Kobe Bryant Says Iggy Azalea Has Had a More Successful Career Than Nick Young

During Lakers media day, Kobe Bryant was asked to choose between Nick Young and his girlfriend, Iggy Azalea. The Black Mamba chose the “Fancy” singer over his 29-year-old teammate. 

Bryant’s reasoning: Azalea has been more successful. The rankings—based on the reasoning—would likely change if Young could help the 36-year-old win another championship. 

To see the full interview with Bryant, visit NBA.com.

Speaking of Swaggy P, he had some fun during media day as well.

[SB Nation, YouTube; h/t Black Sports Online, Complex]

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Measured approach for Kobe Bryant, Lakers

The important Kobe Bryant-Byron Scott dynamic appears to be off to a healthy start.

      
 

 

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Kobe Bryant, Deron Williams engage in war of words

It is no secret Deron Williams of the Brooklyn Nets has not been all that great in the past few seasons. He was consistently one of the few best point guards in the NBA throughout his time in Utah, and after a decent start with New Jersey/Brooklyn, injuries have claimed a lot of his productivity. So it is imperative that the 2014-15 season is a good one for Deron, who has to prove himself to still be among the top players in the NBA, a moniker he definitely wants to reclaim. What he does not want is non-positive thoughts that could contribute to a possible derailing of his attempt to get back on top of his game. Apparently, Kobe Bryant does not necessarily want to comply with D-Will’s wishes. The Lakers superstar, a few days ago, questioned Deron’s performance and decision-making in Game Two of the second-round of the Eastern Conference playoffs against the Heat — in which he was 0 for 9 from the field and was scoreless. Kobe said that he would rather go 0 for 30 in a game than 0 fo…

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A timeline of reports saying Kobe Bryant looks “really good” on the court

Over the past few weeks, there have been various reports and quotes of people saying that Kobe Bryant is back to his old self. So, with training camp literally just around the corner, we decided to put together a timeline of people saying Bryant looks “really good” on the court.
Here it goes.

Jared Zwerling – September 8
Aside from the people like James Harden saying that Kobe would return as his 20-year-old self and the footage of Bryant killing kids on the court in China, the first real word we got of the Black Mamba looking good on the court came via Bleacher Report’s Jared Zwerling, who passed along a quote by L.A. native Bobby Brown.
Was chatting with @BBROWNLAU in LA & said a few veteran NBA guys who watched Kobe recently train here told him, “He’s back to the old Kobe.”— Jared Zwerling (@JaredZwerling) September 8, 2014
Perhaps not coincidentally, Brown worked out for the Lakers earlier in September, though it looks like the 30-year-old will be heading back to China this

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Kobe Bryant Studied a Hunting Cheetah to Improve His Fadeaway Jumper

Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant has one of the greatest fadeaway jumpers ever. Had it not been for the Discovery Channel, it may not be what it is today.

You read that right. The Discovery Channel gets credit for Bryant’s fadeaway jumper being so devastating.

The Black Mamba revealed in an interview with The New York Times’ Philip Galanes that he was watching television when he figured out a way to improve his form:

When you watch me shoot my fadeaway jumper, you’ll notice my leg is always extended. I had problems making that shot in the past. It’s tough. So one day I’m watching the Discovery Channel and see a cheetah hunting. When the cheetah runs, its tail always gives it balance, even if it’s cutting a sharp angle. And that’s when I was like: My leg could be the tail, right?

It’s no secret that Bryant has taken some pages out of Michael Jordan’s book in the past. But a cheetah? The Black Mamba will apparently look anywhere and everywhere for help on his game.

Given how much success Bryant has had with the jumper, other players may want to flip on the Discovery Channel and start taking notes. Who knows where the Black Mamba would be had he not studied cheetahs.

[h/t That NBA Lottery Pick]

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Mitch Kupchak: Kobe Bryant ‘looks really good, feels great’

Los Angeles Lakers general manger Mitch Kupchak said Friday that Kobe Bryant looks and feels great.
Kupchak said he’s watched Kobe workout throughout the summer, and he “Looks really good, feels great. No ill effects on either injury.” — Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) September 26, 2014
Bryant, who sustained a lateral tibial plateau fracture in his left knee on Dec. 17, appeared in just six games last year after missing training camp, the preseason and the opening portion of the 2013-14 regular season as he recovered from a torn Achilles suffered in April 2013.
Kupchak on Kobe: “I think he’s going to have an excellent year … he’s been working every day.” — Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) September 26, 2014
According to Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding, Kupchak also said Bryant has lost some weight this offseason.
Kupchak said Kobe is down 10-12 pounds from last year: “Couldn’t tell he blew out an Achilles tendon or broke a bone in his knee last year.” — KEVIN DING (@KevinDing)

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Vanessa Bryant to be on ‘Real Housewives of OC’?

Vanessa Bryant doesn’t seem like the type to take part in a dramatic reality TV show like “Real Housewives of Orange County,” but that may be exactly why the shows producers are reportedly looking to add her. According to RumorFix.com, there will be a new face on the next season of RHOC and it could […]

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Phil Jackson: Kobe Bryant trained harder than Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan was renowned for his legendary work ethic, but Phil Jackson says Kobe Bryant even surpassed the Chicago Bulls great in terms of training. Jackson, now the president of the New York Knicks, did a lengthy Q&A with the New York Post. Jackson talked about why he took the job, how he thinks players […]

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Is Kobe Bryant the Answer to Los Angeles Lakers’ Small Forward Problem?

Small forward poses big problems for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Unless Kobe Bryant takes ownership of this situation, too. 

Immersed in the hustle and bustle of a very active offseason, the Lakers haven’t found a lasting solution to their void at small forward. With the summer winding down, they can’t expect that to change.

Anything they do now, anyone they plug into that starting 3 spot, will be a temporary stopgap or ill-equipped to perform there. Or both. 

But as luck would have it, all hope is not lost.

Turning to Bryant, like they tend to do when facing conflict, might be just the answer—however impermanent—they need.

 

Underwhelming Alternatives 

Assembling almost an entire roster on the fly isn’t easy. The Lakers have spent their offseason trying to remain competitive without compromising any long-term financial flexibility.

Options are limited in these situations. The Lakers haven’t had their pick of the litter, and it shows in their outcast-overloaded roster. 

Lottery busts Xavier Henry and Wesley Johnson are the only two legitimate small forwards the Lakers employ.

Both are mobile enough to defend wings, and Henry proved a valuable source of instant offense for the Lakers last season (10 points in 21.1 minutes per game) while Johnson resembled a competent shooter, banging in nearly 37 percent of his three-pointers.

Johnson has also been working out regularly with Bryant, according to the Orange County Register‘s Bill Oram. Bryant is the type to pick his workout partners very carefully. If Johnson is someone he’s willing to spend extra time with, something’s there.

Neither Johnson nor Henry are ideal candidates, though. Henry is slightly undersized at 6’6″, and Johnson remains too much of a specialist.

Starting someone else who’s a two-way player or allows the Lakers to experiment with various promising combinations—or both—makes more sense if afforded the opportunity.

Julius Randle, for the record, is not the player.

Even though he’ll tell you he’s that player.

“A lot of the league is going to small ball, but the good thing about me, I’m interchangeable,” he said in June, per Lakers.com’s Mike Trudell. “I can play small ball because I can guard multiple positions because I can really move. But I think it’s going to be an advantage for me to be able to take a smaller guy inside but also take a bigger guy on the outside.”

Watching Randle during the NBA‘s Summer League, it became clear his entire skill set wasn’t advertised adequately. He could be seen running point, taking opponents off the dribble and defending—halfheartedly at times—inside and out. There’s little doubt he could spend time at small forward…in a pinch.

Oversized lineups aren’t common for a reason. Starting Randle alongside, say, Carlos Boozer and Jordan Hill would be a floor-spacing nightmare. Not one of them has three-point range. Same goes for Ed Davis. 

Playing Randle at small forward should be a last resort. Ideally it’s something the Lakers won’t even entertain.

Ryan Kelly saw some time at small forward last year, but it didn’t go well. Or even close to well. He notched a 5.8 player efficiency rating there, per 82games.com.

At 6’11″, he’s more of stretch 4 who relies too much on spot-up shooting to play a small forward’s game. That he’s not quick enough to keep pace with traditionally athletic wings hurts as well.

Better alternatives aren’t found in Wayne Ellington or Nick Young. Ellington is too small at 6’4″, and Young doesn’t play enough defense to police shooting guards, let alone the deeper, scorer-stuffed small forward slot.

It’s not that the Lakers don’t have options—they do. It’s that the options they do have don’t justify not looking for something, anything, better.

 

Benefits of Bryant

This is the part of the movie when Bryant rides into Staples Center wearing a just-for-show cape ready to save the day.

Assuming health, and also assuming a lottery-doomed roster doesn’t drive him into abrupt retirement, Bryant can play small forward. Though he stands at only 6’6″, he’s a self-sufficient scorer who can double as a point forward at times.

Sliding into the 3 spot isn’t anything new for him, either. He’s logged at least 18 percent of his minutes there four times since 2000. Nearly a third of his playing time came there during his historical 2012-13 campaign, and he registered a higher PER at small forward (24.5) than shooting guard (23.1).

Most importantly, though, placing Bryant at small forward allows head coach Byron Scott to tinker with his starting five in ways he otherwise couldn’t. 

Not to mention it prevents him from making a massive mistake. 

Speaking with the Los Angeles Daily NewsMark Medina, Scott revealed he already had four of his five starters in mind: Bryant, Boozer, Hill and…Steve Nash.

You read that correctly.

Rolling with the 40-year-old Nash—no matter how healthy he seems now—over the 26-year-old Jeremy Lin reeks of an obsession with yesteryear. It isn’t smart. David Murphy of Bleacher Report recently made it his mission to tell us why: 

The issue of who should start and who should come off the bench is not about who should or should not play. It’s a question of what most benefits the team—both now and moving forward.

Everyone who has ever been a fan of basketball wants to see Nash go out on his own terms and go out successfully.

But wouldn’t helping Lin to be a better player and bolstering an already potent bench be preferable to struggling against time and a bad back to hold onto a starter’s role and minutes?

As someone who openly wants Nash to end his career on a high note, this is difficult, yet not impossible to accept.

Push come to shove, Lin should start over Nash. He’s younger, better fit to defend opposing point men—which is more an insult to Nash than compliment to Lin—and he’s the incisive handler neither Bryant nor Nash can be at this stage of their careers.

But let’s take this one step further.

Why choose?

Plugging Bryant at small forward enables Scott to start both Nash and Lin, deepening a tape-thin positional rotation in the process.

Nash shouldn’t be charged with primary point guard duties anymore. He can still direct an offense—5.7 assists per game last year—but he can be equally effective off the ball as a spot-up assassin who doesn’t move too much. He’s only one year removed (2012-13) from ranking in the top 10 of standstill efficiency, according to Synergy Sports (subscription required). 

Using Nash as an undersized 2-guard also allows Bryant and Lin to operate with the ball in their hands more, which is how both are accustomed to playing.

Creating these mismatches makes them harder for opposing defenses to guard, ensuring they’re running with three established scorers rather than two, plus Johnson or Henry. And with the Lakers built to repeat their defensive performance from last season—28th in efficiency—they’ll need to score. A lot.

A whole lot. 

Moving Bryant to small forward puts them in position to concoct the strongest, most potent offense possible, diminishing the likelihood they field a below-average product.

 

Decisions, Decisions

Displacing Bryant from that shooting guard spot isn’t all dandelions and offensive euphoria. 

There are warts to worry about.

Expecting Bryant to defend opposing small forwards is ambitious.

Regardless of how healthy and spry he’s feeling, guarding the Kevin Durants and Carmelo Anthonys of the world pushes the boundaries of logic. Someone his age (36) shouldn’t defend the opposition’s best wing scorer daily. That, in part, is why Johnson calls Los Angeles home.

Seeing Nash or Lin match up against shooting guards would be just as painful. Neither player is a strong defender, and both stand at 6’3″ tall. They’ll be at severe size disadvantages nightly, waiting to be exploited off the dribble, their sheer lack of height begging opponents to shoot over them.

Under normal circumstances, teams should try to avoid such defensive detriments. 

For the Lakers, this must be viewed as a necessary evil.

Enough concerns and questions plague this team that some must be overlooked, defensive demerits being one of them. It doesn’t matter whether they install a dual-point guard lineup. The Lakers don’t have the luxury of a true, reliable small forward. If they wish to be competitive immediately, sticking with what they know is the only course of action.

And Bryant, when healthy, is someone they know can create options and offer solutions—no matter where or how he plays—that otherwise wouldn‘t exist. 

 

*Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference and NBA.com unless otherwise cited.


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Beck/Bucher Season Forecast: ‘I’m Afraid That Kobe Bryant Is Going to Implode’

The 2014-15 NBA season is almost upon us, and there’s no shortage of storylines to be both optimistic about and afraid of. What should fans have faith in seeing this season, and what should they be most afraid of?

Howard Beck and Ric Bucher give their picks when they join Adam Lefkoe in the video above.

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