From Lee Jenkins, Sports Illustrated: In an age when athletes aspire to be icons, yet share the burden of success with all their best pals, Bryant looms as perhaps the last alpha dog, half greyhound and half pit bull. No one handles him. No one censors him. He shows up alone. “What am I trying to be?” he asks. “Am I trying to be a hip, cool guy? Am I trying to be a business mogul? Am I trying to be a basketball player?” He doesn’t provide an answer. He doesn’t have to. It’s been obvious since he was 11 years old in Italy and a club from Bologna tried to buy his rights. The gym was the place he could go at 4 a.m., “to smell the scent” and pour the fuel. Bryant wonders whether his sanctuary is finally closing, and if so, how he will cope without it. He recognizes what many around him do not: The persona, lifelike as it may be, is only partly real. Beneath it is a three-dimensional figure, with the same vulnerabilities as anybody else, plus the will to overcome them. “I have self-doubt,” Bryant says. “I have insecurity. I have fear of failure. I have nights when I show up at the arena and I’m like, ‘My back hurts, my feet hurt, my knees hurt. I don’t have it. I just want to chill.’ We all have self-doubt. You don’t deny it, but you also don’t capitulate to it. You embrace it. You rise above it. … I don’t know how I’m going to come back from this injury. I don’t know. Maybe I’ll be horses—.” He pauses, as if envisioning himself as an eighth man. “Then again, maybe I won’t, because no matter what, my belief is that I’m going to figure it out. Maybe not this year or even next year, but I’m going to stay with it until I figure it out.”
From Ramneet Singh, Lakers Nation: Not so long ago, Dwight Howard was preparing for his first season with the Los Angeles Lakers, and almost everyone in the NBA had the Lakers going to the Finals. However, fast forward a year, and now Howard is in Houston and there are a lot of doubts lingering with the Lakers. Over the summer, Howard decided to join the third team in his NBA career by leaving Los Angeles and joining the Houston Rockets. For the first time in history, a high profiled name willingly left the Lakers and chose to sign with another team. Howard spoke to the media recently, and the Los Angeles Times writes that Howard believes it took guts for him to leave the Lakers:
From Ben R, Silver Screen & Roll: One of the main elements of the offensive revolution that Mike D’Antoni helped to usher into the NBA was a paradigm shift in traditional positions. Guys who were once treated as too short or not sufficiently bruising enough to play in the frontcourt suddenly found roles as players who were too quick and accurate from range for their usual counterparts to cover. In the modern NBA, it is increasingly difficult to play fours incapable of stretching the floor at least out to fifteen feet or so, as well as checking the pick-and-roll ably on the other end. The recent success of the Miami Heat, a team that routinely trots out LeBron James, Shane Battier, and other players that would have emphatically been considered small forwards ten years ago at the four, is testament to how this has become the new norm.
From Mike Bresnahan, LA Times: It wasn’t strange to see the Lakers waive Darius Johnson-Odom. He was a long shot to make the team. The weird part was the time and place of it. The Lakers announced the transaction with 36 hours left in their China tour. Johnson-Odom flew on the Lakers’ charter to Beijing last week, played in their game Tuesday against Golden State and was scheduled to leave with them after Friday’s rematch against the Warriors. A harsh move by the Lakers, 6,000 miles from Los Angeles? Not quite. Johnson-Odom agreed to terms with a Chinese pro basketball team, signing a contract worth $400,000, according to a person familiar with the situation. Johnson-Odom had been weighing the offer for about a week and made up his mind after the Lakers strongly suggested he wouldn’t make their roster this season. They waived him Thursday so he could sign with the undisclosed Chinese team. Johnson-Odom’s play wasn’t spectacular — a 3.7-point average in three exhibition games — and he was cut from the team for the second time after being drafted 55th overall by the Lakers in 2012.
From Brett Pollakoff, Pro Basketball Talk: The vast majority of days that I work in arenas covering live events, I am not subjected to filing a game story on deadline. It’s by far the worst part of the industry, and it’s what many of the best writers covering the NBA face on a daily basis out of necessity as part of their gigs working for newspapers around the country. The online model is quite different, and the details will be spared here and saved for another time. But immediacy is rarely required unless something monumental occurs, so usually the first story can wait for some depth, context, and texture from the players involved speaking in post-game locker rooms long after the final buzzer has sounded. On the afternoon of Sunday, April 28, however, there was no reason to wait. The Lakers were getting predictably shellacked in Game 4 of their first round playoff series against the Spurs, and the game was effectively over early in the second half. The brief initial story was done before the final buzzer, and only a couple of minor details needed to be included for the sake of accuracy.