From Mike Trudell, Basketblog: With 7:42 left in the second quarter of Team USA’s Sunday exhibition game against Spain in Madrid, the Spaniards had begun to come back from an explosive Team USA start. With an early 16-point lead trimmed to eight due thanks to the play of Ricky Rubio, a draftee of Kurt Rambis’ Minnesota Timberwolves, the NBATV cameras picked up a shot of Lamar Odom gesturing demonstrably with his hands. L.A.’s forward continuously brought his thumbs to meet fingers in the form of a clamp, signifying to the Americans that they must communicate better after Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose failed to rotate into the paint when Chauncey Billups was beaten off the dribble.
From Andy Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: If Kobe somehow was out the whole year, including the playoffs, how would the Lakers place in the west? This scenario has been posed to Brian and me over the years, whether during the Kwame-Smush-Cookie era, The Radio Tour, or the current championship incarnation. But to the best of my recollection, I’ve never formally analyzed the question. Seriously speaking, how successful would this team be next season without arguably the best player in the NBA, much less on the purple and gold roster? After mulling the premise, I’ve provided my answer, along with my thought process. To further clarify, I’m viewing the hypothetical with a team-wide clean bill of health. Or at most, minimal games missed. Yes, those parameters may not be entirely realistic, particularly with Andrew Bynum’s history. But you also don’t need to be Dr. Jack Ramsey to predict what happens if there are additional major injuries on top of Kobe missing 82 games: The Lakers won’t win very often. Period. End of story. Thus, I’m analyzing a scenario containing some degree of intrigue and mystery. With that in mind…
From Kelly Dwyer, Ball Don’t Lie: You can rant and rail and tell me once again that I’m looking for attention or trying to create waves, but Kobe Bryant is coming off a year that saw him drag an injured leg and back around, and he’s still got a bum index finger on his shooting hand. He’s played over 45,000 minutes in his career counting the playoffs and he turns 32 on Monday. Dwyane Wade shot better, turned the ball over fewer times, assisted more despite terrible teammates, picked up more steals and blocks — and he’s four years younger. And he’ll have the better season in 2010-11. The Lakers are still the favorites in my eyes, and Kobe Bryant should be respected more than any other player in this league, but he’s part of a great team now. And he passed the torch last season. Really, he passed two seasons ago to those who were playing attention.
From Matt Smith, Fox Sports: If you basketball fans haven’t been paying attention, the U.S. Men’s National Team has begun their quest for a World Championship. It’s a bit troubling to think the colors Purple and Gold, Black and Red, or Green and White mean more to most fans than Red, White and Blue. I admit I’m a dork for Team USA and always have been. I’m not sure if it goes back to my upbringing and a father that enlisted in the Army, or an Uncle Frank who served in Korea, or most likely a grandfather that came through Ellis Island from Hungary when he was just six and constantly harped about the “commies”. He never let me forget that I won the lottery by just being born here instead of some eastern bloc nation like so many of his relatives. So no surprise I get pretty damn worked up over the Olympics, World Cup and straight up international play.
From Mark Travis, But The Game Is On: Pau Gasol is one of the game’s best passing big men. While most seven footers in the league are playing basketball because of their uncanny height, Gasol is one of the few players that doesn’t get by just because he is tall. Pau is one of the most skilled players to ever play the game of basketball at any position/height and the fact that he is seven feet tall is just an added bonus that makes his skillset that much more rare.
Last but not least, it’s Kobe’s birthday, so I’ll leave you with this highlight clip to acknowledge his contributions to the franchise.