Posted on: January 17, 2012 1:18 am
Edited on: January 17, 2012 1:29 am
Posted by Royce Young
Monday's game between the Lakers and Mavericks was definitely strange. The two teams combined for just 143 points, the Lakers scored only seven points in the third quarter and Kobe Bryant passed on a game-winning shot attempt.
With the game tied 70-70 with nine seconds left, Kobe held the ball at the top of the key and swung it to an open Derek Fisher standing behind the 3-point line. With no hesitation, Fisher launched and nailed the go-ahead game-winning 3. This is after Kobe had gone for 40 or more in four straight games. Yet in this one, he finished just 7-22 from the floor for 14 points. So he deferred, which is not something you say often.
Was it the right play? Yeah, because it worked out. But in all honesty, what would you rather have: A deep Fisher 3, or a tough contested mid-range jumper from Kobe? Passing to the open man tends to be the smart basketball play and it was Monday because Fisher's shot went in. If not, then Kobe looks like an idiot for taking the ball out of his own hands.
And get this: Fisher scored nine of the Lakers' last 13 points. A strange night at Staples indeed.
Posted on: January 16, 2012 1:55 pm
Edited on: January 16, 2012 3:01 pm
Welcome to the Baseline Awards, a weekly feature that goes over the biggest stories of the past week and hands out awards. Because awards are fun!
Eastern Conference Player of the week: Best overall performance by Eastern Conference player
Tie: Dwight Howard/Derrick Rose
Dwight Howard absolutely annihilated teams this week. He only played in two games. During that back-to-back set he destroyed an elite team, the Blazers, and a pretty good team, the Warriors. Howard missed an epic tonnage of free throws vs. Golden State... and still scored 45 points and grabbed 23 rebounds. Against Portland he only scored 13 but had 13 rebounds and four assists. Howard is showing why everyone wants to trade for him.
But Derrick Rose? He's back to playing at an MVP level. No, I'm sorry, that's not right. Because he won the MVP last year and he's actually playing better this season, and did so this week. Rose played four games last week, sitting out with turf toe against the Wizards, and averaged 24 points and 9 assists. That last digit is particularly important. Rose has become a better passer, and is helping what is largely the same Bulls unit become better offensively. Be afraid, NBA.
Western Conference Player of the Week: Best overall performance by Western Conference player
Um... have YOU scored 40 points in each game this week, four times straight? I didn't think so. If I have to explain this, you've been either living in a cave or in suspended animation only to discover a strange new world. Either way, let me break it down. Kobe Bryant = dominant offensively this week. There may be a cost on the Lakers' offense as a whole and the competition was a little weak, but that doesn't change the fact he scored 40 freaking points in four straight contests at age 33.
Struggler of the week: Player with worst performance qualified for expectations
The numbers are fine. The numbers aren't everything. I rarely if ever use the phrase "choked" but James choked away a very winnable game vs. Golden State by missing free throw after free throw. Then had similar issues against the Clippers, struggling in the fourth quarter and overtime. And finally he was frustrated and beaten handily by the Nuggets.
It was probably an outlier, he'll likely rebound, at least in the regular season. But James had a huge letdown after a promising start to 2011-2012.
DOMINATOR AWARD: Most dominant performance
Millsap was an absolute beast for the Jazz this week, helping them to a 3-1 record while averaging 23 points and nine boards...while shooting 62 percent from the field. In three of those games, he shot better than 55 percent. Millsap's ability to hit from range, finish inside, and score in the post is making him one of the most complete power forwards in the league. The Jazz really have something going (again) in Salt Lake, and Millsap this week has been a huge part of it.
Broken Promises Award:
Mark Jackson, Golden State Warriors
Jackson's guarantee of a playoff trip was questionable when he made it after being hired last summer and it looks even worse now, just 12 games into the season. The team's major free agent prize, Kwame Brown, is likely done for the year, a desperate ownership is realizing it can't make stars appear out of nowhere, and Stephen Curry is tragically sidelined yet again. Jackson, meanwhile, embarked on an historically stupid Hack-a-Dwight strategy en route to a home loss and then watched as his team laid an egg in Charlotte, of all places. The good news: the W's season will be over and Jackson will have plenty of time to get back to the rhyming dictionary to craft some new catchphrases. I know you wanted to make a splash; your mouth made a promise that your team can't cash.
Home Cookin' Award:
Portland Trail Blazers
Portland's hot start and contender buzz hit the brakes this week thanks to a 3-game losing streak. After an early-season win at Oklahoma City raised hopes that this new-look Blazers team might be over the road struggles of previous years, Portland lost back-to-back games in Texas to start its current 6-game road trip, bringing their road record to 1-4 through 11 games. Losing to the undefeated at home Spurs is no shame, but dropping one to the Houston Rockets in overtime can't happen if Portland is to reach its high internal expectations.
Fuzzy Math Award
The "Big 4" is Boston wasn't supposed to be a reference to how many wins the Celtics have through the first three weeks of the season. But that's where the aging C's find themselves and it's brought on the possibility of a full-fledged identity crisis in the works. Boston is average on offense, average on defense and pathetic on the boards. Given the major cap flexibility the Celtics will have this summer, the worst case scenario is that this season ends up being a waste of time between eras. But settling for that is painful given that four Celtics were 2011 All-Stars.
The Walter White Award
Chicago Bulls and Oklahoma City Thunder.
It's not a coincidence that the two teams rolling along early in the season are the two squads that had virtually everything in place. With teams like the Knicks and Mavericks looking a bit lost with new pieces early on because of no training camp, the Thunder and Bulls haven't had issues because they haven't had to work on any chemistry. It's already there.
Dead Man Walking Award
I don't know how Deron Williams is putting up with this stuff, but he's obviously playing through gritted teeth. Kudos to him, but it has to be painful to basically be flushing a year and a half of your career down the toilet. The injury to Brook Lopez was unfortunate, but let's be honest: The Nets weren't going to be good regardless. If it all works out and Dwight Howard finds his way there, I'm sure he'll look back on these days as a good character builder, but if Howard goes elsewhere and Williams does as well, it'll just be wasted time.
The "Really, guys? Really?!" Award: Worst performance that isn't just bad, but inexcusable
You lost to the Bulls without Derrick Rose? Really? You let John Lucas go off on you, John Wall? Really? It's like every time we think the Wizards have hit the very bottom, they show us they can go just a little bit lower.
The "Begin Assembly" Award: Team starting to get it together
A tough loss to the Lakers seemed to spark this team. They needed a boost and since that game in which they competed to the end, Rudy Gay has started to produce at the level he has to. Mike Conley is playing well. Marc Gasol is beasting. O.J. Mayo has his shot going. The Grizzlies are moving away from the debacle that was their first game against Chicago.
The "Tom Brady Is Better Than You" Award for Offensive Failure
The Sacramento Kings scored 42 points on Saturday through the third quarter. The Patriots scored 42 points againt the Broncos on Saturday. The Kings were outscored by an NFL team. I don't know who that's sadder for, the Kings or Tebow and the Broncos.
Awkward Water Cooler Conversation Award for Coaching Struggle:
Jackon's own players asked him not to go hack-a-Dwight vs. the Magic, feeling they could defend Howard. It would be one thing if it had worked, but Howard dominated them even with the missed free throws and it completely detonated the Warriors' offensive flow. Jackon's been pretty good overall this season, but that was a pretty damaging series of events.
Blog of the Week:
The Two Man Game
With the Mavericks starting to put it together, their analysis is relevant again, and TMG is the best Mavs blog out there. Thoughtful analysis and discussion on the bigger picture, which is what the Mavericks are all about this season.
MVP Five to Consider (no particular order):
ROY Five to Consider:
6th Man of the Year Five to Consider:
Posted on: January 15, 2012 3:22 pm
Posted by Royce Young
Kobe Bryant has never been shy. Not with the ball in his hands and not with his words. He tells it like it is, says what he means and is often a bit braggadocios with it, which obviously, he has reason to be.
Following the Lakers loss to the Clippers Saturday, Kobe paid Chris Paul, and Derrick Rose, about as high a compliment there is from the Black Mamba.
"He's a dog," Kobe told reporters. "He's going to fight to win, and not too many teams can deal with him.
"Chris Paul is really the only other guy in the league, other than Derrick Rose, who has also that competitive edge," he continued.
Notice the names missing from Kobe's list there. No LeBron James. No Dwyane Wade. No Kevin Durant. No Dirk Nowitzki. No Kevin Garnett. Nope, on Kobe's personal power rankings of players that possess the same competitive edge as him, it goes Kobe and then CP3 and Rose in some order.
That's just Kobe talking, which he likes to do. It's not a slight to the other players but more just something that shows the respect Kobe has for Rose and Paul. Still, it seems like quite an oversight to leave out players like Wade, Durant and Dirk.
And really, what exactly is that "competitive edge" that Kobe speaks of? What tells him that CP3 and Rose have it? What makes him think that those guys are on another level when it comes to wanting to win? It's just Kobe's opinion and he's more than entitled to that, but still, it's quite a thing to only put two players in your category in terms of competitiveness. Kobe wants to be Michael Jordan, who had a legendary amount of it. And only a couple others are in that territory, evidently.
Posted on: January 15, 2012 2:40 am
Clippers 102 Lakers 94: Recap | GameTracker
It was impossible watching the Clippers' win over the Lakers Saturday night at Staples who the best player on the floor was. Kobe Bryant dazzled. He hit impossible shot after imposible shot, including a fading three-pointer with a defender taking up 85 percent of his vision and a turnaround mid-range jumper with similar contest. He finished with 42 points on a decently efficienty 14 of 28 shooting, and only had two turnovers.
And yet Chris Paul was the best player on the floor Saturday night, even with him having left before the game was over thanks to a strained hamstring late in the fourth quarter after essentially icing the game with another jumper. He finished with 31 points, 6 assists, and one turnover. But it wasn't the assists or turnovers or efficiency that made Paul the best Saturday night, nor was it the win he walked out with. It was his ability to work within the flow of an offense, to keep his teammates involved while also taking advantage of scoring opportunities with his array of skills. Paul hit some tough shots just as Bryant did, but the timing, causation, and execution were completely different.
Bryant has been on a ridicuous scoring streak, hitting the 40 mark four times in a row. The easy answer is that the Black Mamba is doing enough, he simply isn't getting help. But the only real differences between this team and last year's title contender is the absence of Lamar Odom and Shannon Brown. But the subtle differences have a huge impact, and the same problem that has bugged L.A. for years is once again popping up.
When the Lakers' offense stalls out to any degree, that's when Bryant's hero mode kicks in. And right now he's John McClaine. He's launching cars up into the air at helicopters and bringing down hover jets with trucks while taking out hordes of terrorists. But the problem is that in doing these amazing feats, he essentially removes any possibility of the Lakers' whole becoming greater than the sum of their parts. There is no flow, there is no rhythm. There is simply waiting for Bryant to score in order to try and rebound the miss or get back on defense if he hits. The result means that the Lakers' weak parts look weaker while Bryant looks stronger in comparison.
This isn't entirely about Bryant. This is about Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol's assertiveness, and the shot making of other players. But those elements have to be allowed to thrive and they can't with Bryant testing the limits of what is possible just because he thinks it's hot. And it's not about how many field goals Bryant takes. He can shoot 50 times, if the shot is a result of the Lakers' offense functioning at the level it can and needs to. Instead, however, Bryant is taking perimeter shots, pull-up, contested, with 18 seconds or more on the clock. He's throwing up baseline runner J's over double teams. And he's hitting! But everyone knows that isn't sustainable. Bryant coul be scoring 40 points a night on 15 shots plus fouls, that's how good he is. But instead he operates on this plane.
But maybe the bigger issue is the lack of a real playmaker, like Paul, on the Lakers. For years, that role has been filled by the system. The triangle under Phil Jackson naturally gave the stars on the Lakers the chance to distribute, create, and produce. Now under Mike Brown, the Lakers are struggling for an offensive identity.
The Clippers are the opposite at this point. The may be flawed conceptually, but they are making it work with the pieces they have. The Lakers elected to challenge Paul to score Saturday night, taking away his weapons. He responded by showing them what an efficient shooter he is and burning down their Nets with an array of mid-range jumpers and leaners. The Lakers tried everything, but when they threw doubles and traps at Paul, his teammates had already been involved and were ready to produce. Chauncey Billups with 19, Caron Butler with 13 and even Randy Foye (who was not good overall) with 13. The Clippers have a complete team top to bottom, and that's a huge reason for their wins over Portland, Miami, and the Lakers. They may not be as good, but they are a more complete team.
The Lakers were hurt by rebounds. They were hurt by inexperience. They were hurt by a slow start for Bryant. And they were definitely hurt by the brutal nature of their schedule. But if they want to get back to being a title contender, they have to stop with the sideshow stuff. Watching Kobe Bryant do his damage is amazingly fun to watch, but it's no longer 2006. The only way the Lakers are going forward is if they do it together. If they want a blueprint, all they have to do is take a good long look at little brother.
Posted on: January 14, 2012 2:59 pm
Edited on: January 14, 2012 3:07 pm
Posted by Ben Golliver
NBA MVP, Olympics Gold Medalist, 5-time title-winner, scoring champion and, now, motivational speaker.
Whoe else but Los Angeles Lakers All-Star guard Kobe Bryant?
In a new Nike ad campaign -- dubbed the "Kobe System" -- Bryant stars as a self-help guru for incredibly successful people who are looking to become even more successful.
In the introductory minute-long spot, Bryant emerges onto a stage in front of an audience which includes the likes of music star Kanye West, NFL Hall of Famer Jerry Rice, United States Men's National Team soccer player Landon Donovan, billionaire Richard Branson, comedian Aziz Ansari and others.
"You're at the top of your games," Bryant says, before addressing the crowd one-by-one. "You've got prestigious awards. You're a Chinese mega-star. You own outer-space. You got here by accident. So what's next? Where do you go from the top. You go over the top."
He then explains his philosophy.
"The Kobe System is about adaptation: attacking fast and strong. How do you know when you're in the Kobe System? Look at your feet. How do you use the system? Listen to me."
With that, Bryant proceeds to dunk a basketball and a highlight reel of his plays rolls.
"The KobeSystem: Success for the Successful is Kobe's winning, results-oriented philosophy on how to adapt to succeed. You're Welcome," the ad's tagline reads.
I guess it's believable, as long as Bryant the guru doesn't pitch divorce-related legal advice.
Here's the video of Kobe Bryant's new "Kobe System" Nike ad via YouTube user NikeBasketball.
Posted on: January 14, 2012 2:17 pm
Edited on: January 14, 2012 2:23 pm
Posted by Ben Golliver
She is about to get half.
The Los Angeles Times reports that Los Angeles Lakers All-Star guard Kobe Bryant will likely be on the hook for $75 million or more in a divorce settlement with his wife, Vanessa, because he did not have a prenuptial agreement. The couple announced that they were filing for divorce in December.
The apparent lack of a prenuptial agreement -- coupled with 10 years of marriage -- will likely significantly increase the size of Vanessa Bryant's divorce settlement with Kobe Bryant, legal experts said.The couple has two daughters, ages 8 and 5.
In a prepared statement issued to the media in December, a representative of the Bryant said: "The Bryants have resolved all issues incident to their divorce privately with the assistance of counsel and a Judgment dissolving their marital status will be entered in 2012."
According to Basketball-Reference.com, Bryant has earned more than $196 million in salary during his NBA career. Bryant is on the books for $25 million for the 2011-2012 season, tops in the NBA according to Forbes.com, and has an additional $57 million owed to him in 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 combined. SI.com reports that Bryant makes at least $10 million per year in off-court endorsements.
Posted on: January 14, 2012 1:02 am
Edited on: January 14, 2012 1:06 am
Posted by Ben Golliver
Los Angeles Lakers reserve point guard Steve Blake is going to miss some time, after all.
The Lakers announced on Friday that Blake will be out "approximately 3-4 weeks" after suffering a rib cartilage injury during a game against the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday.
The announcement comes one day after the Lakers issued a press release stating that an MRI had revealed "a costochaondral fracture (fracture of the cartilage that connects the rib to the sternum)" but that Blake was going to be listed as day-to-day, pending a re-evaluation.
Blake played 18 minutes in L.A.'s game against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday and the Lakers said in the release that Blake "re-aggravated" the injury during that game. Blake did not play during the Lakers' Friday night win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Posted on: January 13, 2012 7:17 pm
Edited on: January 14, 2012 2:19 am
3-on-2 Fast Break is a weekly feature here on Eye on Basketball where our intrepid bloggers tackle two questions, comparing two elements. This week, we focus on Saturday night's showdown at Staples between the Los Angeles Cippers and Los Angeles Lakers. Follow Eye on Basketball on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
1. Let's keep it simple. Which of these two teams wins on Saturday night and why?
Royce Young: Lakers. The Fighting Kobes are in a really good rhythm right now. Kobe is playing great, Andrew Bynum is looking dominant and all the pieces are fitting together. The Clippers kind of put all their eggs into the basket of beating the Heat and while I'm sure they'll be up for the Lakers, they've got to get past that overtime win first. And don't think the Lakers have forgotten everyone getting all excited about the Clips sweeping the two exhibition games at Staples in early December. People were talking about the changing of the guard in L.A., but those games didn't count. This one does.
Ben Golliver: The Lakers have some serious positive momentum going thanks to a four-game winning streak which could become five if they top the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night. That the Clippers get two rest days heading into this one while the Lakers are stuck with the back-to-back gives Lob City an edge, but that probably cancels out the revenge factor that the Lakers are feeling after getting wiped up in two highlight-filled preseason games. Chauncey Billups has hit double figures and shot at least 6 free throws in four consecutive games for the Clippers; they will need his production if they are to keep pace with Kobe Bryant and company. Chris Paul finally had his signature game with the Clippers, scoring 27 points and making 11 assists in a Wednesday win over Miami and he gave the Lakers fits in last year's playoffs. I see him doing it again on Saturday to give the Clippers the win.
Matt Moore: The matchups here are enough to make your head spin. All-Star, phenomenal, once-in-a-lifetime guards? Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul. Behemoth young centers with size, strength and defensive ability? Andrew Bynum and DeAndre Jordan. Crafty veterans on the wings? Ron Artest, Derek Fisher, Steve Blake and Matt Barnes against Chauncey Billups, Caron Butler, and Mo Williams. Power forwards with huge scoring ability who are almost unguardable? Pau Gasol and Blake Griffin. It's a tight set of matchups. I like the Clippers in this one. We saw what Paul was able to do against the Lakers in the playoffs last year, and they haven't upgraded a defender to guard him yet. On the other end, Pau Gasol doesn't like it when things get physical and the Clippers are in-you-face as they come. Bryant can swing this as he can any game, but I like Lob City to open up and outrun the older Lakers.
2. We know Kobe's going to score, Griffin's going to dunk, CP3 is going to dish, and Pau is going to do Pau things. But what's the big unknown in this game that will end up deciding it?
Royce Young: Points in the paint. Who gets the most easy baskets? Both teams are pretty solid defensively and both teams have players that can fill it up. But jumpshots only carry teams so far, especially late in games. The Lakers have Bynum and Gasol who are paint monsters, while Griffin gets a lot of his easy in transition. Execution will be tough because you know this game will be physical. It's going to come down to the little things like free throws, turnovers and again, easy baskets in the paint. Both teams can defend it well, but who is going to break down the other defense enough to score simple points.
Ben Golliver: The answer to the big unknown question is always Andrew Bynum. He poured in his career-high 42 points against DeAndre Jordan back in 2009 and he's shown spurts of serious offensive productivity in this young season. Given that the game is on the second end of a back-to-back there's no guarantee that Bynum can fully exploit what is an exceedingly difficult match-up for Jordan. The only person who can keep Bynum off the offensive glass in this one is himself. The Clippers are second-to-worst in rebound rate on the young season and Jordan can be bullied with Bynum's width and strength.
Matt Moore: Turnovers. The Lakers have turned the ball over a stunning amount this season up until the past few games, also notably the best games of Bryant's season. The Lakers are last in turnover percentage differential, while the Clippers are top-four in that same category. The Clippers also rank 3rd in transition offense according to Synergy Sports. The Lakers are ninth in transition defense. If the Clippers can get out and run, that's going to put more wear and tear on an older and banged up Lakers team. But if the Lakers get to grind it out, expect the Lakers' superior experience to win the day.