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Few NBA players have ever suffered the type of hit to their reputation as a player that Dwight Howard has over the past two seasons. Just two years ago he was the consensus top big man in the game and the gulf between him and the number 2 player was larger than any other top player at his position and the man below him.

In the two seasons, since, however, Howard’s brand as a player has taken a major hit. From the poor way he handled his pending free agency in Orlando to his trade “demand” to his back tracking to his season ending injury and then to how he performed on the court this season during his recovery, the luster to Howard’s reputation as an elite player in the league was severely tarnished.

Now that he’s finally hit the point in which he’s an unrestricted free agent, there are real questions about whether or not he’s worthy of the chase teams are sure to put on in order to obtain his services. It’s probably better to take a step back and realize that, yes, Dwight Howard is worth it.

Does he have issues with his game? Of course. Most every player does. But what Howard has shown, even in a season when he clearly wasn’t at his best, is that teams respect his game immensely. Even with an “unpolished” offensive game, Dwight is swarmed in the post and on his dives to the rim out of the pick and roll. Even when he was clearly limited physically, teams were hesitant to all out attack him defensively by targeting him in isolation or in the pick and roll. Even while he played through what was obviously a still hurting back, Dwight put up strong numbers and had a high impact on the game — though, as the year went on this was more true than at the beginning.

This past week, there have been several rumors and rumblings about where Dwight may go. The latest talk was that the Clippers covet him and would, potentially, be open to trying to trade for him. And then there are the long reported landing spots of Houston, Dallas, and, even, Atlanta. However, in an interview just a few days ago, Kobe Bryant had a simple message for the Lakers and Dwight: Just lock him up.

Kobe’s not wrong. There’s no doubt in my mind that if it came to having to deal Howard, the Lakers could work out a way to get a strong package in exchange for trading him. Whether it’s a version of the rumored offer the Clippers would have on the table or some other group of players and picks from a different team, there will be deals presented to the Lakers should it come to that.

But, in reality, it’s probably better that it doesn’t come to that. Because regardless of what you think of Dwight as a person due to how he’s handled his business over the past two seasons, he’s still one of the top talents in the league. It’s easy to forget that when we all spent so much time picking apart his game over the past 18 months, but as the second half of the season showed, the player who was a consensus top 5 (and probably top 3) talent in the league is still worth holding onto.

From Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk: My only question is: Did Metta World Peace make the recommendation? In his quest to get over his free throw shooting woes this season — 49.2 percent — Howard admitted to T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times that he saw the team’s psychologist about it. “I have only one problem and it’s between my ears,” he said, while admitting he visited a Lakers’ psychiatrist. “I just think too much.” Howard has said that before — it’s not form, it’s in his mind. And you see when teams have gone to the hack-a-Howard strategy and just fouled him over and over he gets his rhythm going and starts to sink a respectable percentage of his free throws.

From Suki Thind, Lakers Nation: Well, here’s another edition of our weekly historic box scores selection. This week, we feature none other than Lakers great Wilt Chamberlain and his 100-point game. Wilt was actually with the Philadelphia Warriors when it happened back on March 2, 1962. A few weeks ago, we featured Kobe Bryant’s 81-point performances–the second highest point total in NBA history–so it’s only fitting that we also featured the highest points total by any single player, ever. Chamberlain was in just his third season at the time and was averaging a whopping 50.4 points per game.

From TheGreatMambino, Silver Screen & Roll: Of the myriad of questions floating around the Los Angeles Lakers this summer, there’s no front office issue that could shift from extremely impactful to borderline insignificant like the amnesty provision debate. For the uninitiated, the amnesty provision is a one-time opportunity for a team to waive any player who signed his contract before December 2011 and have his salary wiped from the team’s salary cap figure. In many cases, teams will use this provision to clear a player’s cap number off the books in order to fit another man’s contract onto the books. In the Lakers’ case, the amnesty cut would most likely be used to simply reduce steep luxury taxes that could potentially go into the eight or even nine figures. The only restrictions that a team faces when cutting a player via the amnesty is that the player would have to be with the same team since December 2011 (thus, he could not have been traded in that time). The Lakers will have four such players under contract that are eligible for the amnesty provision: Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Steve Blake and Metta World Peace.

From T.J. Simers, LA Times: My daughter, Kelzer, is a mother now with three children, and it’s been more than a decade since she spent much time shooting a basketball. But I flew Kelzer in from Arizona to teach Dwight Howard how to shoot free throws because she still has to be better than he is. Who isn’t? We all met at UCLA, Howard was as friendly as always and relaxed after fishing trips to Lake Tahoe and Aspen. He posted Twitter pictures of the fish that had jumped in his boat or the ones he claimed he had caught. But they were the wrong kind of trophies for some Lakers fans. “You just can’t please people,” Howard said. “I catch fish and it’s a problem. People were upset I was out having fun; they thought I should be sitting in a room all upset because we lost. “I am upset, but I’m not going to stop living life. “I couldn’t watch the playoffs I was so ticked. Everywhere I went I saw a Tim Duncan jersey, and you know how much I hated that.”

From Dave McMenamin, ESPN LA: Kobe Bryant had a film session last week, only this time he found himself turning off Dr. James Naismith’s game to watch Dr. Seuss. “I tried watching a game,” Bryant told me Monday in a sit-down interview. “I tried watching Miami-Indiana, Game 3 maybe or Game 4, I can’t really remember, but I’m sitting in bed, I’m watching it. My kids jump in the bed, I’m sitting there watching the game and they’re like, ‘Hey, we want to watch ‘The Lorax.’ Can we watch ‘The Lorax’? I was like, ‘No, I’m watching the & Yeah, what the hell. Why not? Yeah, sure. What am I watching this for anyway? Yeah, let’s watch ‘The Lorax.'” Instead of tuning into LeBron James playing basketball with ease, Bryant chose to watch the little furry guy who speaks for the trees. Yup, this is as close to retirement that Bryant has ever been. And he seems to be just fine with that.

A Day In The Life

Dave Murphy —  June 1, 2013

I’m on the phone with an old buddy from Los Angeles and he says, “dude, you should move back here.” I answer in the most predictable of ways. “Yeah, I know. That would be awesome.” An earth-shattering statement? Hardly. Will it lead anywhere? No, it’s just a handful of words during the course of a conversation in the course of a day or a week. The words go hand-in-hand with other statements or conversations that take place in everyday life. Looks like there might be rain tomorrow. I’m going to the store for a few things. The traffic out there is brutal.

In the high-stakes game of professional sports contracts, casual conversations are given heightened importance. It’s the same in the high-stakes game of business or war and peace. Words are how we communicate and they are used, shaped and shifted to suit the occasion. The NBA free agency period doesn’t start until July 1st but the appetite for news and commentary needs to be fed. Or at least we think it does. Isn’t this why I’m typing these words? I’ll proof them and insert hyperlinks and load them into an online queue. The links of course are the blood-filled arteries that attract the hits. We want some, we want more.

The folks in Houston are wading into the discussion. It spiders out to other places which naturally includes the mega-media market where Dwight Howard currently resides. The prize free agent reportedly had a conversation with his buddy James Harden. These things do happen – people send a text, pick up a call, have a communication in some shape or form. It’s rarely on record of course so it’s posited and relayed in the most common of ways – sources close to the process told… and then we get to the heart of the matter which is usually speculation but that’s how the beast is fed, right? One guy says, “dude, you should come play here.” And the other guy says, Yeah, I know. That would be awesome.”

The Dwight saga hasn’t yet begun to approach critical mass in Los Angeles. It may yet or it may not. The Lakers center has only been here for one season and the whole crazy affair was snake-bitten from the start, ending with a first-round exit as the face of the franchise watched from the sideline on crutches. If you’re looking for a full-scale media meltdown, wait a year until Kobe’s contract expires. Bring your sharpened sticks and marshmallows – the flames will be seen around the world.

The NBA finals are still nearly a week away. The draft happens in a month. And then free agency. The need to feed the beast never expires though, it is relentless and will not be sated. Sometimes the news is of a sobering nature. Sometimes it’s a thoughtful debate about a cornerstone athlete. More often it’s simply a random catch-and-shoot. Somewhere an NBA player touches a tiny icon on his screen and smiles. “I read the news today, oh boy.”

 

From Drew Garrison, Silver Screen & Roll: Steve Nash may be 39, but the man doesn’t have any plans to retire. Nash was in court on Wednesday dealing with a personal matter, and while sworn under oath, stated that he intends to continue his basketball career, according to an exclusive report from TMZ: 39-year-old Steve Nash swore under penalty of perjury … the Los Angeles Lakers star has no plans to hang up his jersey and retire from basketball, TMZ has learned. In fact, Steve said he has more than a year left on the lease for his sweet pad in Manhattan Beach, the city that a bunch of the Lakers call home.Nash appeared in 50 games through the regular season for the Los Angeles Lakers and played in two games during the playoffs. It comes as no surprise that Nash intends to continue his playing career, but this serves as another confirmation from the man himself.

From Dave McMenamin, ESPN LA: The Los Angeles Lakers have a coach in Mike D’Antoni, but do they have what they need? Phil Jackson doesn’t seem to think so. While Jackson has said he has no plans to return to the NBA as a head coach, the 11-time championship-winning coach said he would know what to do with the Lakers if they came asking for help. “I would find one of my assistant coaches to work with me to help them just as quickly as possible because I know what they need,” Jackson said in an interview with “The Herd with Colin Cowherd” on ESPN Radio on Wednesday. “I think they need to get back inside, where the strength of their team is and use that presence in there to dominate games. I think there is a way to do that.” Cowherd posited that an inside-oriented approach would not occur with D’Antoni leading the team and Jackson replied, “You’re right.”

From Elizabeth Benson, Lakers Nation: Expectations were not lived up to this season by the Los Angeles Lakers, not even close. A season filled with frustration, struggles and confusion was mixed in with a late on-set determination by the team to make the playoffs. However, their injury-plagued season was still met by an early exit from the playoffs. As Mitch Kupchak alluded to during his exit interview, when a team loses, changes must happen. While we don’t know what those changes are just yet, the biggest question after Dwight re-signing or not has to do with Dwight’s partner in the frontcourt and his future in Los Angeles. What are the Lakers going to do with two-time champion, Pau Gasol? We asked this question to some of our Lakers Nation writers. Let’s see what they had to say.

From Eric Pincus, LA Times: Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak suggested he doesn’t expect to get an early commitment from impending free agent Dwight Howard. “It’s my understanding that he’ll be a free agent on July 1,” said Kupchak to Maggie Gray of SI.comlast week at the Brooklyn Nets training facility for a pre-draft combine. “He’ll have opportunities that he’ll look at and hopefully we’ll be in the running or we’ll be at the top in the very end.” After the Lakers completed exit meetings following their four-game sweep by the San Antonio Spurs, Kupchak stressed the importance of getting early notice from Howard, which would enable to team to start building around him before July (near the NBA Draft in June). “I think he understands that the sooner he makes a decision, the better it is for everybody,” Kupchak said in April. “I don’t know if that means a week, a month or seven weeks. It allows us to plan and it allows him to start putting down roots in the city. People can no longer say, ‘I wonder what he’s going to do? Is he going to be gone?’ We’re hoping that he chooses to stay in Los Angeles.”

From Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk: When you put your precious young son or daughter to bed at night, don’t you want the thoughts of Metta World Peace in their head? Well, now you can have it — World Peace has written a children’s book, “Metta’s Bedtime Stories.” You can buy it right now and be reading it tomorrow. (Thanks to Mark Medina at the LA Daily News for finding this gem.) The stories include “Tomorrow,” “Reach for the Sky,” “One Wish,” “Mud in My Bed,” and “I’m Afraid of the Dark.” Metta’s got some child in him — the man wore a Cookie Monster T-shirt to his exit interview with the team GM. So maybe this works, these could be good and teach good lessons. (I’m not going to condemn what I haven’t read… except for anything by Dan Brown.)

From Mike Bresnahan, LA Times: Steve Nash couldn’t finish this season because of injuries, but he knew where to start next season.With Dwight Howard. Nash was “very hopeful” the soon-to-be free-agent center would return to the Lakers. “I think this is the place for him,” Nash said Monday. “He’s in the prime of his career. He’s got his best years ahead of him. He can play for one of the greatest franchises in sports and an amazing city. This has got to be the place for him and I’m hopeful that he sees it that way.” Howard, 27, can sign a five-year, $118-million deal with the Lakers in July or a four-year, $88-million deal with another team. Reserve guard Jodie Meeks, who built a solid bond with Howard during their first season with the Lakers, also seemed to think a reunion would be best.

From C.A. Clark, Silver Screen & Roll: The season from hell. A nightmare. The cursed year. These are the words being bandied about Lakers Nation now that the 2012-2013 Los Angeles Lakers has been mercifully put to rest. From the fans to the bloggers, the players and even the coach, everyone agrees this year was an abysmal failure on all fronts. Therein lies the problem … on all fronts. If the Lakers’ troubles were singular, or uniform, knowing what to do next would be easy. If the problems all stemmed from poor chemistry, or ill-fitting personnel, then the solution would be much simpler. If injuries were all that kept the Lakers from being great, there wouldn’t be a need to do anything at all. But the Lakers organization is not that lucky. Instead, they have many difficult decisions to make, and very little real information with which to make those decisions. That’s the worst part of the debacle that was the failed 2012-2013 Lakers season: Not knowing whether to try it again.

From Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk: The San Antonio Spurs didn’t just end the Lakers season, they put Los Angeles out of its misery. That was the first time the Lakers have been swept in the first round of the playoffs since 1967, but you could see it coming for a long time. From the injuries during training camp, to the firing of a coach five games into the season, to the hiring of a new coach with a radically different philosophy and style that didn’t match the roster, to more injuries, to fan dissatisfaction, to Kobe Bryant blowing out his Achilles, it was all building to this ugly sweep by the Spurs. The question now is how do the Lakers spend their summer vacation? What steps do they take to become the contenders they thought they were back in October. Here are five suggestions.

From Dave McMenamin, ESPN LA: Just before 1 a.m. on Monday morning, a few hours after leaving Staples Center following the Los Angeles Lakers’ season-ending loss to the San Antonio Spurs, Dwight Howard addressed his murky future with the team. “I hope I get the chance to make it up to you! Thank u la,” Howard posted on Twitter. Whether that means Howard will indeed sign a five-year, $118 million contract extension when he becomes a free agent come July 1 and remain a Laker remains to be seen. Howard will be able to explain what he meant by the tweet when he addresses the media following his exit interview with Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak on Tuesday, much like some of his teammates did Monday, including Metta World Peace, who said too much was put on Howard’s shoulders this season. “I think we put a little too much pressure on Dwight and as responsible leaders, we gave him a little too much responsibility,” said World Peace.

From Kelly Dwyer, Yahoo Sports: In terms of overall word count, the NBA blogosphere probably broke the all-time record this season when it came to the 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers. It’s true that the 2010-11 Miami Heat, fresh off of LeBron James’ annoying “Decision,” really turned on the content providers, but something about this collection of stars hit home with both writers and readers. It certainly hit home with me. The chance for the two greatest guards of their respective generation to mix with the NBA’s best center and most versatile big man had me salivating last summer. I didn’t appreciate Los Angeles’ borderline-cruel great timing as they seemingly fleeced both Orlando and Phoenix into acquiring the services of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. Even with the caveats – age, health, the presence of Mike Brown on Los Angeles’ sideline – I assumed that an 82-game season would last long enough for the Lakers to figure it all out and start to find their groove just as they hit the postseason.

From Mark Heisler, Lakers Nation: Has this been a great season in Lakerdom, or what? Of course, even the most zealous Laker fans knows they may not make the Finals… or the conference finals… or the conference semifinals. Okay, there’s still a chance they won’t even make the playoffs — but who could ask for more? Yeah, yeah, I know, titles, banners….Hey, how fat a cat do you have to be to lament the failure to win their sixth title of the New Millenium — or twice as many as other team — and fail to appreciate what they have salvaged out of this car wreck, despite setback after setback and through recrimination after recrimination (It’s Jim Buss! It’s Mike D’Antoni! Kobe Bryant shoots too much! And what’s with this Dwight Howard guy?)

From Mike Bresnahan, LA Times: The Lakers have redefined unpredictability this season, touching too many lows to count despite an egregiously large $100-million payroll. But a basketball break bounced in their direction Monday, the Houston Rockets somehow losing to Phoenix, meaning the Lakers would finish seventh in the Western Conference if they beat the Rockets on Wednesday at Staples Center. The Lakers (44-37) trail Houston by a game but can even up the head-to-head tiebreaker at 2-2 with a victory Wednesday and simultaneously win the next tiebreaker because of a better conference mark. If the Lakers finish seventh, their first-round opponent would be San Antonio, the team they just beat Sunday, 91-86. If they finish eighth, they open the playoffs at top-seeded Oklahoma City, where they’ve lost six in a row, including an 0-3 mark in last season’s playoffs.

From Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk: Some people — and yesterday that group included some national television NBA pundits — will not let facts get in the way of some good speculation. Any word leaked out of Dwight Howard’s camp has always been that he would stay a Laker. But that hasn’t stopped some people from speculating he might go to Houston or Cleveland (even though his already damaged image would take another hit as he would be seen as running away from the team of Kareem and Mikan and Wilt). Now comes another report — this from the well-connected Sam Amick of the USA Today — that Howard is not going anywhere.

From Michael Jones, Yahoo Sports: Kobe Bryant isn’t going to fade away into oblivion in the wake of his disastrous Achilles tendon injury, but theLos Angeles Lakers will have to move on without him at some point. That’s why during the Lakers’ last two games sans The Black Mamba, all eyes will be on Dwight Howard to see how he fares as the team’s focal point, which he will eventually be, assuming he re-signs with L.A. this summer when he becomes a free agent. He passed his first major test with flying colors on Sunday night at Staples Center by pouring in 26 points and grabbing 17 rebounds to go along with three blocks and two steals while leading the Lakers past the always-dangerous San Antonio Spurs, 91-86, in a game they had to have. Despite a poor 8-for-17 mark from the free throw line, he looked every bit like a player who could anchor a franchise.

From Ben R, Silver Screen & Roll: As has been widely noted in the wake of Kobe Bryant’s injury, the team had two paths to take: they could wilt without their fearless leader and give in for the rest of a lost season, or come together with greater cohesiveness and increase their effort down the stretch. Thankfully, they chose the latter path and even though the Spurs played a remarkably poor game, Tony Parker in particular, the Lakers did what they needed to do in order to eke out a victory over a very good team. Even if everyone wasn’t on the same page defensively, you had people aggressively running out on shooters and doing their best in help responsibilities, things that have definitely not been very consistent this year. And even as the absence of Steve Nash and Kobe were felt on offense as the Lakers tried an awkward, post-up heavy system, the Lakers’ role players stepped up and responded to expectations. It probably doesn’t change the calculus of this season or their eventual fate, but for once, the moral victory in the team finally looking like a team is one we can take comfort in despite the sour taste from Kobe’s absence.

From C.A. Clark, Silver Screen & Roll: With the playoffs approaching, and the Los Angeles Lakers looking more and more likely to be an active participant after all, sportswriters the world over will soon be attempting to distill all the complexities of a match-up between two teams and 16-20 players into just a few paragraphs. One of the most used gimmicks is to define an X-factor for each team, the guy who isn’t a star, yet still holds the power to make or break his squad’s chances. The choices for this often feel shoehorned, because while the gimmick can be accurate, it often fails in its application to all situations. If, however, the Lakers do sneak in to the back end of the Western Conference playoffs, no shoehorning will be required, because the Lakers have one hell of an X-factor.

From Ramona Shelburne, ESPN Los Angeles: But no, the Lakers are not a better team without Bryant. They are a better team now because they’ve learned how to cope with adversity throughout this star-crossed season. They are a better team now because that adversity seems to have brought them closer together, instead of ripping them apart. They are a better team now because it finally got so embarrassing and humbling, they flat out had to change. “We’re just not making any excuses,” said Jamison, who finished with a game-high 27 points Sunday. “I think once we finally had our back up against the wall and people were counting us out, that’s when we kind of went, ‘OK, we’ve got to start playing better.’ There’s no excuse for us not to turn this thing around and make it one of the best stories in sports.'” They also looked around the room and realized that even without Bryant and Pau Gasol, they had more talent still standing and playing than most of the NBA.

From Kevin Ding, OC Register: Kobe Bryant sat out because of his ankle sprain, opening the door for Dwight Howard to lead the Lakers for the first time. And Howard knew to lead his way instead of trying to lead Bryant’s way. Howard stuck to defense and rebounding principles that have keyed the Lakers’ late-season surge and didn’t try to overdo his individual offense to fill Bryant’s void. The result was a nice team victory Sunday night over the Sacramento Kings, 113-102. The 36-32 Lakers are four games better than .500 for the first time this season. “For me,” Howard said afterward, “it starts on defense.” Bryant didn’t even appear on the bench during the game to do any coaching, but reserves Antawn Jamison (27 points, nine rebounds) and Steve Blake (16 points, eight assists, five rebounds) converted the additional opportunities they got without Bryant and with good Lakers ball movement.

From Eric Pincus, LA Times: The Lakers defended their home court on Sunday night despite playing without Kobe Bryant, defeating the Sacramento Kings, 113-102. In one of his best games of the season, reserve forward Antawn Jamison scored a game-high 27 points and had nine rebounds for the Lakers, who used a seven-man rotation. Metta World Peace added 22 points for the Lakers, who shot 56.9% from the field.  Both Dwight Howard and Steve Nash notched a double-double; Howard finishing with 12 points and 17 rebounds and  Nash contributing 19 points and 12 assists. The Kings, playing without center DeMarcus Cousins, went on a 10-0 run in the fourth quarter to close the deficit to two points, 90-88.  The Lakers immediately responded with 12 unanswered points to re-establish a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

From Dave McMenamin, ESPN LA: Injuries have been the story of the Los Angeles Lakers’ season as much as anything, from Dwight Howard’s back and shoulder to Pau Gasol’s knees and foot to Jordan Hill’s hip, Steve Nash’s leg, Steve Blake’s groin and now Kobe Bryant’s ankle. And there was another injury that went unreported and hampered L.A., as well. After scoring 22 points on 10-for-13 shooting against the Sacramento Kings on Sunday, Metta World Peace revealed he had been playing through a right leg injury for more than two months. “I popped something in my fibula, but it didn’t tear,” World Peace said, saying he suffered the injury when the Lakers hosted the Oklahoma City Thunder on Jan. 11. World Peace said he took a charge on San Antonio’s Tiago Splitter on Jan. 9 and got kneed in the pelvic region, which led to the leg injury in his next game. “Messed up my alignment,” World Peace said. “Most injuries come from when your pelvis is not aligned. People don’t know that.” The injury, combined with an injury to his right arm around the same time that made it difficult to bend his elbow, prevented him from doing his normal in-season weight lifting routine.

From Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk:  Kobe Bryant tried to play on his sprained ankle Friday night, because he’s Kobe. But that led to 12 minutes of playing, 0-4 shooting as he had no elevation or separation from defenders, and then the next morning his ankle was worse. So he sat out Sunday night, a Lakers win over the Kings at home. And he’s not likely to suit up Monday night when the Lakers are in Phoenix, reports Kevin Ding at the Orange County Register.

From Ramona Shelburne, ESPN LA: Those who have been waiting to see what Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni’s high-octane offense looks like finally saw it Monday night. Too bad it was the Denver Nuggets playing it. All that great spacing and shooting and scoring D’Antoni’s teams have become known for over the years … yeah, that was George Karl’s Nuggets running the Lakers off the court in a 119-108 win Monday night.”They’re good,” D’Antoni said. “They spread you out and they shoot a high percentage. “We just couldn’t catch ‘em.”D’Antoni was glum after the loss, but not unusually so. That wistful, pining, ”If they could only see what I see?” quality he carried around with him during the first few months of his tenure on the Lakers bench is gone now. He’s either squashed it for good or put it in a place where it doesn’t bother him as much.

From Kevin Ding, OC Register:  Big picture, the Lakers have still gone 11-5 since the day of their clear-the-air team meeting in Memphis. But the feel-good sentiments were contrasted Monday night by some ongoing cold – or should that be “old”? – realities for this Lakers team. The Lakers were as slow as ever in letting the Denver Nuggets blow by them. Final score: Denver 119, Los Angeles 108. Fast-break points? Denver 33, Los Angeles 3. “Man,” Kobe Bryant said, “that’s a killer.” The Lakers are last in the NBA in points allowed per game off turnovers, and that’s just how Denver took control of this game – also running off Bryant’s early missed shots. The Nuggets kept control with Dwight Howard shooting 3-for-14 on free throws and Bryant’s individual defensive effort lacking even as he rediscovered his shooting stroke.

From Actuarially Sound, Silver Screen & Roll:  Three days ago Kobe Bryant told Sports Illustrated: “It’s not a question of if we make the playoffs. We will, And when we get there, I have no fear of anyone.” Kobe Bryant’s other-wordly competitiveness never allows him to admit defeat until defeat is certain. You see, Kobe Bryant has conquered so many seemingly insurmountable obstacles that he views every challenge, no matter how long the odds, as still being possible. It is this supreme confidence in his ability to win and his strong desire not to lose that allows him to make such bold predictions that he himself truly believes in, even when no one else does. It was only two seasons ago that the Lakers found themselves down 3-0 to Dallas Mavericks in the playoffs and in the post-game interviews Kobe provided the following insight into his mentality: “I don’t know, I might be sick in the head or crazy or thrown off or something like that because I still think we’re going to win this series.” The fat lady had yet to sing and Kobe felt absolute confidence, bordering on self-admitted insanity, that he could permanently shut the fat lady up like he has every critic who ever doubted his ability. We all know what happened, though. The Lakers went on to lose the next game by 36 points. Series lost. Season over.

From Mike Bresnahan, LA Times: It’s been awhile since Dwight Howard’s free-throw shooting became a headline. It happened Monday. He made three of 14 from the line in the Lakers’ 119-108 loss to the Denver Nuggets, a woeful 21%. He actually made his first two, so you can imagine what happened from there. Everyone knows Howard will never win any free-throw contests. The carnival workers won’t be handing out any stuffed animals when he steps up to the basketball booth and opens his wallet. But three for 14 tied his worst of the season when he’s had more than 10 attempts. He was also three for 14 in the season opener against Dallas. “I can’t get down on myself,” Howard said. “For the most part, the same form and everything was straight. Some were just long. I’ve just got to continue to practice and they’ll start falling. But I’m not going to get discouraged. I’m going to beat this.” The Lakers made only 14 of 31 as a team (45%).

From Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk:  Kobe Bryant was right, the league has rescinded Kobe’s technical from Monday night. Kobe was complaining about not getting a call (shocking!) right at the end of the half on a half-court heave. You don’t get that call unless someone goes Jadeveon Clowney in tackling the shooter. But it wasn’t the ref Kobe was talking to that made the call, it was Joey Crawford running in from the other side. In a very Joey Crawford way. The league understands so they rescinded the tech. That leaves Kobe at 13, still just three off being suspended for a game.