Archives For Kobe

To call the time between August-September a hotbed of NBA news would be a gross understatement (things like this are making headlines). Nevertheless, the Lakers continue to make minor roster additions as training camp nears and their most recent acquisition is 32-year old Brazlian point guard Marcelo Huertas. Darius covered the Huertas signing here, but as we did with the signings of Holmes and Fraizer, we offer a bit of background on the newest Laker. The following excerpt is from a July piece by Kirk Henderson of Mavs Moneyball:

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We are deep into the doldrums of the NBA Summer. We’re a month past summer league and have a month to go until training camps open. This part of the year is the off-season version of a mid-Wednesday night game in the beginning of March. What better time, then, for a nice big list of rankings for NBA players?

Sports Illustrated has obliged us fans and kicked off their annual Top 100 for the upcoming season. You can find their list of players 100-51 here.

Anytime this list (or one like it) is released, Lakers’ fans look for one name: Kobe Bryant. Many do this just to see how upset they can get — I mean, Kobe might do this too — as they find the right amount of outrage in response to where the pundits have placed him in contrast to his peers.

Well, this year, Kobe has come in slotted in spot #54. Here, Ben Golliver, explains the ranking:

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Jim Buss sat down with Eric Pincus of the LA Times for a wide ranging interview on Thursday and provided plenty of insight on all things Lakers. Pincus’ entire interview is well worth your time as the Lakers’ part-owner and top executive on the basketball side takes us behind the curtain on where his mindset is heading into a critical season in the team’s rebuild.

And while Buss’ thoughts on D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, and more deserve your attention, the most intriguing part of their discussion, at least for me, relates to none other than Kobe Bryant, his future with the team, and whether this upcoming season may be the superstar’s last:

“We’re going to approach it like it is, but that doesn’t mean it is,” Buss said of Bryant. “I’m not going to sit there and say, ‘This is it, Kobe, you’re done,’ because it’s not my decision, it’s his decision.”

While this seems like the politic answer, Buss does elaborate further:

So is this Bryant’s final year with the team? “My arms are like this,” Buss said, holding his arms wide open, about Bryant’s future.

“He just has to know, at that age, and that many miles on you, what is your role? We’ll explain the role, and if he still wants to do that and that’s how he wants to go out, that’s fine with me.”

This is the first time anyone within the Lakers’ organization has ever even hinted at there being any sort of conditions for Kobe returning or that he might need to accept a reduced role if he does want to return. And, frankly, it’s good to hear the organization is taking this approach.

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I often think about the Kobe, Pau, Steve Nash, and Dwight Howard Lakers’ team within the context of “what if’s”. What if Nash doesn’t break his leg? What if Dwight doesn’t come back so early from back surgery? What if Mike Brown never decides to implement the Princeton Offense? What if Kobe never blows out his achilles? What if, what if, what if.

But, while that team is the most recent example of this, it’s not the one which weighs heaviest on my memory. No, that would be the Shaq/Kobe Lakers and the “what if Shaq and Kobe could have buried the hatchet and just gotten along?”

Sadly, we’ll never know the answer to this question. And while both players ended up doing just fine in the years following — Shaq got a 4th championship with the Heat 2006 and Kobe won back to back championships in 2009 and 2010 — the question still nags at me every once in a while.

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Yesterday Kobe announced he had returned to the court to shoot for the first time since having surgery to repair his torn rotator cuff. Today, Kobe celebrates his 37th birthday. I have a feeling before he finds his way to a slice of cake and some gifts to unwrap, he’ll also find his way to a gym to get up more shots. This, more than anything, would seem like be the Kobe thing to do.

When training camp opens in the next month or so, it will be the beginning of his 20th season in the league. Twenty. Years. I get tired just thinking of this number, knowing the day-in, day-out work that’s gone into making him the player he’s been over that period.

Kobe’s greatest legacy, for me at least, isn’t the championship rings. It’s not his status as one the game’s all-time best players. For me, Kobe’s legacy is, despite his wonderful physical gifts and his bloodlines tying him to the league, how he maximized all that talent to reach his ceiling as a player. One can argue if he could have done things differently or played a different way, but one cannot argue he got the most out of his ability to become the most skilled version of himself he could become.

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Kobe Bryant last played a competitive basketball game on January 21st against the Pelicans. In that game he had the ball deep in the right corner, drove baseline after facing some tight pressure defense, and threw down a two handed dunk:

On that play, Kobe exacerbated an already sore shoulder, tearing his rotator cuff. While he would play a few more possessions — attempting shots with his left hand — he would ultimately leave the court and not play another game for the rest of the season.

Since then Kobe has been recovering from surgery to repair his injured shoulder and has been pretty quiet as to what progress he was making. Well, that silence has been lifted with a post on instagram:

First day back on the court shooting! Bout damn time!! #shoulderrecovery #20thseason @drinkbodyarmor #lakers

A photo posted by Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) on

This is great news for Kobe and for Lakers’ fans. With a little bit more than two months until the Lakers’ regular season begins, this should allow Kobe to ramp up his training and be ready for what will be his 20th and, potentially, final campaign.

The dragging offseason continues, yet the news cycle rolls on…

Earlier this month the Lakers signed former Texas forward and Summer League standout Jonathan Holmes. To this date, not much has been heard about the Holmes-Lakers pairing since the signing, however, Mark Stenberg of Study Breaks Magazine recently caught up with the San Antonio native for a very insightful interview, here’s some of what stood out:

Can you walk me through everything that’s happened from Draft Day till now?

Holmes: Draft Day was a tough. Heading into it, we thought we had a pretty good chance of going late first round/beginning of the second round, but some unexpected trades happened and I ended up going undrafted.

After that, the next thing to do was try and get ready for summer league. I was in San Antonio on Draft Day, and two days later my agent called and said the Celtics had a good opportunity for me to play. That’s really the biggest thing you need as an undrafted guy—a chance to play—so we jumped on that right away.

I flew to Boston a couple of days later and had a week of training camp to prepare for Summer League. Then we flew out to Utah, played two games, and then flew to Las Vegas to play in that Summer League

(Boston lost in the quarterfinals to the Becky Hammon-coached Spurs, the team that ended up winning the tournament).

After that, we were just waiting for some deals. Then we got some, we chose Los Angeles, and now I’m here hanging out, waiting for training camp.

[…]

What do your days look like now?

Holmes: I wake up 8:30 and work out with one of the coaches, then go to the weight room and get a little work out there. Right now, there’s a lot of open-gyms going on at the Clippers’ facility, so some of the guys on the team and I might go over there and play with some of the guys there. Then I’ll usually come back here, eat lunch, rest, take a little nap and then head back to the facility. I’m really just trying to put some shots up. Afterword, I’ll come back here and kick it pretty low key. Right now everything’s still pretty unofficial.

How the vibe in LA? Have you played with Kobe yet?

Holmes: No, I haven’t seen him yet. It’s actually really cool though, because there are a lot of young guys right now. I mean there are definitely veterans here, like Roy Hibbert, Ryan Kelly, Brandon Bass, and Nick Young, but for the most part, most of the guys on the team are young. It makes it different than if you were coming into a team that was nothing but veterans, cause most of these guys are going through what I’m going through.

[…]

Do you have a basketball role model?

Holmes: I definitely model my game after Draymond Green, but there are guys from San Antonio who paved my way to get [to professional basketball]. When people think about Texas they think about football, but I watched guys like André Roberson and Jordan Clarkson (who also plays for the Lakers) when I was growing up. We played for the same AAU programs, and so just seeing them make it coming from San Antonio pushed me and motivated me to live out my own dreams.

**

The Lakers’ second UDFA signing this offseason was ex-Florida guard Michael Fraizer, and while most have little expectation that he’ll amount to anything more than a mere camp body, Jackson Sanders of Hoops Habit recently looked into just where Fraizer could find his role on a Lakers roster:

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The Lakers made another under-the-radar personnel move over the weekend with the signing of undrafted free agent Michael Fraizer. This is the team’s second UDFA signing of the offseason and just as we did with the signing of Jonathan Holmes, today’s links provide a month-old scouting report done by Kevin O’Connor of SB Nation, in which Fraizer is referred to as a potential “sleeper”:

Frazier has the talent to carve out a career in the league. All he needs is the right situation to give him an opportunity to get to that level.

Wesley Matthews, Bruce Bowen and Ben Wallace suffered the same disappointment of being undrafted, but went on to have productive careers. Frazier’s former teammate Scottie Wilbekin just signed a four-year contract with the 76ers after developing one year overseas and returning an improved player.

This is why Frazier is a prime candidate to be next in line.

Fraizer’s calling card at the next level is assumed to be his proficiency from three-point range. While O’Connor doesn’t discount the fact that Fraizer sticking with a team is contingent upon his ability to drain threes, he also goes on to detail Fraizer’s potential to be a multi-faceted player with a unique skillset that suggests he is more than a “specialist”:

 

Before the draft, Frazier worked out at Elev8 Sports Institute with trainer Cody Toppert to improve this area of his game. Toppert recently published an overview of the pick-and-roll. He preaches three keys: pace, poise and purpose.

“Cody Toppert and I watched a lot of film, then went straight to the court to try to replicate those same kinds of things,” Frazier said. “In today’s game, Chris Paul is the best player in the pick-and-roll, so I watch a lot of him. He’s the master of it.”

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One of the players Fraizer will most directly compete against this summer is soon-to-be sophomore, Jabari Brown. This roster battle will certainly draw more attention as summer exhibition nears, yet there is still quite a while until preseason kicks off (45 days to be exact). Therefore, one of the ways players like Brown get in their on-court reps during the offseason is by participating in the various Summer basketball showcases throughout the country.

Josh Martin of Bleacher Report recently profiled the growth of these Summer Pro League Exhibitions (most notably the Drew League and Seattle Pro-Am), and the piece included a brief, yet telling, appearance from Brown:

Nowadays, audiences in the Bay Area often find themselves as awe-struck by the show-stopping shooting skills of a bona fide superstar like Stephen Curry as they are by the spectacular scoring exploits of a relative NBA unknown like Los Angeles Lakers sophomore-to-be Jabari Brown.

“It’s a big misconception [about the talent level in the NBA],” Brown, an Oakland native, told Bleacher Report. “A lot of people you’ll just hear like, ‘Oh, so-and-so’s not getting it done.’ I’ll be like, ‘Man, a lot of these people can ball. Just because their 2K rating isn’t 85 or something, the guys that you sleep on, they’re the guys that’ll give you 25 on that night’ and you’ll be like, ‘What happened?’ You know what I’m saying? Everybody in this league is capable.”

It’s a reminder that just about every player who fills one of the NBA’s 450 roster spots each year, even the ones who rarely suit up, were the best on their high school squads and were among the finest prospects at the collegiate level—assuming they didn’t skip that step entirely.

Brown fits that description to a T…

As someone who is a frequent visitor of So-Cal’s own Drew League, I can attest that watching NBA players perform on a lesser stage — in front of spirited communities, traditionally at a high school gym or local court — externalizes a more humanistic nature to the oft-glorified athletes. The atmosphere of such events can be indescribable, however Martin does a wonderful job capturing the scene in what is a very worthwhile read.

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