Tag: Los Angeles Lakers

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Kobe’s Triple Double A Breath Of Fresh Air [Video]

During one of the most tumultuous seasons in Lakers history, there has been little to cheer about for fans of the much fabled franchise. 

One of the few joys still afforded to the fans however, is a well rested and rejuvenated Kobe Bryant who, while shooting a career low…. is as aggressive and determined as ever. That was on full display yesterday as Bryant carved out his 20th career triple double, while also becoming the only member of the 30k+ points club to eclipse 6,000 assists. Not bad for a 36 year old right? 

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Mike D’Antoni Resigns As Lakers Coach

In the wake of one of the worst 24 months in Los Angeles Lakers history, much maligned head coach Mike D’Antoni has resigned from his position with the team effective immediately.

D’Antoni arrived in LA as a successor to Mike Brown, who was fired by the Lakers after a 1-5 start to the 2012 season. Formerly of the Nuggets, Suns and Knicks, he was unpopular with fans from the very start, with many believing Phil Jackson was the right option at the time.

D’Antoni, along with Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant struggled to make an impact on the league throughout his first season, ensuring the bad taste in fans’ mouths only worsened. Marred by injury, and a lack of talent in his second year, the Lakers and Mike never stood a chance in season 2013/14.

Last week it was reported that the Lakers were intent on keeping D’Antoni around until the end of his contract at the culmination of next year, but that he wanted them to pick up his fourth year option. Until today that was where it had been left, but earlier this afternoon ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reported that D’Antoni had, in fact, resigned. It isn’t clear what will become of the $4 million left on the table by Coach D’Antoni, but it has been said that an undisclosed amount will still be given to him.

Laker fans have been ruthless when it comes to Mike D’Antoni, and while not the best man for the job, he has given his absolute all to a team with no talent, an unfathomable injury toll and who are a shell of their former selves. The D’Antoni reign in LA was strained, but one that Laker fans can now move on from.

The search will now begin for a new coach, with a myriad of options exposing themselves within the last few hours. It is in the best interest to the Lakers to take their time, and make a choice which best suits the team and direction they’re headed in.

There are tough times ahead for the Lakers, so cool heads must prevail, and conscious decisions made when selecting the new man to guide them back to the top.

D’Antoni leaves the Lakers with a 67-87 record in his two seasons with the team



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Early Under/Over-Rated Season Predictions Answered – @RyanOak

Which teams ended up being over, under or properly rated in 2013/14?

In the pre-season I wrote two articles in which I outlined which five teams I thought were over and underrated, respectively, heading into the 2013/14 NBA season. Though you always expect to end up with egg on your face making such public predictions, now that the regular season has been completed, it’s time to see exactly how much yoke is on Oak.

In case you are in need of reminding about my earlier predictions, you can check them out HERE, and HERE.

 

Five teams I said were underrated for the 2013/14 NBA season:

Miami Heat

Milwaukee Bucks v Miami Heat - Game One

To be fair, this prediction was based upon people saying the Heat wouldn’t win the title again this season, which I thought was crazy, considering the talent they have on their roster. Especially an individual by the name of LeBron James.
We can’t really judge this prediction until the Finals are over – though my money remains on Miami to three-peat – so this prediction gets a ‘incomplete’ mark for now.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Oh dear.

Though I appreciate the West is loaded and it’s tough to even qualify for the playoffs in such a deep conference, Minny’s talent means they should be a better team than Dallas or Phoenix. Sadly, the Twolves have once again underperformed, frustrating their fans, and making me look like a goose. That’s a cross next to my name.

Washington Wizards

I’ll move swiftly along from the Minnesota fiasco, and restore some pride by gloating about my Wizards prognostication. Plenty to boast about from this prediction. From John Wall fulfilling his potential, to Bradley Beal making a leap, to the Wizards making the playoffs in the East in the 6th seed, it all adds up to a solid ‘tick’ from the suddenly un-humble me.

Portland Trailblazers

But wait, there’s more! Let’s really kick the arrogance into overdrive by reveling in the sensational selection that was the Blazers. Portland got off to a blistering start, and though they cooled off in the second half of the season, they still finished an impressive 5th Another tick, thank you very much.

Los Angeles Lakers

*Thud*

That noise you heard was me falling back to earth. With some serious force, I might add. Let’s just put this one down to irrational bias, while assigning myself a big cross. Though to be fair, I did admit at the time that this pick was wishful thinking and I was deluding myself.

 

Five teams I said were overrated for the 2013/14 NBA season:

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Golden State Warriors

Again, you can’t really judge this prediction until we see how the playoffs unfold, but for a team with championship ambitions this year, the Warriors were kind of disappointing. And that was point I was making: the Warriors playoff run last season heightened expectations for this season, but they were never truly the title team that many people thought.

It’s N/A for now, but I suspect it will be a tick come season end.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Time to gloat again, for I stated that “This team doesn’t deserve some of the lofty predictions I’ve heard touted, and it would shock me little if they only won 30 odd games.” The Cavs won 32 games, and were generally very disappointing all season long.

Tick.

Los Angeles Clippers

Another prediction that probably needs to be analyzed after the playoffs, due to the fact I wrote “ . . . I see this roster crushing teams all regular season, before getting crushed themselves once the real basketball starts in the playoffs.”
The Clips have actually been impressive this season, especially Blake Griffin, but this team had championship aspirations, so it’s incomplete grade for now on this selection.

Houston Rockets

I wrote at the time that this prediction was the one I feared would come back to haunt me the most, and that’s not far from the truth. I figured Dwight Howard would be more trouble than he’s worth, but he fitted in quite well with Houston, and the team did a fantastic job of finishing in the top four in the tough, tough conference that is the West.

Regardless of what happens in the playoffs, I definitely got his one wrong. Cross.

Philadelphia 76ers

This is actually a tough one to adjudicate on. The Sixers struggled to an epically bad 18-64 season. However, my prediction was predicated upon the statement that I didn’t think they’d win double-figure games. Based on that, you’d have to say I got this one wrong.

 

So all up, I’m going to need the Heat to win the title, with the Warriors and Clippers struggling in the playoffs, in order to finish with a solid 6-4 record.

And I actually like my chances . . .



Image courtesy of www.nba.si.com

Allen Iverson – The Highs and Lows

Image courtesy of www.nba.si.com

Image courtesy of http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/nba/

“We’re talking about practice. I mean listen, we’re sitting here talking about practice, not a game, not a game, not a game, but we’re talking about practice. Not the game that I go out there and die for and play every game like it’s my last but we’re talking about practice man.”

Even the most casual of NBA fans would be familiar with the quote above. Allen Iverson was a man who created headlines. In his 14 years in the NBA, the diminutive point guard certainly lived large on and off the court. His brash attitude and ‘street look’ were often the focal point of the mainstream media and despite being one of the greatest to ever play the game he suffered from such scrutiny, whether fairly or not.

Whatever off-court issues Iverson had, and he had a few, the way he played the game was mesmerizingly beautiful. As a six foot, 165 pound guard, he was always up against it, every time he stepped foot on the court, but he never backed down and his talent shone through over the years. He was honoured by the Philadelphia 76ers yesterday, with the franchise retiring his jersey to the rafters.

Iverson’s NBA career began back in 1996 when he was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers with the number one pick. He would go on to win Rookie of the Year honours that season whilst putting up 23.5 points, 7.5 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game but the 76ers finished with an abysmal 22-60 record.

Iverson’s numbers in his rookie season were impressive but the team’s horrible record caused some to blame Iverson for his score first attitude. In John N. Smallwood’s book entitled Allen Iverson: Fear No One Iverson was quick to point out the lack of support from a team of role players with little ability to score.

“You saw the team we had last year, who was going to score? I’d throw a pass; somebody would miss, the next time I’d say I’d rather do it myself. That’s not the right way. You have to go to the guy again. People said I was trying to win Rookie of the Year, but I was trying to win games.”

This kind of criticism was to follow Iverson throughout his whole career. Being a shoot first point guard was a fairly new thing in the late ‘90’s, unlike today, where the league has so many scoring point guards so it was Iverson who really paved the way for guys like Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose but it was also Iverson who would have to take on the critics too.

Iverson would endure a second season with a team that struggled and failed to make the playoffs and the question marks over Iverson’s ability to be a team player and guide his team to the playoffs continued.

Thankfully, the following season, the 76ers reached the post season and whilst the criticism didn’t completely disappear, it wasn’t as loud as it had been previously.

The 76ers would reach the playoffs for the next four seasons, led by the play of Iverson and along the way he would pick up a league MVP in 2001, as well as numerous All NBA first team selections, All Star appearances, including two All Star MVP awards as well as his much vaunted scoring titles.

The 2000-01 season will forever be remembered in NBA folklore as A.I’s year. He was named MVP, putting up 31.1 points, 4.6 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game and took a rag tag bunch of players all the way to the NBA Finals. Iverson exploded for 48 points in the first game of the series, including an amazing crossover, step back jumper over a falling Tyronn Lue, the ensuing images of Iverson stepping over Lue’s fallen body will be forever ingrained in hoops fans minds. The Sixers took the first game of the series against a Laker team stacked with stars that were on a 19 game winning streak and were supposed to just turn up to win the title. Iverson explained via ESPN.com what drove him when interviewed after the historic victory.

“I’m glad nobody bet their life on it because they’d be dead now. Everyone says we can’t do it, and that drives us.”

The game was indicative of what Iverson was all about, an underdog who always came to fight. The fight however was one that was unwinnable. The star studded Lakers, led by Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant would win the next four games and take out the championship.

Iverson would never again experience finals basketball. He would toil away in Philadelphia with mixed results, a few playoff appearances and a few disappointing seasons before he was traded away to the Denver Nuggets.

He would see his scoring output decline whilst playing for the Nuggets but they were to have some successes, even making the western conference finals in 2009 but once again it was the Lakers who stood in his way.

He would endure a few seasons of trades and clashed with management and coaching staff on both the Nuggets and Memphis teams before finally ending up back where it all began in Philly, but it wasn’t to last long.

The NBA career of Allen Iverson ended in 2010, he was seen as too demanding and troubled for any franchise to risk signing him and he went overseas to continue playing. His marriage fell apart and he’d spent most of his career earnings, he had reported alcohol and gambling problems and it all looked very bleak for the once mighty Iverson.

He has since retired from playing all forms of the game and it was yesterday that his jersey was retired to the rafters at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia and there was an outpouring of respect and gratitude from many players, coaches and fans for what was an incredible, albeit controversial career.

Allen Iverson did it all his own way and whilst he made many mistakes along the way he will be remembered as one of the greats of the game. Perhaps he summed it up best himself after the ceremony.

“It feels good, but some part of my heart hurts because I know its over.”

His playing days are over, but they will never be forgotten.



Photo courtesy of http://msn.foxsports.com/

The Original Boozer

Photo courtesy of http://msn.foxsports.com/

Photo courtesy of http://msn.foxsports.com/

Carlos Boozer is a player who invokes heated discussion amongst NBA and Bulls fans alike but it’s not the Bulls power forward who will be gracing the pages of NBA Nation Australia in this piece, no, it will be the Bulls original Boozer, Bob Boozer.

The Chicago Bulls were welcomed into the National Basketball Association at the start of the 1966-67 season and amongst its inaugural players was one Bob Boozer.

Boozer was a 6’8, 215 pound forward from Omaha, Nebraska and was born on the 26th April, 1937.

He played his college ball for Kansas State University where he was a two time All-American in 1958 and 1959. He went on to play for the gold medal winning United States Olympic team at the 1960 Rome games alongside greats such as Jerry West and Oscar Robertson. The team won eight games in Rome by an average of 42.4 points!

Boozer’s NBA career began in the 1960-61 season when he was drafted by the Cincinnati Royals as the number one overall pick. He went on to average 8.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game his rookie season.

Boozer spent the next five seasons playing for the Royals, Knicks and Lakers before he was drafted in the NBA’s expansion draft in 1966. The expansion draft saw the Bulls able to pick 18 players from all NBA teams to fill their roster in their first ever season. Each team was able to ‘protect’ seven of their players from being drafted by the Bulls. Boozer was selected from the Los Angeles Lakers after posting 12.2 points and 7.0 rebounds in the 1965-66 NBA season.

The Bulls first season in the NBA would be the catalyst for Boozer’s rise to an elite NBA player and one that is forever ingrained in Bulls folklore.

The Chicago Bulls went on to win their first three games as a franchise and would go on to a playoff appearance in their first year on the big stage. Boozer led the team in scoring at 18 points per game along with point guard Guy Rodgers, who also averaged 18.

The 1967-68 season began disastrously for Chicago as they dropped nine straight but it was Boozer and Jerry Sloan who would help break the drought for them in a game against the Seattle Supersonics on the 31st October 1967. The Lewiston Evening Journal had this to say on Boozer’s impact on the game.

“The Chicago Bulls have finally won their first game in the National Basketball Association this season after nine straight defeats. They beat Seattle 119-105 Thursday night in the only game scheduled.

The Bulls came from behind against Seattle on a neutral court at Spokane. Bob Boozer and Jerry Sloan sparked a 25-10 Chicago burst in the last seven minutes.

Boozer finished with 29 points.”

The 1967-68 season was to become Boozer’s best season in the NBA as he averaged 21.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game while shooting a career high 49.2% from the field. He also made his only All Star appearance that same year.

He would spend a total of three seasons playing for the Bulls and they would turn out to be his best years statistically as he averaged 20.4 points and 8.7 rebounds in that time.

In 1969 he was traded to the Seattle Supersonics where he played one year before going to the Milwaukee Bucks for the 1970-71 season.

The Bucks won the title that season behind the stellar play of a young Lew Alcindor, who later changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and The Big O, Oscar Robertson. Boozer played an integral part in the championship winning team, playing 20.2 minutes per game in the playoffs and averaging 7.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game in the post-season.

Boozer retired after the championship winning season with Milwaukee at the age of 33. He would return to his hometown of Omaha Nebraska, working as a telephone company executive and later working at a home for troubled youth.

He passed away on May the 19th, 2012 at the age of 75. He will be remembered as an integral part of the early days of Chicago Bulls basketball and a damn fine player with a hook shot to match.



New York Knicks v Los Angeles Lakers

Melo to the Lakers is a terrible plan

There have been many reports of late that New York Knicks superstar Carmelo Anthony may be playing in the famous purple and gold strip of the Los Angeles Lakers next season, teaming up with fellow superstar Kobe Bryant.

As a basketball fan, such a move would be fascinating.

As a Lakers fan, I am completely horrified that the hierarchy of the franchise would consider signing Melo.

In fact, I’m happy to go on record and state if the Lakers sign the current Knicks small forward, it will go down as one of the most horrendously stupid moves in the history of the NBA.

There would be no logical, sensible or intelligent reason to team Melo and Kobe together.

Any way you look it, the pairing is a very bad fit, as the partnership would simply not work.

Not from an offensive point of view. Not from a defensive point of view. Not from an ego point of view. And not from a salary point of view.

But hey, other than that, it would be a great move!

Photo Credit: www.latimes.com

Photo Credit: www.latimes.com

Melo is a free agent at the end of the season, and has already expressed his desire to test the free agency waters. That is his right, his entitlement and, considering how woeful the Knicks have been for most of this year, it’s also an astute move on his behalf.

Meanwhile, the Lakers are struggling for relevance at the end of the Kobe Bryant era, and are looking to make a splash by signing a high quality free agent this off-season with the cap space they will have.

Nothing wrong with that plan at a holistic level, but said free agent still needs to be a good fit with the Lakers and, more specifically, Kobe Bryant.

Melo does not tick those boxes, to say the least.

For starters, both Melo and Kobe need the ball in their hands to be effective. In fact, enough with the diplomacy: both players are ball hogs who like to shoot the ball. A lot.

Though there have been examples of having two elite level scorers on the same team, it has rarely resulted in a championship.

Furthermore, for the sake of balance and offensive spacing, having two high scorers should ideally consist of an inside/outside presence, and while both Kobe and Melo can be lethal in the low post, they’re really both wing scorers, if we’re honest.

In conversations I’ve had on this topic, some people have thrown the names LeBron James and Dwyane Wade at me as an example of two high level scorers that have achieved success together.

Debunking that ‘evidence’ is an article all by itself, but the comparison does serve as a nice base to evaluate why Melo and Kobe is not a good idea.

Firstly, LeBron is an unselfish player who would rather pass the ball to teammates than shoot. Neither Melo or Kobe fall into that category consistently, if at all.

The Heat only really achieved success – in the form of championships – when LeBron embraced playing in the low post on a consistent basis. Neither Melo or Kobe is capable, or willing, to do this.

Wade, on offense, is primarily a slasher, while LeBron is almost the complete offensive weapon, able to post-up, pass, drive, and shoot from the perimeter. Though it did take some time, they eventually meshed into a cohesive offensive partnership. Melo and Kobe are versatile offensive players, but remain primarily perimeter jumpshooters.

A large part of the Heat’s success came after Wade realised LeBron is the best player on the planet, and began playing ‘second fiddle’ to him, allowing LeBron to be ‘the man’, thus providing Miami with its best chance of winning. I’m not sure Melo or Kobe are capable of this kind of self-awareness or selflessness.

LeBron and Wade are excellent on-ball, help and transition defenders. I’ll be gentle here, but Kobe can no longer be described this way, and Melo has rarely shown the desire to ever be that type of player.

Photo Credit: www.sun-sentinal.com

Photo Credit: www.sun-sentinal.com

LeBron and Wade both took pay cuts in order to play together, with their salaries at $19 million this season, and $16 million their first year in Miami, well below their market value. This enables the Heat to sign quality free agents with the available cap space, not to mention a third All Star in Chris Bosh.

Meanwhile, Kobe has already signed a max contract for the next two years, well above what he’s worth as a player, and it’s hard to see Melo signing for anything less than the maximum as well. Which is great for their individual bank accounts, but not great for the Lakers ability to build a good roster around them.

Photo Credit: www.nba.com

Photo Credit: www.nba.com

This last point is potentially the most important, because with roughly $50 million tied up in two players, it doesn’t leave a lot of cash to sign other quality players, which means depth and roster balance will be a considerable concern for the Lakers.

And when one of those two players is 36 years old, coming off an Achilles injury, currently sitting out with a knee injury, and therefore may never be a ‘star’ again, you’ve got some major issues.

While those major issues actually started when the club signed Kobe to a large contract, that mistake shouldn’t be compounded by signing another star – who is an ill fit – to a max contract.

Any way you look at it, Melo to the Lakers is a bad, bad move.

This content was first published on The Roar at www.theroar.com.au



An Open Letter to Dwight Howard

Dearest Dwight,

My name is Nathan Darby. I write as a part of an NBA blog in Australia. It’s pretty good. You should really read it sometime but I digress. Today I happened to be doing some research around the web and stumbled across a story by Sekou Smith on his Hangtime Blog on NBA.com (check it here http://hangtime.blogs.nba.com/2013/10/16/howard-no-regrets-but-steamed-harris-is-wearing-no-12-in-orlando/?ls=iref:nbahpts ) . I have to admit I enjoyed it but the funny thing is that it was all about you. The story said that you were currently comparing your Houston team to your former Orlando team from 2008/09 that went fairly deep into the finals. But Dwight, do you really think that James Harden would appreciate being compared to Courtney Lee? Lee hasn’t really hit the greatest of heights throughout his career. In fact the only thing I remember him for is missing a lay up that would’ve won the game for your then Magic. I admit Dwight, that on paper your current Houston team looks the goods. There are some great players there and the addition of you should only strengthen an already competitive team. The thing is Dwight that you know all about looking good on paper. On paper last seasons Lakers should’ve won the title in a canter but that didn’t happen. What happened there? Was it ego? The coach? Kobe? The spotlight? I guess we’ll never know until you release your autobiography at the end of your career.

Let’s get back to the story I was reading. I continued on after your comparisons of previous team mates and I was hit with another feeling of disbelief. Now you might see the next few bits as harsh Dwight but you have the worlds biggest shoulders so I think you’ll handle it. You came out and said you were mad that Orlando let somebody else have “your” #12. Your #12 Dwight? Really? Who do you play for these days? Did you really expect Orlando to stop others from wearing the #12? Sekou even wrote that you said “I just think that despite what happened, there was a lot of things that I did and that we did as a team, and that my number was special down there”. C’mon Dwight. Are you really saying that? A team that you left in the lurch. A team that you held to ransom and got their coach fired for no reason other than to see you walk out to the Lakers? A team that you knew relied on you and that without you would be resigned to be at the bottom of the NBA ladder? Numbers of great players are retired because they have done something for the game. They have championships. Played consistently game in and game out. Put their team before themselves. Played injured. Made the people around them better and connected with the community. Have you done these things Dwight? In this polo shirt wearing writers opinion you haven’t. Not even close. You played a couple of big seasons in Orlando and we haven’t seem that dominance since. You dominated in Orlando because you were proving yourself. Trying to show everyone you had game. Trying to rid yourself of Shaq’s enormous shadow and Dwight you proved you could play. Monster on the boards, blocking shots like a brick wall and throwing down dunks that were felt worldwide. Thing is Dwight you’ve been living off those years in Orlando ever since. You seem to have some kind of mentality where you believe you should be just handed a championship ring. That you’re entitled to it. Sorry Dwight but it doesn’t work that way. Have you heard of Ewing? Barkley? Malone? Legends of the game right? No rings Dwight. These dudes deserved rings but they never got one. They worked and worked and worked but never got one.

The Rockets have a chance at a ring in the upcoming seasons Dwight but they will be relying on you at both ends of the court and even off it. You need to get mature. We all loved the Superman thing but we’re over it now. Being Superman isn’t getting you a ring. Elevating your game gives you the best possible chance. Ask Santa for a post game for Christmas. For your birthday get a consistent free throw shot. Rick Barry shot underarm and that worked for him. Give it a try.

I’ll be honest Dwight sometimes you annoy me but I like you. I’ve watched highlight after highlight of you but highlights don’t get it done (Dominique anyone?). Your potential is through the roof. I think you’re even a better player than the Dwight we saw in Orlando but you have to show it. There’s no handouts in the NBA world. Earn it Dwight.

Much love,

Nathan Darby



Kobe Bryant

Kobe questionable for season opener; Needs at least three weeks conditioning

It’s been a long six months for Kobe Bryant, who’s ruptured Achilles in April saw him exit the Lakers troublesome season early and be forced to undergo a career altering recovery process. We’ve had glimpses of Kobe’s progression via his Instagram and Twitter feed, but nothing conclusive as to a potential return date has been alluded to. It has been a case of overcoming not only a huge physical hurdle at age 35, but also a battle of mind over matter for the superstar guard. Kobe himself has stated that his recovery process is coming along faster than expected, and just last week took a trip to Germany to undergo Orthokine treatment on his right knee.

Kobe is a famously committed individual, and his injury has been a great test of character, but will it alter his ability to play with the explosiveness he is renowned for? We can’t be sure, but we do know that there is no way Bryant won’t be doing everything in his power to give himself the best shot possible.

Following Lakers practice in El Segundo this morning, reporters gathered around Bryant to get the scoop on how his injury is progressing, and if we’ll see the Mamba return to the basketball court on opening night for the Lakers. He spoke at length about how the most important issue he’s facing is getting the right conditioning and training before he makes his return, reducing the risk, and improving his chances at regaining form.

[there’s a] process I’ve always been on – three strong weeks of pushing the stamina. I have the green light now to be able to do that, but it’s a matter of having the flexibility and strength to run at high speeds out here on the court or track or whatever.

If Kobe was to come back early and work himself back into form, the risk of re-injuring himself is heightened, and his chances at a full recovery are severely diminished. Three weeks of intense conditioning is ahead of him, which takes him through to the start of November should he start this week. He went on to explain that getting back in shape is a huge priority, and that 6 months of sitting around will take time to work off.

It’s the explosiveness, the explosiveness, and the muscle endurance, which takes a little time and I have to get my fat ass in shape, too. It’s been six months of just eating whatever the hell I wanted to eat, not running and stuff like that has caught up to me a little bit. So I have to get in shape.

The answer was simple when asked if he had suffered any setbacks.

No. No setbacks, no soreness, everything felt good.

If there is one player that you can be sure will be as committed to healing and returning the same beast he always was, it’s Kobe Bryant. Plenty of players have suffered the same injury, and many haven’t come back to be the same player they were. Asked if that weighed on his mind at all, Kobe responded positively.

You obviously look at the situations that were successful and try to draw from that. You try to ignore the ones that weren’t as successful just to stay positive. But you try to draw a little bit from what they’ve been able to do and also keep in mind it was done years ago before all the medical advances we’ve made since.

While not wrong, Kobe is in a situation which is unique to the individual. One can only speculate that medical advancements will help his recovery, or if the weight of such a crippling injury will be too much. I for one am sticking with the notion that Kobe’s mentality and complete and utter stubbornness will see him return the exact same player he was before his Achilles gave out that fateful April night in Los Angeles. That said, even Kobe succumbs to thoughts of self doubt from time to time. The difference is, he knows how to use it as motivation.

I don’t know what triggers those moments. It’s just when it’s an ongoing process, it just seems like it’s going to go on forever and you have those moments where you doubt yourself a little bit, but I try not to let it sit with me. I try to use it as motivation to propel me forward.

And so, the burning question remains. When will we see Kobe back on the court, representing his beloved Lakers again? Is there a chance he’ll be ready come October 29th against the Clippers? Even Bryant doesn’t know the answer yet, but one thing is for sure. The day he does, you’ll know he’s ready.

I didn’t say anything. I just keep it all open right now. I don’t’ know why you guys are so hell bent on timelines. When I’m ready, I’m ready.

Bryant is expected to join the team in Las Vegas today as the Lakers take on the Sacramento Kings in their fourth preseason game at the MGM Grand Casino tomorrow.



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Five underrated teams for the 2013/14 NBA season

Miami Heat
The Heat have made three straight trips to the NBA Finals, won the last two NBA championships, have the greatest basketball player on earth in his prime, and have completed some shrewd off-season moves.

So it’s bewildering to hear people say that their successful run may come to an end this year. Why? Because people are simply bored of them winning?

I haven’t heard one logical, rational or believable reason to suggest why the Heat shouldn’t start overwhelming favourites to once again take home the NBA hardware.

The signings of Greg Oden and Michael Beasley are low risk/high reward, and if they come off towards the latter, the Heat will be near unstoppable.

Yet, even if both players flame out, a nucleus of LeBron James, (a healthy) Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Mario Chambers, Chris Anderson, Ray Allen, Shane Battier, Udonis Haslem, etc, should be expected to win the title.

I personally am not underrating the Heat, as I think they will three-peat, so it feels strange to put them on this list. But for all those that think their championship run is over, this selection is for you, because I think you’re madly underestimating them.

Minnesota Timberwolves
This was actually a popular pick last season, when many thought the combination of a healthy Ricky Rubio, the All Star play of Kevin Love, the return of Brandon Roy, and the emergence of Nikola Pekovic, would combine to see the Twloves sneak into the playoffs.

Sadly, injuries to key players cruelled their season and the team never recovered. However, I’m going to roll the dice again this year, and believe that if the roster can stay healthy, the team can create some noise based on everything in that first paragraph.

The key difference is that Kevin Martin replaces Roy in a sneaky good move by the organisation. Martin will give them reliable offense from the backcourt, along with experience and a level head.

I also like some of Minny’s role players a lot, especially Alexy Shved and Derrick Williams, both of whom I feel have the potential to have somewhat breakout years.

There is a lot of ‘ifs’ with this team, but if (there’s another one!) everything falls into place, I could see this team qualifying in seventh or eighth place in the West.

Washington Wizards
I must be mad selecting this perennial underachieving team to be underrated.

I won’t lie, I’ve been seduced by John Wall’s second half of last season, in which he looked like an out-and-out superstar. It remains to be seen whether or not that tremendous run was an aberration or a sign of things to come, but I’m banking it was the start of Wall fulfilling his potential, which will make the Wizards a dangerous team this season.

I also think Bradley Beal is a star in the making. Fluid, smooth and with a nice stroke, he could make ‘the leap’ this year, especially with Wall’s penetration setting him up for open looks or easy buckets.

Though Emeka Okafor is currently injured, when he returns alongside Nené, it forms a formidable and underrated frontcourt pairing. And if one other player can step-up and be consistent – ideally at the small forward spot – it will provide the Wizards with a very nice starting five.

Considering how weak the bottom half of the Eastern Conference is, playoff spots are up for grabs. The Wizards should be in the mix to nab one of them.

Portland Trailblazers
The knock – quite deservingly – on the TrailBlazers last season is that they had no depth. In fact, their bench was horrible. Credit must go to the front office for going out in the off-season and recruiting some reserves.

Mo Williams, Earl Watson, Thomas Robinson, C.J. McCollum, Dorell Wright and Meyers Leonard form a very solid collection of back-ups that should allow Portland to rest their starters without fearing they’ll be surrendering the game.

Good teams always have a nice inside/outside combination and Portland are lucky enough to have one of the best in Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge. Point guard Lillard was the runaway rookie-of-the-year award winner, and earned himself the reputation of a big game player by hitting a number of big shots last year.

Meanwhile, Aldridge is a stud. A beast on the low block, and what sometimes feels like an ‘automatic two points’ shooter from mid-range, he’s one of the best power forwards in the game, and deserves a solid supporting cast.

Considering both stars – plus other starters Nic Batum and Wes Matthews – will be able to have a consistent rest this season, I think Portland will push for playoff contention.

Los Angeles Lakers
I suspect this is more wishful thinking than anything else. Either way, I make this prediction with zero confidence, and 100% bias.

Yet utilising a ‘glass half full’ mentality, let’s assume Kobe comes back 100% and with a vengeance. Let’s assume that Steve Nash overcomes his injury concerns and keeps Father Time at bay for another season. Let’s assume Pau Gasol will be rejuvenated at being reintegrated into the offense. That’s the makings of a pretty dangerous team; I’m not sure I’d want to play them in the first round of the playoffs.

Of course, they’d have to actually make the playoffs in the first place.

That’s a lot of assumptions to rely on, and as my mum used to say ‘assume makes an ass out of u and me’. In fact, forget it. I can’t even delude myself into this pick. I’m off to watch some DVDs of the 2010 NBA Finals.



NBA’s Greatest Rivalries: The Finale

Here it is, the moment you’ve all been waiting for, the last part in the trilogy that is the NBA’s Greatest Rivalries. We’ve hit some ones so far but in reality there are still some big dogs to go through yet. Enjoy. (more…)