NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Kobe changes view on debut — The season debut for Kobe Bryant didn’t go as well as either he nor the Lakers had hoped. Bryant struggled through a 2-for-9 shooting performance that also included eight turnovers as the Lakers lost at home to the Raptors. After the defeat, Bryant was pretty hard on himself regarding his return and the reviews around the web were more about the emotional influx Bryant provided to the Lakers than his on-court contributions. A day after all that, though, Bryant has somewhat reversed field on his first game, telling ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Dave McMenamin that his debut wasn’t as bad as he first thought:
After thoroughly ripping apart his play following the Los Angeles Lakers’ 106-94 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Sunday, Kobe Bryant changed his tune after having a night to sleep on it.
“It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was,” Bryant said after going through a full practice Monday, a day after appearing in his first game in nearly eight months because of a torn Achilles in his left leg. “The turnovers and things like that, a lot of it was just mistiming. I made some pretty good reads, I got my guys some pretty good looks. In terms of a floor game, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was.”
After watching film from his debut until 2 a.m., Bryant even elevated the grade he gave himself from an “F” to a “D.”
Neither of those are passing grades, of course. But Bryant believes that his approach to his first game back will still pass muster going forward.
“Do the same thing I did in the first game, just do it better,” Bryant said of his goal his second game back Tuesday when the Lakers host the Phoenix Suns. “Just keep the turnovers under control and get my guys in position to be successful and see if I can’t make a couple shots of my own.”
Bryant said he felt better after practice Monday than he did even before the game Sunday, but Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni allowed that there are still steps for Bryant to complete.
“[We need to] get Kobe get back up to snuff,” D’Antoni said. “It’s a little bit of a process, but we’ll do it.”
Part of that process will be getting Bryant back in a position to close quarters and games out for L.A., something the Lakers struggled with in his absence.
“We know, and everybody knows, he’s got to be the closer,” D’Antoni said. “As soon as we can get him there, the more times he is in that position, he’ll get closer to doing it. I don’t think there’s any question about what we need to do. We just got to get better at it.”
Bryant scoffed at the idea of his presence being something that could hurt the team even in the short term, pointing out that the Lakers’ record without him (10-9) wasn’t much to write home about.
“The chemistry will be fine,” Bryant said. “It’s not like they haven’t watched me play for 17 years. It’s not rocket science. It’s not like we were gangbusters before. Guys know how to play with me, it will be fine. They got plenty of opportunities [Sunday] and we just got to capitalize on them.”
No. 2: Report: Clips agree to deal with swingman Jackson — Last season, as the Spurs were gearing up for what would become a run to The Finals, they cut swingman Stephen Jackson on April 12. Since then, Jackson, who has 13 NBA seasons to his name, has been waiting for his next opportunity in the league. It seems he’s got his chance again as the Clippers signed him yesterday and he is expected to officially join the team Tuesday in Boston, writes Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times:
After saying earlier Monday that the Clippers weren’t going to sign “anybody today or probably even tomorrow,” Coach Doc Rivers said later that the team was “close” to a deal with free-agent swingman Stephen Jackson.
“I just think he’s a veteran,” Rivers said. “We need him in a pinch and we need him like now. And that’s a guy that you can bring in and hopefully he can give you something right away with Reggie [Bullock] being out for at least this trip and maybe longer.”
The Clippers needed Jackson because rookie small forward Bullock suffered a sprained left ankle Saturday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Clippers already are without shooting guard J.J. Redick, who will be out at six to eight weeks because of a broken right hand.
Backup small forward Matt Barnes will be out even longer than expected because he had a second procedure on his left retina last week and is not expected to join the team on this trip that has four games left.
Jackson went on his social network accounts to announce his return to the NBA.
“I never lost faith,” Jackson said. “The wait is over.”
No. 3: Warriors stunned after loss to Bobcats — Entering Monday night’s game against Charlotte, Golden State was off to a 3-1 start to December after an 8-7 mark in November that featured the loss of Andre Iguodala to injury. Taking on the Bobcats, who have one of the worst offenses in the NBA, the Warriors expected to keep control of Kemba Walker and the rest of Charlotte’s attack, but that wasn’t the case last night. Walker went for 31 points, including several big baskets down the stretch, that fueled Charlotte’s win. Afterward, the Warriors’ locker room was a somber place as the team tries to regain the rhythm that had it off to a 4-1 start, writes Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle:
The Warriors’ postgame locker room Monday night told the story of their 115-111 loss, the latest in a disappointing start to what was supposed to be a promising season.
After the loss to the Bobcats, barely a voice spoke above a level appropriate for a library. Some players quickly showered and darted. Others sat and stared in disbelief at a stat sheet that showed they had just allowed the NBA’s worst offense to score at least 26 points in every quarter. The Warriors’ record fell to 12-10.
“It’s still early in the season, but this one stings pretty much worse than one has stung in a while,” said Stephen Curry, who had a season-high 43 points to go with nine assists, six rebounds and two blocked shots.
“We showed a lot of fight. There’s no question about that,” Warriors head coach Mark Jackson said. “But that’s the type of energy and effort that you need to give before you get down.”
Jackson said it’s time to stop talking about slow starts, missed defensive assignments, grueling road trips and injuries. It’s time to start fixing it.
The Warriors’ game plan was to switch on small-small pick-and-roll plays, but they didn’t. The players were told not to jump on Josh McRoberts‘ pump fake at the three-point line, but they did. They watched video of Al Jefferson spinning away from the double-teaming defender and then let him do it live.
“Each (of our) guys makes a mistake, and before you know it, they’ve got five guys on the court with a rhythm,” Jackson said. “I mean, we’re a defensive team. To give up 115 points to anybody, it’s unacceptable.”
“I mean, it can’t get much worse,” said Klay Thompson, who had 22 points and five assists. “I think we’ll naturally get better. It’s good to get these road games out of the way early in the season. That’s the best way to look at it, but it’s still not an excuse. Great teams win on the road, and that’s what we want to be.”
No. 4: Jazz attendance hitting skids — For many seasons in the NBA, one of the most loyal and devoted fan bases could be found at every Jazz home game at EnergySolutions Arena. But with Utah in a neck-and-neck race with the Milwaukee Bucks for the league’s worst record, attendance is falling in Salt Lake City. Utah is currently 17th in average home attendance in the NBA, according to ESPN, and Salt Lake Tribune columnist Kurt Kragthorpe won’t be surprised if the numbers stay down all season:
But what are we really supposed to think of this team, 23 games into the season? My only concrete conclusion is any outcome makes a sizable number of fans happy. Either the Jazz win, or they improve their NBA draft-lottery odds.
As for the theory that fans would eagerly embrace and support this version of the Jazz, regardless? Uh, no. Monday’s crowd was announced as 17,555, but entire rows of lower-bowl seats were empty. Even with a potential sellout Jan. 31 when former coach Jerry Sloan’s honorary banner is unveiled and some visits from elite opponents, the team’s attendance average is sure to be lower than 18,000 for the first time in the building’s 23 seasons.
Personally, I should have taken my own preseason advice to just check back in April and see how it all turned out.
Should I compare this Jazz team to the expansion New Orleans Jazz (2-21) of 1974-75, or to the 2003-04 team (13-10) that followed the departures of Karl Malone and John Stockton? Should I evaluate coach Tyrone Corbin in regard to what Boston’s Brad Stevens (10-12) and Phoenix’s Jeff Hornacek (11-9) are doing with their rebuilds, or to the embarrassing results of New York’s Mike Woodson (5-14) and Brooklyn’s Jason Kidd (6-14)?
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: A great look at Nikola Mirotic, a player whom the Bulls drafted in the first round of 2011 and may help the team next season … Rookie big man Kelly Olynyk is back at Celtics practice … D.J. Augustin, the ninth overall pick of the 2008 Draft, was waived by the Raptors … Wizards forward Al Harrington (knee surgery) will be out a month … LaMarcus Aldridge hears some MVP chants on the road in Salt Lake City …
ICYMI Of The Night: Bobcats combo guard Gerald Henderson tracks down Harrison Barnes in transition and comes up with the monster swat …