From Kevin Ding, OC Register: A year from now, Brian Shaw probably won’t get to vacation in Cabo in relative anonymity anymore. Shaw figures to be the new head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, perhaps the three-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. So well aware of that is he that Shaw is lying low as best as he can these days, determined not to bring extra attention to himself as one of the biggest winners of this tumultuous NBA offseason. Shaw could’ve become head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers but had the restraint to insist on a timetable to ensure the job would not be a glorified janitorial position: cleaning up the mess LeBron James left.
From Mark Medina, LA Times: The U.S. easily defeated Greece, 87-59, in Athens on Wednesday in the team’s last tuneup before the FIBA World Championship starts on Saturday in Turkey. Lamar Odom, the only Laker on the USA squad, started and was active enough on the defensive end of the floor. In 18 minutes he got four steals and three boards. But on offensive Odom basically vanished; he didn’t score and took only one shot. Clippers guard Eric Gordon, who came off the bench, led the U.S. with 18 points. The U.S. opens against Croatia on Saturday.
From Mark Medina, LA Times: Now that Kobe Bryant’s turned 32, how much of a decline can we expect in his game over the next few seasons? The only player to compare Bryant’s 30-something performance with, of course, is Michael Jordan. But it’s not a simple comparison because by the age of 32 MJ had been retired for almost two seasons while he tried, and failed, to make it as a pro baseball player. So, when Jordan returned to the Chicago Bulls late in the 94-95 season—at 32—he’d played only 778 NBA regular season and playoff games. By comparison, Kobe Bryant has already played a whopping 1,219 games, 57% more than Jordan at the same age. Kobe is clearly the NBA version of a Ferrari with high mileage.
From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: It’s not that Lamar Odom played poorly last season, because he didn’t. Some of his numbers (scoring, field goal percentage) went down, others (rebounding, assists) went up. Looking at the advanced metrics, it’s the same story. Some fall and others (particularly his percentages on the glass) rise. The full picture, particularly since it ended in a ring, was hardly some sort of unmitigated disaster. At the same time, relative to the ’08-’09 campaign, Odom didn’t have the same impact. While people tend to harp too much on inconsistencies in Odom’s output- he’s hardly the only player whose production fluctuates and finding another guy around the league whose role changes from night to night more than his- his playoffs, and particularly the Finals, were a very mixed bag.
From Biran Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: If a couple years back Mitch Kupchak had found only a secondary scorer to pair with Kobe Bryant, the Lakers would have benefited. He did, of course, but in trading for Pau Gasol, Kupchak landed not only a guy who scores with great efficiency from multiple spots, but has a skill set tailored perfectly for the triangle, specifically the ability to see the floor (from a nice high vantage point at seven feet tall) and pass like a guard. Gasol’s vision and understanding of the best place to move the ball opens up scoring lanes for teammates in ways similar to Bryant’s ability to make baskets from anywhere past the halfcourt stripe. A one-dimensional scorer along side Kobe wouldn’t have elevated L.A. to consecutive titles and three straight trips to the Finals.
From Jamie Canterbury, DIME Magazine: Today is the Kobe Bryant’s 32nd birthday. Growing old? Not quite. At 32, Bryant is arguably the NBA’s best player, and according to some, not far from MJ on the list of greatest ever. The 14-year veteran has been a 12-time All-Star, 10-time All-Defensive Team selection, 12-time All-NBA selection, has earned five NBA championship rings, one Olympic gold medal, one league MVP, two scoring titles, one slam dunk title, is the L.A. Lakers’ all-time leading scorer, and recorded the League’s second-highest scoring single game when he dropped 81 points on the Toronto Raptors in January 2006. This adds up to the best career of any current player in the league. The scary part about all of this is that Kobe’s still adding on to that list. At 32 years young, it seems as if Bryant is fueled to win now more than ever. His desire to patent his legacy as one of the greatest to ever hit the hardwood is growing each day. As we reflect on Bryant’s career, we predict where some of the NBA’s younger superstars will be at the 32-year mark.
From Bethlehem Shoals and Tom Ziller, NBA Fanhouse: The official line is that Rajon Rondo left Team USA to deal with family issues. He did recently fly from New York to Kentucky for an uncle’s funeral, and it’s hardly our business to guess at anyone’s grief. These things take time. Yet there are reasons to believe that Rondo withdrew to save face, or was pushed as much as he jumped. It’s purely circumstantial at this point. But in what’s effectively an off-year for USA Basketball, did this team really want Rajon Rondo? The question isn’t whether it needs him. Maybe he’s no Kevin Durant, but Rondo was one of the few elite players to show up. Nor will his spot go to a quality big man, something this team could probably use. The other most likely casualty was Stephen Curry — who with all due respect, isn’t an All-Star with a ring and several near-legendary playoff performances to his name.
From Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk: Carlos Boozer is one of those guys shifting the power in the East. He has gone from a loaded Jazz team that couldn’t quite get past the Lakers in the West to a loaded Bulls team that nobody thinks can get past Boston or Miami in the East. Boozer doesn’t see it that way; he thinks the Bulls are in the mix, as he told Dime Magazine. Boston represented the East last year and I think until somebody beats them in the Playoffs, they’re going to be the team to beat. You know, I think two years ago with Orlando representing the East and then last year with Boston … In my opinion, those four or five teams that I just talked about will be in competition for that top spot. I think Boston, us, Miami, the Hawks (and Orlando) will be right there in the mix for that top spot. But who gets it, we’ll have to wait and see.
From Trey Kerby, Ball Don’t Lie: Yep, that’s the one and only Yao Ming sweating to the oldies in his first public workout since breaking his left foot into a million little pieces — no James Frey. And while it’s good to see Yao moving, still having a soft jumper, and with his sense of humor intact, the really good stuff is that Yao has been cleared for all basketball activities by the Rockets team doctor and he’s expecting to play in the team opener. Get your smiles ready because there’s a happy-making Associated Press blockquote only a split-second away.