Our shortened preseason fades from view, Christmas is two days away. The start of the regular season no longer seems farfetched but the dark days are not so distant. In mid-November, I resorted to a fictional holiday miracle to pass the time. Sometimes the stories don’t come easily – it may simply be my own perception but it almost seems like a hiccup in Lakers ink, this close to the blessed event. There’s certainly no shortage of Clippers articles. Is this how it feels, to be beneath the underdog? I doubt it. From Kobe’s mind-over-matter to Blake’s emergence to Metta’s misfires, here’s some stuff to read on a Friday morning.
Matt Moore, Eye On Basketball: Most people would be out a few weeks with this injury. Kobe Bryant is not most people. But there are larger questions in play here. Can the Lakers win without Bryant? It’s possible. The Bulls game may be a loss, but that was questionable from the start what with Derek Rose being guarded by Derek Fisher and Steve Blake. The larger problem isn’t Bryant’s absence, though he is imperative to any Lakers gameplan. It’s that Andrew Bynum is serving a five-game suspension starting Sunday for a flagrant foul on J.J. Barea in last year’s playoffs. The Laker can survive without Kobe Bryant for a few games. Surviving without Bryant and Bynum becomes a much tougher trick.
Kevin Ding, the OC Register: Mike Brown told his designated bench spark Metta World Peace after his 0-for-8 shooting outing in the exhibition opener Monday night: “If you’re going to shoot that much, you’ve got to make ‘em.” World Peace was still cold in the next game Wednesday night, but he rallied a bit to finish 4 for 13 from the field. Brown said World Peace is adjusting to finding his shooting rhythm coming off the bench, but the plan remains for World Peace to do a lot of shooting and posting up with the Lakers’ second unit this season “I have faith in him,” Brown said.
Andy Kamenetzky, The Land O’Lakers: “I should be fine,” said Kobe when asked about his availability for the Christmas Day season opener against the Bulls. Of course, “fine” isn’t necessarily quite sunshine and lollipops. Kobe described his wrist as “swollen and painful,” and I’m guessing that won’t change by the time Sunday rolls around. The Mamba has a famously absurd tolerance for pain, but I have a hard time believing lacing ‘em up on Sunday won’t entail enduring an exceptional amount of discomfort. There’s also the question of the effects the injury will have on Bryant as a player. After all, right-handed players tend to use their right wrists a decent amount of time over the course of a basketball game. Plus, that wrist is connected to a hand with some jacked up fingers. It’s not really going to heal,” Bryant conceded. “I mean, it’s gone. The ligament is gone.”
Ben Bolch, the L.A. Times: Steve Blake is making more shots in part because the misses no longer bother him as much. “Being with these guys for a while,” the veteran guard said of his Lakers teammates, “when you miss a shot you’re not as hard on yourself anymore.” There was no need for self-doubt Wednesday night at Staples Center after Blake capped a strong preseason with some steady shooting during his team’s 108-103 loss to the Clippers. Blake made six of nine shots, including five of seven three-pointers, on the way to 20 points. In two exhibition games, he made six of 10 (60%) of his three-pointers.
Mark Medina, L.A. Times Lakers blog: Cast Matt Barnes as one of the few not exactly enthralled with the “Lob City” Clippers. After seeing them throw up down numerous dunks during their preseason win Wednesday over the Lakers, Barnes maintained the team’s apparent excessive celebrations prompted him to push Clippers forward Blake Griffin to the floor with 6:48 remaining in the third quarter. “It’s a preseason game,” Barnes said after Thursday’s practice at the Lakers’ facility in El Segundo. “Yeah, they’re catching lobs and dunking. But it’s just a preseason game. Let’s just play basketball. If you make a dunk, act like you’ve done it before. He’s got hundreds of them. There’s no need for the hoorah after every single dunk. It’s unnecessary.”
Emile Avanessian, Hardwood Hype: Sure it’s been a rough few months in Lakerland- a humiliating effort against the Mavericks, the departure of Phil Jackson, the emergence of Jimmy Buss, getting Stern’d on a seemingly successful trade for Chris Paul, dumping Lamar Odom for next to nothing in the immediate aftermath, and now a new injury for Kobe to make a mockery of but the doomsday predictions are a bit overdone. Is it so hard to believe that when healthy, a team led by Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum (yeah, yeah) and a collection of capable NBAers, a team with the capacity to add another $8.9 million player via trade, could win three out of every five games? It’ll be close and I wouldn’t go into debt to wager on it, but bet against this team at your own peril.
Matt Scribbins, Magic Basketball: I’m starting to feel like we are approaching an experiment in the NBA that should never be conducted again. Eventually, there will be a rule in place to limit the number of obstacles all-time greats can endure towards the end of their career, and it will probably be called “The Kobe Bryant No Dumping Rule.” The man has solidified his status among basketball’s greatest players by leading the league in competitive drive and determination every season. Right or wrong, he did it his way, and his way has resulted in a sure-fire first ballot Hall of Fame birth. His way has provided fans with fifteen straight seasons of thrills, and he has been rewarded with fifteen straight seasons of boos. I was starting to think fans may soften their stance on Kobe as his rank among NBA players slowly falls and his career comes to an end, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. He is once again in the spotlight, and the league is antsy for the opportunity to jeer and watch him fail.
A lull before the storm, may only be a gathering breath. The current state of the Lakers, did not begin or end with CP3 and David Stern’s heavy-handed interference . Yes, that qualified as one of the year’s major sports stories but it also shared space with last season’s shocking collapse in the second round, with the exit stage left of a coaching legend, with the firing of anyone connected with him, save Jeanie Buss. It came when the league should have been healing rifts, not creating them. Nonetheless, the Lakers organization has created a restore point. It may not be the new look that everyone wanted but as villagers collect their torches and tar, the team itself seems simply ready to play.
- Dave Murphy