Around the World (Wide Web)

Phillip Barnett —  January 7, 2011

AP Photo/Ralph Freso

AP Photo/Ralph Freso

From Zach Harper, Hardwood Paroxysm: The one constant in nearly every zombie movie is the one tough guy that has to get left behind. Maybe he broke his leg and is slowing the group down. Maybe he’s been bitten and wants one final standoff before he un-dies. But the movies always leave one guy with enough ammunition to (re)kill some zombies before putting the last bullet in his own head to avoid being eaten alive by his soon-to-be brethren. This always seems to be the way to go too. Kill as many as you can before taking your own life. Die on your terms so that you don’t succumb to being a zombie and wandering the Earth looking for a brain soufflé to snack on. And this is where we find Kobe Bryant right now, isn’t it? He’s had a ridiculously successful career. Regardless of who you think was responsible for the first three championship rings of his career, he’s now in the Top 10 in all-time scoring and he’s a five-time champion. By the time his career is over, he’s going to have arguably the most impressive résumé in NBA history.

From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: The newest round of returns in (still semi-) early voting for February’s All-Star Game at Staples show Kobe Bryant leading the way with over 1.4 million votes, about 200K ahead of Orlando’s Dwight Howard for the overall top spot in what is, quite literally, a popularity contest. But as it was after the second batch of figures were released, Carmelo Anthony remains, now by about 40,000 votes, ahead of Pau Gasol for the second spot among Western Conference forwards (Kevin Durant leads the pack with just shy of a million votes). Only the top two vote getters gain automatic entry into the big extravaganza, meaning should current trends hold Pau would need to be added to the squad after polls close. A month ago, this sort of thing would have seemed academic: If Gasol didn’t get a single vote (not even from Marc!), his performance made him a shoe-in. In 15 November games, Gasol averaged 20.3 points while shooting over 54 percent, plus 12.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and two blocks. Then December rolled around, and those figures dropped to 16.3 points and 9.5 rebounds, while Gasol’s shooting percentage dropped below 50 percent. He has only six double-doubles in his last 18 games after racking up 15 in his first 18.

From Dexter Fishmore, Silver Screen and Roll: The NBA released the latest results of fan balloting for the All-Star Game today. Aside from the disheartening news that Derek Fisher appears not to be making a darkhorse run at a starting slot in the West backcourt – come on, people, who else could give you seven points a game on sub-40% shooting? – what jumps out is that Pau Gasol is now third among Western Conference forwards. His vote total stands at about 703K, way behind category leader Kevin Durant and approximately 40K behind Carmelo Anthony. If this pecking order holds up, Pau’s All-Star candidacy will fall to the mercies of the coaches, who vote for backups, and perhaps David Stern, who appoints injury replacements. Is there any chance that Pau doesn’t make the cut?

From Scott Howard-Cooper, The soft blue eyes well up, the commanding voice chokes to a halt in mid-sentence, and the head turns down and away from the conversation. Bill Walton is nearly in tears. “I don’t want you to write this story. This is …” Walton stops and takes nine seconds to gather himself in silence. The Hall of Fame center was nearly ruined by back problems, tortured by searing pain to the point he said he contemplated ending his life. Now his son has back problems. He continues to play for the Lakers. Bill Walton encouraged Luke Walton to retire in the summer rather than risk a similar future of agony. Luke Walton refused. This is … so hard. “No parent wants to see their child suffer and how that changes your life. Basketball is a glorious celebration of life, of health, of everything that’s good, and there is no better example of that than what Shaq is going through right now with the Boston Celtics and how much the Celtics will mean to Shaq now and for rest of his life, and how much fun it’s going to be on that last long run.

From Mark Medina, LA Times: To alleviate what amounts to about a six-month regular season, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson likes to break up the schedule into one-week spans. It makes the season seem shorter. It helps the coaching staff and players organize their preparation. And it provides another carrot of motivation, however small it may be, for a veteran and championship team that finds little excitement in the regular season. In a weeklong stretch that Jackson describes as “a lot of games,” the Lakers’ (25-11) immediate stops include two playoff-bound opponents in New Orleans (21-15) on Friday and New York (20-14) on Sunday at Staples Center, a back-to-back pair of sub-.500 teams in Cleveland (8-27) and Golden State (14-21) on Tuesday and Wednesday and another home contest Friday against New Jersey (10-25), the only intrigue in that game centering on Sasha Vujacic and Jordan Farmar playing against their former team.

From Lamar Odom, LA Times: The late-night flight and the ensuing pain in his left shoulder became so overwhelming that Lakers forward Lamar Odom says he didn’t go to sleep until between 4:30-5:00 Thursday morning. He then arrived to practice at 11 a.m. to receive treatment and ice for what the team described as a sore left shoulder. It won’t be enough to keep him out of the lineup Friday when the Lakers host the New Orleans Hornets at Staples Center. But Coach Phil Jackson said the injury is a “residual effect from last night’s fall” in which Odom hit the deck and favored his left elbow during the Lakers’ 99-95 victory Wednesday over the Phoenix Suns. With Odom describing his shoulder as “stiff” and “painful,” Jackson said the injury is “a problematic kind of thing that’s going to be affecting him for a while” and may affect his shot.

From Elliot Teaford, LA Daily News: Derek Fisher will be honored as the 2010 Sportsman of the Year at the sixth annual L.A. Sports Awards on Feb. 24 at the Beverly Hilton, it was announced Thursday. Fisher was selected for his leadership in helping to guide the Lakers to their second consecutive NBA championship and for his off-court work with charities, including the Lakers Youth Foundation. Prime Ticket will tape the ceremony and show it the next night

Phillip Barnett


24 responses to Around the World (Wide Web)

  1. Via TrueHoop, here’s another good link on Kobe and the team overall from Peter Vescey:

  2. Pssst… there’s no URL to the SS&R article.

  3. Good for Derek. My favorite Laker certainly deserves the award.

  4. #2. That should be fiixed now. Thanks.

  5. Wow, if that’s true about Kobe’s knee being puffy, that doesn’t bode well for the rest of the season.

  6. I read another article this morning (either SI.COM or ESPN.COM) where Kobe states that he has almost no cartilage underneath the knee cap on the left knee. But it’s Kobe-bashing to say that.

  7. It is very concerning to read about the condition of Kobe’s knee. I would imagine that having virtually no cartilage would be painful for the average joe. But for a guy who runs at top speed and jumps for a living, wow! That revelation along with Kobe’s practice routine really puts things in perspective.

    The Lakers will need Andrew Bynum to take a big step forward this season. He and Shannon Brown are the only rotation players who have real upside left. For the Lakers to have a chance Bynum will have to dominate the middle and stay (relatively) healthy. Also, Shannon needs to regain his shooting touch. No more 1-11 games.

    This season is shaping up to be one heck of a ride.

  8. Kobe’s knee has been an issue for ages. It’s tough to say if this year is any worse than in other seasons because he’ll never give any indication one way or the other. The interesting thing is that his athleticism hasn’t seemed any worse over the past few weeks (if anything, he’s finishing above the rim more of late) so if his knee really is worse for wear it’s not showing on the court to me. In fact, he looks much better than when he did at the beginning of the season when he was obviously limited physically.

    None of that is to scoff at the fact that this will be an issue at some point. The man has played a ton of minutes and it’s not like that number is going to decline. But, to worry about it now – at a time when he actually is committing to practicing and playing pretty well (I think we’d all agree that his finger problem is hampering his play more than anything else) – isn’t really necessary. But maybe that’s just me.

  9. Roland Lazenby has chimed in on the whole Kobe practicing ‘drama’ with his own article. Here’s the link:

  10. The Lazenby column is interesting; I have thought that they missed Winters, but did not consider that it might be in that context.

  11. Ouch on the news regarding Kobe’s knee. Yes, it is an issue, and it’s not just an issue for this year, but for his future going forward. The fact that he has very little cartilage left is very concerning. Dealing with my own personal knee issues, I’ve had to tone down my activity quite a bit, and I’m unsure if I’ll ever be able to consistently be as physical as I once was without creating permanent damage. I would not take this with a grain of salt. Once we see his decline, it could be permanent. I’m all for preserving what he has so that he can hopefully play out his contract.

  12. Go Lakers! Come on, our team needs us!

    My friend came up with a great defense chant. I hope it catches on, as it is both funny and great:

    De-fend the court!

    De-fend the court!

    De-fend the court!

  13. #10

    I don’t think they missed Tex Winters that much, given the amount of success that these Lakers have already had and most of the players have been in the system for quite some time.

  14. E-Roc,
    I disagree – I think that he was very instrumental in the teaching the systems, and making “tweaks” to it. That isn’t Jackson’s strong suit. I have read previously that Winters did not hesitate to call people out for not playing the system properly, including Kobe. That is also not a strong suit of Jackson’s. This season, considering the roster changes, injuries, etc., and players getting used to each other, I think that it is a bigger factor than last year.

  15. This is OT, but I am avoiding writing my comprehensive exam (which I really should be doing if I ever want to get my Ph.D) today so I was watching some Blake Griffin highlights and looking at his stats. He is having a very impressive rookie season.

    Here are his stats per game (Pts; Rbs; Asts; Blk; FG%; mins) and PER:

    21.7; 12.7; 3.3; 0.7; 52; 37; 22.9

    To put that in a historic perspective here are Rookie season stats (or the first season where said player played over min) of some of the best PFs of all time.

    Tim Duncan:
    21.1; 11.9; 2.7; 2.5; 55; 39; 22.6
    Garnett (2nd season):
    17; 8.1; 3.1; 1.4; 50; 39; 18.2
    Karl Malone (2nd):
    21.7; 10.4; 1.9; 0.7; 51; 18
    Barkley (2nd):
    20; 3.9; 12.8; 1.6; 57; 37; 22.4
    Moses Malone (I’m going to consider him PF here):
    19; 14.6; 1; 1.5; 51; 39; 19.6
    Shawn Kemp:
    15; 8.4; 1.8; 1.5; 51; 30; 17.6
    Elvin Hayes (blocks were not recorded yet)
    28.4; 17.1; 1.5; 45%; 45; 18.9
    Bob Pettit (this was even before there was a shot clock):
    20.5; 13.8; 3.2; 41%; 37; 24.5

    Griffin’s numbers so far stack up pretty well compared to the rookie years of the all time best PFs. And he does more than dunk (though thats obviously the best and most entertaining part of his game), hes a pretty good passer and can hit a 15 ft jumper. If hes stays healthy he could be a very good player.

    Of course all of these numbers pale in comparison to what Wilt Chamberlain did in his rookie season averaging averaging 38 pts and 27 rbs.

  16. Exhelodrvr,

    True enough, but I think Jackson has adjusted nicely in Winters’s absence. On the surface, Phil has done rolled with the punches, getting Blake and Barnes comfortable with the system, weathering the early storm of playing without Bynum, managing Kobe’s minutes, dealing with the off-the-court distractions from players, and finally, finding something like changing the defense to keep the players motivated.

    Kobe has always deviated from the triangle even when Winters was there. I think Phil is doing a good job along with his coaching staff of how they handled the season so far. I don’t think Winters’s presence would’ve changed much of what has already occurred. Plus, it helps to have a team full of veterans who have been there and done that.

  17. With regard to Dexter’s thesis on Pau’s All-Star candidacy, for the team’s sake I’d love it if no Lakers took part in anything that weekend, particularly Pau.

    Even with the luxury of not having to fly off somewhere to attend, it would be great for him (and others) to get a few days to get reacquainted with Netflix and the living room sofa. Let’s hope everyone is fresh and ready to roll in the second half.

  18. Locker room turmoil was always my first thought as to why this team was underachieving over the past month. If articles of discontent are a reality then it will only strengthen the bond amongst them. I have always been a firm believer in adversity making a man, not calm. This is a veteran team and they understand( proven by back to back championships) the only way to win it all again is to play together as one. If this was a young group of up and coming stars I would be worried, since their not, this is only a part of the journey to a third ring in as many years.

  19. E-Roc,
    “I don’t think Winters’s presence would’ve changed much of what has already occurred”

    At the upper levels of pro sports, it doesn’t take much of a change, good or bad, to change a team’s relative position quite a bit. The Lakers of last season were not that much better than the other top several teams, so a slight decrease on the Lakers part, coupled with increases on the parts of the other teams, makes a very noticeable difference.
    The good thing, though, is that the reverse can happen, too. Small improvement by the Lakers, coupled with small deprovement (just made that up!) by some others, and they are back on top.

  20. interesting lazenby article. But it’s a bit hard to completely buy when every quote is not attributed. don’t get me wrong, lazenby has a good read on the team, but it’s hard to know who is feeding him stuff, but kobe does look pretty good here (that was a very timid remark about kobe’s defensive lapses). I have a hard time believing that pau would be upset about kobe’s lack of practice time. He’s just too smart to get hung up on that (especially since he’s taken an interest in medicine), but pau seems like the type of guy you need to babysit. Speaking of babysitters, I can definitely see artest having a problem but i’m still pretty impressed how grounded ron artest has been. Perhaps the best angle was the effect it’s had on blake. That would help explain why he did better in the beginning of the year, when it’s easier to get shots because the opposing teams are still figuring things out. if practice is the biggest issue for the lakers, then i’m not worried. But if I’m boston, san antonio or dallas, I would be very worried.

  21. The last thing I worry about is locker room problems. Nothing will ever be as bad as the Shaq/Kobe/Phil years in that regard. That was the war of the Roses. Anything going on now is a simple misunderstanding in comparison.

  22. Remember that the “core” of the team has never had a training camp where they have all been healthy. It makes it harder to get them playing together optimally.

  23. I dont believe Pau took offense to KB not practicing, he’s taken offense to the chiding of Phil and #24 over the years about toughness and playing through injuries. The constant double teaming has finally gotten under the laid back Spainards skin to an extent that it may be causing performance issues. Kobe is use to the constant questioning of the results even with past success, Pau on the other hand is new to success casting an even bigger burden.

    Pau will get it together because he has proven he has the drive to be successful. It might not be the way that some( Kobe and Phil) would go about business, but in the end I expect the same results that ended on Figueroa St. the past two years.