Posted on: January 12, 2012 3:02 pm
Posted by Royce Young
The first All-Star ballot returns are out and leading the entire league in votes is Dwight Howard with 754,737 votes with Kobe Bryant second with 690,613. Second in the East is LeBron James (640,789) and in the West Kevin Durant (633,538).
If the voting ended today, the East's starting five would be Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, LeBron, Carmelo Anthony and Howard. In the West it would be Chris Paul, Kobe, Durant, Blake Griffin and Andrew Bynum.
And looking over the vote totals, those starting lineups seem to be a bit set in stone, barring injury. Nobody is really all that close to catching anyone (Dirk is closest behind Griffin, and he's more than 100,000 votes back).
So, are the fans getting it right so far? Kind of looks like they are, quite honestly. Can't argue with the West too much. The one quibble I'd have is that Kevin Love has been absolutely killing it in Minnesota so far this season averaging 25-15, but he's not part of Lob City, so it's hard to see him ever topping Griffin. Same goes for LaMarcus Aldridge, who is off to a fantastic start. I'd also like to mention that Kyle Lowry has gotten off to a terrific start this season, but it's not good enough to top Paul.
In the East, there's really nothing to change. Melo isn't really a power forward, but you can fudge the All-Star rosters a bit. Rajon Rondo isn't playing better than Rose, there's no better 2 in the East than Wade and of course LeBron and Howard are the best at their positions in the entire league.
If the voting holds like this -- and it should -- we'll have a pretty accurate representation of the best in each league to start the All-Star Game. Again, I'd go with Love over Griffin, but that's not a sure thing case to make at this point. And it's not going to change anyway.
Posted on: January 12, 2012 12:52 pm
Posted by Royce Young
Mike Brown has been a pretty fortunate head coach. Sure, he got fired from his last gig, but he's coached teams that featured LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. So basically, he was set up to do well.
But he's also one of the few people that actually have a good perspective on the differences between the two superstars. Brown coached LeBron for multiple seasons in Cleveland, but Kobe just a handful of games in Los Angeles. Still, he has had a unique look at both players. His early conclusion: They're different. Via the O.C. Register:
It's very easy to read into those comments and make something out of them. But even from just the outside perspective, that's the truth. LeBron has talked about having fun and trying to make basketball a game first. Kobe approaches it like it's his only sustinance and if he doesn't win, he'll die. Maybe that's a difference between the two in terms of Kobe having multiple titles and LeBron having failed twice. Maybe not.
There are things that separate players. Mental makeup, competitive drive, insanity, anger -- whatever. Kobe Bryant is a different animal when it comes to basketball. It makes him a joy to watch and a pain to watch. LeBron is a freak of nature but obviously doesn't have the same mindset as Kobe when it comes to the game. Kobe has no fear of taking 35 shots in a game and then standing in front of the press saying, "Yeah, so what?" after the game. LeBron almost plays to please everyone. Not in a sense that he doesn't have the backbone, but he prefers to play more team ball than take over. It's the best and worst thing about him.
I don't know if you can take Brown's comments as something that says LeBron needs to grow up, but there is something to be said for having fun and something to be said for making basketball life or death. There are things much more important in life than a game, but at the same time, that's sometimes what makes the great ones great. It means everything to them. It almost means too much. There's no time to have fun on the basketball court, only time to win.
But like Brown said, LeBron is young and still has a lot of time to figure things out. Kobe is in an entirely different place career-wise. And it's not like LeBron wouldn't give everything to win. He just wants to have fun while doing it. Nothing really all that wrong with that. People are different, players are different.
Posted on: January 11, 2012 2:46 pm
Posted by Royce Young
If you saw Kobe Bryant's performance against the Suns, you probably thought two things: 1) Kobe is super good at basketball still and 2) I guess that German knee mystery procedure really worked.
Not only did Kobe drop 48 points, but he finished a reverse alley-oop. He was bouncing around out there like he just finished practice at Lower Merion. The strange medical procedure he has done in Germany over the summer has seemed to bring back his hops and strength in his legs.
So with him battling a nagging wrist sprain that causes him pain everyday, as he said, would he consider trying the procedure on his wrist? Not happening, according to the L.A. Times:
Part of the problem is that there's not really an opportunity for Kobe to do it unless the German doctor comes over. It's not like the Lakers have an away game in Berlin this season.
The Lakers do not foresee giving Bryant time off from the regular season to go overseas, especially because of his steady play, said a person familiar with the situation. If Bryant underwent the procedure, he would need about a week to recover.
Plus, it hasn't really proven to be an issue. Kobe is getting shots and it's hurting, but being the tough guy he is, he's playing through it. And obviously playing well, as evidenced by the fact the 33-year-old is leading the NBA in scoring.
The wrist might be an issue for Kobe all season, but then again, he won a title with a busted index finger too. The guy plays through injury and normally plays pretty well.
Posted on: January 11, 2012 2:13 am
Edited on: January 11, 2012 9:48 am
By Matt Moore
Kobe Bryant had scored 37 points, 30 points, 39 points, and 26 points headed into Tuesday night's game against the Suns. He had effectively silenced critics saying he was shooting too much, that he was struggling from the field. He took it a step further against Phoenix as he blistered the Suns for 48 points on 18-31 shooting, with five rebounds, three assists, three steals and just two turnovers. I'm sorry, let me say that again.
Kobe Bryant scored 48 points with a torn ligament in his wrist.
Here's how he did it:
So 27 of his 31 shots were jumpers and he still nailed that many. That's just madness.
But not as mad as this:
When Bryant told reporters that his knees feel better than they have in years, he wasn't lying. Good gravy.
Kobe Bryant is showing he's still one of the best players in the league, wrist, no wrist, whatever.
Posted on: January 10, 2012 5:57 pm
Edited on: January 10, 2012 6:01 pm
Posted by Ben Golliver.
A recent report indicated that USA Basketball is set to announce its preliminary roster for the 2012 London Olympics. The roster reportedly will include members of the 2008 Beijing Olympics team and the 2010 Turkey World Championships team.
Initially, the report indicated that the preliminary roster would be made up of 18 players, however SheridanHoops.com reports that the roster is now 19 players deep with the addition of Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge. Here's how the reported roster shakes out by position.
Point Guards: Chauncey Billups, Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Deron Williams
Shooting Guards: Kobe Bryant, Eric Gordon, Dwyane Wade
Small Forwards: Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, LeBron James, Lamar Odom
Power Forwards: LaMarcus Aldridge, Chris Bosh, Blake Griffin, Kevin Love
Centers: Tyson Chandler, Dwight Howard
A few interesting things to note from this roster.
First, veteran point guard Billups is included rather than the younger and more talented Rajon Rondo, who withdrew from the 2010 team after it became clear he was going to be left off of the final roster. Billups is 35 and figures to be one of the seven players cut from what will be the final 12-man roster. What does Rondo's exclusion mean for his Team USA future?
Second, positional versatility and two-way play was clearly valued in this selection process. The inclusion of both Iguodala and Odom over Rudy Gay is a mild surprise but both players complement the likes of James, Durant and Anthony a bit better. Both will also have a tough time squeezing into the final 12. The only way Iguodala gets there is if someone else is injured; Odom, a standout for the 2010 team, could be one of the toughest cuts.
Third, the reported addition of Aldridge creates an intriguing frontcourt logjam, akin to the dilemma that faces Western Conference All-Star team voters. Aldridge, Griffin, Love, Odom and Chandler figure to be in competition for the final two roster spots, with the top-10 seemingly secure. Griffin would seem to be the odds-on favorite for one of those two spots given his combination of on-court skills and immense international marketing potential. If so, the battle for the final spot between the other four talented big men will be heated.
Aldridge can swing between the four and five better than any of the other candidates, but he also has the least Team USA experience, having backed out on the 2010 World Championships team. Aldridge's coach with the Blazers, Nate McMillan, happens to be a Team USA assistant, so that could help.
Love is the best rebounder of the group but his athleticism, even though it's much improved, is not on the same level as the rest of Team USA. Chandler boasts a championship pedigree with the Dallas Mavericks and is the pure defender and long, active big men that could be the centerpiece of an aggressive defensive unit. Odom's versatility and perimeter game creates mismatch opportunities but the wings are likely too crowded on this team to properly utilize his capabilities.
Spain, the reigning European champs, bring both Pau and Marc Gasol to the table. Howard plus any of Team USA's starting power forwards should still have an interior advantage, but choosing the reserve big men will be critical in the event of foul trouble.
Posted on: January 9, 2012 1:11 pm
Edited on: January 9, 2012 5:06 pm
By Matt Moore
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 Player
Carmelo Antony is the easy choice here, but with the Knicks' struggles this week, and the Heat's overall success, Bosh gets the run. Bosh averaged 21 points and 7 rebounds over 4 games with the Heat this week, but more importantly, he was the rock for the Heat with Dwyane Wade and LeBron James missing time with injuries. Bosh has been more aggressive on both ends of the floor this season. He's allowing just .788 points per possession defensively this season and has been more aggressive in all phases of the game. It's still not a true "Big 3" but Bosh is changing his reputation this year.
Western Conference Player of the Week: Best Overall performance by Western Player
Welcome to the new Kobe. Bryant averaged 33.0 points per game this week with scoring totals of 37, 30, and 39 before Sunday night's 26-point performance against the Grizzlies. And yet the Grizzlies game may have been his best performance. He worked in the flow of the offense instead of breaking off in perimeter ISO. He played out of the post to get his array of moves going and created space against quality defenders, and he tallied nine assists. More than the numbers, though, he took his shots when he could create them and down the stretch, when faced with an open jumper at the top of the key versus a closing defender or reposting Andrew Bynum, he gave the big man the ball and let him draw the foul. A phenomenal performance from Bryant, outside of his game against Portland.
Struggler of the Week: Player with worst performance qualified for expectations
Granger had the worst percentage of any player over the past week, shooting just 24.5 percent from the field. He nabbed just 3.3 rebounds and dished just over one assist a game. Those are numbers you show to your kids at night to scare them into being good NBA players. Granger's clearly affected by the ankle injury he's struggled through, but right now a Pacers offense that needs him to carry his share of the load is missing him. Granger, for his part, isn't worried about it, and says it's a bunch of layups rattling halfway down and out.
DOMINATOR AWARD: Most dominant performance
Bynum averaged 16 rebounds per 36 minutes of play this week, and that only begins to describe his impact since returning from suspension. Bynum is unstoppable right now. It's not just the tip-ins after tip-ins, it's how he's altering shots, finishing lobs, creating space, working in the block. Bynum is Godzilla right now. Dwight Hward was still better overall (one more point in twelve fewer shots) but Bynum is unquestionably the second best center in the league right now.
The Puzzling Enigma Award: Strangest week from player or team
Beat the Heat in Miami, with Wade and James playing by eight. Lose to Chicgo by two. Lose to the Heat, at home, on national television, without James or Wade, in double overtime, then have the Bobcats take you to overtime the very next night... and then on the third game of a back-to-back-to-back, beat the same Bulls team by 15.
The Hawks are that sibling that shows up for random family functions. Sometimes they bring toys for the kids. Sometimes they drunkenly stumble into the cake table. Sometimes they're not there at all. Sometimes they're solid as a rock. There's just no way of knowing what you're going to get form them on any given night. They're winning, and yet you can't watch them consistently and believe they're going anywhere. It's perplexing. I need to lie down.
The Horde Award: Team you should fear
Portland Trail Blazers
No one is playing better overall ball right now. In a sluggish contest against Cleveland on a back to back Sunday, the Cavaliers had done a lot of things right and the Blazers couldn't throw the ball in the ocean. So what did they do? They came out after halftime and crushed them. This just three days after their biggest win of the season over the Lakers at home.
And so much of it is Gerald Wallace. He is consistently the best player on the floor for Portland, and that's on a team with LaMarcus Aldridge. He's doing everything and doing it right. The Blazers are a buzzsaw right now.
Cub Scout Troop Award: Team you should not fear
The Wizards are so easy it's painful. They're bad in every single phase of the game. Is it hot in here or it just Flip Saunders' seat? Wocka-wocka-wocka!
The McGavin Award: Best shooter
Paul George is hitting 73 percent from three-point range over the past five games.
George went away for the lockout and came back as one of the best catch-and-shoot assassins in the league. He's been a huge part of the Pacers' success. His length allows him to create separation any time he rises to fire and his release is Sundance-Kid-esque at this point. He pops over the screen and the nanosecond the ball hits his hands it's going toward his shooting motion.
Searching For Bobby Fischer Award for Stratagem:
Managed to keep winning without Wade and for a game without James against a playoff team. Has not only had the team adjust to the zone that gave them problems against Boston, but crushed teams who pulled it out. Has everyone motivated and on the same page and kept a low profile. It's easy to cast off the Heat's success as just talent, but if you watch the games, you'll know Spo is doing a hell of a job.
Awkward Water Cooler Conversation Award for Coaching Struggle:
Bogut's been out, so that's obviously a problem. But for the second year in a row, the Bucks have come stumbling out of the gate. There's going to continue to be concerns that Skiles has lost this team as has happened in his other stops until they put together a string of good games, and that means on both sides of the ball. They have to find some offense somehow, someway.
Blog of the Week:
The Kings have a lot of moving parts and a lot of complicated issues on both sides of the ball. For a team that's been so bad for so long, you won't find a better place for analysis than SR, headed by SBNation's Tom Ziller.
MVP Five to Consider (no particular order):
ROY Five to Consider:
6th Man of the Year Five to Consider:
Posted on: January 7, 2012 1:54 pm
Edited on: January 10, 2012 6:33 pm
Posted by Ben Golliver.
With the 2012 London Olympics just seven months away, Team USA is reportedly heading for its first round of roster cuts.
ESPN.com reports that USA Basketball Director Jerry Colangelo will announce a roster of 18 "candidates" to make the 2012 team in less than two weeks.
"We have so much talent right now, the pool is extraordinary," Colangelo said.The site reports that the only player not on either the 2008 Beijing Olympics team or the 2010 Turkey World Championships team who is under consideration is Los Angeles Clippers All-Star forward Blake Griffin. Given his starpower, Griffin seems a lock, leaving 17 spots in the pool.
Eight of those are expected to go to 2008 Beijing Gold Medal-winning players: Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, Deron Williams. All seem solid locks.
That least nine spots for members of the 2010 World Championship team. Six players who would seem to be locks from that roster: Tyson Chandler, Kevin Durant, Rudy Gay, Kevin Love, Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook.
That leaves three final spots in the 18-man pool contenders for the rest: Eric Gordon, Danny Granger, Andre Iguodala, Brook Lopez, Lamar Odom and Rajon Rondo.
The toughest decision at this stage will likely come in choosing a third true center in Lopez or another talented perimeter player in Granger, Iguodala or Odom. USA Basketball has been built on versatility and athleticism in the recent past but its wings are crowded with an embarrassment of riches. Love and/or Griffin could swing up from power forward to center, though, which could free up a spot for another wing in the 18-man group.
Another question is Rondo. He withdrew from selection from the 2010 team after it became clear he wasn't going to make the cut. Given the big names in front of him (Paul, Rose, Williams and likely Westbrook), what happens here? Paul and Williams both have recent injury concerns and Rondo's talent level is such that leaving him off this early would seem a risk not worth taking.
No matter how you slice it and regardless of who is left on the outside looking in, this team is stacked. Looking ahead, assuming full health from all involved, an 18-player pool and a final 12-man roster could look something like this. Cuts designated in parentheses.
PG: Paul, Rose, Williams, (Westbrook), (Rondo)
SG: Bryant, Wade, (Gordon)
SF: James, Durant, Anthony, (Gay)
PF: Bosh, Griffin, (Love)
C: Howard, Chandler, (Lopez)
Posted on: January 6, 2012 6:09 pm
Posted by Ben Golliver.
PORTLAND, Ore. -- Earlier this week, we noted that Los Angeles Lakers All-Star guard Kobe Bryant was sticking to his guns when it comes to his shot volume. One of the NBA's all-time most prolific shooters, Bryant told reporters then that his wrist injury, the rise of center Andrew Bynum and a new Lakers offense won't slow down his shooting whatsoever.
Nevertheless, questions have continued to swirl about what is the right number of shots for Bryant to take. Once again, he is leading the NBA with 22.5 per game through eight games. Next on the list: Golden State Warriors guard Monta Ellis with 20.8.
Prior to a nationally-televised Thursday night game against the Portland Trail Blazers, Bryant pointed to his past to explain why he should keep hucking, calling out his critics in the process.
"Look, I've played 15 years. I've won world championships. I've done all these things. And people still want to talk about this stupid-a** [stuff]? I'm a scorer first ... I'll try to make the good play, the good pass, kick it out when my teammates are open, but I'm a scorer first. I may shoot 27 times. I may shoot 20 times. Nobody complains when I shoot 10 times. You don't hear ME complaining when I shoot 10 times. It just depends on the game, you know?"Despite some dogged defending from the Blazers, Bryant scored 30 points on 13-for-24 shooting. It marked the second straight night he went over 30 points in scoring and it was just the second time this season he hit more than 50 percent of his field goal attempts.
After the game, Bryant shifted from defending himself to attack mode on his shot selection critics.
"Get over it," a clearly annoyed Bryant told reporters after a loss to the Trail Blazers in Portland. "Get over it. I shoot the ball that's what I do. I'm a shooting guard. Some nights I have 24 shots some nights I have 29 shots. Get over it."
Bryant is shooting 43.3 percent on the season, his lowest mark since 2004-2005.
CSNNW.com has video of Bryant's exasperated statement.