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Kobe Bryant, Page 2

What is the future of the Los Angeles Lakers?

KOBEshigawa: The Lakers just signed Kobe Bryant to a two year, $48 million dollar contract extension. The deal will make the Black Mamba the NBA’s highest paid player for, more than likely, the remainder of his career.
 
Let’s tackle the issue at hand first: what was your first reaction to the contract? And before we take a turn to negativity-town, how could you possibly justify giving Bean that deal before he’s even played a minute this season?
 
The CDP: Outside of what my random friend from high school had for dinner last night, this was the first piece of major news I’ve ever learned from Instagram. While eating breakfast, I flipped open my phone to see the Mamba at a signing. My first reaction? Honestly, I was confused and totally surprised – I hadn’t even considered the fact that the Lakers could think about extending him. Before he had played a minute this season? Before they saw this summer’s free agent possibilities? It wasn’t even on my radar. At that point, I managed to read the Mamba’s artful hashtagging – “What an HONOR #laker4life #lakers #bussfamily #thankyou #extended.” There was a moment of pride that washed over me.
 
Kobe Bean Bryant, one of the greatest players of all time, was going to be a Laker for his entire career. Maybe there was the possibility that Black Sheep Buss had gotten one right. After watching Kobe play night in and night out since I was a teenager, there was significant sentimental value in locking the Mamba up. We’ve had our ups and downs – but Kobe will always be an all-time favorite. No question. At that point, my basketball brain started to take over and I wondered about the gory details. “How much? HOW MUCH?!” After several frustrating Google searches, I gave up. It took me a few hours to find out the terms and I spent the rest of the day obsessing about the implications for our squad.
 
How about you? What was your first reaction? And how was it changed since?… Read more...

Pau Gasol destinations: where could he get dealt?

Several days ago, we re-examined the huge hurdles that the Lakers would have to overcome in a two-team deal that would send Pau Gasol out of Los Angeles. In addition to keeping cap room clear for Summer 2014 (and to a lesser extent, 2015) free agency, the Spaniard’s massive $19.3 million dollar deal makes any potential pact hard to envision. Still, this isn’t to say that the possibilities for a trade aren’t there. As problematic as a pact would be, it’s not impossible. Furthermore, with today’s news of Kobe’s massive $48 million dollar, two-year extension, there’s no doubt that Pau’s future with the Lakers, one way or another, has changed. The Lakers now have more than $33 million committed to next year’s salary cap, which will affect just how much they’d be able re-sign Gasol for, if indeed that’s a direction that they’re going in. There is still the possibility that Pau will be a Laker past this summer, but the lack of enough cap room could very well have spelled out his future outside of Los Angeles. The latter may–MAY–incentivize the team to deal him if they’re out of playoff contention this year.
 
What’s important to note with today’s news is that if the Lakers take back any salary in any trade for next season, they will essentially knock themselves out of the running to sign LeBron James and to a lesser extent, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, et al. What many would consider to be a long shot right now would be a downright impossibility.
 
The teams that would most likely be interested in Pau would be squads looking to make the playoffs with the assets necessary to take on a massive expiring deal and simultaneously willing to watch Gasol walk away for nothing at year’s end. From there, it’s relatively easy to cross off the teams that are instantly not fit trade partners.
 
(Read on at Silver Screen and Roll)

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A humbling year to come: Los Angeles Lakers Season Preview

Starting Five: PG Steve Nash, SG Steve Blake, SF Nick Young, PF Shawne Williams, C Pau Gasol
 
Key Bench Players: PG Jordan Farmar, SG Jodie Meeks, G/F Xavier Henry, F Wesley Johnson, PF/C Jordan Hill, C Chris Kaman
 
Offseason Additions: Chris Kaman, Jordan Farmar, Wesley Johnson, Xavier Henry, Nick Young, Shawne Williams, PF Ryan Kelly (48th overall pick)
 
Offseason Subtractions: C Dwight Howard, SF Metta World Peace, PF Antawn Jamison, F Earl Clark, PG Darius Morris, PG Chris Duhon
 
FACT OR FICTION: The Lakers will have a bottom-10 defense.

 
FACT. And therein lies the keys to this upcoming Lakers season. Inescapably, we are about to witness what should be one of the very worst defenses in the NBA. Looking at this team up, down and sideways, there is almost no feasible way that this squad has a reliable method of stopping oppositions from scoring. Right there without further need for an explanation, is a perfectly legitimate reason why this Lakers team won’t be sniffing realistic playoff goals within the last two months of the regular season.
 
Need further convincing? Well, you’ve come to the right place. … Read more...

Kobe Bryant or not, LA’s shooting guards must step up

For the past decade and a half, this specific post has been, quite frankly, really, really boring.
 
“Kobe Bryant will be the Lakers’ starting shooting guard. He is going to play 35+ minutes a night and he is going to be amazing. Let’s hope that _____ can shore up anywhere between 10 and 13 minutes a night when the Mamba rests and recharges for a fourth quarter surge.”
 
And Kazaam! One 7-foot genie later, we’re done.
 
But with one wrong step on a scoring drive six months ago, this post became infinitely more intriguing. Perhaps not just for now, but for the foreseeable future.
 
Kobe Bryant most likely will not be LA’s opening night shooting guard for the first time since 2006, as he rehabs from a ruptured Achilles tendon. The team has still not given out a specific time table for the two-time Finals MVP’s return, but the usual recovery schedule from such an injury is anywhere from six to nine months. You’re on the clock, Mamba.
 
Thus, one could argue that the Lakers’ 2-guard understudies haven’t been this important in almost 20 years. Several players are going to have to play heavy minutes alongside starting point guard Steve Nash, a trend which I suspect will continue even when Bryant eventually comes back. Regardless of how competitive and relentless Kobe is, he’s still a 35-year-old man trying to make it back from what is usually an extremely debilitating injury that changes the trajectory of many, if not most careers. He won’t be able to hit the ground running at 35-40 minutes upon his return, which makes his supporting cast of 2-guards even more important than usual. This just in: Kobe Bryant is a mortal man.
 
Let’s take a detailed look at just who will be filling out Mike D’Antoni’s SG slot this season:
 
(Read on at Silver Screen & Roll)
 
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With one offseason without Dr. Buss over, believing blindly in the future of the Lakers proves foolish

“They would’ve probably had a better relationship if my dad hadn’t been sick,” Jeanie Buss said in a wide-ranging interview with hosts Mark Willard and Mychal Thompson on ESPNLA 710 Thursday. “When it came time to try to convince Dwight to stay, we lost the best closer in the business in Dr. Buss.
 
“Putting up the billboard maybe wasn’t the right thing. But we maybe have to learn to do things differently because Dr. Buss isn’t here anymore. People said [of the billboards], ‘Oh, that’s not the Laker way.’ Well, the Laker way isn’t the same, because Dr. Buss isn’t here.”

 
Billboards.
 
For most Lakers fans, the key discussion point this summer was billboards. In many ways, these gigantic advertisements have become a dinosaur of the marketing hemisphere. As the world moves deeper into an interactive age, billboards have become digitized, randomized and monetized for maximum possible consumer interface and of course, maximum possible profit. The peel and paste posters of yesterday are increasingly becoming relics of a technological age we no longer live in. In this way, it’s fitting that the Lakers fans would be so up in arms about something with an ideology that’s no longer relevant.
 
Still, the debate in LA raged on. How could the Lakers–the Lakers–be reduced to begging a superstar player to stay in Los Angeles? For decades, men have sold out on entire cities, walked out on friends and left behind millions of dollars to play for teams much worse than this current incarnation of the Lakers. This franchise typically doesn’t have to go to any tremendous lengths to try and sign (or re-sign) any player, regardless of his skill level. It’s been the place where NBAers have longed to land, in pursuit of wealth, fame and of course, championships.
 
And for the rest of the summer, Lakers fans everywhere have raged about how the organization could seemingly have forgotten who they were. Even before their former All-Star center left to join the Houston Rockets, the fan base lamented how their favorite team seemingly threw itself at the foot of a singular player. The whole episode seemed to betray the notion of who the Lakers had been for the past 33 years under stewardship of the Buss family. But rather than turn their confusion upon the team, a curious thing happened: the Lakers fans turned their resentment towards the free agent.
 
(Read on at Silver Screen and Roll)
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Kobe Bryant and Derek Jeter: Mirroring one another from beginning to end

The story has been the same for years: if Kobe Bryant nails a game winning shot or Derek Jeter gets a walk-off RBI, the sports world at large shudders in disappointment. Two of the greats in their respective games, reviled by a vocal majority but loved by a passionate fan base of millions, are also two of the easiest players to root against. At this point, there’s really no debate as to whether either man is a Hall of Famer–those honors were cemented years ago. What’s left are simply more records to topple and fellow legends to surpass. They play for the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Yankees, the two lumbering giants in their respective sports. For years, I’ve been saying that there should hardly ever be a case in which the Lakers and Yankees fan bases should be rooting against one another–in so many ways they’re two sides of the same golden coin. Championships are the expected standard and anything short of those lofty heights is considered a monumental failure season upon season. Superstars and sporting luminaries dot the periphery of both franchises, with Bryant and Jeter being just the latest in an endless line of dozens. The Lakers and Yankees operate on very much the same level, whether anyone wants to admit it or not, so it should be to the surprise of no one that the two latest and greatest of their stars mirror one another to great lengths.
 
The parallels run deep between Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant and New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, so much so that I’m amazed more isn’t made of their remarkably parallel careers.
 
After a cup of coffee during the 1995 season, Jeter started his first full year with the Yankees in 1996, just two months before Kobe Bryant was selected 13th overall by the Charlotte Hornets in the 1996 NBA Draft and subsequently traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. There’s little doubt that Kobe’s rookie year was a smashing success; though he failed to finish in the top-5 of Rookie of the Year voting (outpaced by winner Allen Iverson and then by such names as Antoine Walker, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Stephon Marbury and Kerry Kittles. For real.), he did garner a place on the All-Rookie Second Team, as well as play a supporting role on a Lakers squad that went to the second round of the playoffs. Bryant did all of this, mind you, as an 18 year-old. What were you doing at that age? Graduating high school? Kobe was throwing down 22 points on the Portland Trailblazers in the first round.
 
Even as Bryant had a solid rookie campaign, Jeter went on to have one of the greatest rookie campaigns in league history. After throwing down a .314 average and seizing the Rookie of the Year award, the fresh faced shortstop led the Yankees in the postseason with a remarkable 22 hits in just 15 games. The Bombers would win their first championship in 18 years that October, thanks in no small part to their rookie sensation. Derek Jeter was just 22 years old.
 
On the hardwood, Kobe’s wait for his first chip was only four seasons, but for him, it felt like an eternity. By the time the 1999-2000 season rolled around, Bryant had met three painful postseason exits despite being part of an extremely talented Lakers team built around world beater Shaquille O’Neal. As hard as it is to believe, Kobe had come up empty in his first postseason–quite literally. The Black Mamba-to-be had airballed four times in an elimination game against the eventual Western Conference champion Utah Jazz in 1997. A year later, the Lakers made it all the way to the C… Read more...

The Lakers are building the facade of competing, but facing the reality of rebuilding

How do you appease a fan base that’s unaccustomed to losing, keep a Black Mamba from annihilating any front office official within striking distance and at the same time, keep a 2014 draft choice in the high lottery?
 
You take a lesson from Mitch Kupchak and Jimmy Buss. A master course, even. Class is in session.
 
The Lakers have just finished a wild 12-day span in which they saw all three players from last August’s mega-deal depart in one way or another (Chris Duhon, Earl Clark and some other guy), one post-season hero (and amazing post-Finals press conference giver) being waived for luxury tax reasons (Metta World Peace, née Ron Artest), while adding three veterans for less than $7 million (Chris Kaman, Nick Young and possibly Jordan Farmar).
 
With a 27-year-old franchise center leaving more money, an extra contract year and the lure of Southern California for a younger team with greater immediate promise in Houston, there have been calls–with loud, booming echoes–for the Lakers to completely rebuild. The reasons are multifaceted:
 
The team’s three primary pieces, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash, are all 33 years old and up, with each of them undergoing different surgeries over the past year. The asset cupboard besides them looks barren, as the Lakers will not have their 2015 first round draft selection (given up to the Phoenix Suns to acquire Nash), and the team doesn’t have a single blue chip prospect on board. The new collective bargaining agreement has almost completely restricted the team’s ability to find more help through sign-and-trade agreements or free agency, leaving several massive holes with cheap half-measure solutions. Even the small personnel maneuvers the Lakers can make come with the consequences of massive luxury tax penalties that affect the team exponentially if they remain over the limit three out of the next four seasons. The most resounding reason to rebuild may be revolving around the help that could be coming in just 11 months: the Lakers have their first round pick in seemingly decades (it’s been decades, right?) in the loaded 2014 draft.
 
As our own Ben Rosales has pointed out time and time again, next year’s draft could contain up to seven All-Star caliber prospects, including Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, Marcus Smart and Jabari Parker. All of these players should be available to teams in the lottery, which the Lakers could easily be a part of…if they should decide to strip the team and rebuild. But at the moment, it doesn’t seem that that’s in the cards.
 
On first glance, you’ve got to laud Buss and Kupchak for grabbing so much experience with so little assets. All four recently signed free agents are still effective players to varying degrees, with skill sets all over the map. Young is just 27 years old with the ability to score 28 on any given night. He’s just two years removed from averaging 17 ppg for the Wizards on a .441/.387/.816 shooting slash line. His production has tapered off in the past two seasons (14 ppg and 10.4 ppg respectively) along with his three-point accuracy (.365 to .357 last year), though he should be able to play well off of Pau Gasol’s post game and Steve Nash’s on-ball wizardry. Kaman is 31, an All-Star just three seasons ago in 2010 and played well in 66 games for the Mavs last year, averaging 10 points and over 5 boards a game. Farmar played in Israel and Turkey the last two seasons, though he was last seen in New Jersey after bolt… Read more...

Kobe Bryant or Tim Duncan: Whose legacy is greater?

One roll of the basketball, and this would be a short article. In an epic Game 7 last Thursday, Tim Duncan had the ball in the post for his San Antonio Spurs, staring elimination in the face. Time was running out–48 seconds to be exact–and the team’s all-time franchise player made his move to the center of the key, and attempted a right hook shot over the 6’8″ Shane Battier that would tie the game. This shot was the very same one he’d make 99 out of 100 times, maybe even 999 out of 1,000 times. But that night, that one odd number seemed to rear its ugly head. The shot rolled off the back iron, into the outstretched fingertips of Duncan, who managed to tip the ball back towards the hoop…another maneuver that’s defined his long career of dominant offensive rebounding. But if the original miss was a 1 out of 1,000 chance, the second shot double downed on bad luck.
 
The ball popped wide over the rim, and Chris Bosh secured the rebound. Seconds later, LeBron James nailed a 19-foot jumper over Kawhi Leonard, and it was all over. Had Duncan’s shot simply gone in moments earlier, the Spurs would have tied Game 7 with two possessions left on the clock. The possibilities were endless…including sealing the argument of who the best player of his generation was. It would have been Tim Duncan. And it wouldn’t have been close.
 
But thanks to that fateful roll, the debate is still wide open. With Tim Duncan performing so admirably on basketball’s highest stage at the age of 37 and Kobe Bryant dragging a lifeless Lakers team to the playoffs this past season, the discussion is just as relevant as ever.
 
Poring over the awards, statistics and team records, these two have some of the most sparkling resumes of all time. Their accomplishments are massive no matter who you look at, and should no doubt result in a top-10 standing in NBA history for both men. In fact, the tale of the tape is so close here that I’m tempted to call it a tie.
 
But this isn’t soccer. This is basketball. We don’t do ties.
 
So, whose career has been greater? Kobe Bryant or Tim Duncan? Let’s break it down piece by piece.
 
(Read on at Silver Screen & Roll!)

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Los Angeles Lakers fans must root for LeBron James and the Miami Heat

No playbooks, no advanced metrics, no salary cap. Just pure, unadulterated, Lakers fandom.
 
And the fan in me knows that for the sake of the Lakers and Kobe Bryant, I cannot, under any circumstances, root for the San Antonio Spurs.
 
Even if that means pulling for LeBron James and his Miami Heat.
 
Lakers fans everywhere have been without a horse in the playoff picture since the first round. The Show met its end with a quiet, anonymous sweep at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs, but even the team’s foremost nemese have been vanquished for weeks. Their STAPLES Center hallmate Clippers were manhandled by the Memphis Grizzlies in the last four games of a six game series. Their eternal foes from Boston had a prideful 4-2 exit against the New York Knicks. Even recent Lakers killers like Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder had their championship hopes effectively killed in the first round, with Russ going down with a torn meniscus. With the exception of everyone’s most despised enemy in the Miami Heat, Lakers fans haven’t had much to cheer for–or against–lately.
 
However, as painful and disgusting as it may sound, Lakers Nation has to be rooting for LeBron in Game 7 tonight.
 
The primary reason? Legacy.
 
In the NBA, it’s all about heritage and rings, career achievements and leadership. Every player is responsible for defense and offense, staying healthy and trying to contribute on the court whenever possible. Unlike the NFL, where it’s extremely difficult to compare offensive and defensive players, or MLB in regards to pitchers versus hitters, comparing centers to guards isn’t as much of a stretch. Every NBA player has the same responsibility, no matter who we’re talking about: score points and prevent your opponents from doing the same.
 

(Read on at Silver Screen & Roll!)
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To rebound into a title contender, can the 2013-2014 Lakers follow the blueprint of the 2010-2011 Dallas Mavericks?

As tough as a postseason-less 2013 was on the Dallas Mavericks and their fans, just three years ago, having a high-seeded playoff team didn’t feel any better.
 
The 2010 Mavs were the latest disappointment in what felt like an endless string of them. Dallas was just four years removed from an epic playoff collapse against the Heat in the 2006 NBA Finals, and three years away from losing as a 67-wing number 1 seed to the 8-seed Golden State Warriors. The 2009-2010 Mavericks had recently reloaded the team, bringing on former All-Stars like Shawn Marion and Jason Kidd in addition to incumbent All-Stars Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry. They took a very good 55-27 record and a 2nd seed into the playoffs, but like their predecessors, were unceremoniously dismissed; this time it was a first round loss to the 7th seeded San Antonio Spurs in 6 games. Even as solid as their regular season was, the future didn’t look terribly bright for Dallas. The ghosts of their past playoff failures seemed to haunt the team every spring, which included an aging core of Nowitzki (31), Marion (31), Brendan Haywood (30), Terry (32) and Kidd (36). Suffice to say, the Mavs weren’t getting much younger. Not all was lost–after all, Dirk was still an All-Star, the team had a very good and very underrated coach in Rick Carlisle and an excellent owner that took annual financial losses to make sure his team had everything necessary to remain competitive. However, few expected that the team was close to having the makings of a championship core. 2010-2011 was supposed to be just another year in which the Mavericks were a potent squad, but ultimately an also-ran in the race for the chip.
 
But after a shrewd series of moves in the summer of 2010, and then into the season, the pieces for a championship contender had quietly fallen into place:
 
July 13, 2010: Traded Matt Carroll, Erick Dampier, Eduardo Najera and cash to the Charlotte Bobcats for Alexis Ajinca and Tyson Chandler. Signed Ian Mahinmi as a free agent.
 
September 27, 2010: Signed Brian Cardinal as a free agent.
 
January 24, 2011: Signed Peja Stojakovic as a free agent.
 
At the time, none of these moves were considering even close to resembling significant transactions. Chandler was coming off an injury-filled year in Charlotte, and even worse, was traded to the Mavericks for the mere price of Erick Dampier’s expiring deal. The prevailing sentiment that summer was that Dampier’s eight-figure contract would be a key asset in claiming another star to prop up Nowitzki. Though Chandler was considered an upgrade over Dampier’s rapidly degrading corpse, he wasn’t nearly the player that made him into a Defensive Player of the Year seasons later, and thus was thought of as a rather underwhelming acquisition considering the expectations. The pair of 33 year-olds in the Immortal Brian Cardinal and Peja Stojakovic were both on their way out of the league, and few thought they could continue to contribute.
 
By the end of June, it was clear that these acquisitions were more important than any Decision that had gone on in the summer of 2010. Chandler was the key, quarterbacking a stout defense that ranked as the league’s 8th most efficient per 100 possessions. Shouting out instructions from the paint, Tyson, as well as Marion and DeShawn Stevenson created a deceivingly tough inside-out D that bulldozed their way to a solid 57-win season and an eventual 4-2 victory over the Miami Heat in the Finals for the franchise’s first titl… Read more...