions with bad shots, but the Rockets have learned they have to take the good with the bad. Simply put, No. 96 is an assassin. In my mind, only two other players in the league share his flair for the pressure-packed crucible of playoff time: Kobe and Paul Pierce.

So can the Lakers shake off their Game 1 loss, get a game in Houston, and still achieve their destiny of facing Cleveland in the NBA Finals? Sure they can. But they can also lose this series for the reasons outlined above. That's why the center of must-watch drama has shifted from Boston -- where the defending champs are in a fight of their own against the Magic -- to Houston-L.A.

Posted on: April 24, 2009 8:41 pm
 

Stern on death threats, and Jordan's comeback

PHILADELPHIA – NBA players have been receiving death threats for a quarter-century, and Michael Jordan is making another comeback. How’s that for news out of David Stern’s latest stop on his tour of first-round playoff series?

Well, Jordan’s comeback will have to be relegated to the movie screen, in a potential project he’s discussing with Spike Lee. But the death threats against the CelticsTony Allen in his hometown of Chicago during the Bulls-Celtics series are real – and nothing new, Stern said Friday night before the Magic and 76ers played Game 3 of their best-of-seven series.

“You might guess that in a league of stars in a variety of cities, that issue is not a new issue for us or for me over the last 25 years,” Stern said. “It’s just that you haven’t read about it and we haven’t talked about it. And we’re not going to talk about it now, except to say it’s something we’re aware of. It’s the very kind of thing that we are always dealing with and one of the reasons why we have security reps in every city. ... We do what we have to do in all difficult times. This is nothing new, at all. Unfortunately.”

Stern also reiterated some owners’ concerns about revamping the league’s revenue sharing system during collective bargaining negotiations that will begin in earnest after the playoffs. He said all options are on the table with regard to rescheduling the NBA All-Star Game so it would not compete with the Super Bowl if the NFL follows through on plans to add a regular season game and push its signature event deep into February. Stern said he's open to moving up the All-Star Game so it would be before the Super Bowl. And while the league didn’t punish Erick Dampier for threatening to put Tony Parker “on his back” in the Mavericks-Spurs series, that didn’t stop Stern from condemning him.

“I don’t think that’s something that I particularly want to sell,” Stern said. “... We represent the other 450 players and they don’t want to get injured. They earn a lot of money, they’re very talented, they’re strong, they’re fast, and they’re capable of doing harm to each other. And the idea that a very large player would feel it necessary to potentially harm, with intent of doing something to another player ... I view it as my job to be protective of all the players.”

As for Jordan: In the wake of Lee’s documentary with Kobe BryantKobe Doin’ Work – Stern revealed that Lee and Jordan are in discussions about possibly making a documentary about Jordan’s last season with the Bulls. It would involve resurrecting tons of footage that the league has in the archives from that season and “get it out of the can.”

Posted on: March 29, 2009 7:14 pm
 

Kobe: 'We can win anywhere'

ATLANTA -- The ship may have sailed Sunday on the Lakers' chances of securing homecourt advantage for a potential NBA Finals matchup with Cleveland. Just don't expect to find Kobe Bryant standing on the pier waving.

"We can win anywhere," Bryant said after shooting 7-for-19 from the field in the Lakers' 86-76 loss to the Hawks. "No question about it. I just feel like we’re a very good road team. Confidence, maturity, having seen the worst of the worst last year in Game 6 (against Boston) and then having to learn from that and then obviously the road success wthat we’ve been having this year. We’re fine playing on the road."

If they face LeBron James and the Cavs in the Finals, they better get used to it. Cleveland became the first team to 60 wins Sunday, and more importantly, opened a two-game lead on the Lakers for home court if the teams meet in the Finals. If they wind up tied, the Lakers own the tiebreaker by virtue of beating Cleveland twice.

After the Lakers shot 35 percent from the field in a team-wide meltdown Sunday -- the same day Cleveland was blowing out Dallas to extend its league-best home record to 35-1 -- Kobe was asked if the Lakers can catch Cleveland with only nine games left.

"Probably," he said. "They’ll have to give us a couple. But it’s fun. It’s a good challenge for us to see what happens."

The Lakers have won titles with homecourt advantage and without. But last year against Boston, they lost Game 4 of the Finals at home and thus had to go to Boston in Game 6 facing elimination. They were, of course, eliminated.

"Home court is important," Bryant said. "But in my years of experience, if you’re gonna be a champion, you should win on the road anyway. The better team is going to advance no matter where you play. It’s just the way it is."

Coach Phil Jackson has been trumpeting the importance of winning on the road all season, so he's not about to change his tune now.

"The fact that you can establish home court for as long as you possibly can in the playoffs is an added bonus," Jackson said, "but it’s not a determinant about whether you’re going to win or lose." Asked if a two-game deficit with nine to go is insurmountable, Jackson said, "We have no idea. Who knows what's going to happen with Cleveland? They're going to have to win, and we're certainly not going to win out. But we'll continue to put pressure on them."

As Bryant was shaking off the effects of a sore ankle -- it was fine, he said -- and an upset stomach that caused him to miss the morning film session, I asked him to assess the state of another race: the one between he and LeBron for MVP.

"I don’t even think about it. At all," he said. "It’s not something that crosses my mind. It didn’t cross my mind last year, either. I really, really, really, really, really want that championship. Really, really, really want it."

If they wind up playing Game 7 in Cleveland, a game like Sunday's is one they're really, really, really going to wish they could get back.

 

 

 

 

Posted on: March 11, 2009 5:48 pm
 

Geez, Berger: Hating on my MVP pick

We're going to try something new here in the 'Sphere. Your comments in the blog and at the end of my columns are pretty self explanatory. Not always printable, but self explanatory. Those of you who take the time to send an email deserve a quick response. So I'm going to be responding more frequently to my, um, "fan mail," and I use that term loosely. So here's the latest batch of emails beamed from the mother ship in Fort Lauderdale. Geez, tell me what you really think ...

Bubbs writes of my take on the Celtics: "That's somewhat true of Rondo. But the Celtics only will go as far as Paul takes them, just as I said last year. He plays up to the level as a great player, we can't be beat. If he plays soft, laid back, just trying to fit in, we can't win against the great teams."

Hey, Bubbs. Congratulations. When did you sign with the Celtics? And here I thought Marbury was their only big acquisition. Seriously, you make a great point about Pierce. Despite his heroics in the playoffs and Finals last year, somehow he isn't regarded nationally as being on the same level as the top stars. But the more I watch him, the more it becomes apparent that I can count the players I'd rather give the ball to on the last possession of a tight game on four fingers: Kobe, LeBron, Wade, and Dirk. When he's on and it's crunch time, very few are better.

Jim M. writes of my take on the MIT stats conference: "Very interesting article. Could you give me more info about this? For example, what statistical criteria do they use and why?"

Thanks, Jim. There's no short answer to your question except to say that the sophisticated teams are analyzing positively everything. Their goal is to attempt to quantify things that, on the surface, don't seem quantifiable. The best example is defining clutch play. Some of the smart people I spoke with at MIT seemed OK with the clutch-play rankings at 82games.com, which define clutch time as the last five minutes of regulation or overtime with neither team ahead by more than five points. They key thing to remember is that there are multiple factors that determine the outcome of games, possessions, and the multiple chances to score that occur within possessions. For example, going back to the notion of whether or not shooters have hot streaks: The numbers show that when a player made his last jump shot, he's more likely to 1) shoot his team's next shot, 2) shoot it sooner in the possession, and 3) shoot a more difficult shot. To get the purest interpretation of these results, you have to consider that there may be more than one reason why the ensuing shot is more difficult. On one hand, the player (let's say Kobe) might be inclined to take a more difficult shot because he thinks he's feeling it. But the defender may be forcing him to take a more difficult shot because he's aware that the last one went in. The variables are almost endless, but the teams that utilize all the tools and data at their disposal, in my opinion, have a higher probability of having success. Unless they're the Clippers.

John W. takes issue with my take on the Celtics: "Oh by the way ... it was a good 1-1 weekend for the Cavs, also. Don't be so biased. You sound like a Republican in the presidential race. Try to be a little more, uh, talented."

You betchya, John! I'll try! And if somebody thinks I have a pro-Celtics bias, then I must be doing my job.

Bebeto disagrees with my assertion that the Magic won't beat the Cavs or Celtics in the playoffs: "Voila, Ken: That is why you are a non-quality writer."

According to Wikipedia, Jose Roberto Gama de Oliveira -- a.k.a. "Bebeto," is a former Brazilian soccer (a.k.a. "football") player who led Brazil to the 1994 World Cup. Spelled differently, it also means "little baby" in Spanish. 

Bryan says LeBron should still be MVP, not D-Wade: "Ken, seriously. I just had this debate on a CBS message board. LeBron didn't win last year even though his stats were better than Kobe's, because Kobe was on a better team and LeBron didn't win 50 games. This year, LeBron's stats have been almost as good, if not better, and his team is much better. I love D-Wade too, but he is this year's LeBron James from last year ... and LeBron is this year's Kobe. His team is much better; D-Wade won't win 50 games, and you even said it yourself ... the numbers are very comparable. If you didn't vote for him last year, LBJ has to get it this year based on those same criteria. You can't take it from him both years."

Thanks, Bryan. Sound reasoning and a perfect example of why this year's MVP vote will be even more difficult than last year's.

Chris Fanguy says don't forget about CP3: "Leaving Chris Paul out of the league MVP talk is a crime. He is the whole New Orleans team and is having a BETTER year this year than his 2nd-place MVP year last year. He is the best overall player in the game and is a class act off the court. Everybody needs to learn to stop jumping on the bandwagon and really dig into some stats. Paul could be the FIRST PERSON ever to lead the league in steals and assists in consecutive years."

Good call, Fanguy. This analysis from HoopsAddict is from last season, but it highlights how quietly dominant CP3 really is. I have no problem with him getting all the consideration he deserves. But think about how long it took Kobe to win his first MVP. Paul is going to have to wait his turn, and LeBron, Wade, and Kobe are playing at too high a level for him to topple those giants this season. Someday, though, it'll happen.

Lucas offers a vote for Wade: "Wade is the most deserving of the MVP. Too bad all the writers already gave it to Squire James last November.

Hey Lucas, as my article proves, I haven't made up my mind.

Eric N. says I need to go West: "Your bias towards the Eastern players and teams is disappointing. How come no mention of Kobe? P.S. Have you ever played?"

It goes without saying that Kobe, the defending MVP, is in the running. But how many points would LeBron and Wade be averaging if they played with Pau Gasol? Anyway, it is well documented that I was a key reserve -- and I use that term loosely -- for the West Islip High School varsity boys' basketball team on Long Island in the late 1980s. But I should've played lacrosse.

Kevin K. says welcome to the D-Wade fan club: "I'm glad you came out with the D-Wade argument. I always liked him better than LeBron and Kobe. Maybe it is his swag, but I hopped on the Miami Heat bandwagon as soon as he joined the squad. D-Wade is my favorite player and I just hate the fact that LeBron and Kobe get all the exposure. What I really admire about my dude D-Wade is his humble attitude. That is what makes him an even better player ... I'm out.

You're out? Do we have one of Rome's clones stepping up in the BergerSphere? Nice! So here's a response: "Humble is as humble does. Sincerely, Kobe Bryant."

 

 

 

Posted on: March 11, 2009 2:47 pm
Edited on: March 11, 2009 10:02 pm
 

Jazz making noise with old-fashioned music UPDATE

The last time the Utah Jazz were winning like this, John Stockton was running the pick-and-roll with Karl Malone, Jerry Sloan was hoping for a third straight NBA Finals appearance, and the NBA was picking up the pieces after a damaging lockout.

With the Jazz, the names change but the song remains the same.

Utah tries for its 13th consecutive victory Wednesday night in Atlanta. Other than the fact that I surely just jinxed them, Sloan's crew is beginning to look as dangerous as any Western Conference team as we trudge into the final quarter of the NBA season.

You heard me, Lakers. Beware of the workmanlike, no-frills version of basketball artistry that is quietly getting warmed up in a big way in Salt Lake City.

UPDATE: And of course, I jinxed them. The Jazz fell in the second game of a back-to-back in Atlanta, losing 100-93 to the Hawks.

The Jazz won 11 in a row from April 1-18 in 1999. If they keep it going Wednesday night, they'll head to Florida this weekend with a shot at equaling the franchise mark of 15 straight, achieved twice during the 1996-97 season -- which ended with their first of back-to-back Finals losses to Michael Jordan's Bulls.

That night in what used to be called the Delta Center 11 years ago -- when Jordan picked Malone's pocket, dribbled the other way, and politely shoved Bryon Russell to the floor on his way to immortality -- seems like yesterday. Hard to believe it's been that long since the Jazz were in the Finals. Is it premature to start thinking they could be on their way back?

I don't think it's crazy.

I understand that as the fourth or fifth seed -- Utah is currently fourth -- the road would be exceedingly difficult. Assuming the Jazz could get past likely first-round opponent Portland, they'd be on a collision course with Kobe & the Lakers in the second round. The Jazz are 1-1 against the Lakers this season, playing both games without Carlos Boozer, who is back with a vengeance after missing 44 games with a knee injury. But Utah is 3-6 against the Lakers the past three seasons, becoming road kill for Kobe. Bryant is averaging 34.4 points per game and shooting .532 against the Jazz in the regular season since 2006-07. Kobe also scored 30 or more in five of the six games in the Lakers' 4-2 series victory in the conference semifinals last year.

If the Jazz fail to get past Kobe again, it'll feel an awful lot like their failure to get past Jordan in the Finals more than a decade ago. But sometimes a top-seeded team that seems destined for the Finals gets derailed by a hot team nobody wants to see in the early rounds of the playoffs. It happened to Dallas against Golden State a couple of years ago, and it's not farfetched to wonder if the Jazz could be that team this year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on: February 27, 2009 9:31 am
 

Rockets make LeBron human

The Rockets' Ron Artest and Shane Battier held LeBron James to a mortal 21 points on 7-for-21 shooting, one lousy rebound, and no assists -- the first assist-less game of LBJ's career -- in Houston's 93-74 victory Thursday night.

Here is a ridiculously detailed and fantastic analysis of how they did it from Kevin Arnovitz at TrueHoop. (I continue to be amazed on a daily basis by the quality of work being produced in the basketball blogosphere. It's a great place to work.)

Amid all the great detail of the Rockets' defensive strategy, which was fascinating in its own right, here's what stood out to me: Rockets GM Daryl Morey stating emphatically that, yes, LeBron is the best player in the NBA "by a wide margin." Morey knows what he is talking about, so you Kobe fans can take that to the bank.

These days, just be careful which bank.

 

 

 

Posted on: February 6, 2009 4:03 pm
 

LeBron's triple-double overturned

This is what happens when you go to the videotape. The facts get in the way of a good story.

We told you about some video evidence that LeBron James' ninth rebound Wedensday night against the Knicks actually should've been credited to Ben Wallace. This would've meant that LeBron's 52-point triple-double wasn't really a triple-double.

Well, moments ago, the NBA released a statement that after reviewing the tape, the rebound has been officially credited to Big Ben.

That means Kareem Abdul-Jabbar can rest easy. His 50-point triple-double in 1975 remains the most recent in NBA history.

Sigh.

It was still amazing to watch LeBron soar desperately through the air to track down what he thought was his 10th rebound as time expired in the Cavs' 107-102 victory. But alas -- and to its credit -- the NBA corrected the record. LeBron's official stat line from that game: 52 points, 11 assists, and nine rebounds.

Here's the NBA statement on the statistical change:

NEW YORK, Feb. 6, 2009 – The NBA announced today that a statistical error was made during the Cleveland Cavaliers-New York Knicks game on Feb. 4 at Madison Square Garden. Cavaliers forward LeBron James was incorrectly credited with a rebound with 39.3 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter that should have been awarded to Cleveland forward Ben Wallace.

Due to the correction, James finished Wednesday’s game with nine rebounds – one rebound short of a triple-double – while Wallace ended with two rebounds. All NBA games are reviewed to ensure the accuracy of the game statistics.

Question: Does this mean that Kobe Bryant's 61-point performance Monday night at MSG was better than LeBron's because LeBron didn't have a triple-double?

 
 
 
 
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