Morning Shootaround — Jan. 18




VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Jan. 17

NEWS OF THE MORNING
Kobe’s return | Rondo returns | Durant explodes | Rubio’s thrill is gone | Red-hot Grizzlies

No. 1: Bryant has no intention of sitting out — It doesn’t matter that if his Lakers continue to plummet in the standings. It doesn’t matter if the team might be better off the long run — and for the end of his own career — by getting a high lottery pick and maybe a budding young star. It doesn’t even matter what legend Magic Johnson thinks. Kobe Bryant says he has every intention of returning to the court this season because, well, as he told Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com, he’s Kobe and that’s all he knows:

“The only thing I can afford to consider is getting better, getting stronger,” Bryant said before the Lakers’ 107-104 win over the Boston Celtics on Friday. “I can’t allow myself to think any other way. I can only think about the next step. To do anything else becomes distracting if you allow yourself, if you give yourself wiggle room to not push yourself as hard as you possibly can. To think about sitting out and this, that and the other, your motivation is all wrong. I refuse to think that way.”

Magic Johnson disagreed, as the former Lakers star questioned whether Bryant should come back at all this season in an interview with the Los Angeles Times this week.

“What is he coming back to? He’s not going to be able to stop the pick and roll, all the layups the Lakers are giving up,” Johnson told the newspaper. “He’s been hurt twice, give him the whole year to get healthy.”

In the same interview, Johnson called hiring Mike D’Antoni last season a “wrong decision.”

“Normally I don’t hear it until [the media] brings it up,” D’Antoni said, adding that he has never spoken to Johnson in person since joining the Lakers. “There’s voices everywhere, and it’s a hard job to do no matter what team you’re with. You do the best you can and you feel like every day is a new battle, and everybody has their opinion. There’s a saying about that. … So, that’s the way it is. You go on and do your job.”

Bryant, sidelined since Dec. 17 when he suffered a fracture of the lateral tibial plateau in his left knee during the Lakers’ 96-92 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies, said he will return this season so long as he is medically cleared.
“We’ll see where it’s at in February and see if it’s good to go,” Bryant said, pushing back his return timeline ever so slightly, with D’Antoni having recently said Bryant would be re-evaluated Jan. 27, at the conclusion of the team’s current seven-game trip while the Grammy Awards take over Staples Center.

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No. 2: Rondo looks and feels good in first game of season — It was his first game in almost a year, but Rajon Rondo showed no ill effects of the surgery to repair his torn right ACL. Even though the Celtics let the Lakers close with an 11-0 run to win the game, the new team captain told A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com that overall conditioning in his biggest hurdle going forward:

“I felt pretty good,” said Rondo, who didn’t have any significant pain but knows that could change within the next 24 hours. “When I got back in the second quarter I got pretty winded, but that was expected. Other than that, I didn’t feel like I was limited to anything tonight.”

Rondo has reiterated time and time again that his conditioning, more than anything else, remains his biggest hurdle.
For the 19-plus minutes he played, Rondo didn’t appear to show any concern or apprehension on the floor relative to his surgically repaired right knee.

In fact, the biggest issue facing Rondo going forward doesn’t appear to be what he’s doing on the floor.
It has to do with what happens when he’s not on the floor for long stretches of time, something that will inevitably happen as long as he has to play with minute restrictions.

Prior to Rondo’s first game, head coach Brad Stevens said he would be limited to 18-20 minutes per game.
It is unclear how long he will have minute restrictions.
“Coach (Stevens) and I talked about my minutes, how we were going to spread it out, you know, five minutes a quarter,” Rondo said. “I think that’s the best way to do it.”

***

No. 3: Durant takes his game to new heights with 54 points — If there comes a times next May or June when Kevin Durant is raising the MVP award above his head, will this have been the night when he wrestled the trophy out of the grasp of LeBron James? K.D. took on the Splash Brothers Friday night and gave them a dunking with a career-high 54 points on just 28 shots and staked his claim in leading the Thunder past the Warriors. Berry Trammel of The Oklahoman says it was Durant’s best night ever:

“He’s a special talent, a superstar basketball player, an all-time great,” said Golden State coach Mark Jackson.
The game started as a sharpshooting duel between teammates. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, who put the gold in Golden State, seemed to be playing a solitary game of H-O-R-S-E in the first quarter.

But by game’s end, there was no doubt who wore the crown. This was Durant’s finest offensive game as a pro.
Durant made 19 of 28 shots and virtually matched the long-range bombs of Curry and Thompson. The Warrior backcourt duo each nailed two 3-pointers in the first seven minutes and each nailed three treys in the first quarter.
Curry and Thompson finished with a combined 63 points. Curry had 37, making six of 10 3-pointers; Thompson had 26 points, making six of nine deep balls.

But Durant finished five of eight on 3-pointers. His 19 field goals tied a career high. The only two times he’s made more than 16 baskets in a game, he’s gone 19 of 28 overall. Friday against Golden State and Feb. 2012 against Denver, when Durant scored 51 points in a 124-118 Thunder victory.

But this performance was better. That Denver team included Andre Iguodala, one of the NBA’s few defenders capable of giving Durant a rough time, but Iguodala missed that game.

Now a Warrior, Iguodala played 29 1/2 minutes Friday night but was no match for Durant.

“The great players, you can play great defense and he can have numbers,” Jackson said. “It’s just a question of making him work. He hit some tough shots, some incredible shots. Give him credit.”

Durant now is averaging a career high 30.6 points a game this season. He was asked to carry a heavier load when Russell Westbrook underwent another surgery just after Christmas, and Durant has responded. He’s averaged 36.8 points the last five games.

***

No. 4: Rubio says he isn’t having any fun these days playing ballRicky Rubio says a lot of the blame for the Timberwolves disappointing 18-21 start to the season should be placed on his shoulders. The flamboyant point guard admitted to John Krawcyznski of the Associated Press that he just isn’t enjoying playing the game this season:

“I’m going to be honest. I’m not feeling comfortable out there,” Rubio told The Associated Press after a light practice on Thursday. “I’m not being myself and the team is noticing. I just have to be back where I was, be myself. I’m working on that. It’s something that’s missing. It’s tough for me, too.”

Rubio’s shooting numbers have never been great, but harping on that always seemed to be nitpicking for a player who sprinkled magic point guard dust all over the court — slipping passes through a defender’s legs for an open 3-point shot, picking a player’s pocket to start a fast break and seeing windows open before the defenders knew what hit them.

Even when he wasn’t starting his rookie season, the arena would crackle when he stepped to the scorer’s table to check in and his teammates’ eyes would widen in anticipation of a passes that came from impossible angles. It was still there last season when he returned from a torn ACL in December, even though his body took some time to ramp back up to the NBA’s pace of play.

“It’s basketball. I love it,” Rubio said. “But I’m just not having as much fun as it used to be. I know it has to be professional. But I just want to have fun. It’s hard to find it right now.”

***

No. 5: The Grizzlies are finally making their move –Just in case anybody forgot how important Marc Gasol is in Memphis, the All-Star center made a game-saving deflection to clinch a win over the Kings. The Grizzlies are now 3-0 since he returned to the lineup after a knee injury, have won five in a row overall and have crept back above the .500 mark and into the playoff picture in the West. Ron Tillery of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal has the details:

Gasol said later that he got fortunate on a gamble. But nothing about the Grizzlies’ season-high, five-game winning streak could be reduced to a stroke of luck.

The Griz (20-19) moved above .500 for the first time since early December and now they can claim a steadily improving defense. Memphis trailed 86-79 with 5:19 left and allowed Sacramento just one field goal the rest of the game.
Gay’s putback dunk cut the Grizzlies’ lead to a point with 38.9 seconds left. There had been no movement in the score when the Kings received the ball with 15.1 ticks remaining.

The Griz were as disruptive on the final possession as they had been the second half of the fourth quarter. Gay had the ball slapped away twice as he tried to attempt a game-winner from 15 feet. The Kings never got a clean look at the basket down the stretch.

“We’re making the right decisions at the right time,” Conley said after scoring a game-high 25 points. “I told the guys that it’s good to have games like this where you have a little adversity and come back. Those are the ones you learn from the most.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: J.R. Smith shows signs of positive life in Knicks loss … DeAndre Jordan wants to be more than just a dunker Jimmer Freddette could be turning a corner with steady playing time.

26 Comments

  1. Gillsy says:

    Its good to see Rondo back. Even though everyone is saying he is getting traded I think he is staying in Bean Town. Cause Ainge is having a clear-out, with a few more going this last week. And come training camp other than their great tanking pick those other 9 first round picks or what ever in the next 4 years will be traded away for players. Cause Ainge wants to rebuild now. Durant has to be MVP at the moment, the Heat have some good games but James hasn’t taken over as much as he has in the past.

  2. okc2014 says:

    Lebron is the best basketball player in the galaxy and Kevin Durant is the best player here on planet Earth. While Lebron James conquers other planets, Kevin Durant’s got this whole Earth covered. That’s the way I see it.

  3. Justin says:

    Yessss Kobe be a man and play ignore the fake fans that say to stay out the season!!!

    • Joshua Greenfarb says:

      No, he needs to LISTEN to expert and medical advice. Bryant is not a doctor. He needs to listen. If he thinks he can do whatever he wants, he’s in for a rude awakening.

  4. Kal says:

    Kobe to the basketball world: “Am I wrong if I wanna get it on til I die? Get it on til I die, get it on til I die… Y’all remember, y’all, y’all remember me!” #untouchable

    • Joshua Greenfarb says:

      Bryant needs to start planning for life after basketball because his career is over. He also needs to stop cussing on social media. Don’t write the “Sh” word anymore.

      Have some professional decorum.

      ***pounds gavel on table***

      Can I please have some decorum here? The NBA is supposed to be a PG show. Not something that requires viewer/websurfer discretion or parental advisory.

      I’m afraid I have some BAD NEWS! Bryant should be fined by the NBA for using the “Sh” word on social media. That is absolutely improper, and he should be reprimanded.

      YES! YES! YES!

  5. Kal says:

    The entire T-Wolves team, except maybe Pekovic, seemed miserable in Toronto last night. Or at least it felt that way from the stands. They made a little run late in the game but then Lowry got on his own little run of threes and there was never any sense the Raptors were really challenged. Disappointing because we all bought tickets to see some Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio magic. There were a few flashes — and watching in person Rubio is a quick little guy — but the T-Wolves body language just seemed… depressed. (And Rick Adelman seemed barely alive, or carrying a breathing machine with him, on the sidelines.) I used to like the Wolves and root for them from afar the last few seasons despite the losses, so I’m hoping everybody there gets it together and they make a run for 8th. It’s tough to watch a team with all that talent play so sad and deflated.

  6. billyflame says:

    the L A Lakers need to fire the coach mike d’antonio he was the wrong move for them

  7. Kevin Love is the new KG (Big Ticket)

    • Joshua Greenfarb says:

      KB24 is a hasbeen who only won 2 scoring championships. He’s had a great NBA career, but it’s over for him. He refuses to let go of his gigantic ego and selfishness which will only hurt him and lowly Laker franchise even more.

      How many Scoring Championships have Michael Jordan and Kevin Durant won? How many more will KD win? How many more MVP awards will Lebron James win?

      In comparison, Bryant pales big time. He was just lucky and was in the right place at the right time (like Robert Horry). He is also EXTREMELY overrated. Who in their right mind would vote Bryant as an All Star? What? Has he played just 6 games this season? Good grief.

      Maybe the NBA needs to seriously consider changing the All Star voting format. Only allow NBA coaches/personnel to vote for the starters on the West and East All Star teams.

  8. Eaham says:

    Lebron is better than Kevin durant, IM sorry I am not ignornat even though I am not a LBJ fan. If he guards KD one on one KD will not drop buckets easily and we have seen it time and time again. Kevin durant has greatness written all over him but as for right now LBJ is still the top dog in the NBA even if he isnt as clutch as Kobe, or durants or even MJ from back then.

    • Eaham says:

      Oh and ps; Waht is rubio talking baout lmao. What does he want ? I am not having fun ? Really? Thats your excuse for not playing well. Its not your lack of shooting ability or being a leader, its “fun” stopping you from being efficient ? Team chemistry is whack and T wolves are full of players that dont belong there. Sorry but Love is gone this offseason, trade him before he walks for nothing or bring is people before he decides to leave for good. Tick tock brah, time is running out

    • Joshua Greenfarb says:

      Never mention Bryant’s hasbeen name again.

      To quote from that Krs One video game NBA commercial: Am I number one? Oh, I’m sorry; I lied. Kevin Durant is #1, 2, 3, 4 AND 5!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      :-)

  9. Lebron shouldn't have the Finals MVP's says:

    Go K.D.!!! You’ve already taken the trone!.. Politics and propaganda is like a virus.. it’s everywhere, it replicates and it removes or hides the truth.. Miami Heat is losing without D.Wade and Miami wins even WITHOUT Lebron.. whenever Miami won a game or wins Championship Lebron is getting the MVP credit?!. they even call him “The King of NBA”.. The what?! excuse me?! exaggeration.. It’s pretty obvious to see who’s great and it’s simple as opening your eyes when watching Miami games.. Dwyane Wade should’ve gotten the Finals MVP twice.. his doing all the clutch and crucial moments and not James and that’s MVP is all about..

    D.Wade can carry Miami Heat to playoffs without Lebron but Lebron can’t carry Miami without D.Wade and that’s a fact.. some people are just good in fabricating stories and some people are believers of a big mouth and fabricated story.. tsk tsk tsk..

  10. LBJ is not great says:

    James is jealous because Durant is taking all the shots in his team.. Jealous or insecure?.. Durant proves already that he is more skilled than James and Durant proves many times that he can take clutch shots, he can create his own shot and he can take over crucial time on every game that’s why his coach and team trust him.. THAT’S THE BOTTOM LINE!.

    Miami is designing clutch shots and crucial moments on their game for D.Wade and not for Lebron maybe a lot of people noticed it already maybe you asked your self why Miami trusted D.Wade more than James.. Because many times since Lebron came to Miami that Miami Heat is losing when D.Wade is not playing.. NBA is just making marketing on James and it’s NOT because James is better than other players.. He is not even close to the caliber and greatness of Kobe and M.J. but if Durant continues what he’s doing now Durant will be rank in line with Kobe and M.J.. James has to win slum dunk first and beat the winning game 81 points of Kobe and he can probably be in the conversation of the greats.. as of now Durant is the ONLY player as of this era that could possibly beat the winning game 81 points of Kobe Bryant..

    • lol, dude it isnt about scoring, its all about winning..

      • I just love watching Miami Heat games says:

        I agree it’s all about winning.. having 54 points and winning the game that’s an MVP.. having 81 points and winning the game that’s an MVP.. I’ve seen also so many times that Miami is losing if there is no Dwyane Wade on the game since Lebron came to Miami.. The question is why Lebron took all the credit for the MVP’s while Miami is losing when there is no D.Wade?

    • Youdontwatchbball says:

      The thunder are slightly above 500 without Russ so your point is invalid. Lebron led the cavs to a 66(or 67?) win season BY HIMSELF. So don’t even try to discredit lebrons leadership. Also kd has yet to be proven as a clutch player, while his numbers are great he has been absolutely terrible in the last 5 minutes of close games. (Playoffs in the last two seasons). Best scorer? Without a doubt. best player? Not yet.

  11. some dude aka some guy says:

    Wolves need to be broken up and rebuilt, they are going nowhere this season, and they should salvage whatever value they can get for these players while they still can. Rubio and Love to different teams, traded for young players and future draft picks (suns?) The chemistry is no longer there. I can so see a three team deal involving the knicks and the suns, or maybe lakers in the mix, as it seems to be the popular thought for Love’s next destination.

  12. the MVP match at this point is clearly dominated by durant…maybe aldridge and george have a shot

    • Joshua Greenfarb says:

      I know, huh? I scanned nba.com and I saw lack of coverage/posts/articles or whatever covering 2 huge games. Portland winning at San Antonio is huge because it brought Portland a half-game back from the West #1 seed. The Thunder game was huge because it was nationally televised on ESPN, and Kevin Durant had the highest scoring total (so far) this whole season, BY FAR, in the entire NBA.

      Well, maybe there was good or decent coverage of the Blazer/Spur game.

      But, we all need to praise Kevin Durant. This MVP is “like” a modern-day Michael Jordan. He is on his way to another Scoring Championship, and he will win many, many more in the future. It is scary what can happen when KD and the Thunder play a poor defensive team like the Warriors. My goodness. Durant, in that game, made a shot that was Jordanesque — a turnaround fadeaway to his right in the mid-postup area. Absolutely incredible and very fun to watch.

      Well, at least ESPN and NBA TV covered the Thunder game very, very well. I noticed even Dennis Scott (NBA Legend) made brief mention of KD making a Jordanesque shot.

      Who the heck is responsible for allowing the #1 news item in this blog post to be about Bryant and the Lakers? WHO CARES??

      Kevin Durant had one of the best games thus far this whole season, and that Blazer/Spur game was a #1 – #2 seeded matchup.

      WHAT IS GOING ON? :-)

  13. okc2014 says:

    Okay Ricky Rubio. So now what?