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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New Lakers coach expects Kobe to still be Kobe

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

      
 

 

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Kobe: Iggy Azalea has had better career than Swaggy P

Honest Kobe >>>>>>> Any other Kobe. He did one of those 60 seconds video spots for Lakers.com where you say the first thing that comes to your mind when someone ask you to pick between two things. Here is what Bean said when face with the question… Swaggy P or Iggy Azalea

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Kobe Bryant’s Effort to Rediscover Game Moving Forward, but Far from Complete

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Kobe Bryant has always chosen his own context.   

Accordingly, the perspective has mostly tilted in his favor, toward his grandeur, serving in construction of his legend.   

It has not been ineffective marketing.

Bryant came to the Los Angeles Lakers practice facility a week ago, told new coach and longtime friend Byron Scott how much rust felt coated on his bones despite how healed everything was and how much more focus he had been placing on his craft all summer.

Bryant did not want the team’s website or TV network in the gym, as was allowed for other informal scrimmages for Lakers players. He had worked out with teammates such as Jeremy Lin for a week early in the offseason, but this was different.

This would be real five-on-five, a meaningful test.

Did Bryant pass? Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak termed the results “comforting” and was moved a few days later to remind: “He gives you a chance, no matter the circumstances, to be really good.”

Scott saw enough to suggest Monday at Lakers media day that Bryant would average 24 points and play all 82 games. Scott’s doubt about how well Bryant could raise up to get his jumper off was eased to the point that Scott described Kobe’s outlook as “very exciting.”

Bryant executed his footwork in the mid-post. He had the lift also to reach high for much-needed rebounds.

He played three games.

He hit two game-winning shots.

Asked on the eve of training camp about his dramatic scrimmage success, Bryant said, “I hadn’t played, so I spent the whole summer just kind of preparing and training. It was important for me to get a five-on-five game in, so I could see what I can and can’t do.

“And I felt like me.”

Bryant didn’t say it with any bravado, however. He also wasn’t cavalier about it or making it seem like a no-brainer. He didn’t even mention those oh-so-Kobe winning shots that the public was unaware he had hit.

He was pleased, but he was not emboldened.

He chose that context, and he chose not to feed the hype—or even believe it himself.

All he wanted to say about it was that it was a small, personal, positive steppingstone.

And I felt like me.

That’s not to be taken lightly as Bryant, 36, tries to inspire his public all over again with a comeback from the fractured right knee on top of the torn left Achilles and playing just six games last season.

“It’s just trying to see if I can prove to myself,” he said, “that I can be myself.”

Bryant added that the “words of doubt” from the outside—haters, critics or realists, whatever they might be—fan his flame, but only secondarily.

“I’ve always been that way, though,” he said. “I feel that [makes for] a much healthier journey. It’s much more enjoyable to look to the side every now and then and look at who you’re proving wrong in the process. That’s never been the main driver for me.”

Listening to Bryant speak Monday, it was clear that he is confident in his health. What he is uncertain about is the high hurdle of this recovery, which requires him to re-establish his game in the face of the unyielding aging process.

To that end, Bryant placed more focus on the craft, the details, the crux of his game, than anything over the summer. He dropped about 10 pounds but did so without using the track, his usual haven for early morning conditioning, and holed himself up in the gym. He feels potent on offense, as usual, but he wonders whether his lower body can slide defensively the way he knows it must if the Lakers’ defense is to meet Scott’s expectations.

The fundamentals have to be Bryant’s foundation more than ever. His outsized self-confidence was always rooted in faith that his work ethic leads to his game being there when he needs it.

So the only issue now that he is healthy is whether he will meet his own challenge.

Long before anyone else can judge how much this old snake looks like the Black Mamba, either he will feel comfortable in his skin or he won’t.

Bryant admitted he was “anxiously awaiting” the Lakers’ first practice. The first exhibition game is a week after that.

The regular-season opener sits a month away.

A year ago, Bryant was in a similar position, returning to the court from a prolonged absence, but also with facing an uphill struggle against his Achilles.

“Now there are questions, but they don’t center around health,” Bryant said of the difference this year.

As much as the suggestions so far sound good, Bryant’s inflection won’t change back to certainty until he has a different answer, and answer that isn’t: “I felt like me.”

It has to be: “It’s me.”

Anything less, and it’s going to be a long, unsatisfying march into retirement.

 

Kevin Ding is an NBA senior writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @KevinDing.

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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 feeling healthy for 19th season with Lakers (Yahoo Sports)

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) — After the longest offseason of his career, Kobe Bryant pulled on his familiar gold jersey Monday and went back to work with the Los Angeles Lakers, quietly believing his 19th NBA season will be better than almost anybody expects.

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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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Kyrie Irving Gives LeBron James Asset, Challenge That Kobe, Jordan Never Had

INDEPENDENCE, OHIO — There are many ways to assist a basketball team or organization, other than a pinpoint pass. Kyrie Irving, the Cleveland Cavaliers‘ on-court assist leader the past three seasons, did so with a pen stroke.  

LeBron James made that plain again as the Cavs opened training camp, as he acknowledged that, while “95 percent” of his decision to return was rooted in his deep connection to Northeast Ohio, it was at least partly due to his desire to connect regularly on the court with with a 22-year old who had already appeared in two All-Star games and who had already agreed to stay in Cleveland for the long term. 

“I’ve never played with a point guard like Kyrie Irving, a guy that can kind of take over a game for himself, when we need it,” James said. 

That’s an overwhelming understatement.     

No offense to Jeff McInnis, Eric Snow, Daniel Gibson, Delonte West, Damon Jones, Mo Williams, Carlos Arroyo, Mike Bibby, Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole or any of the other point guards with whom James has spent considerable time on the court over the course of his career.    

But, of that group, only Williams was counted upon to consistently provide offense while playing with James. He placed second on the Cavaliers in scoring average in 2008-09 and ’09-10. McInnis was fourth on the Cavaliers in ’04-05 after missing much of the ’03-04 season, and Chalmers was fourth on the Heat in ’11-12 and ’13-14. Others were much further down the team chart.

Typically, James has played with point guards who primarily served as spot-up shooters and secondary ballhandlers, leaving him largely responsible for initiating and finishing possessions. That renders his alignment with Irving among the Cavaliers’ most compelling storylines. Their collaboration could be cataclysmic for the NBA, if they get it right. Otherwise it could serve to suggest that another, more common model, is preferable: one in which there’s a clearer offensive pecking order between transcendent superstar and point guard.

There haven’t been many wing players anywhere near James’ stratosphere in the past quarter-century. And, whether by roster deficiency or offensive design, few from that esteemed group have played even a single season with a point guard trusted to carry a major percentage of the playmaking and scoring burden. 

One advanced statistic, usage rate, is useful—if not definitivein illustrating this trend. As defined by Basketball-Reference.com, usage rate attempts to quantify the percentage of offensive possessions that a player impacts, or “uses.” Its formula includes three standard measures: field goal attempts, free throw attempts and turnovers. While it is imperfect in assessing playmaking responsibilities, because it does not include touches, passes or assists in its tabulation, it does give a snapshot of a player’s overall offensive involvement. 

It also shows that James, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade have not played with especially involved point guards. (Neither, for that matter, did Allen Iverson, unless you classified him as the point guard.)

Start with Jordan, whose primary point guards in Chicago included Ennis Whatley, Wes Matthews Sr., Kyle Macy, John Paxson, Sam Vincent, B.J. Armstrong, Steve Kerr and former two-guard Ron Harper, who, at that state of his career, concentrated mostly on defense. Jordan’s usage rate ranged from 29.8 percent to 38.6 percent, while the primary point guard on his team ranged from 12.1 percent to 19.3 percent, with Vincent hitting that mark in 1988-89 (Armstrong got up to 19.0 percent in ’94-95). Paxson started all but three of 243 games between ’89 and ’92, and recorded the lowest usage rate among regulars in each of those three seasons. 

Bryant’s point guard partner history, like his speech pattern and baseline fadeaway, resembles Jordan’s.

The Lakers great became a starter in his third season, ’98-99, recording a usage rate of 25.3 percent. He has not been under 29.1 percent since, rising to as high as 38.7 percent in ’05-06, a season he largely spent scowling at Smush Parker. Since Phil Jackson shaped many of Bryant’s teams, it shouldn’t surprise that many of Bryant’s point guards fit the Paxson/Kerr profile. The closest replica was Derek Fisher, whose usage rate was less than half of Bryant’s in five of the six seasons they started together, and always near the bottom of Lakers rotation players. Only twice has a Lakers point guard topped 20 percent in usage rate during the 13 seasons Bryant has regularly started; one was a Hall of Famer (Gary Payton’s rate was 20.4 percent in his one season as a Laker), and the other (Ramon Sessions, 20.5 percent) was a late-season addition. Everyone else, from Derek Harper to Ron Harper to Lindsey Hunter to Chucky Atkins to Jordan Farmar to Fisher to Parker) topped out in the teens. 

Wade? You’ll find similar data. His lowest usage rate (25.0 percent) came when he played point guard as a rookie, soaring to 34.9 percent and 36.2 percent, before tapering some after James’ arrival in Miami in ’10. Chalmers has been his backcourt sidekick for most of the past six seasons, with a career usage rate of 16.5 percent, and a high of 17.4 percent. Jason Williams was Miami’s most active point guard during Wade’s run, and his numbers (18.5 percent and 18.2 percent) weren’t especially high in his two Heat seasons.

Carmelo Anthony diverges from his peers a bit, in that, while pegged as a gunner, he has been paired with some high usage point guards. Andre Miller was right around 20 percent for three of their seasons together in Denver, and Iverson was at 27 percent while playing a lot at the position for a season-and-a-half with the Nuggets. Chauncey Billups was at 21.8 percent, 24.3 percent and 21.4 percent over a three-season span, and Denver thrived with the Billups-Melo combination. (Jeremy Lin was at 28.1 percent for the Knicks in ’11-12, but some of that magical 35-game run came in Anthony’s absence.) 

But the true outlier is Kevin Durant, who has had a lower usage rate than Russell Westbrook in each of the past four seasons—30.6 to 31.6, 31.3 to 32.7, 31.8 to 32.8 and 33.0 to 34.4. And while Durant has reached an NBA Finals, he hasn’t done what Jordan, Bryant, Wade or James did while playing with more subdued, somewhat subservient point guards.

He hasn’t hoisted the Larry O’Brien trophy.  

“You look historically, over the last 20-plus years, in terms of teams that have won the championship, very few have had point guards who dominated the ball,” said former pass-first point guard Avery Johnson, who now works for ESPN. “You know, Chauncey Billups did (for Detroit). And the team that won with the Mavericks (in ’11), Jason Kidd a little bit, very little. But it was more guys like J.J. Barea and Jason Terry. So it’s a different game. You look at the Spurs, Tony Parker dominates the ball, but he’s had to learn how to play over the years when (Manu) Ginobili has the ball. Finding his spots. Becoming a better shooter.” 

 


 

So, back to James and Irving. 

Will they instantly become a dynamic duo?

Each may need to sacrifice some.

James’ usage rate has ranged from 28.2 percent to 33.8 percent over his 11 seasons, while his primary point guards have ranged from 10.9 percent to 23.4 percent, with Williams recording the highest and second-highest (22.0 percent) numbers. Snow, Jones, Gibson and even West were generally ornamental, rather than essential, to offensive sets—Snow was last among regulars in usage in both of his seasons as a Cavaliers starter. 

In Miami, James played with a point guard in Chalmers whose usage rate was a bit higher than James’ typical Cavaliers point guard, if not as high as McInnis or Williams. And, of course, James played with an off guard whose usage rate was astronomical compared to any of his Cleveland complements. Wade actually had a higher usage rate than James in their first season together (31.6 to 31.5), before taking a small step back (31.3 to 32.0, 29.5 to 30.2, 27.9 to 31.0) over the next three seasons.

You know whose usage rate was roughly the same as Wade’s each of the past three seasons?

Kyrie Irving.

The Australian import recorded rates of 28.7, 30.2 and 28.2 percent, as he led his Cavaliers in several standard statistical categories but failed to take it to the postseason. (Antawn Jamison was second at 26.2 percent in ’11-12, and Dion Waiters was second at 26.1 and 26.9 percent, respectively, the past two seasons). 

So it is James’ experience with Wade that he will draw most upon now, as he and Irving determine how to divvy up the dribbling, distribution and shooting in new coach David Blatt’s European-style offensive sets. Blatt sounds like a bit like James’ former coach, Erik Spoelstra, in his shunning of specific position definitions; he characterizes Irving, James and even slasher Dion Waiters as “ball guards.” He hopes that Irving’s presence in particular will “take some of the load” off James, “in terms of having to initiate offense, having to bear the brunt of the physical load of getting the ball to places, and [of] making plays for himself and for others. We do have some other guys that can do that, and hopefully that will serve him well, as far as making it easy for him to get some easy ones. But also as the game goes along and the season goes along, to keep him from wearing down. Just because there are other people sharing the load.” 

James grew physically and mentally weary of that burden last season, one made heavier by Wade’s frequent absences. So he doesn’t intend to stifle Irving’s activity or creativity.

“For me, I handle the ball when I get the ball off the backboard,” James said Saturday. “I’m a good rebounder, I like to rebound and I kind of push it from that instance. In certain sets I’ll probably handle the ball a little bit, but it’s Kyrie’s show. He’s our point guard. He’s our floor general and we need him to put us in position to succeed offensively. He has to demand that and command that from us with him handling the ball.”

Yet James did acknowledge that playing together may be more of a work-in-progress for Irving than for himself, “because I just spent four years doing it, playing with D-Wade. We had our adjustment period where we both had to move off the ball. It was something we weren’t comfortable with going into it. My coming here doing it four years in a row where I played off the ball a lot, and I developed my inside game, and I developed my catch-and-shoot jumpshots and things of that nature. So it will be more of an adjustment for him, not for me.”  

Avery Johnson agreed. 

“The biggest adjustment is going to be for Kyrie playing off the ball,” the former Mavericks and Nets coach said. “You look at Kyrie, for the most part here in Cleveland, he’s been on the ball. You look at him this summer with the World Cup team, on the ball. Even playing with some of the other guys like Derrick Rose and Steph Curry, he was on the ball. That’s why he had such a terrific summer.”

Johnson identified Irving’s three-point accuracy as a critical component in Cleveland’s success, after a dip to 36 percent from that distance last season. Cavaliers players, while still acclimating themselves to Blatt’s offensive principles, do expect it to be predicated on ball movement, precision and most of all, spacing.

“So (Irving’s) ability to space the floor and make open shots (is important),” Johnson said. “Because LeBron James is going to draw double teams when he’s posted up, he’s going to get trapped on pick-and-rolls. When he tries to isolate, teams are going to load up or zone. So there are going to be a lot of opportunities with Kyrie on the floor for him to make some plays. I also think that’s why LeBron recruited guys like Mike Miller and James Jones—spacersbecause the game is all about space.” 

Irving will have those players at his disposal, too, when he penetrates. He has sounded positively giddy about all the possibilities, after taking considerable heat for the struggles of limited rosters in his first three seasons. He spoke Friday of being “OK” with “all the things I did kind of terrible” last season, because, as a “young guy figuring it out,” it will help him as he plays with a more veteran group now. He joked about how “weird” it is to be the youngest on the team again, but was serious about his appreciation for the upgraded roster.

“It’s just going to make my job that much easier,” Irving said. “Regardless of what people [are] saying, how my role is going to change, and all the scoring. I mean, I only did the scoring because I was asked to do it. I mean, I had to do it to be in the best possible place to win. And changing my role, it’s not necessarily changing. I’m going to continue to be myself but now that we have other great players, it just creates more space and opportunity for me to make other people better. That’s how I look at it, as an opportunity to grow as a player and as a point guard, and be who I feel I’m destined to be, and that’s a great point guard.”

No doubt he’s a different point guard than James has ever had. Than Bryant has ever had. Than Jordan ever had. But it’s unreasonable to expect James to defer all the time, and especially down the stretch. So how will Irving handle it, when James is handling the ball and triggering the offense? 

“I’ll be ready to shoot every single time,” Irving said, laughing. “If I’m off the ball, I’m ready to shoot. Whatever it takes. Whatever it takes to win. Obviously he’s the greatest player playing the game right now, so if he’s on the ball, like I said, I’ll be ready to shoot.”

In those scenarios, that would be his best way to assist.

 

Ethan Skolnick covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @EthanJSkolnick.

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PG Deron Williams Responds to Kobe Bryant’s Comments About Poor Shooting

Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant may not have been taking a shot at Brooklyn Nets star Deron Williams with his recent comments about poor shooting nights, but the point guard responded to Bryant regardless.

Back in August, Sports Illustrated’s Chris Ballard did a feature on the Black Mamba. Bryant talked about a variety of things in the piece, including how he handles a poor shooting performance. He just happened to mention Williams’ name while talking about getting “psyched out,” which could be seen as a shot at the point guard.

Here’s what Bryant said about tough nights on the court: “I would go 0-30 before I would go 0-9. 0-9 means you beat yourself, you psyched yourself out of the game, because Deron Williams can get more shots in the game. The only reason is because you’ve just now lost confidence in yourself.”

Williams apparently didn’t take kindly to those comments.

Check out Williams response, via The Brooklyn Game’s Devin Kharpertian: “I’m a point guard. If I’m 0-for-f—–g-9, I’m not shooting 20 more shots. Not going to happen. I’m a point guard. I’m going to find somebody else. Kobe Bryant, that’s what he’s supposed to do. He’s got that mentality. That works for him, I got my mentality, it works for me.”

Williams didn’t appear to take the comments as a slap in the face, but he did want to make it known that his job isn’t to shoot the basketball. As a point guard, he is expected to set up his teammates and score when he has an open shot.

Although some point guards choose to take 20 or more shots a night, that’s not what Williams believes his role should be. People can say that he doesn’t shoot enough, but he isn’t going to change his game.

 

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