Kobe Bryant Hero Ball All Los Angeles Lakers Have and Sunday NBA Takeaways

In a manner of speaking, Kobe Bryant bounced back. The Los Angeles Lakers, though, fell woefully flat.

After slogging through an illness-induced 1-of-14 shooting night against the San Antonio Spurs on Nov. 14, Bryant was a whole lot more aggressive against the Golden State Warriors on Sunday. He poured in 44 points on 15-of-34 shooting in 31 minutes.

Content to let Bryant fire away, the Warriors absolutely crushed the Lakers. They opened up a 74-55 halftime lead and cruised to a final score of 136-115. Golden State had 115 points by the end of the third quarter, and getting there meant breaking a franchise record, per Bay Area News Group’s Diamond Leung:

The story, though, was Bryant.

This is why the Lakers are worth watching right now: to see how fearsome Kobe’s pride is, how maniacally he’ll fight against overwhelming odds with virtually no help at all. Nobody can knock Kobe’s effort in this one, but it was clear from the very early stages that his remarkable exertion would be for naught.

The Warriors got whatever they wanted on offense, and Stephen Curry had the easiest 30-point, 15-assist night imaginable. Andrew Bogut went for 15 points, 10 rebounds and four assists on 7-of-9 shooting in just 21 minutes.

Six Dubs reached double figures, and the team connected on 53.5 percent of its shots from the field as the Lakers offered zero resistance in both the half court and transition.

The final margin of victory was 21 points, but it may as well have been 50. The Lakers had no chance in this one.

Yet, Bryant gave it everything he had—fueled by whatever unquenchable fire keeps him going and the total passivity of his teammates (in nearly equal measure).

You have to wonder how long this can go on. “This” being Bryant raging against entire teams by himself in battles that are over almost as soon as they begin. Can Byron Scott convince him to move the ball, play fewer minutes or do something (anything!) to fuel L.A.’s defense?

Would we want him to? Grantland’s netw3rk was very descriptive in describing this Lakers team:

After all, Kobe Bryant was the reason a wire-to-wire blowout was the most compelling story of the night. The Lakers are a one-man show in every sense of the term, and whether that show is a comedy or tragedy probably depends on how much purple and gold you’ve got in your closet.

The bizarre story continues for the 1-9 Lakers with three straight roadies, including trips to Houston and Dallas. In 66 years of existence between Minneapolis and L.A., the Lakers have never had a worse record in their first 10 games.

And they’ve rarely been more interesting.

Absorb what’s happening with Bryant and the Lakers this year and take notes so you can explain to your grandchildren why a team getting annihilated every time out is such fascinating theater.

 

Around the Association

Bucks Establish Clear Defensive Identity at Heat’s Expense

It’s been a while since anyone genuinely feared the Deer, but after a 2-of-17 shooting performance in a 91-84 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, Miami Heat big man Chris Bosh will be seeing antlers in his nightmares.

The Bucks continued their early-season trend of shutting down the opposition, limiting the Heat to 41.1 percent shooting on the night and, of course, making Bosh’s evening particularly rough. Without the assistance of Dwyane Wade, who sat out with a sore hamstring, Bosh drew the full focus of a Bucks defense that came into the contest with a top-five defensive rating, per NBA.com. ESPN.com’s Michael Wallace shared Bosh’s comments regarding playing without Wade and the need to play better to assist the team because of Wade’s absence:

Milwaukee now sits at an even 5-5 on the year, as does Miami.

The difference, of course, is that the youthful Bucks are loaded with young talent and are trending upward.

Giannis Antetokounmpo furnished a flash forward of what the Bucks offense might someday look like in the early going, running an easy pick-and-roll to set up rookie Jabari Parker for a jumper. Then, he took care of things himself…emphatically:

One of Milwaukee’s greatest challenges is figuring out how to use Antetokounmpo, a player so raw and so multifaceted in his skills that every avenue of development appears to be open. This is a good problem, and the solution may be simply giving the 19-year-old the ball in space and letting him decide what to do with it.

For all the Bucks’ promise, there’s still a natural wet-behind-the-ears quality to the club. For every solid play Brandon Knight (who had a game-high 20 points) made down the stretch to hold off the Heat’s comeback attempts, there were instances of inexperience—such as Parker wasting two consecutive quick possessions with ill-advised fourth-quarter attacks when what the Bucks really needed was to run some clock.

Late mistakes like Parker’s are to be expected, and all’s well that ends well as far as Milwaukee’s concerned. Besides, what mattered most was the continued defensive stinginess. The rangy Bucks seemed to contest everything, and though Jason Kidd’s club had only one blocked shot on the night, Miami converted just one shot in the restricted area after halftime.

This was a rough one for the Heat, and Bosh got a real dose of the downside of life as an alpha. In an odd way, Bosh deserves credit for continuing to shoot, even though his jumper was clearly off and the Bucks were zeroed in specifically on him. His only healthy marquee teammate, Luol Deng (3-of-11 on the night), wasn’t up to the challenge of breaking down Milwaukee’s D either.

The Heat have now dropped three straight—a disturbing trend for them that presents an opportunity for other high-seed seekers in the East, as noted by Bleacher Report’s Ethan J. Skolnick:

Milwaukee will take on the New York Knicks before visiting the Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center in a back-to-back later this week. All smiles and sitting at .500, we’ll see if that defense travels.

 

Mile-High Nuggets Hit New Low, Knicks Snap Skid

Speaking of trips to New York, the Denver Nuggets did not enjoy theirs.

Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith put up matching 28-point efforts, hitting a combined 20-of-30 shots from the field as the New York Knicks smashed a reeling Nuggets club by a final score of 109-93. The win snapped a seven-game slide for the Knicks, giving head coach Derek Fisher a brief respite before New York hits the road for five of its next six.

For the Nuggets, well…it’s hard to see a silver lining in this one.

Now sitting at 2-7 and boasting a bottom-five net rating of minus-6.2 points per 100 possessions, Brian Shaw’s crew is circling the drain. After a spirited first quarter that included six made triples, the Nugs imploded in the second period.

New York’s advantage in that horrendous 12-minute span: 31-8. Denver made just one field goal in the quarter.

It’s not just that the Nuggets aren’t hitting shots this season; it’s that the offense lacks the flow and secondary options necessary to create shots worth taking. And yes, it would seem Shaw’s seat might be getting a little toastier. SB Nation’s Doug Eberhardt noted the Nuggets are “not being put in position to succeed”:

Denver shot 39 percent on the night, and even its better scorers—such as Kenneth Faried, who put up 16 on 7-of-9 shooting, felt the critics’ wrath for their work in other areas. Charlie Yao of RoundBallMiningCompany.com shared his critique:

We’ve been pretty negative to this point, so here’s something fun: JaVale McGee air-balled a free throw!

Moving on.

 

Full of Sound and Fury…

…signifying very, very few points.

James Harden‘s latest meeting with his former team must have been a confusing affair. First, he shows up expecting to see some familiar pals sporting Oklahoma City Thunder jerseys, only to find Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in street clothes.

And whatever potentially nostalgic vibes he might have otherwise felt were quickly consumed by some seriously negative mojo. This one was emotional, and it didn’t take long for tempers on both sides to ignite. 

Chippiness pervaded the action, as world-class irritants—led by Houston’s Patrick Beverley and OKC’s Steven Adams—plied their trades in an atmosphere of frustration and barely contained animosity. Beverley very nearly crossed a line, though, as seen in this GIF shared by SI.com’s Ben Golliver:

This one had it all: technical fouls, Adams inducing a Trevor Ariza shove by utilizing his trademark “hold onto the guy and wait for him to get mad” tactic, Scott Brooks running onto the floor to bark at Beverley, Durant shouting NSFW challenges at Dwight Howard from the pine, a flagrant foul by Nick Collison…the list goes on and on and on.

You’ll note there hasn’t been much discussion of actual basketball yet. That’s because the game itself was borderline unwatchable. Both teams shot under 30 percent from the field, and the final tally of 69-65 (Houston “won”) looked like a score from early in the third quarter of a normal game.

Combined, the Rockets and Thunder amassed 43 made field goals and 29 turnovers.

It. Was. Rough.

 

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NBA Trade Rumors: Latest Buzz Surrounding Kobe Bryant and Rajon Rondo

It’s hard to feel sorry for Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics fans considering the two franchises basically had a monopoly on the Larry O’Brien Trophy for so many years.

However, the 2014-15 season is not going to be pretty for either legendary team. Neither squad will reach the postseason, and trade rumors will likely circulate around both franchises all year, even for the superstar players. 

With that in mind, read on to see the latest on Kobe Bryant and Rajon Rondo.

 

Kobe Bryant

Mitch Lawrence of Forbes provided an update on Bryant:

“But from what we can tell, talking to industry sources familiar with the Lakers’ thinking, No. 24 isn’t going anywhere. He’s got a no-trade clause and the Lakers have a no-trade mindset.”

Lawrence also passed along a quote from an NBA team president that would seem to suggest the same thing:

“I don’t see them trading Kobe, not at all. The Lakers almost have to keep him, as much for business reasons as anything else, and I believe that’s what they’re going to do.”

Those business reasons are important since the Lakers are not going to compete for a playoff spot this season. Bryant is the main draw at the box office, and Los Angeles is a town built on stars. All those celebrities sitting courtside at the Staples Center, as well as those tuning in to the television broadcasts, would be less inclined to follow the Lakers without Mr. Bryant.

That would be a problem for the NBA’s second-most valuable franchise (behind only the New York Knicks, per Lawrence).

What’s more, there probably aren’t a lot of teams lining up to trade for Bryant given his $48.5 million contract and age (36 years old).

The Knicks have been discussed because of his familiarity with the triangle offense and coach Derek Fisher, but New York is rebuilding this season. Giving up young or future assets for an aging superstar is not how you go about building a championship contender, even if that superstar is Bryant. 

Bryant will be a Laker the rest of his career.

 

Rajon Rondo

Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated provided an update on Rondo through a quote from an Eastern Conference executive:

I don’t know how high it is. He is a free agent at the end of the year. A team that trades for him will have half a season to convince him to stay. He has to be in a city that he wants to be in. If he didn’t get hurt last year his value would have been higher then. A team would have had a year and a half and convince him to stay. And I don’t know how many teams truly need a starting point guard. Houston needs one. The Lakers. But if you’re the Lakers, why would you give up anything for him now when you can try to sign him this summer?

Rondo may be the superstar in Boston and the biggest draw for the team, but the Celtics are in full-blown rebuild mode.

They landed Marcus Smart and James Young in the last draft and have Jared Sullinger as a promising young big man down low. The Celtics are still a couple of pieces away from having a formidable core that will develop together, and Rondo is the best trade chip they have at their disposal.

Even if the Celtics didn’t get any notable young players back in a Rondo trade (which they probably would), they could get draft picks to help in the future.

Plus, trading Rondo would open up the point guard spot for Smart so that the Celtics can see what they fully have in the Oklahoma State product. Smart will be the eventual starting point guard for the Celtics, so the more experience he can accumulate as a rookie, the better off he will be in the long term.

Rondo is averaging 10.1 points, 12 assists and 8.1 rebounds a game in the early going and is a walking triple-double threat every time he takes the floor.

That early season performance is exactly what the Celtics need if they are going to trade him away. Rondo is an excellent player, but he represents the past for Boston. 

It’s time to look toward the future.

 

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Kobe Bryant Illness: Updates on Lakers Star’s Status and Recovery

Kobe Bryant made just a single shot out of 14 attempts and finished with nine points during the Los Angeles Lakers’ loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Friday night. Now it appears a likely viral illness played a role in the shockingly poor shooting night for the superstar guard.

Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News reports the team isn’t exactly sure what the issue is, but believe it’s a viral infection of some kind. He also passed along comments from head coach Byron Scott about the situation.

“He wasn’t feeling too well. I don’t know what it is,” Scott said. “I don’t know if it’s a cold. I don’t know to be honest with you. But I know he’s not feeling well.”

The report also included remarks from Bryant about his body not being able to recover quite as quickly at this stage of his career.

“Tonight was one of those nights where it really makes me remember the challenge of being 36 and 19 years in and your body won’t respond,” he said. “You’re used to fighting through those things and this helps me really remember exactly what I’m facing. It’s tough.”

The good news for the Lakers is that it doesn’t sound like an ailment that’s going to keep Bryant sidelined for any type of extended stretch. But with three games over the next five days, the amount of recovery time will be limited.

 

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Beck/Bucher: Imagining the Ideal Kobe Bryant Trade Scenarios

Kobe Bryant has been and probably always will be a Los Angeles Laker. Currently under a 2 year and $48.5 million contract, it would seem implausible to find Kobe Bryant wearing another jersey other than purple and gold.

However, if Kobe were traded, which teams would be interested? Which teams would benefit from having a 36-year old Kobe Bryant?

Watch as Howard Beck and Ric Bucher debate what Kobe Bryant trades would be intriguing to see happen and which team would say no in the video above. 

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Boatright rallies No. 17 UConn past Bryant 66-53 (Yahoo Sports)

Connecticut's Ryan Boatright (11) celebrates during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Bryant in Storrs, Conn., on Friday, Nov. 14, 2014. Boatright scored 24 points in Connecticut's 66-53 victory. (AP Photo/Fred Beckham)

STORRS, Conn. (AP) — Defending champion UConn expects to get everyone’s best shot this season.


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Kobe Bryant: I’m ‘Jealous’ Of Tim Duncan’s Career Stability With Spurs

Kobe Bryant envies Tim Duncan.
Both players have five championships — Bryant with the Los Angeles Lakers and Duncan with the San Antonio Spurs — and both are considered all-time greats. But Duncan has had stability throughout his illustrious career, whereas Bryant has experienced ample roster and coaching changes.
“I can’t express to you how much I’m jealous,” Bryant recently told Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News. “I’ve been up and down.”
Bryant has played with his fair share of good players, including Shaquille O’Neal, one of the most dominating big men in NBA history. There certainly has been more fluidity to his situation, though, which is something Duncan willingly will admit.
Duncan and head coach Gregg Popovich are the glue that holds the Spurs together, but Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili also have been instrumental in San Antonio’s success.
“I’m in a system that allows me to play well,” Duncan told Medina. “With the kind of teammates I have and players we put toget

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Why We Should All Relish the Kobe Bryant Show

Basketball is entertainment, and Kobe Bryant is the best show in town. That has to be the starting point, or we’ll get nowhere.

If you keep those ideas in mind, it’s harder to get bogged down in the weird outrage surrounding Bryant’s crazy shot totals and the broader truth that his presence does more harm than good to the Lakers‘ long-term health.

Kobe’s desire to dominate on his terms is phenomenally interesting on a number of levels—especially if you like digging for universal truths and real-life lessons in something as inherently silly as a game played by adults for money.

It’s also nice if you’re paid to think about basketball, an unserious thing, in a serious way. Bryant is nothing if not endlessly analyzable.

But when you get caught up arguing about Bryant’s play, his impact on his team and whether what he’s doing is right or wrong, you’re really just trying to say something you think is important.

And it’s ridiculous to use basketball for that purpose.

There are two extremes to this. Some laud his loyalty, while others chide his selfishness. Everybody has an opinion, and everybody seems to use Bryant as a tool to explain something bigger.

Forget all that. Toss out the lessons you’re trying to learn (or teach) from what Bryant’s doing. Dispense with the high-minded criticism, the stubborn devotion and whatever other rationales are in play. Unburden yourself.

And consider just one truth in place of all that stuff: This. Is. Fun.

Fun!

We’ll never see a single-minded basketball monster like Kobe get away with something like this again. It’s fascinating—surreal, even—and we should be drinking it in, bathing in the wild absurdity of a player turning a team game into a one-man show.

Bryant leads the league in scoring despite posting career lows in efficiency. He’s taken more shots than anyone else in the NBA, connecting at a 38.8 percent clip—for a terrible team with no hope of those shots actually meaning anything.

Rapidly approaching his basketball expiration date, Kobe is screaming into the void. And it is incredible to watch. Just ask his teammates, who have deferred to him out of fear, or maybe reverence. It doesn’t really matter which.

“I think there was a timeout last game where I pointed at Kobe and I said, ‘I know how great this guy is, but you guys have got to play basketball,’” head coach Byron Scott said, per Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com. “‘You can’t look at him every single time and try to give him the ball. You’ve got to take shots that are there. You can’t pass up shots.’”

If you can get past the tragedy of it all, of a formerly great franchise listing drunkenly, fixed to Bryant’s anchor of a two-year contract with no place to go, the Lakers are the most compelling watch in the NBA. Because we will never see anything like this again.

Analytics won’t let it happen; coaches and front offices all know iso-ball doesn’t work, especially not in the staggering volume with which Bryant is employing it.

And, of course, we’ll never have another Kobe, another player with the combination of elite talent, hard-earned fan worship and singular disregard for the team concept.

This is a “step back and think about what’s actually happening” moment in NBA history. It’s just not the kind we typically celebrate.

Per Albert Burneko of Deadspin:

Michael Jordan is Michael Jordan because he could not be anybody else; Kobe Bryant is Kobe Bryant because he could not be Michael Jordan, but never stopped trying. That might seem like a putdown, and if it works as one, Kobe probably deserves it, but I’d be a liar if I denied finding something to admire in that 13,421 number. We should all be silly and liberated enough to fire up 13,421 bricks.

Yes!

If everyone operated like Bryant on a basketball court, we’d have mass chaos. Each of us would have an unshakable belief in our own primacy, our own alpha dog-ness. It’d never work in the real world.

But Bryant, in many ways, doesn’t operate in reality.

“He still believes he can be the best player in the league every time he steps on the court,” Carlos Boozer told Arash Markazi of ESPN.com.

That Bryant is not the game’s best player hardly matters. What matters is what he’s doing with that semi-delusional confidence.

Kobe is playing for nothing. He has zero to prove. But he spends his time on the court acting as though everything hangs in the balance and, more critically, that he’s the only one capable of doing anything.

Maybe that feels particularly selfish—even for Bryant. But B/R’s Kevin Ding suggests it’s merely part of Kobe’s deeply embedded code:

And we’re being reminded now that what is more important to Bryant than winning championships is staying true to the mindset that wins championships. That is what he can hang on to, no matter who is or isn’t on this Lakers team, and that is what he can take pride in even if he never gets to play another playoff game.

For Bryant, the winning is in the trying. The success is the struggle.

This is fiction we’re watching: a hero with a code fighting against unbeatable foes (time and age) and unconquerable odds (the Western Conference). If every NBA team were a movie, wouldn’t you watch the one starring Bryant and the Lakers? The one with the classic narrative, the grizzled protagonist going out with guns blazing?

This fiction is real. It’s happening right now.

And that’s really what sports are supposed to be anyway—a diversion from the real world.

Bryant, in his own way, is giving us exactly what we want and more than we could have possibly expected all at once.

So let’s all step back and think about this differently. From now on, let’s recognize what’s happening for what it is. Without agendas or self-serious analysis. The next time Bryant tosses up 35 shots in a loss, or catches fire for an entire quarter, relish it. Don’t think about the numbers or the analytics or anything else. Just think about how entertained you are.

We can be as earnest and pensive as we want when talking about the other 400-something players and 29 teams in the league. When it comes to Kobe and the Lakers, why don’t we just sit back and enjoy the show?

After all, something this improbable, this oddly inspiring, can’t last forever.

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Dwight Howard Was ‘Hurt and Disappointed’ by Kobe Bryant in LA

The past few years have, perhaps unfairly, conditioned us not to sympathize with Dwight Howard.

We think of him as the malcontent who sloppily forced his way off of the Orlando Magic, only to clash with Kobe Bryant in a failed trip to the Los Angeles Lakers. But one of the surprising achievements of his new Epix documentaryDwight Howard: In the Moment, is its credible portrayal of D12 as a well-meaning, naive kid who too often fell victim to his own eagerness to please.

Howard’s comments on the messy year he spent with Bryant and the Lakers drove that point home:

Before I got to the Lakers, I would talk to [Bryant]. He would really help me out on the low about how to become everything that I said I wanted to be. And I looked up to him. … I just felt so hurt and disappointed in the fact that the guy I was expecting to be somebody who was going to pass the torch, somebody that would say, ‘Dwight, I’ll take you under my wing and I’ll show you how to get it done’…there was none of that.

Howard typically traffics in silliness, and you can’t look past the unabashedly pro-Dwight slant to the entire film. But as Howard explains his feelings on the ugly two-year saga that sent him from Orlando to Los Angeles to Houston, you can sense the authenticity of the regret and pain he felt during that period.

Howard’s intense desire to be liked comes through strongly in the documentary. He’s a people-pleaser, always smiling and joking in a way that naturally infects those around him. Knowing that, it’s easy to understand how rough treatment from someone Howard admittedly idolized would have deeply wounded him.

At the same time, Dwight is aware of the wounds his decisions caused for others—particularly his coach with the Orlando Magic, Stan Van Gundy.

In addition to admitting he asked Magic management to fire SVG, Howard also took blame for the way things ended with his first NBA team: “I know people might judge me for some of the mistakes I’ve had, but I’m not perfect. You know, looking back on it, maybe I could have done it a different way with Stan. I had to face my mistakes. I had to own up to them and not run from them.”

With Orlando and L.A. in his rear-view mirror, Howard—now fully recovered from the 2012 back injury that his doctor described as “potentially completely career-ending”—is looking ahead. Although his play this season has resembled something from his dominant past.

Healthy, happy and in a situation where he’s again beloved, D12 seems at peace.

“I needed to go through some things, some tests. Would I want to go through all this stuff again? No. But I also believe that you need to go through those tough times to figure out who you are,” Howard said.

You can bet Houston is very happy with who Howard is now: a fearsome force on both ends who no longer has to apologize for being a little goofy. Dwight is himself again, and because of that, the Rockets look every inch the contender. As long as its big man stays healthy, Houston can count on elite defense to complement its already scary offensive attack.

“There’s some good parts of Dwight that the world still hasn’t seen yet,” D12 says to conclude the film.

If that’s true, the Rockets are going to be in excellent shape going forward.

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Kobe Bryant sets record for missed shots, reveals which of the 13,421 he regrets most

On the surface, Kobe Bryant breaking the NBA record for most missed field goals seems to be a rather ignominious distinction. But when the layers are peeled away, the fact that Kobe broke Boston Celtics great John Havlicek’s record of 13,417 missed shots during the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies with…Read More
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Kobe Bryant breaks John Havlicek’s record for most missed shots in NBA history (video)

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant etched his name into the record books again on Tuesday night. But this time, it was for something he’s probably not going to be boasting about.
He’s now missed more shots than any player in NBA history—a record previously held by John Havlicek.
In the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies, Bryant attempted a difficult turnaround jumper over Courtney Lee. He missed the 14-footer. Normally it’s no big deal, but this record-breaking shot was No. 13,418…

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