From Arash Markazi, ESPN LA: Earlier this month, Phil Jackson said the Lakers would need to have a “come to Jesus” moment if they were to make the playoffs. If you ask Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant, they’d say that moment came last week when the Lakers held a team meeting in Memphis. Bryant acknowledged during the meeting that he could be hard to play with and asked Howard if he disliked playing alongside him, according to The Los Angeles Times. “It really helped,” Howard, when asked for details of the meeting, said after the Lakers’ practice Monday. “It helped [us] and it helped everybody on the team. It was great. People have said it, it was a ‘come to Jesus’ meeting. It was good. Stuff like that takes time. We all got to a point that whatever needed to be said was said but none of the stuff was taken personal. We all want to add another banner up there and all have rings, and in order for us to do that we all have to do it together.”
From Drew Garrison, Silver Screen & Roll: Well, give the Lakers this: they kept plugging away at the problem they needed to figure out and after multiple iterations of Mike D’Antoni’s system, they settled upon one that finally looks like it can be a model for success. And just as with the last one in which Kobe Bryanttook the lead as the defensive vanguard against the primary ballhandler, so has he stepped up again as the primary playmaker. It is a role steeped in irony given Kobe’s consistent proclamations of who he is — a scorer — and especially so considering how we expected the dynamic between Steve Nash and Kobe to work out, but D’Antoni has once again co-opted a supposed weakness on the team and turned it into a strength. If nothing else, Kobe lives for challenges and his current one is certainly one of the most formidable of his career: to be Nash within D’Antoni’s system.
From Elizabeth Benson, Lakers Nation: Did the Lakers do a 180 on Sunday compared to the previous Sunday or what? After playing one of the most lackluster performances of the season a week ago in Toronto, which began a disappointing three-game road trip, the Lakers returned home on Friday night and set a different tone in how they played as a unit in their victory against the Utah Jazz. Entering Sunday’s matchup against the best team in basketball, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Lakers had an opportunity to not only beat an elite team, but to show the entire basketball world that they aren’t the 19-25 team that their record represents. The Lakers did just that with a thrilling game to beat OKC, and they did it in impressive fashion. Of course, the Lakers still have a steep mountain to climb just to make it into the playoffs, as they have to play at least .600 ball for the remainder of the season. However, with all the negativity and disappointment that has surrounded the Lakers this season, the last two performances have cracked open the gloomy clouds that have set up shop in Laker Land. With the Lakers’ Grammy road trip coming up after Tuesday’s game against New Orleans in LA, the timing for this progress is essential.
From Ben Bolch, LA Times: Curators at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame should watch Steve Nash closely in the coming weeks. If recent trends persist, they may have to make the following addendum to his biographical blurb: Switched to shooting guard halfway through the 2012-13 season to help save one of the most disappointing teams inNBA history. In this most surreal Lakers season, the top point guard of his generation suddenly deferring ball-handling duties to Kobe Bryant has been the oddest twist. “The roles are all kind of upside down,” Bryant said Monday. Nash was unrecognizable even to Lakers Coach Mike D’Antoni, who had watched him win a pair of most-valuable-player awards in Phoenix, after the 17-year veteran scored 17 points to go with only five assists Sunday against Oklahoma City.
From Kevin Ding, OC Register: With a two-game winning streak over winning teams Utah and Oklahoma City, the Lakers have decent chances to make it a six-game winning streak with lightweights next on the schedule: New Orleans, Phoenix, Minnesota and Detroit.The last three of those games are on the road, where the Lakers have been woeful, but their hope is that the team meeting held Wednesday in Memphis will continue to pay dividends on the season-long seven-game trip that starts in Phoenix. Dwight Howard said Monday that the team meeting Wednesday helped refocus everyone off individual desires — including him and Kobe Bryant: “We both want to win.” Howard said the connection between him and Bryant, in particular, has strengthened lately. Howard said they have reached a point to “think as one and be one on the court. That took some time, but we’re getting better.” Howard looked back on the meeting and said: “It really helped. It helped everybody on the team. It was great. People said it was like a ‘Come to Jesus’ meeting. … None of the stuff was taken personally. We all want to hang another banner up here, and we all want to have rings.”
Ben Bolch writes, “… to help save one of the most disappointing teams in NBA history.” I suppose you require high expectations in order to have great disappointments, though it seems the Lakers are often written about in these overly dramatic terms. What about those Shaq/Van Exel teams before Phil Jackson came along? Or the team that lost in the 2004 finals? Though come to think of it, those disappointing teams obviously made the playoffs, so Bolch may have a point.
Kenny T says
Going back to Sunday, some other thoughts…
Pau played with some force on both ends of the court. Saw him put a shoulder into a defender’s chest and bull his way to the basket. I like that.
Jamison made the most of his minutes. He may not be much on defense, but he can score and his contributions off the bench will be invaluable moving forward. Ditto Jodie Meeks. The 5 points he hit in the 4th quarter were huge against such a good opponent.
The inter-changeability of Kobe and Nash as the primary ballhandler bodes well for the Lakers and is a potential nightmare for the rest of the league. Both can handle, both can pass. Both can shoot and drive. The ongoing development of their synergy is key.
Dwight is improving with his all around game, but he still appears a bit tentative. He has got to realize that the team is, in a sense, waiting on him to just do the things he does best consistently. Just continue to play hard, Dwight, and good results will come.
There was a sequence late in the game that epitomized the way the Lakers must play defensively. Westbrook had the ball out near midcourt with Kobe hounding him. As Russell tried to enter the ball to Durant, MWP battled Kevin for position out past the 3 pt. line, denying him an easy catch. When Durant was finally able to get the ball, he drove left, beating Metta with his quick and long first step. Pau and Dwight both rotated quickly and protect the paint and forced Durant to put up a heavily contested shot against their length, which fell short. The Lakers then gobbled up the defensive board, although I forget who actually secured it. To me, it was a textbook defensive sequence that featured the connectivity and the help the helper mentality so often missing this year.
Lots of good things Sunday, but the time for slippage is past. The Lakers have to take the same approach every night. GO LAKERS!! 🙂
Kenny T says
Nice job done here by Mike Trudell, previewing tonight’s game. New Orleans is very well coached and feature a ton of weapons. The Show cannot afford to look past them. This is a winnable game that the Lakers simply must win as they try to make up ground and enter the playoff picture.
Kenny T says
Agree about BB. The story of this season is incomplete. The Lakers still have time to change it from “disappointing” to “thoroughly satisfying.
Don’t know what took place over the last two games. But somehow a clock went off and Kobe realized a modification of his offensive game was needed. And so far it’s working. I know there is a segment of Laker, no I mean Kobe fans that would prefer he score 30+ points a night (as does opponents who don’t care as long as no one else is scoring), but this change is long overdue. What Kobe is doing great, but it’s not w/o precedent. Wilt did this very successfully. Wilt was the scoring champ for seven straight years between 1959 & 1966. Then he LEAD the league in assist in the ’67-’68 season. Now that’s a major shift in philosophy. But I do like what Kobe is doing.
And sorry Darius (from previous post), I don’t agree with you that Kobe is a “willing passer”. Not when:
– Shaq, Bynum, Gasol, & D-12 have all complaint & are on record about Kobe taking too many off balanced iso shots too often instead of passing the ball to them in the post.
– @ Robert (from previous post), it took Kobe 133 more games or 3,074 more minutes to finally catch & pass Michael Jordan on the NBA career assist list (5644 to 5633). Apparently as much as he “cloned” M J’s game, one part he wasn’t interested in was the passing. And let’s remember, M J never had a finisher like Shaq. Or even had an offensive “5? as good productively as Bynum or Gasol. Also both Bryant & M J played in the same system, the triangle & under the same coach (Phil J) for a huge part of their careers. So when I hear the description “willing passer” Kobe has not come to mind.
Hopefully this “newest look” Laker offense continues. So far they are 2-0. Why not COMMIT to it for the next 15 – 20 games, I mean they wasted 1/2 a season trying to do it “the old fashion way”.
After all, what do they have to lose?
Darius Soriano says
Big City Sid,
Of course you don’t agree. Just as when I gave Mike D’Antoni credit, the people who have their minds made up about him didn’t agree with me. You see, your mind is made up on Kobe; you’ve decided what you think of him as a player and how he’s played the game his entire career. You see him a certain way and that’s not going to change. So, ultimately, whatever.
Yeah…because Jordan only had Paxon, Kerr, Hodges, Pippen, kukoc, harper……and none of those guys could hit an open shot
@ Marques, now go over that list again and let me know who played with more offensive talent. Jordan or Kobe. Take your time.
@ Darius, you’re right. But I don’t think anyone would claim Kobe’s not a gunner. I’m just hoping he modifies his game for the betterment of the team now that he can no longer carry them night in & night out.
P. Ami says
Pippin could finish http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_–VPPY4lA
#5 dunk “Pippin says, in your puss”. Classic call.
I better not get into the Pippin Youtube rabbit hole now because of you? A man needs to work.
Darius Soriano says
Big City Sid,
That’s the point you miss. He’s modified his game plenty over the years to help his team win. It’s fans that think this is some sort of a revelation that don’t seem to understand. As I wrote yesterday, his willingness to pass is not new even if the high assist totals may be. He averaged over 7 assists in the 2009 Finals, but you knew that.
You should read the post “Deconstructing Kobe” that was written here in June of 2009. You can find it in the archives.
Kenny T says
I think one thing I haven’t heard mentioned is that Kobe worked just as hard facillitating as he does when he is in iso mode. What he was doing Sunday was NOT easy and the man expended a tremendous amount of energy in doing it. Defenses are skewed towards him and seek to make his life miserable. Every time he’s on the court, no matter which style he plays, Kobe faces waves of defenders. Happens to the 5th leading scorer of all time. The fact that he is able to find so many different ways to contribute to his team’s success just speaks to his greatness. Flip Saunders made some very sage comments about the Mamba in the ESPN video linked in the video playlist on the right side of today’s FB & G homepage.
@ Darius, you’re correct. And I want to thank you for allowing me this forum for debate. I don’t think to many people would disagree about what type of player Kobe is, he’s a gunner. A very successful one, but still a gunner.
I just hoping he understands he’s more valuable to this team playing the way he has the last two games vs most of the earlier games this season.
Because bottom line, I want what’s best for the Lakers.
Darius Soriano says
I actually think most fans “want what’s best” for their favorite team within the context of what they think is right/supports their world view of the game. At least, that’s what I’ve learned from moderating a site for all these years.
It’s why Warren was here talking about “nice win, but I’ll wait until we lose to talk about trading Pau again”. Or why guys that love to rip on Kobe for shooting too much don’t say much when the team wins. Or why critics disappear entirely when their whipping boy starts to play well (this used to happen a lot when Odom would invariably start to have a good playoff series).
I’d add that Kobe’s at his best — and he helps the team the most — when he’s making the right basketball read. On one night, that may mean killing his man for 30 just as in recent nights it’s been playing facilitator from the right mid-post.
Darius Soriano says
The game preview is up.
Don Ford says
Love BigCitySid’s reference to Wilt’s leading the league in assists. Nobody’s ever won the triple crown in the NBA (scoring/rebs/assists), but Wilt’s done it in different seasons, at least. No one else has done that.
Only two have won 2 categories in the same season: Wilt 6 times, and Archibald once (assists & scoring). That year, 67-68, Wilt was 1st in assists and rebounds, and 3rd in scoring – pretty darn close (plus 60% FG% and 47 mins/game). Just unbelievable, if you’ll pardon my digression…
@ Big City–Kobe played with the single-best “finisher” (Shaq) but MJ’s teams were much more balanced. In particular, MJ’s teams had far more quality perimeter players than Kobe’s. Think about all of the wide-open threes we have seen Kobe’s teammates miss over his many years of drive and kicks. Your teammate has to make the shot before you get the dime. Simply put, if Kobe played with Paxon, Kerr, et al, his dime-rate would be at least incrementally higher.
Moreover, Kobe willingly delivered the ball to Shaq in the post many times, but you don’t get a dime if the post guy dribbles it a couple of times before he puts it in.
In other words–stats again don’t tell the whole story.
But if you want to look at stats–particularly in light of your “not willing” comment–check out how many years in his career Kobe has been in the top three among shooting guards in dimes–come back after you look it up and bring this weak argument again.
Kobe is a deeply-flawed player, and is at times a gunner, but your argument, so far as it goes, is not supported by the facts.
Just Man says
@Bigcitysid, the 133 games difference is canceled out by Kobe’s 1st 2 years in the league and the fact that Kobe played longer in the triangle than MJ (KB 11, MJ 8). Moreover, Kobe led the Lakers in assists 9 of those 11 years, meanwhile Jordan only lead the Bulls in 2 of his 8 years)in the triangle. (Jordan 6 finals appearances 6 rings, Kobe 7 finals appearances, 5 rings). Your argument again is what??? Kobe is a willing passer and only some intent on hating Kobe cant see that. His goal isn’t to pass to please big men, his job is to read situations and make the best basketball decision. He has done that to the tune of 5 championships. How many people in life have a better success rate. Steve Nash the fancy passer doesn’t have a ring to his name. You are clearly a Kobe hater and you don’t argue issues concerning Kobe objectively.
Rewind: Has it ever occurred to you that MJ was playing a PG role for Bulls ( the year prior to PJ taking over) and Phil moved him off the ball?? Any team with an MJ or Kobe is better off having them in an attacking/scoring role. Unfortunately, throughout Kobe’s career he never had a Scottie Pippen. Make no mistake, this new role that Kobe has assumed for the Lakers says more about the ineffectiveness of Steve Nash as a facilitator for this team. Please respect Kobe and stop making unnecessary criticisms.
Lamar Odom once said, “If Kobe was 6-2 he would be the best PG, if Kobe was 6-8 he would be the best SF, If Kobe was 7-0 he would be the best Big man”.
While that is true, Kobe is one person. He has to guard the PG of the other team, he has to be the facilitator in an offense that the starting PG is supposed to be the guru, he has to be the SG all this in his 17th season. Oh I forgot to add he is doing this to cover for a fellow 17 year veteran. Big City Sid, Thankfully, this site is run by better people, cos if I ran this site, I would suspend your access for a few months for your lack of objectivity.
Darius Soriano says
A quick read of the commenting guidelines should answer your question. If not, then I’m only going to assume there’s a comprehension issue on your end. As an aside, we welcome fans of all teams here (even Kings fans) but if you’ve just come to troll and bait Lakers’ fans by throwing mud at Kobe, you can do that elsewhere. Thanks.
Darius I’m prety surprised you are defending kobe so blindly. Most of us like what he brings, but doubting Kobe willingness to pass is very real.
Kobe is a very capable and sometimes willing passer. But he likes to score, probably more than pass. When the occasion came for the team to win he became a willing passer but if not neccesary he certainly prefers to score. That is not what I call “willin passer”in a regular basis, Nash is().
What people that love Kobe don’t realize sometimes is that Kobe can score 20 extra-points, but with 10 extra dimes intead he would add those same 20 points plus get the rest of the team enganged intead of frozen.
Darius Soriano says
Nothing is black and white. Does Kobe not pass when he should? Of course. I’ve written that hundreds of times right here, at this site, in the comments and in main posts. Should that have to be said in tandem with every comment that states he’s also been a willing passer in his career? I mean, the willing passer part really isn’t even debatable. You don’t really win championships at the rate that Kobe has as a featured player if you’re not a willing passer. The fact that *that* is considered “blindly” defending Kobe is kinda laughable to me.
None of this takes away his questionable shot selection. I don’t understand why people can’t see the gray area anymore.
Glad to see Neil and Sid getting called out; they’ve been overdue for it. As Darius points out, there are many other places on the net where that type of stuff is welcome.
As to the analytical aspects, any analysis that focuses on one factor, or one player, to the exclusion of almost everything else, is almost always going to be shoddy. A good example of how to respond is demonstrated by mindcrime’s fine post, which notes the Chicago perimeter shooters and Kobe’s AST numbers.
The Lakers win and lose games for a lot of reasons. The main problem with this team has been the defense, and Kobe has been a big part of that problem. Another has been pace, and Kobe’s many missed 3s have been part of that problem. Yet as of today, the Lakers are 8th in O but 20th in D, and 4th in Pace Factor. O and D interact in many ways, but they are also separate in many other ways, and most players are better at one than the other. Kobe getting the big AST numbers is part–but only part–of addressing those fundamental issues.
If the Lakers had a Top 10 D, they would probably have a pretty good record. And they have had Top 10 Ds with Kobe shooting the ball as much as he has this year.
Hey this is a really good news Ryan, thanks for sharing. I see the Lakers are going from strength to strength this season, well done.
It takes a lot of coaching to get these results, thanks for sharing this information. I am sure this positivity will continue. Good luck!