Posted on: December 26, 2011 12:29 am
Edited on: December 26, 2011 12:31 am
By Matt Moore
Theory: The Bulls did not play well and still won, and that says more about the Lakers than the Bulls.
Proof: It's not so much that the Lakers played badly, because they didn't. It's that they played above how we thought they would Sunday, until the last five minutes, and then suddenly regressed to the mean at warp speed. The Lakers had played well, above their talent level with an injured Kobe Bryant and a suspended Andrew Bynum, honestly, and looked primed to steal the game from out from under the Bulls. The Bulls were not making it hard on them. Derrick Rose was not great or even really emphatic until the last five minutes Luol Deng was more like the pre-2011 Luol Deng (good but inconsistent) than the 2011 Luol Deng (consistently great on both sides)... until the last five minutes. The Bulls shot poorly from the field, and were leaving wide-open perimeter shots left and right.
And yet they won.
The easy way out is to say that Andrew Bynum will make everything better, that more time together will heal all wounds, but the bigger concern is that it wasn't the supporting cast of little-known non-stars that blew this game. It was Kobe Bryant his 8 turnovers, most notably the crucial final turnover that lead to Derrick Rose's go-ahead score. >Bryant shot 11-23 from the field. And there wasn't enough surrounding talent with Lamar Odom getting ejected in Dallas and Bynum at hometo cover. His shot selection wasn't really a problem until his final two attempts, where he forced things, especially his final shot, a baseline running fadea, away trying to get over three Bulls. That's not Bryant anymore.
The formula for the Lakers has to be Mike Brown's defense gets them in range, then the star power finishes the job. But if the star power isn't able to convert, the Lakers are in trouble. The kind of trouble we thought they might bed the going into the season. Bynum's out three more games, and the Lakers play two lottery squads in a row. But if things went this right and they still lost Sunday, isn't there a chance things could start even worse for the Lakers?
Posted on: December 25, 2011 8:24 pm
Edited on: December 25, 2011 10:22 pm
By Matt Moore
For 40 minutes, the Lakers were the better team. Then everything fell apart for L.A. against the Bulls. They missed free throws, took bad shots, and turned the ball over constantly. With the Bulls having closed within one, the Lakers had the ball with under 20 seconds left. Maintain possession, force the foul, hit free throws, and get out with an ugly but impressive win over the East's best team last season.
But as we've seen all through the month of December, things simply aren't diagrammed that way for the Lakers right now. Instead, this happened.
The Lakers have not won a game since defeating the Hornets in the first round of last year's playoffs. Kobe Bryant hit some big shots but also turned the ball over 8 times against the Bulls. On a day where the Lakers scrapped and did a fantastic job shutting down Rose and the Bulls' offense, they simply fell apart, and the finger has to point to Kobe Bryant.
Meanwhile... Derrick Rose made the play when he need to, just like he did all of the regular season last year. It wasn't the best start for the Bulls, but it's a win, and that's good enough. Also, you can almost see Rose's eyes go wide when he realizes he has Derek Fisher one-on-one.
Posted on: December 24, 2011 1:19 pm
Edited on: December 24, 2011 10:03 pm
by Matt Moore
GAMES. Sweet merciful games.
The wait is over. Ol' Saint Nick has shimmied down the Christmas tree and that means the NBA has returned to our lives, kicking off with five games Sunday and a righteous quintuple it is. Boston tests an unsteady bench against the new-look Knicks (same old Knicks, except for a good rookie and one big exception down low). The Heat must watch the Mavericks' banner raised and then go toe-to-toe with the team that ousted them in the Finals. The Lakers will try to prove that Lamar Odom wasn't the whole team, Kobe Bryant's wrist is fine, and they are still the most dominant franchise in the West against the MVP Derek Rose and the league's best defense. The Magic try to pretend everything's fine while polishing silverware on the Titanic against a Western Conference favorite, the Oklahoma City Thunder. And finally Lob City premiers against the Golden State Warriors, who are looking for something new under Mark Jackson.
It's going to be fun. So on the night before Christmas, we're hear to stuff the stockings with what you need to know for each game. Here are 12 Things of NBA Christmas.
1. "Later on we'll conspire, while we lay by the fire..."
The Heat failed. And everyone pointed and laughed. After all the pomp and circumstance, the unbelievably arrogant approach to their formation and celebration thereof, followed by a somehow more outrageous backlash against three basketball players who decided to play for the same team through free agency, the Heat were left broken and tarnished by a Mavericks team which lacked neither star power nor confidence. Not that you'd know it by the storylines drawn out. Still, the Heat took a nasty fall. But during the summer and all the way through the lockout, we hardly heard a thing from them. A few appearances from Dwyane Wade. Some exhibition appearances by LeBron James. Chris Bosh went to ESPN for a day. That was it. Nothing outrageous, no outlandish proclamations or denials of the fact they had their tails kicked. Now they return to the scene of the crime, where everything started to turn for them on a warm June night in Dallas, when the series shifted on the back of their inability to stop Dirk Nowitzki.
When the Heat stumbled last season, the idea was that James, Wade, and Bosh needed more time together, and with their teammates. That chemistry couldn't be built in a day, and that even if they struggled early, it would come. Yet even in advancing to the Finals, there were so many moments where the Heat never looked like they truly belonged together, like they were thrust together without a core concept. We're still waiting for a Heat team that, for lack of a better term, makes sense. A mega-scoring, high-rebound-rate, gamble-defending shooting guard. A prolific do-it-all and rarely do enough, lock-down defender, brilliant vision in a Hummer-like body small forward. And a whisper-thin, mid-range joltin', defensively adequate power forward. It's just an odd combination. They had their trial season, and they fell only two games short of a title. But still short. This is their chance to show the world they've learned from their mistakes and that it was a rare combination of factors that led to their demise against the Mavs. With Tyson Chandler and J.J. Barea gone, this isn't the same Dallas team that had the formula to stop what no one else could. The Heat can make a statement Sunday.
But we've heard that before.
2. "He's making a list and checking it twice, gonna find out who's naughty and nice..."
All this Lakers drama. You know what's lost in the talk of the Odom trade, of Kobe's wrist, of the Chris Paul trade that wasn't (and should never have been)? Derrick Rose is coming to Los Angeles and he's bringing all the fury a dissed MVP can bring. None of us have him repeating. Very few experts do. But Rose is consistently the most devastating single player in professional basketball and he's going up against a team still starting Derek Fisher, with Steve Blake backing him up. Blake defended Chris Paul admirably in two preseason games against the Clippers. But Rose's explosiveness is the stuff of legend. Plus, once he gets past his primary defender, there will be no Andrew Bynum, serving five games for being naughty in the worst (clubbing J.J. Barae in last year's playoffs in an all-time disgusting move). Rose instead will face Pau Gasol and Josh McRoberts at the rim. McBob is a good player and will pay well or the Lakers. But he ain't Bynum.
Rose sees no reason why he can't repeat as MVP. And after an offseason hearing about everyone else and how LeBron left coal in his ECF stocking by shutting him down, Rose likely has some motivation. I'm reminded of a line from "The Dark Knight." "Turn it off. He doesn't want to talk to us. God help whoever he does want to talk to."
3. "Deck the halls with boughs of holly, fa la la la LOB, la la la la"
Tis the season to be jolly in ... Clipper-land? When has that ever been the case? But Sunday means the debut of Lob City (pause for collective groan for people who quickly tire of memes and/or Lakers fans) against the Warriors. Is the pressure too high? Will they be trolled by Yuletide carols? I don't know what that means but it fits with the song; roll with it. The Clippers are facing a team that has been one of the worst defensively over the past decade or so. Mark Jackson is furiously trying to instill a new attitude, but this isn't a great place to start. Kwame Brown is a better interior defender than Andris Biedrins, but isn't good enough to defend two places at once. With Stephen Curry on a bum kneee, the Oop Outlet could be open on Christmas Day. All eyes will be on the Clippers to see if the newest superteam will live up to the billing or disappoint like so many others have. No pressure, there, Blake.
4. "I'll have a Blue Christmas without you..."
The Lakers need Andrew Bnyum. This is the first time you can really say that. They won the title in 2009 without him. They could have won the title in 2010 without him. He was the only thing really keeping them afloat for much of the last half of 2011. And now with Kobe Bryant injured for their opener vs. Chicago, Bynum's injury is even more in focus. It's his overwhelming presence on both ends that makes the Lakers more nasty and tougher to stop. Kobe Bryant can pull this game out, even with a torn ligament in his wrist. He's done it before, he'll do it again. But the Lakers are going to be sorely missing the young stud that holds the key to their future ... one way or another.
5. "All of the other reindeer, used to laugh and call him names, (LIKE PINOCHIO!)..."
I know, I know, I should have spit that one out for the Clippers. But this is also can refer to the Knicks, who for years have been dismissed first as a team terrible in every phase but recently because of their defense. But then one foggy (I don't know if it'll be foggy Saturday night in New York or not), Christmas Eve, Mike D'Antoni came to say, "Tyson Chandler, with your defense so bright, won't you dominate inside against a Celtics team which is paper thin inside tonight?"
The questions are going to continue about the Knicks. Chandler has been with the Knicks for a whole ... week. It may not work at all. But he's got a chance to help redefine what defense for the Knicks means, alongside Mike Woodson. And if things go right, the Knicks could go down in history. OK, let's just start with beating the Celtics in the opener.
6. "Please come home for Christmas."
So say Magic fans to Dwight Howard.
7. "And so this is Christmas, I hope you have fun, the near and the dear one, the old and the young"
The Celtics still have the talent, right? I mean, this is a league where older teams win. Dominate, even. Most of the champions are veteran groups. Yes, the Celtics are ... old. But Rajon Rondo's not. Brandon Bass isn't. They have some legs left. And it's not as many months. So on Sunday against the Knicks, it's not like the Celtics are going to be able to compete with the Knicks. In fact, in most of their games against the Knicks under Mike D'Antoni, the Celtics have used the same tactic employed by the Spurs against the Suns for years: They ran them out of the building. The Celtics actually are a great fast-break team, with Allen sprinting to the corner, Rondo running the break and Pierce a brilliant cherry picker.
So even if they're old, this is still likely a better overall team than the Knicks. But this first game could be relevant in showing us how big a hill both teams have to climb, and maybe who'll take early control of the division.
8. "The fire is slowly dying, and my dear, we're still, goodbye-ing. But as long as you love me so, let it snow..."
The Mavericks are going to fade off into the sunset. This is not a young team. Dirk Nowitkzi's game and condition should allow him to play until he's, oh, 60. But think about Petyon Manning. How quickly did this guy, who should have played at a high level into his 40s, see his career change? Granted, different sort of contact sport and all, my point is just that we never know when things change. And if Dirk does suffer any sort of decline because of age, the Mavericks dip too. Jason Kidd is nearly middle-aged, Jason Terry has a lot of frequent flier miles on him and Lamar Odom's no spring chicken. But on Sunday, they get to watch the banner raised in American Airlines, legitimizing Dirk's career and establishing the franchise as world champs. Yeah, it's getting cold, but the world will still love this team for their run last year and they've got enough in them to make another crack at it. Let it snow.
9. "Dashing through the snow, in a one-horse open sleigh."
Are the Bulls going to be a one-horse open sleigh, or do they have some help? Will Rip Hamilton help the Bulls space the floor against the Lakers? Can Carlos Bozer score on Josh McRoberts after struggling against McBob's Indiana Pacers last season? Can the Bulls score consistently? We know the defense will be there, but the Bulls wanted a scoring upgrade this season. The Lakers, even without Bynum and Odom, are going to be a great test of how far they've come. The Lakers will score. How much the Bulls score will determine if they start the season in a rush or a slide.
10. "Me, I want a hula-hoop..."
In this scenario, Mark Jackson is Alvin and the hula-hoop is a healthy-enough-to-play Stephen Curry. And a defense. And some consistent shooting. And smart basketball. It's a big hula-hoop.
11. "All I want for Christmas is you..."
Blake Griffin got the best Christmas gift possible. The Dunk-o-meter may get broken this season. The Clippers get to test out their new toy Sunday night. Chris Paul will make Blake Griffin the best player he can be. And that is terrifying for the rest of the league.
12. "And the boys of the NYPD choir were singing "Galway Bay," and the bells were ringing out for Christmas Day."
That's from a song about crushed dreams but sticking together because you've built your lives around one another. And after a vicious lockout that divided players, owners, fans and media, games are back. We're stuck with each other. Let's tip it off. Happy Holidays.
Posted on: December 22, 2011 12:03 pm
Edited on: December 22, 2011 2:22 pm
By Matt Moore
News of Kobe Bryant's torn wrist ligament spread like fire Wednesday. The Lakers, secretive as ever, list Bryant as day-to-day. That could be because they like to keep things under wraps. Or it could be because they don't know how long they'll be able to keep the strong-willed Bryant -- well-known for playing through pain -- off the floor.
Which is what makes this so frustrating for Bryant. He struggled with injuries the past two seasons, particularly a torn ligament in his pinky and a knee condition which required experimental treatment in Germany. But the long layoff had resulted in an invigorated Bryant proclaiming he was the healthiest he'd been in years. He talked about the knee being able to let him do anything he wanted. So to immediately suffer a significant wrist injury, regardless of how long he's out for, if at all, has to be frustrating. (The fact that he injured it after being blocked to oblivion by DeAndre Jordan doesn't hurt, really, but it cetainly doesn't help.)
There's a wide range of opinions on how long Bryant will be out. It essentially comes down to this. Doctors think the wrist needs time to heal but he could play through it, and teammates are certain he'll play Sunday against the Bulls in the Lakers' opener in Los Angeles.
From the Los Angeles Times:
"Without being privy to the MRI, these types of injuries can take anywhere from several days to several weeks to heal completely," said Keith Feder, a Manhattan Beach sports-medicine specialist. "But depending on the pain level, and with support, the athlete could play."via Kobe Bryant's wrist injury leaves his status for Lakers' opener in doubt - latimes.com
From ESPN and Dr. Robert Klapper:
"You usually don't have to operate on them, but it means that you need to let them rest so you can heal."via Dr. Robert Klapper on Kobe Bryant's wrist injury - Los Angeles Lakers Blog - ESPN Los Angeles
Then you have to hear what Bryant's teammates said after the Lakers' preseason loss to the Clippers Wednesday night: Bryant declined to talked to reporters, but longtime teammate Luke Walton was optimistic about his recovery.
"He plays through injuries that most people don't," Walton said. "I did see his wrist and it looked like Professor Klump because it was so swollen. But I think he'll be ready by Sunday."
Said Lakers center Andrew Bynum: "It's tough for him to miss a game, so I think he'll be up and ready to go." via Kobe Bryant's wrist injury leaves his status for Lakers' opener in doubt - latimes.com.
Sounds about right. Most people would be out a few weeks with this injury. Kobe Bryant is not most people. But there are larger questions in play here. Can the Lakers win without Bryant? It's possible. The Bulls game may be a loss, but that was questionable from the start what with Derrick Rose being guarded by Derek Fisher and Steve Blake. The larger problem isn't Bryant's absence, though he is imperative to any Lakers gameplan. It's that Andrew Bynum is serving a five-game suspension starting Sunday for a flagrant foul on J.J. Barea in last year's playoffs. The Laker can survive without Kobe Bryant for a few games. Surviving without Bryant and Bynum becomes a much tougher trick.
So why not play him, just let him work through it? Because the injury is such that repeated damage to it could cause longer term problems. Bryant is still better than 90 percent of most NBA players at 80 percent or even 70 percent, but the wear and tear does have which could be cumulative. The Lakers want to win now. Not next year, not two years from now. Now. (And in the future. That's kind of their bag. Win now, win later, win always.) And to do that they have to have the franchise player healthy for the playoffs. Risking a substantive long-term injury to win a handful of games early is not worth it.
So why not bench him, let him rest up, and play him when he's back at full strength? Take no chances, so to speak? Because of the shortened schedule. With Bynum out, the Lakers would be in the precarious position without Bryant of starting 1-4 or 0-5 without Bynum. Three of their first five opponents are playoff teams, six of their first ten. What does a 3-7 start do with just 56 games remaining? To be assured of the equivalent of 52 wins in a normal season, the Lakers would have to win roughly 42 games. which would likely be necessary for a top four seed in the playoffs even in a diluted Western Conference, the Lakers would then need to go 39-17 the rest of the way. That's just to get to the same winning percentage as the Eastern fourth seed Magic last season.
It's an impossible problem, one which the Lakers will no doubt struggle with over the next few days. The final decision will rest with Kobe, who will want to play. And the amazing part is, it's likely Bryant will score 30+ in a game with a bad wrist. His ability to adapt and play through injury is quite literally the stuff of legend. In ten years, players will tell tales of him playing through having his hand sawed off with a lightsaber like Luke Skywalker. But the issue is that one game will cloud what could be peripheral issues in his game. Ball-handling, which has become more of an issue for Bryant (half-court traps have given him a world of fits the past two seasons, and forced two turnovers in the first preseason game), could be impacted. Passing. Defense due to an inability to effectively check with that hand or apply pressure. Tentativeness on either end of the floor depending on how the wrist is feeling.
Without Bryant, the Lakers are in trouble. If Bryant plays, his season could be in trouble. We're betting Bryant plays, and plays well, but this is not the start the Lakers wanted, even beyond the failed trade for Chris Paul, Lamar Odom's subsequent departure, Bryant's divorce, and the predictable struggle to adapt to a new system. If the Lakers are to overcome adversity and regain the position at the top of the NBA mountain, they'll need everything they can get from every player.
Or Dwight Howard.
Posted on: December 21, 2011 3:18 pm
Edited on: December 22, 2011 7:52 pm
Posted by Ben Golliver.
The failed Chris Paul trade, the departure of a trusted teammate and the dissolution of a decade-long marriage.
If that wasn't enough, the hits keep coming for Los Angeles Lakers All-Star guard Kobe Bryant.
The Orange County Register reports that Bryant sat out Lakers practice on Thursday due to a torn ligament in his right wrist. The paper reports that Bryant said he "should be fine to play" when the Lakers open their regular season by hosting the Chicago Bulls in Staples Center on Sunday.
The Los Angeles Times reports that Bryant called his wrist injury "swollen and painful" but later added that, "It's always been in my nature to try to figure out a way to play."
The injury kept Bryant from action during Wednesday night's exhibition 108-103 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. Bryant sat on the team's bench wearing a large guard on his wrist.
The Lakers first announced the injury in a prepared statement on Wednesday.
Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, who suffered a right wrist injury in Monday night’s game against the Clippers, was examined today by Dr. Steven Shin of the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic and underwent an MRI exam. Results show that Bryant has a torn lunotriquetral ligament. Bryant will not play in tonight’s game against the Clippers and his status is day-to-day.Bryant played 30 minutes in Monday's 114-95 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, tallying 22 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists and committing 7 turnovers.
Bryant, 33, did not miss a game during the 2010-2011 NBA season. He's missed just 16 combined games over the last six seasons.
Posted on: December 21, 2011 1:32 pm
Posted by Royce Young
Celebrate Kris Humphries, you just beat out LeBron James for something. Well, maybe you should check what that something is first.
According to Forbes, via a poll conducted Nielsen and E-Poll Market Research, Humphries was voted the NBA's most disliked player. Fifty percent voted to dislike Humphries while No. 2, LeBron, picked up 48 percent. I guess people either were really mad about the 72-day Kim Kardashian marriage or there are a lot of sympathetic people towards Kim K. I have a feeling it's not the latter.
“He’s been on five magazine covers, all in a negative light,” Stephen Master, VP at Nielsen Sports, which helped run the survey, told Forbes. “It’s all so recent, he’s gotten all this publicity for something other than basketball talent.”
It is surprising that a little reality show and Hollywood marriage would bump Humphries all the way up this list topping people like LeBron, Carmelo Anthony, Tony Parker (who divorced from actress Eva Longoria with reports of cheating), Kobe Bryant (who is getting divorced) and Chris Bosh.
I'm noticing a theme though: NBA fans don't like divorce, I guess.
Here's the full top 10:
1. Kris Humphries (50 percent dislike)
2. LeBron James (48 percent)
3. Kobe Bryant (45 percent)
4. Tony Parker (37 percent)
5. Metta World Peace (36 percent)
6. Chris Bosh (34 percent)
7. Carmelo Anthony (27 percent)
8. Paul Pierce (25 percent)
9. Dwyane Wade (23 percent)
10. Lamar Odom (21 percent)
Posted on: December 19, 2011 9:46 am
Edited on: December 19, 2011 9:59 am
By Matt Moore
Since the Lakers' season has started about as disastrously as you can without a major injury, there had started to be rumors. That's what happens with a high-profile team full of high-profile players in a dramatic environment. There were actually suggestions last week that Kobe Bryant could potentially pursue a trade with the lack of significant roster upgrades. In an interview with Yahoo Sports, Bryant made quick work of that nonsense.
Q: Do you see yourself retiring with the Lakers? There’s been speculation you might want a change.via Kobe Bryant Q&A: Laker for life? - NBA - Yahoo! Sports.
Bryant won't be going anywhere anytime soon. He's not going to be the star he is anywhere else, and his legacy is best reflected by retiring a Laker. What is possible? The Lakers eventually moving or ditching him.
Sounds insane, doesn't it? But the Lakers have never put sentimentality ahead of what's best for the team. Their relationship with former players is a minefield of tense situations. Jerry West has a troubled relationship with the organization, for crying out loud, and he's the NBA logo. Shaquille O'Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the list of players whose tenure has ended badly or gone on to sour is long and Lamar Odom recently joined the list. The franchise puts itself before the players, which has its advantages given some of the poor decisions made by franchises out of loyalty at times, but it also has impacts on things like legacy.
The Lakers have already made it clear where Bryant stands in the organization. In the interview, Bryant mentions how the franchise simply doesn't consult with its players when making personnel decisions, be they hiring Mike Brown as head coach or trading Lamar Odom. Players play, coaches coach, management manages. But at least Lakers fans can rest assured that as long as Bryant is able to hit a jump shot, he'll have a home and isn't looking to upgrade any time soon.
With Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, along with Metta World Peace and Matt Barnes, the Lakers are still a formidable team in the West. They failed to upgrade at point guard and lost their sixth man in Lamar Odom. But there's more than enough talent on this team to make a run at the title. And it's hard to believer Lakers management doesn't have one more trick stored in its bag to upgrade. The Lakers' run is far from over.
Posted on: December 18, 2011 10:34 am
Edited on: December 18, 2011 11:27 am
Posted by Royce Young
It's been more than a week since David Stern's office vetoed a trade sending Chris Paul to the Lakers for "basketball reasons." In that time, a deal got done sending Paul to the Clippers, Stern denied all the allegations and criticisms blaming source-mongering journalists and the expectation was everything would go away. We'd all move on.
For the most part, people have. We're all excited to see CP3 lobbing to Blake Griffin, all excited to see how or if the Clippers can challenge the Lakers in Los Angeles and excited to see if the balance of power just shifted in the Western Conference.
But there are people that haven't moved on. Most notably the Houston Rockets.
Lost in the original CP3 mess was that the Rockets came up as major losers. The Lakers didn't get their man, Stern's reputation took a hit and the Dell Demps and the Hornets had to restructure a deal to get more youth. But no big deal, all that stuff can be fixed. The Rockets though, were left empty-handed after thinking they were about to land one of the elite power forwards in all of basketball.
And they haven't forgotten. Not just because the trade didn't work out for them, but because they feel that Stern has sort of spit in their face with his damage control of the situation. Via the Houston Chronicle:
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey was asked about the situation Saturday and declined comment based on the advice of legal counsel. So that's not a good thing. The whole organization is ticked, especially owner Leslie Alexander.
Stern maintained on a conference call after the Clipper trade went through that the deal was never done, but was just something in the talking phase. Which obviously someone in the Rockets' organization sees as a complete lie.
This story isn't over. It's not going to go away quite yet. It would, except the Rockets feel like they got screwed, which they did. And they're going to try and make sure everyone hears about it.