Posts Tagged ‘ESPNLosAngeles.com’

Kobe: ‘Big-Boy Pants’ For Pau!


HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS –
Pau Gasol keeps finding himself on the end of the Los Angeles Lakers’ bench at crunch time, a strange place for one of the world’s best post players. But that’s exactly where Gasol was with the game on the line Sunday at Staples Center, for the second time in just five games.

And if you thought things couldn’t get any worse, now Kobe Bryant is dishing out his own brand of public advice/motivational talking points to … help inspire Gasol to keep himself on the floor?

The Lakers’ dysfunction has run deep this season, but perhaps never more than it did Sunday night after a despicable 113-103 home loss to the Orlando Magic, Dwight Howard‘s former team, when Bryant told reporters:

“Put your big-boy pants on,” Bryant said. “Just adjust. Just adjust. You can’t whine about it. You can’t complain about it.”

You don’t have to read between any lines to figure out that Kobe is calling Gasol out in the best/worst way (depending on your perspective). Demanding that Gasol man up and take responsibility for his own game and his own transition from Phil Jackson‘s system to Mike Brown‘s system and now, Mike D’Antoni‘s system, is exactly what you’d expect from a team leader.

This isn’t the first time someone has felt the need to light a fire under Gasol. Jackson had to do the same on several occasions when he coached the Spaniard, famously poking him in the chest during Game 3 of that playoff series they lost to the Dallas Mavericks in 2011 in an effort to challenge Gasol’s toughness in a critical situation.

The specifics of this latest late-game benching, provided by Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com, highlight a disturbing trend where Gasol is concerned:

Gasol was subbed out with 6:07 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Lakers up 84-83. Orlando outscored L.A. 30-19 the rest of the way. Gasol ended his night with 11 points of 4-for-11 shooting, seven rebounds, two assists and a block in 29 minutes.

“I don’t get irritated,” Gasol said of the benching. “I like to be out there. It’s upsetting for me as a player but I won’t allow it to irritate me.”

It was the second time the benching occurred with Gasol’s family in the building. The first time came against Marc Gasol and the Memphis Grizzlies and Gasol’s father and younger brother, Adria, were at Staples Center for the game Sunday.

Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni downplayed the difficulty of getting Gasol back on track.

“Just talk to him,” D’Antoni said. “There’s no magic words out there. He’s going to have to play. He still had 11 and seven and he’s playing, but we just have to be a more dynamic team. We’re slow right now. It’s just athletically, we’re struggling.”

D’Antoni added that he didn’t want to “lose Pau,” but Bryant assured that would not be a problem.

“We’re not going to lose him,” Bryant said. “That’s just not going to happen. I’ve been around him long enough. I know how to deal with him.”

The Lakers need to worry about losing games right now, too. They’re 8-9 after dropping this game to the Magic, a 6-10 team that had won just three times in its last 13 outings prior to Sunday.

Every time it seems the Lakers are getting on track, like they appeared to do in Friday’s win over Denver, they follow it up with a nasty fall like we saw against the Magic. This uneven approach under D’Antoni is not what anyone expected and certainly not what Bryant said we should expect after the coaching change.

And yet here they are, still struggling with their own identity while serving as the punchline for jokes league-wide because they can’t find a way to manufacture wins with one of the best rosters on paper.

If they keep this up through Christmas, calling for “big-boy pants” for Gasol will only be a small part of the barking Bryant is doing as the Lakers head into 2013.

Real Lakers, Pacers Need To Stand Up

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – With fifteen combined losses, a coaching change and plenty of issues still needing to be resolved, it’s safe to say that both the Los Angeles Lakers and Indiana Pacers have begun this season in ways no one expected from either of these supposed contenders.

Their struggles, both on and off the court, could be construed by some as character-building hurdles for teams on their way to bigger and better things. On the flip side, the flaws we’ve seen through this first month of the regular season could also be a preview of what’s in store for two teams that need to reveal their true identities before the calendar flips to 2013.

Tonight’s matchup between the Lakers and Pacers in Los Angeles (10:30 ET, League Pass) could be billed as the disappointment bowl, what with the Pacers (6-8 and losers of seven of their last 11 games) dragging themselves across the country to face a Lakers team (7-7) fighting to stay around the .500 mark as they transition from Mike Brown‘s Princeton offense-based system to Mike D’Antoni‘s up-tempo attack.

How these two teams reached this point of the season with such underwhelming results is a bit of a mystery given all of the expectations heaped upon both of them. The high expectations for Indiana were forged after its near breakthrough effort against the Miami Heat in the East semifinals last season. For L.A., the expectations grew after its summer acquisitions of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard.

Neither team has been able to harness the momentum needed to push their way into the elite category this season. The Lakers blew things up after five games and still can’t decide if they’re going to get serious about becoming a championship team or continue clowing around as if all they need is a little more time — and a healthy Nash back in the lineup — to correct whatever is wrong.

Still, the Lakers appear to have an easier road back to respectability. When Nash returns, D’Antoni will have his favorite trigger man at the controls of his offense, theoretically making life better for Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and everyone else. They’ll have a chance to find a comfort zone throughout the holiday season while getting all their big stars aligned and in a collective groove.

The Lakers have actually played winning basketball without Nash, going 7-5, but his absence has had a significant impact on the progress (or lack thereof) this team has made since training camp. D’Antoni acknowledged the dilemma to ESPNLosAngeles.com‘s Dave McMenamin:

“We’re doing it without (Nash), who is kind of the engine that is going to drive us forward,” D’Antoni said. “So we’re going to have some bumps along the road.”

Steve Blake (strained abdomen) did not practice. He continues to be listed as day-to-day.

Nash and Blake have been ruled out for Tuesday’s game against the Indiana Pacers.

“I told (Nash) and I told Steve Blake … we’ve got 68 games left,” D’Antoni said. “I’d rather them play (the) 61 final games instead of them playing six and then missing 20 and then playing the rest of them.

“It’s important that they keep progressing. Whether they play Tuesday or Friday or next Saturday, it doesn’t really matter where (they come back). It’s that when they play, the rest of the time they’re ready to roll.”

Things aren’t quite as simple for the Pacers, who not only have to play without Danny Granger (knee) for three months, but also have to contend with one of the league’s toughest early season schedules. Twelve of their first 18 games will be played on the road, a factor coach Frank Vogel is working hard to manage for a team that seems a bit shell-shocked that at their struggles thus far.

“I encouraged our guys to keep any frustrations in perspective and understand we play 41 at home and 41 on the road,” Vogel told the Indianapolis Star. “We’re weathering the storm of an early tough part of our schedule … Just manage it, stay in the hunt and we’ll have our run. It could happen now; it could happen later.”

The Pacers were supposed to have a clear path to the Central Division title after the Bulls lost All-Star point guard Derrick Rose for the majority of the season due to his ACL injury suffered in the 2012 playoffs.

The Bulls have done their part, but it’s the Milwaukee Bucks, not the Pacers, who have stepped into the void early on.

Time could be on the Pacers’ side, however, especially if they do what Vogel said and survive this current crisis, highlighted by Curt Cavin of the Star:

Indiana (6-8) has a four-game homestead in January and a five-game stretch in February, part of a 9-of-11 run in Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

That could coincide with the return of Danny Granger, the 6-8 forward who is out three months with a knee problem.

George Hill said all of that could help the playoff push.

“In a perfect world we wish we could come home and play (now),” he said. “I feel like we haven’t been home for two or three games.

“That part (stinks), but it will be a lot better once we hit February and we’re not traveling a lot. I’ll take the lumps and bruises now.”

Much like the Lakers, the Pacers need to be careful assuming that time will heal whatever ails them now. Sometimes lumps, bumps and bruises leave scars that never go away.

And sometimes, expectations have a way of devouring a team from the inside and turning what was supposed to be in what never was.

The Season Of … Uncertainty?


HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS –
We’ve been watching that countdown to tipoff clock on the front of NBA.com for days, weeks even, just staring at the numbers ticking away.

With the ground beneath our feet seemingly changing by the second in the final days leading up to Tuesday night’s start of the regular season, the one constant we thought we could be sure of is the teams that make up the league’s 1 percent.

But we’re not completely sure how to rank the elite now that James Harden and Jeremy Lin will share a backcourt in Houston after Oklahoma City Thunder traded the reigning KIA Sixth Man of the Year to the Rockets Saturday night. It was the most shocking and final blow in a week that left us punch drunk from stunning (some more than others) news.

The balance of power hasn’t been shifted or anything. We all know that the Miami Heat, Thunder, Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs and Boston Celtics make up the theoretical 1 percent. They’ll all kick this season off in the same positions in which they finished the last one.

Sure, it was a drama-filled last week before the start of the regular season. From the news that NBA Commissioner David Stern would be stepping down on Feb. 1, 2014 after 30 years on the job, and will be succeeded by Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver, to the weekend stunner from Oklahoma City, the hits just kept coming.

On the eve of one of the most anticipated seasons we can remember, so much seems to be in flux.

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No Kobe In Season Opener?




HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – With so much focus on Dwight Howard‘s back and whether or not he would be ready for the start of the Los Angeles Lakers’ regular season, few people worried about Kobe Bryant.

But with the opening night contest against the Dallas Mavericks just days away, it’s Bryant who could be in danger of missing the game with injury. Both of the Lakers’ stars sat out Wednesday night’s preseason loss to the Clippers and Bryant could, according to Lakers coach Mike Brown (via ESPNLosAngeles.com), be held out of the game against the Mavericks with a strained right foot:

“I don’t know if he’ll be ready,” Brown said after the Lakers 97-91 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday. “So yeah, I guess there is question. I’m just going to wait for [Lakers trainer] Gary Vitti to tell me he can play because there’s nothing I can do about it until they release him anyway.”

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Clippers Ready For Lakers, Season


HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS –
Los Angeles Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro has a decidedly different approach to preseason basketball than his Los Angeles Lakers’ counterpart.

While Mike Brown isn’t worried about his team’s 0-6 preseason record, Del Negro demands that his crew treat every dress rehearsal like the real thing.

“You get paid to play and you get paid to win, I don’t care if it’s exhibition or not, you have to compete,” Del Negro told reporters after Monday night’s win over the Golden State Warriors. “If you’re not willing to compete and put it out there, you’re not a competitive person and those are not the type of people I want around here. … I understand it’s an exhibition game but when you play your minutes, play the right way so we can get better. If you don’t want to, you can come sit with me.”

Both sides will have main players sitting with the coaches when the Clippers and Lakers square off tonight (10:30 p.m. ET, NBA TV). Lakers star Kobe Bryant is set to rest his sore foot and Del Negro has talked about resting his starters for the preseason version of the Staples Center Classic.

That means tonight’s game could turn into a battle of the benches, and that’s one fight where the deeper Clippers’ appear to have an advantage over their city rivals. A roll call of the Clippers’ reserves — Jamal Crawford, Lamar Odom, Grant Hill, Matt Barnes, Eric Bledsoe, Ronny Turiaf, Willie Green, Ryan Hollins and Chauncey Billups (who will return from a torn Achilles tendon sometime next month or in December) — highlights an explosive supporting cast of talented players all capable of playing multiple positions.

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Report: Howard Set For Sunday Debut




HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The long wait to see Dwight Howard in live action with the Los Angeles Lakers could be over by the weekend.

The Lakers’ Sunday preseason game against Sacramento is Howard’s target game to make his official return to the court, as first reported by Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports and later by Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

“I told Steve [Nash], ‘I think I’m going to be a little nervous out there the first time,’” Howard told reporters after the Lakers practiced Thursday. “He said he’d help me through it. But this is a new team, new city, and I think everybody is expecting a lot out of me, so I have to make sure I keep all that out of my mind when I play in front of the home crowd.”

Howard had surgery to repair a herniated disk in his back in April and didn’t start running until just before the start of training camp. The only real action he’s seen on the court has been against teammates in practice, including scrimmages.

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World Peace Says Lakers’ Goal is 73-9

 

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The NBA offseason without a little noise from Metta World Peace wouldn’t be civilized.

A noted historian of the game and a keen observer of trends, World Peace knows that the expectations for he and the rest of the Los Angeles Lakers are through the roof. So it should come as no surprise that he also has them pegged for greatness.

He said as much in when he joined the Max and Marcellus Show on ESPN 710 in Los Angeles (these transcribed words courtesy of Chris Fedor of SportsRadioInterviews.com):

What he thinks about the team possibly not having Dwight Howard at the start of Training Camp:

“We definitely want to beat the Bulls record and go 73-9, that’s definitely something that I want to do. Whoever is out there at the beginning of the season then we gotta get it. It’s as simple as that. We just have to go get it. (Host: So that Bulls record is something you’re thinking about?) No question. You try to snatch records before you leave this earth. You gotta try to do a lot of great things so it’s definitely a goal. With Dwight Howard, (Steve) Nash, Kobe (Bryant), myself, Pau (Gasol) and then (Antawn) Jamison and a lot of great additions it’s something that’s possible.”

What it will take for the Lakers to overtake the Thunder:

“I think people still have to go through the Lake Show. I think everything goes through the Lake Show. We had a bad season last year. If we don’t turn the ball over in a couple of games then we’re up 3-1 in that Oklahoma series, actually up 3-2, going back LA so with that said confidence remains.”

What he thinks the Lakers are missing:

“Nothing. We feel great. I saw Jamison today and people forget that he is one of the best offensive rebounders in the game, (more…)

Kobe Bryant’s Inspiring Work With The Homeless In Los Angeles

In 2011, Kobe Bryant announced the formation of the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation, a non-profit organization that helps youth and families in need.

 

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We spend an inordinate amount of time during this part of the offseason detailing things like what sort of workouts a player is going through and where they’re vacationing.

What doesn’t garner as many headlines is the work they do off the court: conducting free camps for kids, donating their time and money to charitable causes and getting outside of their comfort zone every now and then to use their stature as some of the world’s most recognizable face to a worthy cause.

And as Lakers star Kobe Bryant highlighted earlier this week while walking the downtown streets of Los Angeles with his wife, Vanessa, wading into the midst of that city’s homeless community. Sometimes, as ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Arash Markazi makes clear, it takes the bright light that only certain celebrities bring to draw attention to a particular cause:

While Bryant was there he met a 58-year-old man, who has been in and out of the mission for the past year.

“He was extremely articulate and he had a great life and he made a poor choice and ended up on the streets,” Bryant said. “He came to the L.A. Mission weighing 135 pounds and now he’s healthy and his weight is back up. He’s 58 but he’s in better shape than I am. … You get to hear their stories and you get to find out first-hand what’s going on.

“This issue gets pushed into the backburner because it’s easy to put the blame on those that are homeless and say you made that bad decision and that’s the reason why you are where you are and it’s your fault. We all make mistakes and to just sit back and watch this and to wash your hands of it by saying that’s your fault, that’s not right and it’s not fair.”

On Wednesday Kobe and Vanessa Bryant arrived at My Friend’s Place, a drop-in center for homeless youth in Hollywood, which annually serves about 1,700 individuals between the ages of 12 and 25. They were there to announce the completion of the center’s renovation, which was funded by the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation.

“This isn’t a popular topic or a popular issue,” Bryant said. “It’s one where you have to get your hands dirty a little bit. It’s not something celebrities easily rally around but this is something that we wanted to change. This something we’re all going to have to fight, it’s going to be a long fight but I’m in it for the long haul.”

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Report: Lakers Not Interested In Roy





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – You can cross at least one team off the list of potential suitors for Brandon Roy as he makes his return from a seven-month retirement from the NBA.

Roy is apparently not on the Los Angeles Lakers’ radar, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

According to a source familiar with the team’s thinking, the Lakers are not interested in Roy, the former Portland Trail Blazers All-Star guard who retired last December because of knee troubles. Roy, who turns 28 next month, has been working out in L.A. this summer in hopes of returning to the league.

While certainly respecting the player who Roy once was, the Lakers are skeptical that Roy’s body would be able to make it though the grind of a full 82-game season, according to the source. The prevailing thought within the organization is that Roy misses the game and is going through the natural longing process that many competitors deal with shortly after retirement. They aren’t convinced that Roy will be able to physically return to the form that allowed him to average 19.0 points and 4.7 assists over the course of his five-year career. With many holes to fill on their bench and only the mini mid-level exception and veteran minimum contracts to use in free agency to fill them, Roy carries too big of a risk.

The Lakers might not be interested, but there are several teams — the Warriors, Timberwolves, Bulls, Pacers and Mavericks — with legitimate interest in Roy.

Metta Not Interested In Peace





HANG TIME PLAYOFF HEADQUARTERS – So much for world peace!

Lakers forward Metta World Peace has no intention of making peace with Thunder sixth man James Harden when the Lakers travel to Oklahoma City for the first two games of the Western Conference semifinals.

After outlasting the Nuggets Saturday in Game 7 of the first round series, World Peace was asked if he would make any sort of gesture to move past the elbow he threw at Harden in an April 22 games that resulted in a concussion (for Harden) and a suspension (seven games for MWP).

No dice!

“I don’t shake substitutes’ hands,” World Peace told reporters.

Outside a statement of apology issued shortly after the incident, World Peace steered clear of anything close to genuine remorse for his actions, which will no doubt make him an object of the eye of Thunder fans filling Chesapeake Energy Arena for Games 1 and 2.

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