From Ken Berger, CBS Sports: During a series of meetings in which union officials are updating players on the status of collective bargaining this week, one voice stood out: that of Kobe Bryant. Before a star-studded audience of about 75 players in Los Angeles Tuesday, Bryant was “up front” and “deliberate” in a speech in which he urged players to maintain solidarity and “stand behind the union” during the lockout, according to a person who was in attendance. Sources told CBSSports.com that another test of that solidarity could come next week, as top union officials were authorized Wednesday to contact deputy commissioner Adam Silver in the hopes of scheduling a bargaining session in New York before the end of the month. Bryant and Paul Pierce told players Tuesday it was important for them to “remain united” in the face of a lockout that has dragged well into its second month with only one full-scale bargaining session, the person who attended the meeting said.
From Andy Kamentzky, Land O’ Lakers: (Kobe) was attacking the rim and the good thing is, you get a person like James Harden, people starting hollering “Oklahoma! Lakers!” When we were in there before he came, I said, “Look, guys. We need to play hard. You know how Drew is. We’re not going out here to put on an exhibition. We’re going hard. We’re going just like we always play. You gotta get up in him because that’s what he wants. He wants to be tested today.” You know, James scored 47 himself, so they went at it a few trips down the floor. It was great. He was good. He was very good. He was fresh. His spring, his jump shot was nice. Getting to the basket. His jab steps and his foot work. Everything was very good.
From Ben R., Silver Screen & Roll: After years of solid, consistent play from the Lakers’ primary corps of bigs in Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, and Andrew Bynum, witnessing last season, filled with ups and downs, slumps and rises, was a bizarre experience. Each of the three had parts of the year in which they surpassed their career norms as well as times when they played woefully beneath them, with almost none of those periods intersecting, something that contributed to last season’s turmoil. Gasol began the year on a stellar, MVP-level tear before the continued stress of playing too many minutes triggered a season-long decline that resulted in his massive meltdown during the playoffs. Conversely, Bynum, who missed the start of the season due to knee surgery in the off-season, started the year slowly as he got back into form before erupting following the All-Star Break into a defensive dervish at the heart of the Lakers’ 17-1 streak. Finally, Odom had arguably the best year of his career during the regular season, putting to rest the almost cliched concerns about his consistency with borderline All-Star play that earned him the Sixth Man of the Year award before he, like Gasol, was highly ineffective during the playoffs. With Mike Brown taking the helm of the team, the bigs will continue to be the primary fulcrum of the Lakers at both ends of the floor. While the defensive principles of the team will stay roughly analogous to the defense that powered the Lakers streak after the ASG, the offense will switch to the Spurs’ playbook that will incorporate the talents of the Lakers’ bigs in a different manner than the triangle, although with many of the same principles.
From Mike Trudell, Lakers.com: During an extended LakersTV interview with head coach Mike Brown, we spent some time talking about his new assistant coaches: Chuck Person, John Kuester, Quin Snyder and Ettore Messina. You can check out the video to get Brown’s more extended assessment of his staff, but here’s a snippet of Brown’s words on each coach: On Ettore Messina: “He’s the equivalent of a Pat Riley, a Gregg Popovich and so on and so forth over in Europe. He has multiple European Championships, and then a ton of league championships in the Spanish League, the Russian League, the Italian League … I’m excited that (Messina’s) going to bring some things from Europe that I can use. They play a lot of zone in Europe … I’m not a huge fan of zone defense, but I think it could be effective with the length of the guys on this team. So that’s intriguing, and then some zone offensive stuff and more than zone, he is a terrific man-to-man defensive coach and a very good offensive coach.
From Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk: I think this happening is about as likely as Kanye West becoming the next President of the United States. Yet I will pass it along because it’s too big to ignore. The Chinese publication sohu.com is reporting that Kobe Bryant has agreed to terms to play for Shanxi Zhongyu in China next season (via Hoopshype). The publication says the team president is the source. There are a few reasons not to buy this. For one, Kobe reportedly is not that close to making a decision on what to do during the lockout. It is very possible that Shanxi Zhongyu is one of the hundreds of teams that have reached out to Kobe and his agent looking to make a deal. But that is very different than Kobe signing on the dotted line. In the end I’d be shocked if Kobe signs anywhere (he wants another ring badly and his knees could use the rest).
From Dave Murphy, Searching For Slava: I once toyed with the notion of a nation turning its lonely eyes to an obscure biscuit chucker from the Ukraine. In truth, his spirt orbits ever further from this eponymous journal. There’s a new generation that barely remembers him – actually they never knew him at all. A short career, never a starter and so resolute in Garbo solitude that he’s basically gone and got himself erased. Woo-woo-woo. Dennis Rodman’s solitude came masked with boas and industrial chrome – his final abortive seasons turned to ash while Slava was still balling for BC Kiev. He was one of the transcendent athletes of our times, a complicated man-child with kaleidoscope hair, flying level to the ground after loose balls, tracking rebounds like a bat, drinking oceans into pale morning light. TV watchers saw his HOF speech last Friday as cathartic, a revelation. Some in attendance, smiled sadly, knowingly – they’ve lived his breakthroughs and breakdowns for too long. There’s a thing about people who talk about not being around much longer. Sometimes they aren’t. The finals ended only two months ago but it feels like a far-off hiding place. Usually, we’re joking away the days, secure in the summer league and crazy trade machines. Not now, this is a grim march through dying cities, it’s fans arguing over business models when even the owners and players won’t argue over business models. It won’t always be this way. Ten years goes by in the blink of an eye. The landscape will change with a new CBA but it will be the norm for a whole new crop of players.