From Dan Loumena, LA Times: There are reports out today that the New Orleans Saints, reigning Super Bowl champions (and doesn’t that sound odd?), have asked Lakers point guard Derek Fisher to deliver a pregame speech for their season opener against the Minnesota Vikings on Sept. 9. The Saints evidently believe that Fisher can give them insight into claiming back-to-back titles. With five rings to wear on his fingers, which include a three-peat from earlier this decade and the last two NBA championships, it’s hard to argue with his success as a floor leader and champion. It didn’t hurt that he’s played with some superstars — Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, for those really wondering — and had what many consider the sport’s best coach if not finest motivator in Phil Jackson.
From Lakers.com: After playing in all 82 games in his previous two seasons, Kobe Bryant missed nine games with various injuries throughout 2009-10. In his absence, Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol picked up the slack for L.A., particularly in two February games at always tough arenas in Portland and Utah. It was Odom shining in Portland, as he matched his career high with 22 rebounds to lead the Lakers to a 99-82 victory at the Rose Garden, snapping a nine-game losing streak in that building. Four days later, Gasol had 22 points and 19 rebounds as the Lakers won their third straight game without Bryant, beating Utah and ending the Jazz’s nine-game winning streak. Odom was nearly as big with 25 points and 11 rebounds, while Jordan Farmar added 18 points off the bench.
From Kevin Ding, OC Register: Byron Scott took himself off the market and almost off the radar. He is heading into the apocalypse now known as post-LeBron Cleveland … and starting a new supervisory job at the Cavaliers’ old manufacturing plant just as Phil Jackson is vowing this will be his final season as the Lakers’ head coach. Is it a purplish and golden opportunity lost for Scott? Yes, if you believe Jerry Buss saying last November that his next head coach would be someone he and son Jim have “a special fondness for” meant Scott would be trusted to keep the current Lakers in dynasty mode.
From Henry Abbott, TrueHoop: A few days ago I blogged about defense winning championships. Then I blogged about it again. Now that I’m getting a heck of a lot of e-mail, phone calls and comments about it, I can’t stop! To recap: We’re not really just talking about the old adage here. Instead, we’re talking about newly unearthed numbers showing that being an elite defensive team has, historically, make it more likely that you’d win a title than a team that was similarly good at offense. Neil Paine at Basketball-Reference looked at a half-century of title-winning teams. They’re pretty much all good at offense and defense. However, he noticed that small improvements to defense increased a team’s chances of winning titles a lot more than the same improvement to offense. In general, especially when you measure by possession, the game is half offense and half defense. Right? Makes sense. Possessions alternate just about all game — you get a chance to score, and then its our turn. All game long you’re playing offense or defense, in alternating stints. They ought to both be important.
From Ben Polk, A Wolf Among Wolves: Kevin Love is bright white and a little lumpy. His steps are plodding and thick. He does not really look like an NBA basketball player. And he certainly seems a little bit out of place among his fellow world-class North Americans with their lithe, elastic bodies and their liquid skills. He does resemble, however, quite a few of his opponents in these FIBA World Championships; perhaps its no accident, then, that, as Sebastian Pruiti has pointed out at NBA Playbook, Love appears to be a natural at the international game: Kevin Love is a very good rebounder in the NBA, and we shouldn’t be surprised that this skill carried over to the FIBA Worlds, but at this pace? Love has grabbed 21 rebounds in his 26 minutes of play, which comes out to an insane 31.5 rebounds per 40 minutes (h/t J.E. Skeets via John Schuhmann). How is Love able to grab so many rebounds? By simply outworking and outsmarting his opponents.
From Chris Tomasson, NBA Fanhouse: Greece vs. Turkey historically has made North Carolina-Duke look like a friendly game of backgammon. But when a group of 50 visiting Greek fans were allowed to hang one banner in hostile territory Tuesday at Ankara Arena, a message of peace was chosen. The banner read in Greek and then was translated into English underneath, “We are neighbors, not enemies.” That wasn’t all. Many of the Greek fans wore T-shirts that had a similar phrase and showed an interlocking puzzle, with one piece being the Greek flag and the other the Turkish flag. “We want to show that sports should unite,” said Kostas Tsibogiannis, 53, a flower importer in Athens and one of the organizers of the Greek fans who traveled to Turkey for the FIBA World Championship
From Hal Spivack, NBA Fanhouse: Lithuania miraculously rallied back from an 18-point deficit to shock Spain, the reigning FIBA world champions, 76-73 in Izmir, Turkey. Lithuania moves to 3-0 in group play, while Spain falls to 1-2 in the tournament. Spain, the defending champions and Group D favorites desperately need a win in at least one of two remaining games if they hope to advance to the knockout stage. Lithuania outscored Spain 23-9 in the final quarter. Spain committed a handful of costly turnovers, including one on their last possession when they were down three and had an opportunity to send the game into overtime.
From Matt Moore, Hardwood Paroxysm: Let’s get past the elements in which this revolves around New York, because as a Southern Midwesterner (or Midwestern Southerner, take your pick), I know most of what I know about New York from friends and various films. Though I will say the films, television, books, and radio programs do paint quite the vivid picture of a thriving metropolis! So yes, the fact that this team is primed to finally be relevant, while not dominant, is particularly culturally relevant for the city. And yes, a resurgence there does speak quite plainly to a mythos that has been held in the old barn and echoed throughout the boroughs. But let’s try and move past that to what this team could resemble.
From Sebastian Pruiti, NBA Playbook: Going into the FIBA World Championships, I thought if Kevin Love could find a way to get some minutes, he could make a positive impact for Team USA because he seems to be your prototypical International-style big man. Love crashes the boards hard, passes well, and is a legitimate threat from the outside. He hasn’t been playing a ton (only 13 minutes in each of the two games), but he has made his presence felt. Rebounding Kevin Love is a very good rebounder in the NBA, and we shouldn’t be surprised that this skill carried over to the FIBA Worlds, but at this pace? Love has grabbed 21 rebounds in his 26 minutes of play, which comes out to an insane 31.5 rebounds per 40 minutes (h/t J.E. Skeets via John Schuhmann). How is Love able to grab so many rebounds? By simply outworking and outsmarting his opponents
From Blair Angulo, UCLA Blog: UCLA men’s basketball coach Ben Howland hosted the second annual HDSA LA Hoop-A-Thon inside Pauley Pavilion on Friday night, with many former players stopping by to promote the awareness of Huntington’s Disease. HD is a genetic disorder that causes uncontrollable body movements and deprives people of their abilities to walk, talk, eat and think rationally. Howland’s father-in-law passed away from the disease six years ago. More information on the disease can be found by clicking here. Recent Bruins Arron Afflalo (Denver Nuggets), Trevor Ariza (New Orleans Hornets), Darren Collison (Indiana Pacers), Jordan Farmar (New Jersey Nets), Ryan Hollins (Cleveland Cavaliers) and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (Milwaukee Bucks) attended the event.