From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: Dissecting Kobe Bryant’s game is basically a full time job for fans and media alike, and while he’s frequently described as efficient — darn near ruthless, actually — in the economy of his footwork, the speed at which he can dial up his offensive game or reach sweet spots around the court, Bryant isn’t necessarily viewed as an ultra-efficient scorer. Those finding fault more generally with his game call him a volume shooter, latching on to games like Dec. 28 in San Antonio as an example of how, when push comes to shove, he’ll always scuttle the offense. No question, from time to time it happens, but overall Kobe measures games very well. As a team the Lakers have assorted issues this season, but fundamentally don’t have a Kobe Problem. Not even close. Particularly right now.
From Mark Medina, LA Times: Time and again, Kobe Bryant’s expressions told the whole story. He clenched his teeth after nailing a contested jumper. He scolded and then encouraged Pau Gasol after bobbling a pass. He barked orders to Ron Artest on where to move within the offense. And he let out grunts as he attacked the rim with a verve that harks back to his young years. The Lakers’ 101-94 victory Monday night over the Oklahoma City Thunder featured Bryant scoring 21 points on seven-for-12 shooting, dishing out seven assists and hauling down five rebounds with a perfectly nuanced method. He forced Thunder defenders to take his outside shot seriously. He burned the OKC frontline for allowing him to drive the lane. He exploited mismatches by setting up various teammates, including Gasol (21 points), Lamar Odom (16 points), Derek Fisher (season-high 15 points), Andrew Bynum (10) and Artest (seven points).
From C. A. Clark, Silver Screen and Roll: The Kobe Bryant/Pau Gasol dynamic is about as well worn at this point as the tires from a stock car that ran the entire Daytona 500 without changing. On the one hand, you have Kobe Bryant who, despite his considerable greatness, will never be the most efficient player on the court, because a majority of the shots he takes are difficult looks. If basketball were like diving, with degree of difficulty playing a role in figuring out the final score, Kobe Bryant would easily be the best player in basketball history. Instead, a 20 foot turn-around step-back fade-away jump shot is worth the same two points as an uncontested layup.
From Dwain Price, Kansas City Star: It seemed just a short time ago that the Mavericks were 24-5 and in an all-out sprint with the San Antonio Spurs for the best record in the NBA. Now they’re stuck in neutral and on the verge of becoming the first Mavericks team to lose seven consecutive games since Mark Cuban bought the franchise Jan. 4, 2000. Not exactly a good time for the two-time defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers to make their first appearance at American Airlines Center. The Mavericks have lost nine of their last 11 games and can’t seem to get going. “For some reason, now it seems like it’s just got us snowballing and now we can’t stop it,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “We’ve got to all be on the same page and give a little bit more effort.
From Breene Murphy, Clippers Blog: With the jubilation in Clipperdom as fervent as it has been in a long time, murmurs of the impossible have created their own undercurrent. The record says 15-25, but those last 14 games weren’t a fluke, right? They were a progression meant to build upon and grow. Like Blake’s personal numbers, the team’s have only improved from month to month. October/November yielded a 3-16 record, December a 7-8 record and now, in January, a 5-2 record. And with the way the team has been playing, knocking off the Heat and the Lakers in the same week, it bears asking, can this team make the playoffs? Before you spit up your drink, take a second here. Both of Vinny’s Chicago teams were well outside of the playoff picture before finishing strong. Even Baron’s Golden State Warriors, a season after beating the Mavericks started 0-6 before righting themselves to win 48 games. And in this year’s West, 48 games isn’t needed. Strong finishes can happen.
From Kelly Dwyer, Ball Don’t Lie: We mean it. Don’t break our heart again, Baron Davis. It can’t handle it. There’s too much at stake. If you haven’t noticed, then you need to stop reading right now. Because if you haven’t been paying attention to the fabulous Los Angeles Clippers of late, then you have no business wasting your time on an NBA blog, reading paeans to Baron Davis. So, as you’ve no doubt noticed, Baron Davis has been beasting of late. Beasting relative to his terrible play to start the season, but beasting never the less. Since Christmas, Baron is averaging 14.6 points per game spread out over 10 contests. He’s only playing around 30 minutes a night, and shooting 46.5 percent from the floor, which is a killer mark for someone who has slogged his way to a 40.9 career percentage from the floor.
From Kelly Dwyer, Ball Don’t Lie: Every box score and play-by-play outlet recorded this, as directed by the Boston home scorers, as an assist for Rajon — when it was clearly an assist for Ray Allen. Actually, that’s not even true in the slightest. Allen made a nice pass to Shaquille O’Neal, who then pump faked, dribbled, turned over his other shoulder, pump faked, and scored on the weak side. It shouldn’t have even been an assist for Allen. And yet, somehow, Rajon got the dime. Now, this isn’t a huge deal. But this does warrant scrutiny, because this is the only part of the NBA landscape (outside of the often infuriating block/charge call) that is left solely up to discretion. Not to discredit these fabulous playmakers, but we’ve seen John Stockton, Chris Paul and Deron Williams all take in assists due to very liberal takes on what constitutes an assist from their home scorers. And, as we develop more and more eras as the decades roll on, it would be nice to compare point guards who are separated by 20 years with a degree of certainty we can rely upon.
From Greg Cote, Miami Herald: Esquire magazine had a recent feature on Dwyane Wade in which the writer (who must be pictured breathless) refers to the Heat as a team of “ineffable puissance.” For those of us in the real world that roughly translates to indescribably powerful or mighty. Not lately, friends. Not lately. Tuesday night’s 93-89 overtime home loss to the Atlanta Hawks marked the Heat’s season-worst fourth consecutive defeat, which, around here, with this team, surely might foment a resumption of the wailing and angst and national dissection such as we have not seen since that staggering 9-8 start to the NBA season. It should do no such thing. If we have learned anything from the first half of this season, it is that everything about this team gets magnified, but that the real measuring must wait until the playoffs. Nobody wants to wait.
From LithuaniaBasketball.com: Lithuanians proved that amateur basketball can be just as exciting as the professional sport in somewhat bizarre circumstances. Rolandas Dovydaitis put on a real show for the small number of spectators, who gathered to watch an amateur league game in Kaunas, setting the country’s world record for most three-point shots attempted in a single game. The record was broken by a country mile as the player jacked up an astonishing 124 attempts from beyond the three-point line, making 24 of the shots. Even such a circus couldn’t stop Rolandas Dovydaitis and his team from winning as they still triumphed 103-70 in the end. “Last game our opponents let us shoot wide-open three-pointers. We gave it a little thought and wondered why a single player couldn’t do all of that alone. If our opponents allow me to shoot more than 70 three-pointers, I should be in the record books after the end of the game,” Dovydaitis said just before the tip-off of the game.