Morning shootaround — Jan. 2


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Jan. 1

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Scott: Kobe’s minutes ‘experiment’ working | Kings seek to improve defense | Consistency next goal for Magic

No. 1: Scott: Kobe’s minutes limit working; Nuggets’ Shaw has his doubts — Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant is averaging 35.2 minutes per game, which is a slight tick down from what he was averaging (34.7 mpg) during a six-season stretch from 2007-13. This season, coach Byron Scott has tried to limit Bryant’s minutes at times and held him out of a few games for rest, too. Scott told ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Arash Markazi that his tactic is working, but a former Bryant teammate (and current Denver Nuggets coach) Brian Shaw has his doubts about the strategy:

First, here’s Scott talking about his Kobe minutes plan:

Byron Scott’s plan for Kobe Bryant this season is more of an ever-changing experiment than a set-in-stone policy.

After resting Bryant for three of the Los Angeles Lakers’ games last week, Scott wanted to see how Bryant would perform with the added rest and playing about 32 minutes per game, down about five minutes from what he averaged the first month of the season.

Bryant responded with 10 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists in his first game back Sunday, then with 23 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists Tuesday.

“So far, the experiment is working,” Scott said. “We’re just going to keep at it and see how it turns out.”

Although Bryant has been more of a facilitator in his return, Scott was quick to shoot down the notion that the veteran star has changed his game after taking some time off. He is simply taking what defenses give him and not forcing the issue as much as he previously did, according to the coach.

“When you guys say this is a new Kobe, this is not a new Kobe,” Scott said. “This is a guy who’s been doing this for 19 years. Against Denver [on Tuesday] there were times they were coming and double-teaming him and we kept our spacing, which was great, and made some great passes to guys who made shots. I don’t think it’s a new Kobe at all. It’s just an old Kobe doing the same old things he’s been doing.”

And here’s Shaw, expressing some concern over this new Bryant plan, to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times:

A longtime friend and former teammate wasn’t so sure Bryant would agree to a reduction in playing time.

But Brian Shaw didn’t talk directly to Bryant about it.

Bryant seemed fine with Coach Byron Scott’s idea to trim his playing time by two to three minutes a game.

“When I was younger, I could play those minutes. I could handle those minutes. Now I can’t,” Bryant said. “There’s no use in fighting it. You accept it, you play around it and you figure it out.”

Scott said he wanted to reduce Bryant’s minutes from 35 to 32 or 33 a game. Shaw, now the Nuggets’ coach, was less optimistic Bryant would go along with it.

“I think it works early in the game … he’ll come sit down willingly,” Shaw said. “But if it’s in the middle of the game and it’s close, he wants to win worse than anybody else out there, so it’s good luck trying to keep him out of the game if you’re trying to keep him to a minutes schedule.”


VIDEO: Byron Scott discusses his minutes-management plan for Kobe Bryant

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No. 2: Kings aim to amp up their defense — Since Dec. 14, when the team parted ways with coach Mike Malone, the Sacramento Kings have amassed a 3-6 record. They are giving up 111.7 ppg (worst in the NBA in that span), and have a defensive rating of 111.7 (29th in that span). If the team hopes to stay in the Western Conference playoffs, that defensive lapse has to turnaround … and fast. New Kings coach Tyrone Corbin recently talked about that being a focal point for the team, writes Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee:

The Kings began the season with a strong emphasis on defense, but with the coaching change to Corbin on Dec. 14, the focus has been on offense and the defense has lost its edge.

Corbin has tried to put his own touch on what the Kings do on both ends of the floor but is prepared to back off that plan on defense.

“We’ve tried to change a couple calls,” Corbin said before the Kings played the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday at Target Center. “We’re probably going to go back to where we were before. The communication has slacked up some (with) the miscommunications in some pick-and-roll coverages. It’s just to clarify some things and make sure we’re on the same page there.”

In the first eight games since Corbin took over for the fired Michael Malone, the Kings allowed 112.3 points per game and have given up season highs for points twice and surrendered several other season highs. That also included at least three players who aren’t renowned scorers (Festus Ezeli, Justin Holiday, Cole Aldrich) posting career highs.

With the mandate for a faster-paced offense coming from ownership, the Kings haven’t put the same focus on defense, and the opposition is taking advantage.

Corbin wants to fix that and get the Kings focused again on the defensive end as well as on offense.

“We paid more attention to the offensive end, trying to pick the pace up there, trying to run a few different things,” Corbin said. “We’ve got to get back to getting stops.”

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No. 3: Young Magic aim to find their way in 2015 — The Orlando Magic have won three of their last five games and are just two games behind Miami for the No. 8 spot in the East. Still, Orlando hasn’t been a consistent squad yet this season and as dreams of the playoffs dance in their heads, the team is looking to find steady footing as 2015 begins. Mary Stevens of BasketballInsiders.com has more on the Magic’s goals:

The Orlando Magic are still trying to find themselves during the third year of their rebuilding process. They have good pieces in place, but they have yet to make the leap from a rebuilding team to a playoff contender. To earn that kind of credibility, consistency is a must. With that, the wins will follow.

“The only way you can get credibility is if you go out there and compete and get past your opponent and get the win,” Tobias Harris told Basketball Insiders. “The way I look at it is that it’s on us as a team, and the five guys that are out on the floor need to be better than the guys who are in front of you.”

Forming consistency has been so hard for the Magic mainly because they are still trying to figure out who they are as players and how they fit into head coach Jacque Vaughn’s system.

“I don’t think we really nailed down what we are going to do every night and who is going to be producing for us like that at a level that we can win,” veteran Channing Frye explained. “I think that we have guys that can produce, but I think we only average about 92 points so it’s tough to win games like that.”

“We need to hold ourselves accountable as players and we have been losing games to teams that we should have beaten,” Harris said. “The last couple of games have been disappointing because the teams we played against have just played harder than us and that’s just not the type of team that we are.”

The notion of not playing hard enough is not only coming from the leading scorer on the team. Harris’ teammate, Evan Fournier, felt the same way after the Magic’s loss to the Jazz.

“It’s not just about defense, its about playing harder. We started the game flat [with] no energy,” Fournier said. “We are not tough enough, sometimes that is what it comes down to. We have to play harder to be at least be in the game.”

Some may point to Vaughn as the reason why this young team is not moving forward. His rotations this season have been questioned by many. Recently, he changed his starting lineup from Victor Oladipo, Fournier, Harris, Frye and Nik Vucevic to Elfrid Payton, Oladipo, Harris, Kyle O’Quinn and Vucevic. He made this change to help achieve more balanced scoring with his second unit; only time will tell if that move will benefit the team in the long run.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Carlos Boozer has adjusted pretty nicely to his sixth man role on the L.A. Lakers … Does Atlanta Hawks forward DeMarre Carroll have a legit All-Star case? … Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is a big fan of Kenneth Faried‘s game … The Minnesota Timberwolves want former No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett doing more ‘dirty work’ … Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez may be closing in on his dream of being a Wookie in the new “Star Wars” movies

ICYMI OF THE NIGHT: The Bulls recorded 18 blocks (Pau Gasol had nine of them) against the Nuggets last night. This might have been the best one …  


VIDEO: Pau Gasol gets up to deny Timofey Mozgov at the rim

13 Comments

  1. Marty says:

    It’s not minutes. It’s mainly less shots and sharing the ball will allow LA to at least be competitive.

  2. dustydreamnz says:

    I’m a fan of DeMarre Carroll but if he’s an All Star, I’ll jump off a cliff. The Hawks are struggling to get one All Star in voting and he’s about 4th or 5th in line in that team.

  3. Fabian Jennings says:

    Despite what Brian Shaw says, Bryant must learn to accept less playing time and to think more in terms of being a facilitator when he is out there than he has in the past. He has absolutely no attractive choice but to. If he refuses, he will destroy what remains of his career. What a shame that would be because he still has the ability to be great even under the imperative changes to his game that he faces.

  4. Nick says:

    The Lakers made a big mistake spurning Gasol. It has always amused me to read about the media and misguided fans calling him soft, yet game after game he gets his double doubles. Now, NINE BLOCKS. Nine blocks!! If any other center did that it would be front page news on NBA.com! What’s the deal?

  5. Bartholomew says:

    Oh. Limited Kobe minutes.

  6. Kevo McAllister says:

    The Raptors are certainly showing that last season was no fluke. So good to see them keep it up while DeRozan is out. that’s def promising. Looks like the East may not just come don to CLE and CHI. FWIW, the Straighthoops blog has a nice piece on the Raptors, def worth a read: http://straighthoops.com/on_a_mission.html

  7. Edward Diener says:

    The Brooklyn Nets center is Brooke Lopez and not his brother Robin Lopez.

  8. Drago says:

    I’m a big fan of Sacramento from the Vlade Divac days and I see Sacramento as one of the more talented teams in the league but Minesota was supertalented and that never went anywhere.A team is not it’s roster you need a philosophy and a deep system that you tweak and add pieces to every year.There are to many teams on the rise in the West and they will fail if they hope to buy and trade their way to wininig.It never worked and it never will.Unless you put the best and second best player in the NBA together and add an allstar to the mix.

  9. nancy says:

    Lakers are on the move and really been playing hard. Keep up the good work Lakers.

  10. Here2day says:

    I think it’s a good idea to rest Kobe. I remember the two championships Houston had with Hakeem Olajuwon. Right before those two playoff seasons, Hakeem would get injured and Houston would rest him. After that, he would dominate in the playoffs, and so the Rockets won two championships. Resting Kobe is something like to same thing, but only on a different scale. I think it’s a mistake to take older players and play them too hard during the regular season, which is something Boston did with Kevin McHale and Larry Bird to get a stronger home court advantage in the playoffs; but they paid the price for it in when playoff crunch time came along. . . . . . . . . Kobe would do well to take a tip from Hakeem.

  11. lbj says:

    . Robin lopez plays. With the trail blazers not with Brooklyn and if I’m. Correct. Brook lopez. Was the one that. Wanted to star in the new star. Wars. Movies

  12. harriethehawk says:

    DeMarre Carrol is my favorite Hawks player. He is way underrated and unfortunately will probably not make all-star. But the good news is, if Atlanta keeps going like they are, Coach Bud will be selected as Leastern Coach. That’s encouraging! Too bad he can’t pick his own reserves cause he definitely would of picked DeMarre Carrol, Millsap, Teague and Horford ( if he could and they didn’t already get selected). Let’s Go Hawks!!!