Archives For Kobe Bryant

From “Basketball Reasons”, Silver Screen & RollIs it time to panic? No wins, six losses, even with Dwight playing 33 minutes?! No, so go ahead and keep your Lakers flags flying on your cars. This is preseason, and the beginning of a very long journey for both the Lakers roster and the coaching staff. Through the first half of preseason Mike Brown was steadily playing lineups where Ronnie Aguilar and Reeves Nelson were featured players, so yes, there were many losses to be had. Quite frankly, the preseason is for the coaches and players to rediscover their identities, and this is a team that has plenty of searching to do with Steve Nash taking over as floor general, a widely new bench, and Dwight Howard having played only one game. Is it discouraging to not have a W in the left column yet? Yeah, sure. But there is good to be found in the Lakers preseason, and growth as a team is far more important than wins that mean nothing. 

From Mark Medina, LA Daily NewsA day removed from his first basketball game in six months, and Dwight Howard’s already focused on how to improve. Though he’s fully rehabbed from back surgery, Howard described his entire body as “pretty sore” and planned to receive treatment immediately following Monday’s practice at the team’s facility in El Segundo. “They said my back is going to ache,” Howard said of the team’s training staff. Following the Lakers’ 99-92 preseason loss Sunday to the Sacramento Kings, Howard graded himself a B after posting 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting, 12 rebounds and four blocks in 33 minutes. That’s because he committed five of the team’s 22 turnovers, shot 3 of 8 from the free-throw line and admitted rustiness.

From Dave McMenamin, ESPN Los AngelesDwight Howard had a big smile on his face a day after making his debut for the Los Angeles Lakers, but he still feels the sting of how things ended in Orlando when he thinks about his trophy shelf. Howard was recognized as the best defender in the league as well as the best interior defender when NBA.com announced the results of its annual survey of the league’s 30 general managers Monday, but Howard still wants to know why he isn’t the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. “I thought I should have won it last year, to be honest with you,” Howard told reporters after practice Monday. “I was a little bit upset about that.”

From Kevin Ding, OC Register: Who is Jim Buss? Not the next Jerry Buss or Jerry West or Mitch Kupchak. He is his own man with his own ways – preferring to analyze his way through a life that outsiders might assume has been fed to him via purple and golden spoon, figuring out which can of food was the best deal per ounce before anyone ever stuck it on those supermarket price labels, contributing to the Lakers’ success with his statistical analysis that he summarizes with confidence: “I use a system that has proven to be right.” Buss, who turns 53 next month, sat down for an exclusive interview with The Register as the Lakers prepare for their latest run toward an NBA title. ”I’ve felt the last two years, we had a chance to win the championship,” Buss said. “Adding two Hall of Famers, basically, to this squad? To me, you kind of erase that ‘we’re taking steps’ idea. We’re here. Do what we’re supposed to do.”

From Eric Pincus, Los Angeles TimesThe general managers have spoken. The results of the annual general managers survey were released by John Schuhmann of NBA.com, and naturally the Lakers were heavily featured. Will the Lakers win the 2013 NBA Finals?  According to 70% of the general managers who responded, the answer was a resounding “no”  (they picked the Miami Heat). The Lakers did come in second, with 23.3%. The majority  (60%) agreed that the Lakers would return to the NBA Finals after a two-year absence.  The Oklahoma City Thunder received 36.7% of the vote.

From Janis Carr, OC RegisterDwight Howard was sore “all over” after playing his first game in 197 days Sunday, but he reported no lingering pain in his surgically repaired back. Steve Nash said his ankle, which he twisted Sunday, was pain free, too. That was the good news coming out of Monday’s Lakers practice, less than 24 hours after the team finally debuted its projected starting five. The downside? Kobe Bryant sat out practice because of a strained and bruised right foot, and Metta World Peace took part in noncontact drills only wearing a splint protecting the middle finger on his right hand. Both players suffered the injuries in Sunday’s exhibition loss to Sacramento.

-Ryan Cole

From Ramona Shelburne, ESPN Los AngelesDwight Howard had no idea how good he had it as he left Staples Center late Saturday night. ”Day off tomorrow!” he said happily as he left the arena. After a long week of practice, three exhibition games, plus travel to Fresno and Ontario, it wasn’t surprising the Lakers would take Sunday off before starting a week in which they’ll practice every day, play three more exhibition games and travel to Anaheim and Las Vegas. It wasn’t surprising unless of course you spent any time around the team during Mike Brown’s first season as head coach. During the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season, the Lakers worked 19 straight days from the time training camp started on December 9, finally taking a day off on December 28 after opening the regular season with back-to-back-to-back games. Things didn’t get much easier from there, as Brown earned the nickname “All day, every day” from his players, many of whom chafed at the coach’s hard-driving style.

From Mark Medina, LA TimesOne key Lakers veteran has high expectations for something that hardly warranted praise in recent seasons. “I feel we can be one of the most dangerous benches in the league,” said Antawn Jamison. Despite the “Bench Mob” and “Killer Bees” nicknames in recent seasons, few would describe that unit in Jamison’s terms. Last season, the Lakers finished last in points (20.5), 28th in efficiency (27.2), 20th in shooting percentage (41.7%) and 28th in point differential (9.4). Coach Mike Brown played musical chairs in the bench rotation in hopes he’d find a sudden surprise. Even with Lamar Odom falling off the deep end in Dallas, his absence created an irreplaceable void as the team’s bench leader. The Lakers have made changes this off-season to address those problems. They added dependable secondary scoring (Jamison) and outside shooting (Jodie Meeks). They kept young talent (Devin Ebanks) and sudden surprises (Jordan Hill).

From Trevor Wong, Lakers.comA year ago, Metta World Peace conceded he was out of shape. His shot was off, he seemed to be a step slow defensively and his entire game was affected. “The lockout hurt me a lot, because last season going into the playoffs I had a nerve issue in my back,” he explained during his exit interview in May. “Once the lockout happened I wasn’t able to address it so all I could do was rest. It took me 2-3 months to get in shape.” During the first half of last season, World Peace shot only 33.5 percent from the field and 23.9 percent from the 3-point line, while averaging just 4.9 points.

From Brian Kamenetzky, ESPN Los AngelesKobe knows exactly how he prioritizes that sort of thing relative to winning. Over the course of now 17 seasons in L.A., the demands on Kobe as a leader have changed. Earlier in his career, Bryant’s role wasn’t as expansive. He didn’t so much lead (not in the way we traditionally think of the word, at least) as get out front in a very competitive environment and drag guys with him through will, stubbornness, and on-floor talent. In time, though, as more has been required Bryant has adjusted. He’s softened the edges, grown less insular, and learned you can’t be that guy all the time and expect people to follow. There is greater depth to his leadership, and never does he demand levels of hard work he’s himself unwilling to meet.

From Marc Stein, ESPN.comImportant update to our weekend report regarding the prospect of a return to the Los Angeles Lakers for veteran guard Derek Fisher. Sources briefed on the discussions told ESPN.com on Monday that Fisher has, indeed, been verified by the league office as eligible to re-sign with the Lakers since July 1, which runs counter to the widely held assumption that Fisher had to wait at least one year from the date that the Lakers dealt him to Houston in March before a reunion with Kobe Bryant would be permissible.

From Mike Trudell, Lakers.comLakers reserve forward Earl Clark strained his left groin and is out indefinitely. Clark, acquired in the Dwight Howard trade with Orlando, has played solid defense in training camp but is not expected to be in the regular bench rotation. In the regular season, the Lakers will most likely have Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol play center for the second unit, with Jordan Hill and Antawn Jamison getting the power forward minutes.

-Ryan Cole

Box Score: Lakers 107, Hornets 101
Offensive Efficiency: Lakers 117.6, Hornets 111.0
True Shooting %: Lakers 59.6%, Hornets 57.5%

Lakers go into the tail end of a back-to-back with TIRED legs. They played a double overtime game against Memphis the night before. But no rest for these weary Lakers.

THE GOOD
After a bit of a slow start (well, for most of these Lakers), Kobe Bryant looked like he had control out there. Kobe finished with 33 points, 4 rebounds, and 5 assists. He was key in that 14-4 run in the 3rd quarter after the Hornets had them down as many as 17 points (for the second consecutive night, the Lakers had to overcome a 17-point deficit on the road). Kobe made some pretty big plays down the stretch. Of course, there were the three freethrows he made to send the game to overtime. And then he made a pretty big throwdown (and the foul) for a three-point play at the start of overtime. And, of course, the two freethrows to put the game away. Sure, he could shoot better than 10 for 23 from the field (but PERFECT in his 11 foul shots) but he, like the rest of the Lakers, never panicked.

And you shouldn’t panic when you have an All-Star center like Andrew Bynum. Darius calls him Altered Beast (I’m sure you guys remember that game, right? No? We must be old then.). This monster finished with 25 points and 18 rebounds (following a fantastic 37/16 effort the night before). Those alley-oops upside your heads from Pau Gasol have become a Laker signature play. I also love that the Lakers now trust him to do damage in the final few minutes of a game. And did you see his quick moves around the basket? Particularly that spin and reverse lay-up against Chris Kaman? I have never seen him move this fast… ever. I wonder which Laker fans want to trade him now after these showings.

Metta World Peace has impeccable timing when it comes to making big plays. He made a 3-pointer late in the 4th quarter. He had an incredible inbounds pass to Kobe for a shot that would’ve won at regulation. In OT, he passed it to an open Derek Fisher that put the Lakers ahead for good. Then he followed it up with a steal and a lay-up that put them up three. Finally, he blocked Chris Kaman near the end of the game when Hornets were desperate for a score. Metta didn’t have incredible statistics (7 points and 3 assists) but he just has that big play ability when you least expect it. You would think his hands were like E. Honda’s 100-Hand Slap from Street Fighter the way he gets his hands on the basketball.

Pau Gasol finished with another double double (18 points and 10 rebounds). Derek Fisher (11 points) hit some big shots. And Matt Barnes finished with 10 points.

The Lakers finished with 24 assists so I really like that they trust each other out there on the court. After a slow start, the Lakers outboarded the Hornets, 44-34 (11-5 on the offensive end). And they really bore down defensively in the 2nd half. L.A held N’Awlins to 16 points (8/19 shooting) in the 3rd quarter. Not counting OT, the Hornets only scored 39 points in the 3rd and 4th quarters combined.

Somehow, the Lakers found their Gummi Berry Juice in that second half.

THE BAD
You can definitely tell the Lakers looked tired early. The Hornets shot above 60 percent in the first half and put the Lakers in a double digit hole. And the reason why Laker fans are clamoring for more point guard help? In the first half, Jarrett Jack made his first 8 shots (his ninth was a 3-pointer that missed) and back-up Greivis Vasquez made his first four. Jarrett Jack eventually finished with 30 points (even though it did get tougher for him in the 2nd half) with Vasquez chipping in 15. So when your opposing PGs score 45 on you, well… you either find a new PG or quit life (no, I’m kidding but…).

It was really mostly in the first half that the Hornets looked like worldbeaters but Chris Kaman was getting into the paint easily (13 of his 21 in the first two quarters). It’s like my 5’7″ self was guarding him. It was a combination of the Hornets taking advantage of the tired Laker legs and making nearly everything from the perimeter. So in a way, it was a bit encouraging that we knew the Hornets weren’t likely going to keep that pace up. Going into this game, the Hornets were averaging a whopping 88.2 points per game (good for 29th in the league).

The bench finished with 13 points (10 from Barnes, 3 from Steve Blake). And Mike Brown went back to Jason Kapono again instead of Andrew Goudelock. So what did Jason Kapono do again in this game?

I’ll wait.

THE UGLY
Once again, this seems like a product of tired legs in the first half… but the Lakers turned the ball over 19 times. 12 giveaways in the first half and 8 of those came from the second quarter.

But it, at least, made for an awesome comeback in the second half, right? What? You don’t like come-from-behind victories as opposed to Laker blowout wins? Sorry. Neither do I, actually, when it comes to these Lakers.

THE PLAY OF THE GAME
So much to pick from. I can pick from one of the Pau/Drew alley-oops. Or Kobe throwing it down like he’s 21 again. Or Andrew Bynum packing the hell out of Jeff Foote’s (who?) hook shot. But I’ll give it to big-play Ron Artest, er, Metta World Peace with the steal and the breakaway lay-up that put the Lakers up 3 in OT. I can’t say enough on how he’s been coming through as of late. Metta has to think that every game from here on out is a big game.

The Lakers go back to the very comfortable Staples Center, where they’ve only had 2 blemishes in 20 contests. They have the Ricky Rubio-less Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday. Still, these guys are fighting for a playoff spot and Kevin Love isn’t exactly a chicken sandwich. It should be another hard-fought battle at Staples.

Two personal notes from me. 1) I can’t wait for Thursday to be done. I mostly hate (kinda like) the trade deadline so I’ll be glad when that’s over with. And 2) the last six games I was scheduled to do recap duty here, the Lakers won. I’m jinxing myself now, aren’t I? I’ll just shut up about this.

By Friday, we may have some new pieces! Let’s see what happens next!

Lakers are now only two games behind #2 San Antonio. The Lakers face the Spurs three times in April.

Box Score: Lakers 111, Suns 99
Offensive Efficiency: Lakers 106.7, Suns 95.2
True Shooting %: Lakers 62.9%, Suns 53.3%

It is always fun to watch Steve Nash play. Too bad, the Suns haven’t been as talented as in years past. But, of course, that’s also good news for Laker fans for that it’s an “easier” game for L.A.

THE GOOD
Kobe Bean Bryant. 36 points (18 in the 3rd!), 9 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals. 14/25 shooting. Efficient!

Kobe took what the Suns defense gave him and capitalized. The Suns couldn’t stop him. Grant Hill? Jared Dudley? Shannon Brown? No problem. Kobe brought it all out. Left-handed hook shots. Midrange jumpers. Three-pointer on the break. Reverse lay-ups. And the great thing about this? It was all within the flow of the offense.

The ball movement was crisp (26 assists) in today’s game (yes, I get that Phoenix is not a defensive juggernaut), even if it got a little sloppy at times. But, at least, the idea was there to keep the ball moving (I saw cutting! Amazing!). The Lakers were decidedly more patient today and got away with good shots more often than not. As a result of all of this, the Lakers finished with 111 points in tonight’s game, a season high. It is their fourth time hitting 100 (in 30 games) but we hope to see more of this kind of offense from the Lakers. Like I said, it may have been against the Suns… but practice makes perfect and, hopefully, they can do this against tougher defensive squads.

Yes, the big guys (Bynum with 17 and 14) got theirs but it was SO nice to see the Laker bench do something good for a change. Matt Barnes scored a season-high 17 points and snatched 7 caroms. The Laker bench scored 34 points overall and they looked very confident in the second quarter when they sparked an 11-0 run.

The Lakers easily killed the Suns on the boards, 52-36. And the Lakers were better in their shot selection. They only put up 11 three-pointers but they made 5 of them.

This is easily the best I’ve seen the Lakers offense this season (even if they did have a bit of a lull in the fourth quarter). Every player on the court usually touched the basketball in possessions. They attacked the inside with much gusto tonight (whether it’s the bigs bullying or Kobe making his way through… season-high 54 points in the paint!).

The Suns had a hard time scoring in the 3rd, even though they scored 25 points. They missed eight straight shots (mostly jumpshots) as the Lakers packed it in the paint in a key 14-0 3rd quarter run (Suns didn’t score for nearly five minutes). Good to see them give Phoenix a hard time on the defensive end (they also subdued Steve Nash’s scoring: 11 points… even though he did get 17 assists). Most importantly, fans in Staples Center got tacos and Internet L.A. got virtual tacos!

THE BAD
Pau Gasol looked like a sad panda out there. Gasol couldn’t get anything going in the offense and was even missing bunnies out there. He still got his eighth consecutive double double but he got his last few points (he finished with 10 points and 13 boards) when the game was pretty much decided. Gasol looked weary for the most part and I wonder if the trade rumors are starting to take a toll on him.

I would definitely like to see better pick-and-roll play. Our fearless leader, Darius, brought up the fact that the guards are giving up their dribble too early on the pick-and-roll. It pretty much stops the offense and it gives the defense a chance to swarm on the guards.

We saw some of that in the fourth quarter and the Lakers, notorious for blowing leads, gave up a 20-point lead that they built in the 3rd quarter. The Suns managed to cut it down to 5 (with a spectacular Shannon Brown putback slam… hey, remember him?!) before the starters came back to put away the mess. As much as the bench played well, they can’t give up big leads like this. They looked more hesitant in the fourth quarter, quite the opposite from what we saw in the second quarter. Put it away next time, bench, since the starters need as much as rest as they can in this compressed season.

Before the Suns hit that wall in the 3rd quarter, the Lakers couldn’t stop Marcin Gortat. Gortat eventually ended up with 21 points and 16 rebounds but he was less effective in the second half (he had 14 by halftime).

Also, Shannon Brown exploded for 15 points in limited time. I’m sure the Lakers miss his production. Even if he took questionable shots. Right? No? Let’s move on.

THE UGLY
Lakers had 19 turnovers (Suns had 17). Most of this sloppiness occurred in the first half. Steve Blake threw some careless passes. Andrew Bynum still doesn’t seem to know what to do when he draws a two-team. At least, it was against the Suns… and a helter-skelter Suns team at that. Can’t do that against a disciplined team like the Spurs or the Bulls.

Also, I happen to like Metta World Peace personally but that fastbreak where he missed two lay-ups (including a… no-look shot)? Yeah. Ugly. But it made me laugh. Never change, World Peace.

THE PLAY OF THE GAME
It was very early in the first quarter where everybody (well, at least, four players) touched the ball that ended with an Andrew Bynum alley-oop lay-up from a nice pass by Pau Gasol. That was such beautiful basketball that I KNOW we’re capable of seeing from the Lakers. Ball movement is good! Keep it up!

The Lakers and Suns have a rematch on Sunday but this time around, they’ll be in enemy territory. The Lakers have now won three straight and I’m a little bit encouraged, guys! Hopefully, they can keep it rolling as they have a pretty tough schedule before All-Star Weekend.

Why can’t the Lakers play Phoenix every game for the rest of the season? Or ’til the world ends (I ALMOST inserted Britney Spears lyrics here; good thing that I didn’t)?

Box Score: Lakers 85, Knicks 92
Offensive Efficiency: Lakers 90.4, Knicks 97.9
True Shooting %: Lakers 50.0%, Knicks 54.5%

The Good:
I’m trying here, guys.

There were just a few stretches where you could say, “Okay, maybe the Lakers are going to be okay.” Pau Gasol (16 points) had a nice second quarter with 8 points but he got in foul trouble early in the 3rd. In desperation, Kobe Bryant (34 points) is second to none in terms of trying to rally his team back one-on-five.

Off the bench, Matt Barnes played a quiet good game with 11 points (5 for 6 shooting) and 6 boards.

I’m just grasping on straws here, aren’t I?

The Bad:
The Lakers looked like a tired team that just played an overtime game the night before (wait a minute). The porous shooting continues. 37.5 percent for the game.

At one point in the 3rd quarter, the Knicks were playing sloppily and the Lakers didn’t take advantage. Derek Fisher kept shooting the worst shots (foot on the line). Andrew Bynum looked tired/lazy out there (maybe it was because of the Knicks defense… but he only ended up with 3 points). Kobe Bryant started out 1 for 11 (before finishing with 11 for 29). Metta World Peace was definitely not living up to his name as he lost his composure. The bench (other than Barnes) once again failed to give them that lift. Steve Blake did a decent job defending that Knick guard that I will talk about in a bit but he shot 2 for 11 (1 for 8 behind the arc).

The Lakers left the Knicks open behind the arc but they were lucky that the Knicks only shot 5 for 21.

The Lakers turned the ball over often early. They ended up with 17 giveaways in the game.

Okay. Maybe he was underestimated but no one thought (well, maybe his parents did) that Jeremy Lin would explode for 38 points. They did the right thing initially by letting him shoot jumpers and getting physical with him. But they never did try to get the ball out of his hands. The Knick offense looked a bit more discombobulated with Lin not on the floor. Maybe it was magic or maybe he really is that friggin’ good of a basketball player… but Jeremy Lin was spectacular against the Lakers (NOBODY could stop him!). It’s a wonderful story and, even though I root for the Lakers, it is so nice to see someone like Jeremy Lin beat the odds and play out of his mind after he got a chance. I just hated that he did it against the Lakers.

The Ugly:
The Lakers fouled 29 times in the game. That’s almost like a dead giveaway of tired legs or lazy defense. But they sure couldn’t stop Jeremy Lin from getting into the paint. That gave the Knicks 11 more freethrows than L.A. and the margin of victory would’ve been larger had the Knicks made their freethrows (21 for 34).

The Play Of The Game:
I seriously had to think about this one. Remember that the Lakers never led in the game.

I’m going to have to go with Kobe’s difficult turnaround against Landry Fields with 5:26 left in the third. That was his second field goal of the game and he would go on to make four of his next five shots that put the Lakers within reach.

Unfortunately, Kobe had little help once again and the Lakers fell short as they continue to Jekyll and Hyde through the season.

It really is hard to find a balance for this Laker team. It’s a catch-22. Sometimes, they need Kobe to score 45 in a game. But yet people will clamor for Kobe to pass the ball inside. Sometimes, they need the bigs to have the ball. But yet people will clamor for Kobe to shoot more. It’s a no-win situation unless they win the game.

The Lakers face the Raptors on Sunday afternoon. You know how well they do on Sunday afternoon games. For all I know, the Lakers will go .500 the rest of the way as they beat powerhouse teams like Oklahoma City and lose to weak teams like New Orleans.

In short, this season has been frustrating for the Lakers. But, of course, you already knew that.