Posts Tagged ‘Kobe Bryan’

Six Worthy Below-The-Radar All-Stars

DeMar DeRozan is the Raptors' leading scorer, at more than 21 points a game (Rocky Widner/NBAE)

DeMar DeRozan is the Raptors’ leading scorer, at more than 21 points a game (Rocky Widner/NBAE)

We know the fan balloting to select the NBA All-Star Game starters is a beauty pageant more than a referendum on results.

Kobe Bryant, playing only six games this season, leading the balloting for the West backcourt and Rajon Rondo, who hasn’t played at all, ranked in the top six in the East means all that is missing is a sash and tiara.

With less than a week left in the voting for the starting lineups, it will be up to the coaches — they name the reserves — to fill in the blanks and rectify some of the slights. But there’s still more than handful of deserving players who could be left out. We’ll call them the All-Fars, as in too far under the radar:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Paul Millsap, F, Hawks — When teammate Al Horford was lost for the season with a torn pectoral muscle, it certainly made life a little more difficult for everyone on the Hawks. But it also shed some light on Millsap’s contributions. After six years in Utah, the Jazz let Millsap walk in the name of their youth movement. So he took his lunch-pail attitude to Atlanta as perhaps the best free-agent bargain of last summer. He’s rung up 16 double-doubles in the first 37 games this season and, along with point guard Jeff Teague, is responsible for keeping the Hawks in the No. 3 spot in the East.

Arron Afflalo (Fernando Medina/NBAE)

Arron Afflalo (Fernando Medina/NBAE)

Arron Afflalo, G, Magic — Location, location, location. Afflalo is hardly in the prime real estate spot for getting notice with the also-running Magic. There was a great deal of speculation that he would have to be traded before the start of the season to make way for rookie Victor Oladipo. But the Magic are glad they resisted the urge and kept him around. He’s averaging more than 21 points, four assists and four rebounds per game and shooting better than 40 percent from behind the 3-point line. Is it too much of a stretch to label him the second-best shooting guard in the East behind Paul George? Dwyane Wade certainly gets the notoriety and the votes, but Afflalo has the credentials to be in the conversation.

DeMar DeRozan, G, Raptors — If Afflalo is held back by Orlando being mired at the bottom of the East standings, how much of a bump can DeRozan get from being the lead dog pulling the wagon for the Atlantic Division-leading Raptors? That is odd just to type. But there’s no question that Toronto has come together in the aftermath of the Rudy Gay trade. The 24-year-old DeRozan has ably stepped up to carry the offensive load and has shined in big wins at Oklahoma City and at home over the Pacers. He’s scoring, passing and rebounding. The only thing missing is a dependable 3-point stroke.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Ty Lawson, G, Nuggets — With the injuries to Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul, it seems that the All-Star door is finally going to swing open for Stephen Curry. But that still leaves a gigantic logjam of point guards in the West. Never mind the populist voting that has the likes of Steve Nash and Jeremy Lin in the top 10. Lawson still has plenty of competition from Damian Lillard and Tony Parker, both of whom play for teams that are significantly higher up in the standings. The Nuggets had to do an extreme makeover with the departure of Andre Iguodala and the loss of Danilo Gallinari to a knee injury. Lawson has to carry the lion’s share of the load and is the only player on the roster averaging more than 30 minutes per game. He said he didn’t like coach Brian Shaw’s system at the start of the season, but he has thrived in it.

Nicolas Batum (Sam Forencich/NBAE)

Nicolas Batum (Sam Forencich/NBAE)

Nicolas Batum, F, Trail Blazers — He’s a victim of his own teammates. While the Blazers’ surprising rise in the standings is giving LaMarcus Aldridge his star turn, and Damian Lillard is constantly providing his own end-of-game highlights, the young Frenchman stands in the background and rarely draws more more attention than the wallpaper. He’s still long and lean, but seems to have grown in confidence with his offense. As part of the bombs-away Portland attack, he’s firing up at least five 3-pointers per game and connecting at a 40 percent clip. He’s also playing more of a role as a distributor and remains an excellent finisher on the Blazers’ break with his speed and length. Likely the only way Batum will ever get his due is if he helps take his team all the way to The Finals, where nobody gets overlooked.

Anthony Davis, F, Pelicans — A year ago, it was easy to look past the No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft because his coach did more to stop him with a lack of playing time than any defender on the court. But the reins are off now and Davis has become a real force at both ends of the court, averaging just under 20 points, nine rebounds and more than two blocked shots per game. Coach Monty Williams says there is virtually nothing he doesn’t trust Davis to do on the court now. The 20-year-old, who’s expected to be the foundation of the franchise for the next decade, has had to shoulder even more of the load due to the spate of injuries that have taken down Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans and Ryan Anderson. He’s got a particularly tough road to travel to the All-Star Game in his hometown of New Orleans with Aldridge, Blake Griffin, Kevin Love, Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki, to name a few, blocking his path. Plus, he’s playing in the depths of the standings. But growth in the shadows is still growth.

Kobe’s Bone Spur Worst Part of Lakers’ Long Night In Milwaukee

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MILWAUKEE
– The respective head coaches were asked prior to the game Thursday which of their teams was feeling more desperate.

By the end of the night, the Lakers’ Mike D’Antoni had it all over the Bucks’ Jim Boylan. For all the wrong reasons.

Snapshot of the night, the latest in this tortuous season for L.A.: Kobe Bryant hopping out of the BMO Harris Bradley Center on one crutch, his left foot burning from a bone spur diagnosed after the game. Bryant did not talk with reporters in the dressing room but did say to Yahoo! Sports as he maneuvered toward a waiting car: “Inflamed on me. I’ll be all right.” The Lakers were staying over in Milwaukee before flying to Sacramento Friday, where Bryant is expected to be examined again.

This came at the tail end of what already had been a lousy night. After the 113-103 loss the Bucks, their eighth-place counterparts from the East. After another defensive collapse and a blown 13-point lead. After point guard Steve Nash exited for good at 5:13 of the third quarter with an aching back and hamstring. After an old, banged-up team – still smarting from Metta World Peace‘s knee surgery earlier in the day – showed its age, D’Antoni said, then got a little older and more banged-up.

“It’s been a long year, there’s no doubt about it,” forward Pau Gasol said. “A lot of ups and downs. But we’re here. We believe in ourselves. We have the weapons. Hopefully we will stay healthy enough to be able to give it our best shot. But it’s been difficult, no doubt about it.”

Bryant, who sprained his left ankle in Atlanta two weeks ago and missed two games, led the Lakers with 30 points Thursday but shot 6-of-17 from the floor. He was 2-of-8 in the second half, when L.A. got outscored 60-47 by a Bucks club that had dropped four in a row and wasn’t playing at all like a team, ahem, peaking for the playoffs.

But Milwaukee, 35-36, perked up and crept within two games of seventh-place Boston in the East. Led by Larry Sanders’ career-high 21 points and 13 rebounds, all five starters scored in double figures, and Marquis Daniels‘ defense on Bryant led an effort that limited the Lakers to 37.5 percent shooting after halftime, including 1-of-11 on 3-pointers.

“When you’re losing, it seems like you’ll never win again,” Daniels said. “Finally we got a win, we can breathe a little bit. Not breathe, but it’s fresh air and we’ve got to continue to build off this.”

The fact that D’Antoni’s team, 37-36, is sweating out games in late March and figures to do so right through however many it has in April, sums up the failures of its season. Nash is expected to face the Kings Saturday and, given Bryant’s recuperative track record, maybe he won’t miss time either. But with just nine games remaining, a Lakers team that so often can’t control its own scoreboard will be eyeballing others’.

“We have to,” Gasol conceded. “We don’t need anybody else to be injured, to be out, missing games, especially at this point of the year. So let’s see what happens. Hopefully Kobe will be healthy for the next game. Steve will be healthy. I’ll get healthier and we’ll continue to move forward.”

Continue? There was a distinct shifting of gears Thursday but grinding, like something headed toward reverse.

Blogtable: Stumbling Lakers

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

Is there anything really wrong with the stumbling Lakers that can’t be fixed by a good psychologist?

David Aldridge: They don’t need a shrink. They just need the calendar to read April 16, and to get a detailed scouting report from assistant coaches Jim Cleamons or Frank Hamblen or Brian Shaw on whoever their first-round opponent is. When they focus, they’re still the team to beat, and I don’t see anyone at the bottom of the west, whether it’s Portland or Memphis, who has the chops to chop them down in the opening round. Though the Blazers or Grizzlies will have their moments.

Steve Aschburner: A good psychologist might wind up quitting and refunding his fee once these guys got through with him. You telling me there’s someone who’s a match for Kobe Bryant’s impenetrable stubbornness? For the voices that propel Ron Artest through life? For the inscrutable Pau Gasol, the tenuous Andrew Bynum and Phil Jackson in full-blown legacy-and-life force mode? The most the Lakers can hope for at this stage is a few Band-Aids for their brains – how far they go in the postseason will depend on basketball. If Bynum isn’t sidelined for a significant amount of time and if the muscle memory of three consecutive Finals runs kicks in, I think L.A. will be fine. (more…)