Bryant scores 26, Lakers rally past Jazz 98-91

Kobe Bryant scores 26 points, Lakers use big 3rd-quarter surge to rally past Jazz 98-91

      
 

 

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Utah’s Alec Burks crosses up Kobe Bryant badly

Ooooh.

      
 

 

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Kobe Bryant dishes behind-the-back to Carlos Boozer (Video / GIF)

Kobe Bryant put on a show for L.A. Lakers fans with a fantastic behind-the-back pass to Carlos Boozer for the finish during the second quarter of Sunday night’s preseason game at the Staples Center.Bryant led the Lakers in scoring with 26 points, while Boozer chipped in 19 points and grabbed 9 rebounds, as the Lakers beat the Jazz 98-91.Video via NBA.
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Bryant scores 26, Lakers rally past Jazz 98-91 (Yahoo Sports)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kobe Bryant scored 26 points and Carlos Boozer added 19, leading the Los Angeles Lakers to a 98-91 preseason victory over the Utah Jazz on Sunday night.

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Utah’s Alec Burks Burns Kobe Bryant with Behind-the-Back Move

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant has earned a spot on the NBA‘s All-Defensive First Team nine times throughout his career, so it’s rare to see him gamble and not convert on that end. 

During the Utah Jazz’s preseason game vs. L.A., Alec Burks crossed over the Black Mamba with a beautiful behind-the-back move that left Bryant frozen.

Get all of these plays out of your system before the season starts, Kobe.

[Danny Hazan]

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Kobe Bryant Lashes Out at Low ESPN Ranking: ‘Bunch of Idiots’

Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant might feed off criticism as well as anyone in NBA history, but that doesn’t mean he likes to hear it.

The 36-year-old, who played only six games last season due to injury, checked in at No. 40 on ESPN.com‘s 2014 NBA player rankings.

Once word got back to the Mamba of his not-so-flattering position, he fired back a shot of his own at those responsible for the list, per Bill Oram of the Orange County Register:

If this story sounds at all familiar, there’s a reason for that.

It played out in almost the exact same way prior to last season, only that ranking placed him 15 spots higher at No. 25. He wasn’t exactly thrilled with that standing either, per Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times:

Like all subjective rankings, these are nothing more than opinions. And those aren’t easily formed with a player attempting to rebound from a serious injury.

Perhaps that’s why Bryant finds himself in the same company as former All-Stars Dwyane Wade (No. 36) and Rajon Rondo (No. 37). All three are set to enter the 2014-15 campaign surrounded by uncertainty, having missed a combined 156 games last season.

Bryant has plenty to prove, both as an aging veteran looking to evade Father Time and as a member of a Lakers team that set a franchise record for futility last season. It’s understandable to question what he has left in the tank after 18 years in the league, especially in light of his struggles to stay healthy during the most recent one.

Of course, being understandable doesn’t necessarily make it advisable, as ESPN analyst and former NBA head coach George Karl observed:

“An older player like Kobe is bound to fall in preseason lists like this because everything points to a fall in his numbers,” wrote LakersNation’s Corey Hansford. “However, you can never doubt Kobe Bryant and he tends to take note of those who do—just so he can prove them wrong.”

It’s hard to say whether Bryant still has enough juice to quiet his critics. There is a ton of mileage on those legs, and they seem to be starting to show all that wear and tear.

Then again, he is all of one season removed from averaging 27.3 points, 6.0 assists and 5.6 rebounds per game. In 2012-13, he had the 10th-highest player efficiency rating in the entire league (23.0).

While the Los Angeles Daily News‘ Mark Medina reports that Bryant might not play enough minutes to recover all of that production, it isn’t out of the question for him to post relatively similar stats on a smaller scale. With his footwork, basketball IQ and relentless competitive drive, he will be a force for as long his body cooperates.

Assuming he holds up, he could still be a special player this season. It’s hard to imagine there are 39 other players in this league who could realistically make a similar claim.

And don’t be surprised if Bryant reminds us all of that throughout the year.

 

Statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.

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Kobe Bryant: ‘We are overpaid, but so are the owners’

Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant isn’t the biggest fan of how the NBA business works. The 36-year-old veteran went on a brief Twitter rant about the NBA’s new television contract after the deal became official on Oct. 6.
Players are “encouraged” per new CBA to take less to win or risk being called selfish+ungrateful while nbatv deal goes UP by a BILLION #biz— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) October 07, 2014
But Kobe wasn’t done there. When asked to expand on the matter after Tuesday’s practice, Bryant had plenty more to say on the subject. “It’s very easy to look at the elite players around the league and talk about the amount of money that they get paid and compare that with the average (player),” Bryant said, per ESPN’s Baxter Holmes. “But we don’t look at what the owners get paid and how much revenue they generate off the backs of these players.” With the new collective bargaining expected to take place in the summer of 2017, Bryant made it clear that the owners, like play

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Kobe Bryant Showing Road Back to Superstardom Will Be an Uphill Climb

Kobe Bryant is playing NBA basketball, a victory in itself for a man with his injury history and mileage. But what we’ve seen in the preseason so far indicates he’s got a long way to go before he ever plays it as effectively as he once did.

And as much as it hurts to say so, the Kobe we used to know, the superstar so many revered, may be gone forever.

Through three exhibition tilts, Bryant has produced mixed results.

 

Bryant’s Struggles

He has connected on just 13 of his 36 total field-goal attempts, and he appears unable to get into the lane off the dribble. This isn‘t altogether unexpected, but Bryant’s total lack of lift has robbed him of the ability to generate easy shots—a problem made worse by the fact that so few of his Los Angeles Lakers teammates can create some for him.

Still, a torn Achilles and broken leg (Bryant’s two most recent injuries) would have ended the careers of most players his age. And the version of Kobe we’re watching today looks pretty darn good for a 36-year-old guard—even a healthy one.

In that regard, this non-superstar Bryant remains remarkable.

But the shots Bryant is taking…man. To call them tough is a gross understatement. The contested fall-away flings are difficult to describe. In some ways, watching Bryant shoot them is like watching Kevin Garnett run the floor: The movements are the same, but the speed and bounce just aren’t there.

In another comparison that strikes closer to home for the Lakers, watching Bryant shoot those leaned-back faders is like watching Steve Nash navigate his way into the lane. The things he’s doing are aesthetically similar, but the degree of difficulty is immeasurably greater than it used to be.

Bryant’s worst career field-goal percentage was the 41.7 percent he shot as a rookie. In his abbreviated 2013-14 campaign, he connected at a 42.5 percent clip. Those modest figures seem out of reach now, and his overall efficiency will likely suffer even more because he appears to lack the quickness to work his way to the foul line.

You can make the argument, as Lakers head coach Byron Scott has on ESPN Radio, via Matt Moore of CBSSports.com, that Bryant will be in better shape by opening night: “He’s in terrific shape. That’s what I love about him. He came with the right attitude from day one. I think in the next few weeks he’ll get better and stronger, and be ready for the regular season.”

That’s a tough sell because it relies on a pair of faulty presumptions: first, that Bryant didn’t practically kill himself to get into the shape he’s currently in, and second, that it’s possible for legs with over 54,000 minutes on them (regular season and playoffs combined) to gain strength with even more wear.

Bryant could get technically sharper as he knocks off the rust, but saying his legs can be played into shape seems far-fetched at this stage.

Scott’s insistence on limiting the Lakers’ three-point attempts won’t help either. If defenses don’t have to worry about L.A. shooting triples, they’ll have all the more reason to send an extra defender at Bryant on the block.

Of course, even if the Lakers were willing to fire away from deep, their lack of accomplished marksmen might result in defenses taking the same post-focused approach anyway.

 

Another Superstar Trait

Maybe there’s another way to view Bryant’s climb back to superstardom. Maybe we need to take a broader view of his place in NBA lore, of his legacy as a whole. Frankly, we have to do that because there’s almost no credible argument for his chances to return to conventional on-court superstardom this season.

If you think about it, Bryant’s career has been missing something to this point. It’s been lacking a rare and laudable quality that many previous NBA luminaries have possessed.

Bryant hasn’t done much to foster the growth of his teammates—especially the younger ones.

According to Arash Markazi of ESPNLosAngeles.com, that’s changing:

Bryant has never had the patience for others to learn on job, not on his watch. He has always been too busy thinking about winning another championship and building on his legacy. 

But in the twilight of his career and on a team that in his heart of hearts he knows isn’t destined for a title, he has changed his ways. 

He has embraced his role as a mentor, a leader and a teacher on a young Los Angeles Lakers team in desperate need of all of the above.

That’s a distinctly new development in Bryant’s career, and while it’s not fair to say his surefire Hall of Fame credentials need boosting, what Kobe is doing now could serve as ammunition against critics claiming he was selfish and never made teammates better.

Granted, barbs like that have had the ring of truth for most of his career, and his newly selfless humility comes largely because he can’t dominate on his own anymore. Still, it’s meaningful.

Precious few Bryant teammates of the past would have ever said something like what Jeremy Lin revealed to Markazi:

He’s pushing me and he’s demanding a lot from me. He’s definitely taken on a mentorship role for me on the court. That’s something that I don’t think I’ve had in my previous four years in the league. It’s just nice to have somebody who is pushing me and helping me and teaching me the tricks. It’s also nice when he’s one of the best to ever do it.

Bryant’s magnanimity has even extended to opponents:

Not only did Bryant seem genuine in his congratulations for Stephen Curry‘s ridiculous in-your-face triple, but he also sent a message to the younger Lakers. Kobe wouldn’t have even been in position for Curry to drop that long-range bomb on him if he hadn’t taken the challenge of picking up the Golden State Warriors sniping stud full-court.

After watching Curry torch teammates, Bryant gave his best effort.

He failed to slow down Curry, but he succeeded in another respect: showing the young Lakers the nobility of attacking a challenge—the more difficult, the better.

 

Making a Mark

There’s value in what Bryant’s doing these days.

Superstars leave marks on the game. They change it, and they change the players they played with for the better.

Kobe racked up titles and individual honors during the first 18 years of his career, leaving plenty of marks in the process. Now, by helping teammates, setting examples and paying his vast stockpile of knowledge forward, he’s leaving his superstar mark in a new way.

So even if Bryant’s uphill climb to stardom proves too steep, he’ll still add to his legacy this season.

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Kobe Bryant gives Stephen Curry respect after a great shot (Video / GIF)

Kobe Bryant showed Stephen Curry some respect after Curry shot a three-pointer over him during the third quarter of Sunday night’s NBA preseason game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors in Ontario, Canada.Bryant was defending Curry all the way up the court, but Curry managed to free himself up to drain the long three. Bryant congratulated him by playfully slapping him on the rear end and telling him “Nice shot”.Curry scored 25 points on 8-11 shooting as the Warriors blew out the Lakers 116-75.Video via NBA.
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Kobe Bryant Steals Ball from Stephen Curry, Slams Home Oldest Old Man Dunk Ever

Kobe is old.

He’s so old that his current teammates wore his jersey growing up. He’s old enough to have actually been a fan of Twin Peaks. The Black Mamba could run for president right now.

But like Sisyphus, Kobe Bryant returns year after year to work that rock, and he does it better than most.

The Los Angeles Lakers’ star stepped back onto the court Thursday night for a preseason matchup against the Golden State warriors. He wasted no time in reminding everyone how good he is, and just how old he’s become.

Bryant’s moment came on a slick steal off Stephen Curry. The 36-year-old swiped the ball out of Curry’s hands and took it to the rim for the oldest, old man dunk that has ever been dunked.

Eighteen years in the NBA takes a toll, and after last season’s fractured tibia and torn Achilles tendon, it’s a credit to Bryant that he even went for the slam.

Scarcely a year ago he was slamming over two defenders:

We may never see that Kobe again, but you can’t rule anything out when it comes to the Black Mamba. Between his otherworldly determination and the miracles of German franken-science, life’s rules only loosely apply to this man.

 

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