Posts Tagged ‘Los Angeles Lakers’

Shaq-Kobe cold war officially over?


VIDEO: Kobe Bryant talks about his relationship with Shaq

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The thaw began a while ago, with each side admitting to past wrongs and their own complicity in one of the coldest wars in the history of sports.

Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant feuded for years, first as teammates in Los Angeles with the Lakers, and later after they had parted ways. They won titles, three in a row, in spite of their very real beef that always seemed destined to derail one of the greatest 1-2 punches basketball had ever seen.

But now, with Shaq retired and settled in comfortably as a member of the Emmy Award-winning Inside The NBA on TNT and headed for the Hall of Fame, and Kobe in the twilight of his future Hall of Fame career, the good vibrations appear to be rolling between the two. When word surfaced last week that Shaq had Kobe on his “The Big Podcast” (available today) and the former dynamic duo had cleared the air, it became obvious that the longstanding battle between the two was officially over.

Shaq’s opening lines, per a report from Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times, said it all:

“I just want people to know that I don’t hate you, I know you don’t hate me. I call it today a ‘work beef,’ is what we had,” said O’Neal, who retired after the 2010-11 season. “I was young, you was young. But then as I look at it, we won three [championships] out of four so I don’t really think a lot was done wrong. So I just wanted to clear the air and let everybody know that, no, I don’t hate you. We had a lot of disagreements, we had a lot of arguments. But I think it fueled us both.”

With Shaq Week invading NBA TV this week, the unveiling of the full podcast sheds even more light on the recovery process for these former teammates and NBA titans. We’ve heard plenty of stories and theories from other folks who were there, involved and observing the reality show that was the Shaq-Kobe Lakers. This is the first time we’ve had the two stars of the show discuss it together.

Some 11 years after their nasty public break up, hearing both men reflect on their tumultuous time together is revealing. More from the Times:

Bryant, 37, recalled the time when he and O’Neal almost came to blows in 1999.

Bryant was 21 at the time, but he wasn’t going to back down to the 7-foot-1, 330-pound O’Neal.

“In ’99, I think Shaq realized that this kid is really competitive and he’s a little crazy,” said Bryant, who is heading into what could be his final NBA season. “And I realized that I probably had a couple of screws loose because I nearly got into a fistfight and I actually was willing to get into a fight with this man. I went home and I was like, ‘Dude, I’ve either got to be the dumbest or the most courageous kid on the face of the Earth.'”

O’Neal viewed it then as an affront to his authority as the team leader, but these days he sees it differently.

“That just showed me, ‘You know what, this kid ain’t going to back down to nobody,'” O’Neal said. “Kobe seen me punk everybody in the league. So when this kid would stand up every day [to me], I’m like, ‘This kid ain’t going to back down.’ I knew then, if I’m down by one and I kick it out to someone, he’s going to shoot it and he’s going to make it.”

Both Bryant and O’Neal laughed.

“He was either going to beat the . . . out of me or I was going to get it done,” Bryant said. “I was comfortable with either one.”

Clearly, time heals all wounds, even in the most bitter of disputes. And to their credit, these guys didn’t wait until they were ancient to do this. All of us who watched them in their primes, together and apart, know what might have been if they could have co-existed without all of the drama and certainly a little longer.

(more…)

Morning Shootaround — Aug. 28


VIDEO: Darryl Dawkins passes away at age 58

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Remembering Chocolate Thunder | Davis bulks up | Buss believes Bryant worth big extension

No. 1: Remembering Chocolate Thunder — The NBA family lost one of its greatest ambassadors on Thursday when Darryl Dawkins passed away at the age of 58. Our own Fran Blinebury, who covered Dawkins with the Sixers and even collaborated with him on a weekly column, reflects on one of the biggest personalities the league has ever seen…

Some news makes you feel older, more than a glimpse at gray hairs or lines on a face looking back from the mirror ever can. Because Dawkins was the ultimate man-child, light-hearted and perpetually friendly long after he broke into the NBA in 1975 with the 76ers as an 18-year-old out of Maynard Evans High in Orlando, Fla.

Four decades later, little had changed except the age on his driver’s license and when I saw him last February at the All-Star Game in New York, he was still a true original and the most fun person I’ve ever covered in the NBA.

Stevie Wonder dubbed him “Chocolate Thunder,” and no label of sheer power coated in a kid’s shell of sweetness and joy was ever more appropriate.

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No. 2: Davis bulks upAnthony Davis finished fifth in MVP voting last season and has seemingly just scratched the surface of his potential. New Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry will help Davis take the next step, but Davis is doing his part by putting on some weight, as Pelicans.com’s Jim Eichenhofer writes…

Imagine for a moment living in the foodie heaven of New Orleans and getting the green light from a trainer to eat larger portions at meals, including a recommendation to devour more seafood. It sounds like a dream scenario for any weight-conscious New Orleanian, but it’s been a reality this summer for All-NBA Pelicans power forward Anthony Davis. Entering his fourth pro season, the 22-year-old has worked to add more muscle and bulk to his frame. As a result, with training camp one month away, the 6-foot-10 Davis is 12 pounds heavier than he was last season, up to 253, while maintaining 10 percent body fat.

Without a lengthy commitment to USA Basketball this offseason, Davis has been able to consistently focus on a weight-training routine and modifying his diet. He spent a combined total of eight weeks in Los Angeles and Anguilla working daily with new Pelicans head strength and conditioning coach Jason Sumerlin, who continues to adjust the approach of Davis, a noted pizza lover.

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No. 3: Buss believes Bryant worth big extension — The Los Angeles Lakers added some key pieces via the Draft (D’Angelo Russell) and trade (Roy Hibbert) this summer, and they’ll be getting Kobe Bryant and Julius Randle back from injury. But what’s supposed to be the league’s marquis franchise didn’t get any big names via free agency. One thing that may have gotten in the way was Bryant’s $25 million salary, which prevented the Lakers from approaching two big free agents with a package deal. Despite Bryant’s age and health issues, Lakers owner Jim Buss, in a wide-ranging interview with Eric Pincus of the L.A. Times, said that Bryant is getting what he deserves…

Bryant, with one year left on his contract, will be the highest paid player in the NBA this season at $25 million. Buss gave Bryant a two-year, $48.5-million extension in 2013 before he even returned from a torn Achilles’ tendon six months earlier.

Since then, Bryant has played in only 41 games over the last two seasons because of a fractured kneecap, followed by a torn rotator cuff last season.

Buss has received plenty of criticism for over-investing in the aging star, who just turned 37 as he heads into his 20th season.

“The man has done so much for the Lakers and the fans of the Laker nation, he deserves the money,” Buss said. “I don’t understand anybody trying to break down what I did for him. Let’s break down what he did for us, then say, what is he worth? To me, he’s worth that.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Stephanie Ready will be the first full-time female NBA game analystChuck Hayes is not rejoining the RocketsAn Achilles injury has knocked Alexis Ajinca out of Eurobasket … Mike Conley likes mixing patters and colors … and the Kings are bringing Marshall Henderson to training camp.

ICYMI: The best of Chocolate Thunder:


VIDEO: Darryl Dawkins’ top 20 Dunks

Morning Shootaround — Aug. 27

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Kobe, Shaq express regrets | MKG signs extension with Hornets | Stoudemire has high hopes for himself, Heat | Carrying on Lloyd’s legacy

No. 1: Kobe, Shaq express regrets Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant teamed up on the Lakers to win three championships, but their publicly contentious relationship sometimes seemed as through they won despite each other instead of because of each other. But in Shaq’s new podcast being released next week, Kobe Bryant visited as a guest, and as ESPN’s Baxter Holmes writes, the two looked back on their relationship and the dissolution of it with some regret…

In the podcast, “The Big Podcast With Shaq,” the two expressed regret over the feud.

“A lot of stuff was said out of the heat of the moment,” O’Neal said in an excerpt from the podcast that was played on ESPN Radio on Wednesday. “I guarantee I don’t remember a lot of stuff that they said, because I changed my thought process of, you know what, we won three out of four, what the hell are you all talking about? This is not really even a story.”

Said Bryant: “Here’s the thing, though. When you say it at the time, you actually mean it, and then when you get older you have more perspective, and you’re like holy… I was an idiot when I was a kid.

“To me, the most important thing was really, ‘just keep your mouth shut.’ You don’t need to go to the press with stuff. You keep it internal, and we have our arguments and our disagreements, but I think having our debates within the press was something I wish would’ve been avoided. But it did kind of create this whirlwind around us as a team with myself and Shaq and the press and the media that just put so much pressure on us as an organization.”

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No. 2: MKG signs extension with Hornets The Charlotte Hornets and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist have supposedly been talking about a contract extension for a few days now, but yesterday they finally inked the five-year deal, which allowed both sides to meet the press. Hornets coach Steve Clifford has high goals for Kidd-Gilchrist, who explained to the Charlotte Observer‘s Rick Bonnell that he figured why wait to play for another contract?

Charlotte Hornets small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist might have made some more off his second NBA contract by waiting until he reached restricted free-agency next July.

Instead he chose the security of a four-year, $52 million extension in a place and with a franchise that have become his home.

“Why wait?” Kidd-Gilchrist said at a Wednesday news conference to formally announce the signing. “I’m learning from the best. I don’t do this for the money.”

Perhaps not, but his second NBA contract will make the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 draft fabulously wealthy. Also Kidd-Gilchrist has some upside protection in the contract’s terms. A source familiar with the deal said Kidd-Gilchrist has a player option for the final season, so if his improvement coincides with the anticipated spike in the salary cap, he could become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2019.

Kidd-Gilchrist would still be 25 – young by NBA standards – at that juncture.

Wednesday was a highly emotional day for Kidd-Gilchrist and his family. His mother frequently dabbed away tears during the news conference. He thanked numerous people including team owner Michael Jordan, the coaching staff and his family and agents.

“I’m learning from the best: MJ, Coach (Steve Clifford), Patrick Ewing, Mark Price,” Kidd-Gilchrist said.

Price, now coaching the Charlotte 49ers, was the Hornets assistant who worked diligently two summers ago to fix Kidd-Gilchrist’s jump shot. Price and Kidd-Gilchrist became so close through that experience that Kidd-Gilchrist skipped a team flight last season, flying to Washington later in the day at his own expense, to attend Price’s introductory news conference at UNC Charlotte.

Price returned that respect Wednesday, attending Kidd-Gilchrist’s news conference.

While Kidd-Gilchrist is still developing offensively (he averaged 10.9 points and 7.6 rebounds last season), he’s among the NBA’s top wing defenders. He told the Observer last season he aspires to be the best defender in NBA history, and didn’t back off that goal Wednesday.

“Aim for the stars; you’ll probably land on the moon. I have confidence in myself,” Kidd-Gilchrist said.

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No. 3: Stoudemire has high hopes for himself, Heat Amar’e Stoudemire has spent a decade in the NBA, and gone from being a high-flying transition player into a more traditional, savvy post presence. After joining the Dallas Mavericks for their playoff run, Stoudemire signed with the Miami Heat, which he considers a return home. And as Stoudemire explained to the Associated Press, he believes the Miami Heat could have championship potential

He’s been texting and talking with Chris Bosh regularly. He’s considered himself close with Goran Dragic for years, going back to their time together with the Phoenix Suns.

Plus, he’s called Miami home for about seven years already.

So getting acclimated to being part of the Heat, that won’t be a big deal for the forward who will be entering his 14th NBA season – and first with Miami – when training camp opens in about a month. He knows many of his new teammates such as Dwyane Wade, Bosh and Dragic. He knows the city, and most of all he thinks that he can rekindle the All-Star form he had not long ago.

“We can be a really good team,” Stoudemire said. “No one thought that the Golden State Warriors would be champions this time last year. We knew they’d be a really good team, but no one thought they’d be world champions. With us, we know we’re a really good team. No one thinks we can be world champions, but you never know.”

Stoudemire went back to school on Monday, appearing with some other members of the Heat staff at an elementary school in Fort Lauderdale on the first day of the new academic year in South Florida.

He posed for photos and helped hand out some school supplies to ecstatic kids in what essentially was his first public appearance for the team since signing a one-year, $1.5 million deal last month. He also had to introduce himself to a few students; one asked Stoudemire if he was Bosh.

“I just live life,” Stoudemire said.” I try to enjoy it. I try to create positive energy when I can, I try to affect people in a positive way and just live life.”

For the kids, the new season of sorts started Monday.

For Stoudemire, while it won’t officially start for a few more weeks, prepping for 2015-16 in reality started long ago. He’s taking care of his body, but also said he believes that Heat President Pat Riley and coach Erik Spoelstra have the right formula to both extend the careers of veteran players while also getting the best from them.

“From playing against Miami, the thing that you learn is that they always have a competitive spirit,” Stoudemire said. “There’s an aura around here that everyone works hard, that you have to be in top shape which is great because I want to be in the best shape of my life going into this season. I want to surprise the world and have a very, very productive year.”

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No. 4: Carrying on Lloyd’s legacy Back in 1950, Earl Lloyd became the first African-American to play in the NBA, as a member of the Washington Capitols. Lloyd passed away in February at the age of 86, but his son is working to make sure Lloyd’s legacy isn’t forgotten by attempting to have him commemorated on a postage stamp. As Donald Hunt writes in the Philadelphia Tribune, Kevin Lloyd and his family have a long process to go through

Lloyd is an excellent candidate to have his image on a postage stamp. Basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain was immortalized on two limited edition Forever postage stamps on Dec. 5, 2014 making him the first basketball player to have his likeness on a stamp.

The stamp process is quite grueling. The Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee is an organization appointed by the Postmaster General. The CSAC selects the stamp subjects for future consideration. The group submits them to the postmaster general who approves the subjects and designs for all U.S. postage stamps. The CSAC receives thousands of suggestions each year.

Nevertheless, the U.S. Postal Service has approved stamps for a number of athletes such as Jackie Robinson, Larry Doby, Althea Gibson, Jesse Owens, Wilma Rudolph and others.

In 2003, Lloyd was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. for integrating the NBA.

“Earl Lloyd was a true pioneer in the game as a breakout player, a coach, and an administrator who at every level led the integration of the professional game,” said John Doleva, president and CEO, Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in a statement. “He had a great love and respect for the game and used his success and challenges within it to educate and motivate so many others to achieve at the highest level. His remarkable basketball career aside, he was also one of the greatest and most decent human beings to represent basketball and the game was fortunate to have him at its forefront.”

Letters supporting Kevin Lloyd’s campaign should be mailed to: Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee, 475 L’Enfant Plaza SW, Room 3300, Washington, D.C. 20260-3501.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Jordan Clarkson is not yet eligible to represent the Philippines, but the process is underway … Russell Westbrook had fun at the Taylor Swift concert in Los Angeles … LeBron James sold his waterfront home in Miami …

Morning Shootaround — Aug. 25


VIDEO: Nerlens Noel 2014-15 highlights

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Hornets extend Kidd-Gilchrist | Chris Paul remembers Hurricane Katrina | Noel working on jump shot

No. 1: Hornets extend Kidd-Gilchrist The Charlotte Hornets drafted Michael Kidd-Gilchrist second overall in the 2012 NBA Draft, largely based on the potential of Kidd-Gilchrist continuing to develop into a complete small forward. And while three years later he still has a ways to go offensively, Kidd-Gilchrist has been a great fit for the Hornets, and become one of the best defensive players in the league. Which is why the Hornets were so keen to sign Kidd-Gilchrist to a four-year contract extension, writes Rick Bonnell in the Charlotte Observer

The Charlotte Hornets have made sure Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is a Charlotte Hornet long-term.

The Hornets have agreed to a four-year, $52 million contract, sources confirmed Monday. The deal will keep him off the free-agent market, similar to when the Hornets signed point guard Kemba Walker to a four-year, $48 million contract a year ago.

Kidd-Gilchrist is considered the Hornets’ defensive stopper. Coach Steve Clifford has called him one of the best individual and team defenders in the league.

However, he lacks offensive prowess. He averaged 13.4 points and 9.4 rebounds and took no 3-point shots last season. Then-assistant coach Mark Price spent much of last summer improving his jump shot.

The Hornets were under a certain economic pressure to get this deal done. Three other rookie-scale extensions had been completed: Anthony Davis was signed for five years and $145 million, making him the highest-paid player in NBA history. Portland’s Damian Lillard got a 5-year, $120 million contract.

And most recently Jonas Valanciunas got a four-year, $64 million contract from the Toronto Raptors.

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No. 2: Chris Paul remembers Hurricane Katrina Back in 2005, the New Orleans Hornets used the fourth overall pick in the NBA Draft to select Chris Paul out of Wake Forest. Paul arrived in New Orleans a decade ago this summer eager to make an impact on the franchise and the city. And as Arash Markazi writes, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans 10 years ago this week, having a lasting effect on one of America’s great cities

Paul’s first memory of Aug. 29, 2005, was the sound of his mother’s voice waking him up and directing him to the television. The images were hard to fathom as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes.

“It was one of the most devastating things I had ever seen,” Paul said. “That was my new home. Even though I had only just gotten drafted, it was going to be my first time away from home and I felt a connection to the city. I couldn’t believe what I was watching.”

Hurricane Katrina had struck New Orleans that early Monday morning, and as Paul huddled in front of the television with his family, he looked at his older brother and wondered what the future held for him and his new home.

“That was the most uncertain time of our lives,” C.J. [Paul] said. “Chris had just been drafted and closed on a house … he’s just getting a feel for the city and all of a sudden that new city you love is in trouble. Just to see all the people who were affected by it and to know we were there just a few days before it hit …

“It seemed like it was a third world country we were watching on TV,” C.J. added. “It didn’t seem like it was a place in the United States we were due to live in in a week.”

While Paul and his family watched Katrina’s wrath unfold on television, the experience of going through it left deeper wounds for those living in the city. Jim Cleamons, who was an assistant on head coach Byron Scott‘s staff, says he and his family still have emotional scars from Katrina 10 years later.

“It was a horrific experience,” Cleamons said. “To some degree, I don’t want to remember some of the things myself.”

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No. 3: Noel working on jump shot After sitting out his rookie season to recover from a knee injury, Sixers center Nerlens Noel came close to averaging a double-double last season. But Noel is looking to improve on the offensive end, and is spending his summer in Rhode Island rebuilding his jump shot, writes Keith Pompey for Philly.com…

Noel spent the month of June here before joining the Sixers at the Utah Jazz and NBA summer leagues in July. Then he returned in August.

Of course, Noel could be doing this at the Sixers’ practice facility at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

“Yeah, I could,” Noel said Wednesday night over dinner. “But I felt individualizing this for myself, putting all the attention on myself, working on something up here . . . I thought this is a little more dedication to be in Newport,R.I., where there isn’t too much going on.”

While his physique won’t be confused with Dwight Howard‘s, Noel’s muscle gain is noticeable.

The 21-year-old weighs about 223 pounds, up from the 217 he carried last season. Mainly, Noel has worked on his jump shot, which has been his Achilles’ heel.

“A lot of people say work on your weaknesses until they become strengths,” Carroll said, “because in the NBA if you have weaknesses, people will exploit them.”

If he improves his shooting, Noel’s ability to get to the rim will improve as well.

“I think it’s really going to help me as a basketball player overall, especially at [power forward],” Noel said of the daily workouts. “[It will] help space the floor with my ability and start hitting the jumper consistently and complement our whole offense. And, you know, just changing my whole game and how effective I am.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Utah Jazz have agreed to a multi-year deal with Jeff Withey  … Spurs assistant coach Ime Udoka may have been their secret MVP in their pursuit of LaMarcus AldridgeAndre Drummond has offered Pistons rookie Stanley Johnson a place to live next season … The Lakers have had “casual conversations” with Metta World Peace about a reunion … Could Nick Young join the Australian National Team? …

Kobe Bryant shoots for first time since shoulder surgery

NBA.com staff reports

First day back on the court shooting! Bout damn time!! #shoulderrecovery #20thseason @drinkbodyarmor #lakers

A photo posted by Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) on

Kobe Bryant hit the hardwood and put up shots on Saturday for the first time since he underwent surgery in January to repair a torn rotator cuff.

The initial recovery timetable was set at nine months, which would have Bryant ready to start his 20th, and perhaps final, season in the NBA in late-October. But after three straight season-ending injuries, the Lakers (and Bryant) may take their time with the recovery and allow new additions Lou WilliamsRoy Hibbert, Brandon Bass and rookie D’Angelo Russell to steady the ship until Bryant is 100-percent healthy.

The Lakers open the season on October 28th against the Timberwolves.

Blogtable: Is Kobe the greatest Laker ever?

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


BLOGTABLE: Favorite Kobe moment? | Should Kobe do Rio? | Greatest Kobe feat? | Greatest Laker ever?



VIDEOPlayers around the league show their appreciation for Kobe Bryant

> Is Kobe the greatest Laker of all time?  Explain.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comOne’s first duty in answering any question of this sort is to be protective of the predecessors, whether it’s a ’68 Mustang supposedly being eclipsed by the 2015 model or in this case, Kobe Bryant elbowing ahead of Jerry West and Magic Johnson. It’s hard to argue against “The Logo,” one of the best and classiest acts in NBA history, but Bryant – with his rings, his stats totals and his MVP trophy – has climbed higher among the game’s notables, which moves him past West as a swell Laker. I’m holding firm on Johnson, though, as the face of that franchise. We can quibble about the “greatest” definition, but Johnson was remarkable as a 6-foot-9 point guard who helped revive both the Lakers and the league with his team play and his smile. He also is my point guard on any by-position all-time team I put together and Bryant is a backup. So that splits my final hair here.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: You can put him in the conversation and I’ll listen. But Kareem and Magic are at the top of my list. One is the all-time leading NBA scorer with six MVPs and the other was the spark that lit the flame on five championship teams, nine Finals appearances in 12 years and began the modern era of the Lakers as the league’s most dominant franchise.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Jerry West is. He was a star as a player and a star as a general manager. It would be hard to find anyone who  impacted any organization in any sport so much. West had massive roles in championships on different levels. He coached the team as well. There is no reason to diminish anything Kobe has accomplished. But “The Logo” is the greatest Laker.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Magic Johnson is No. 1. Kareem is No. 2 only because he spent a chunk of his prime in Milwaukee. Then Kobe. By giving Kobe the nod over Jerry West and Elgin Baylor speaks plenty about the brilliance of Kobe’s career, because Elgin and Jerry were certainly no slouches (from what I understand; they were before my time). Kobe got buckets, was clutch and raised his game in the post-season. And aside from injuries, he was all that for two decades.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: He’s clearly on the short list, but I can’t put him ahead of Magic Johnson, who was the most important player on all five championship teams he played on, had one of the three greatest Finals performances of all-time (1980, Game 6), and was obviously more of a galvanizing force for the Lakers, making his teammates better. I’ll always wonder if Kobe could have won more if he trusted his teammates just a little bit more.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comNo. 1? Wow. That’s a tough one. I can’t go there, though, having lived through the Showtime Lakers era and seeing the impact Magic had on not only Lakers fans, but fans everywhere. Kobe’s right up there among the franchise’s greatest players ever, and perhaps even a 1A to Magic, but I can’t give him that No. 1 spot ahead of Magic.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: I’m going to say that Kobe rates No. 1, based on his longevity and the fact that he never had so much talent around him as Magic Johnson had in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Bob McAdoo, Byron Scott and the rest. Kobe led from a more vulnerable position, in a league that was more competitive top-to-bottom.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I think he’s top three. To me, the top trio is Kobe, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. And within that trio, I’d have Kareem third. Magic and Kobe may each have five titles, but when you consider their places in history, Magic came into the NBA at a time when it was struggling, and he helped transform it into the international behemoth it is today. Purely as a basketball player, Kobe may retire with the better career numbers, but being a Laker isn’t only what happens on the court. And in that sense, to me I don’t know if anyone will ever surpass Magic.

Blogtable: The greater Kobe feat — winning with Shaq or without him?

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


BLOGTABLE: Favorite Kobe moment? | Should Kobe do Rio? | Greatest Kobe feat? | Greatest Laker ever?



VIDEOThe Lakers’ dominance in the 2000s began with the Kobe-Shaq pairing

> The greater Kobe feat: Winning three in a row with Shaq, or two in a row without him?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: The two championships without Shaquille O’Neal are more impressive from a strictly-Kobe perspective. He had lots of help in 2009 and 2010 too, notably Pau Gasol and coach Phil Jackson, but those two Lakers teams also caught lightning in a bottle with the likes of Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom and Metta World Peace. Let’s put it this way, if Kobe hadn’t led L.A. to those titles and finished his career with two fewer rings, he wouldn’t be in any GOAT or Rushmore conversations outside Lakersland. And Shaq would forever lord it over him.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comIs it easier to run on one leg or two? No brainer. Everything is harder when you don’t have Shaq around to do the heavy lifting.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: For a Bryant feat and not necessarily a Laker achievement, it’s the two without O’Neal. As much as Bryant has established himself as a star during the three peat, Shaq was still the player in the league no opponent could straight counter. When Kobe became the unquestioned leader of the best team, on the court and in the locker room, it meant something more because everything was on his shoulders. He had changed personally. His game had changed. And Bryant delivered to earn a credibility boost whether he needed one or not.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: No doubt, the two without Shaq weigh more in my mind. Understand where Kobe was at in his career. He was blistered (and rightly so to a degree) for being a selfish gunner. He recovered from that and became a better team player and leader. In so many ways, Kobe was more important to the Lakers for those two titles than he was for the three titles.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com Shaq’s numbers…

’00-02 playoffs (58 games): 29.8 PPG, 14.2 RPG, 2.4 BPG, 55% shooting.
’00-02 Finals (15 games): 35.9 PPG, 15.2 RPG, 2.9 BPG, 60% shooting.

So yeah, the two titles without him were the greater feat.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Winning titles without Shaq is easily the most impressive feat of Kobe’s career, in my eyes. Winning back-to-back titles without Shaq seems unfathomable, even after watching Kobe do it. His confidence, will — along with Pau Gasol‘s unbelievable work and Metta World Peace‘s game-saving heroics, among other things — and the joy it gave Kobe to win without the Shaq asterisk were undeniable during those title runs. It changed Kobe’s legacy to win those two other titles without Shaq.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: Two in a row without him: Because the NBA was a much more competitive league when Kobe was winning his final two championships. The Shaq-Kobe teams never faced any opponent as talented, experienced and competitive as the 2009-10 Celtics.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogWithout. I always used to make the argument back then that Shaq should have been the MVP every season, which is no slight to Kobe — Shaq was such a unique combination of size and speed and athleticism that he was virtually unguardable. At the same time, Shaq had plenty of teammates who were not able to win titles with him. To Kobe’s credit, he figured out how to play alongside Shaq and be a potent one-two punch. 

Blogtable: Favorite Kobe moment?

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


BLOGTABLE: Favorite Kobe moment? | Should Kobe do Rio? | Greatest Kobe feat? | Greatest Laker ever?



VIDEOKobe Bryant’s career top 10 plays

Kobe Bryant turns 37 Sunday and is heading into what could be his final NBA season.  What is your all-time favorite Kobe moment?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com“Favorite” unshackles this from any requirement that it be an “important” moment, so Bryant’s 81-point performance against Toronto on Jan. 22, 2006 would seem an easy choice. But I’d be lying because I didn’t see that game – I was covering the big clash that day between mediocre Philadelphia and middling Minnesota that Andre Iguodala won at the buzzer in Minneapolis. I only could watch highlights of Kobe’s explosion the next morning, and watching a succession of scoring plays in replay captures none of the excitement they pack live. So I’m split between Bill Russell handing Bryant his first Finals MVP trophy in 2009 and the precocious 1998 Bryant waving off Karl Malone from an attempted pick-and-roll in the All-Star Game so he could square up against Michael Jordan.


VIDEO: Kobe Bryant accepts the 2009 Finals MVP trophy

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comWhile it’s tempting and certainly valid to say Kobe scoring 81 on the Raptors, I’m going with Aug. 24, 2008. That’s the night at the Beijing Olympics when Kobe and Dwyane Wade led the USA Redeem Team to the gold medal. Bryant was a hungry, fierce, driven leader all through the campaign to put the U.S. back on top of the basketball world and he hit big buckets down the stretch to seal the gold medal. I was in the building and the feeling of accomplishment was palpable and probably as satisfying to Kobe as any of his five NBA titles.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comPicking 10 favorites would be hard enough, let alone a single all-timer, and this is No. 1 for the moment because there will be more candidates to come. But if I have to choose one, let’s go with April 12, 1997, at Utah. (So many historic Laker moments intersected with Salt Lake City and the Jazz.) A rookie Kobe Bryant air-balled four shots late in the fourth quarter and into overtime of Game 5 of the West semifinals of the playoffs. Those misses, one brick after another, clinched the Lakers’ 98-93 OT loss as Utah won the series 4-1. And he was unfazed. Bryant did not flinch, not when he got the ball as the bad misses piled up and not in the visitor’s locker room afterward as he faced the media scrutiny. It may not have been the indication of what was to come on the court, but that was the clear preview of the future of the Black Mamba personality. He would back down from nothing and nobody.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comThis isn’t the 81 points or a playoff moment or a Finals moment. But on the final regular-season game in 2003-04 (against the Portland Trail Blazers), Kobe made a pair of hellacious buzzer-beating 3-pointers that defy logic (they’re plays No. 2 and No. 1 here). The first happened at the end of regulation at the top of the key with Ruben Patterson (the Kobe Stopper) painted all over him. The second was at the end of the second overtime, when Kobe took an inbounds pass with one second left and turned almost completely around and splashed. He ran off the court and was hugged by Shaq, the last time that happened.


VIDEO: Relive Kobe Bryant’s best plays from the 2003-04 season

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Bryant didn’t play great for most of the 2008 Olympics. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade did the heavy lifting for the U.S. through the first 7 1/2 games in Beijing, with Bryant often showing some frustration with his shooting struggles. But when things were tight down the stretch of the gold medal game against Spain, he hit the two biggest shots for the Americans, including the four-point play that essentially put them on the top of the medal stand. Considering the stakes, that was maybe the best game I’ve seen in person, and Bryant backed up his rep as the best closer in the game.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comThere are so many it’s hard to choose just one. But the 2003 All-Star Game at Philips Arena comes to mind because it illustrated to me what sort of a cut-throat competitor Kobe really was. It was supposed to be a celebratory send off for Michael Jordan, his final All-Star Game appearance and a chance to all of the current stars to bow down one last time to the G.O.A.T. Vince Carter gave up his spot in the Eastern Conference starting lineup and East coach Isiah Thomas had instructed his guys to show MJ the respect he deserved. Kobe, of course, ignored the memo. He wasn’t having it. He went at MJ like it was Game 7 of The Finals and didn’t let up, including knocking down two free throws to tie the game and send it into double-overtime (after Jordan had hit what could have been the game-winner for the East with 4.8 seconds to play). The Western Conference won by 10 in double overtime with Kevin Garnett winning MVP honors. Kobe could have missed one of those free throws on purpose or even decided against pulling up for the potential game-winning 3-pointer (he was fouled by Jermaine O’Neal with a second to play) and let me MJ have the storybook ending. But it’s just not who he was or is … it’s not in his blood.


VIDEO: Kobe vs. MJ in the 2003 All-Star Game

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: In his second season, in 1998, Sports Illustrated sent me to Los Angeles to report what would be Kobe’s first cover story. He picked me up in a new SUV and we went to an outdoor patio restaurant for an interview that went on for hours. A woman sitting next to us asked if he played for the Lakers: He introduced himself, and she said she would be following his career. Much has changed since then, but not his confidence: That night at age 19 he was predicting basically everything he would go onto accomplish in basketball.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogI was there at Madison Square Garden in 2009 when the Lakers came to town. It was an early February game, with the All-Star break a few weeks away, and despite it being two marquee franchises — the Lakers! Against the Knicks! — in the world’s most famous arena, there was no great sense of anything special hanging in the balance that night. And then Kobe went for 61 points, scoring from all over the place and setting a Madison Square Garden record. Even as provincial as Knicks fans can be, I’ll never forget the chants of “MVP! MVP!” for Kobe.


VIDEO: Kobe Bryant scores 61 on Knicks

Hibbert focuses on his inner game


VIDEO: Roy Hibbert on what he plans to bring to the Lakers

No one really knows what to expect this season from Roy Hibbert as the former All-Star center moves from the Indiana Pacers to the Los Angeles Lakers in search of a clean slate. But when the answers – rather than just theories – come, they likely will have much to do with the enigmatic big man’s mood and mental outlook.

Those were factors that acted at least as contributing factors, along with Hibbert’s inconsistent play and the Pacers’ ambitions to play faster and smaller in 2015-16, when the 7-foot-2 center moved to L.A. at a bargain price. The Lakers were willing to take on Hibbert and his $15.5 million salary this season because they had salary-cap room and, frankly, they only had to give up a future second-round pick.

Getting Hibbert back on track – the Georgetown alum is only 28 and still represents a gold standard for rim protection, on most nights – won’t just be a job left to training camp or the regular season, or reliant only on Byron Scott‘s coaching or Kobe Bryant‘s, er, pep talks. Hibbert already has undertaken methods to boost his confidence and abilities by focusing on the mental part of the game and of himself, as addressed by ESPN.com’s Baxter Holmes. Here’s an excerpt, with Hibbert clearly cautious in discussing what in professional sports remains a touchy subject:

Mental health is a subject Hibbert doesn’t seem to enjoy discussing. His words come slowly, each carefully chosen. At times, it seems like there’s more he wants to say, but he doesn’t. He has his reasons, which he declines to share. But Hibbert is interested in the field. He says he first visited a psychologist when he boarded at Georgetown Prep, where he was one of the top high-school prospects in the nation.

“I was a black kid in an all-white school, so I had to deal with some of that stress and pressure,” Hibbert told ESPN.com in November 2014. “If I didn’t do that back in high school, I probably wouldn’t be open to it later on.”

He was also an only child, sheltered by two parents who each worked multiple jobs, and admittedly socially awkward, spending much of his time playing video games.

The visits helped Hibbert shed any fear of being labeled as “having a couple of screws loose,” a stubborn perception that persists in the world of sports, in which “mental strength” — however abstract the definition — is fetishized.

“Stigma is an issue [in the NBA],” Hibbert said then. “But sometimes you have to look yourself in the mirror and say, ‘You know, I need help. I may need to look at [therapy and mental exercises] in a different light.’ That’s how I go about it.”

Hibbert saw mental health counselors and a team performance psychologist throughout his career with the Pacers, in large part to discuss the stress that accompanies life in the NBA as a high-profile young player — the acquisition of wealth, the strain of a career on personal relationship, the pressures to perform.

He says he doesn’t have a mental health condition or diagnosis and characterized himself as merely someone who believes in the value of sharing with a professional and engaging in mental exercises whose goals are not unlike physical training. He praised the Pacers’ approach, which he says excelled at not making players feel defensive.

During the second half of last season, Hibbert says he experienced “a lot of mental stuff.” He started using an app called “Headspace,” which guided him through meditative exercises. “You count your breaths,” Hibbert says. “You focus on certain things. Even if the mind wanders, that’s OK. You just bring it back to that space where you feel positive.”

He also picked up a trick from the BBC series “Sherlock,” in which the protagonist accesses his “mind palace” — a mnemonic technique in which the subject transports his thoughts to a place where he stores memories and impressions. These days, he uses the singing of the national anthem prior to tipoff as an opportunity to count his breaths and enter his mind palace.

After learning that some “elite” NBA players have hired their own full-time sports psychologists, Hibbert “decided to put my money where my mouth is” and hire one on a part-time basis.

Hearing that others were seeking assistance gave him confidence that the discussion about mental health in the NBA is moving in the right direction, but he’s still unsure if the taboo has been lifted.

“I mean, I don’t know if we’ll ever get to that point because people just think you’re mentally weak,” Hibbert says. “And when I’m secure about using it and talking about it, I feel like I’ll be OK, but I’m not sure we’ll get to that point. … I’m not sure when we’ll get there.”

Blogtable: Second- or third-year player ready to rise the ranks?

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


BLOGTABLE: Rising second- or third-year player? | Playoff teams set to stumble? | Your all-lefty team



VIDEOOtto Porter talks about his expanded role in the 2015 playoffs

> Last week we asked for your early Rookie of the Year candidate. This week we want you to name a second- or third-year player who’s primed for a breakout season.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com Magic forward Aaron Gordon generated some buzz with his improved play, particularly his shooting range, in the Orlando summer league. But I’m going with Washington’s Otto Porter. Heading into his third season, Porter is a strong candidate to more than double his averages so far – 4.7 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 15.8 mpg – because he did it in the Wizards’ small, 10-playoff-game sample size in spring. In a significant turnaround, the slender forward averaged 10.8 points and 8.0 rebounds in the postseason. And Washington was 10.7 points per 100 possessions better than the opposition with Porter on the floor vs. 8.7 worse when he was off. His opportunities will only increase with Paul Pierce‘s departure and frankly, it’s time.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comOtto Porter. He came up strong when coach Randy Wittman finally let him off the leash in the playoffs. With more minutes next season, he’s ready to shine.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com There are some rather obvious candidates such as Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum, the “Greek Freak”, Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks, as well as Los Angeles Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson. But I’m going with Aaron Gordon of the Magic. He was never really healthy for much of his rookie season and then dealt with inconsistency when he healed. But there’s no doubt he’s an amazing athlete in the mold of Blake Griffin and he has skills, which he showed during a terrific effort in summer league, flashing an improved mid-range jumper. I hope new coach Scott Skiles is the right coach for him.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Otto Porter was out of the Wizards’ rotation in late March, but played a big role in the Wizards’ offensive reinvention in the playoffs, while also slowing down DeMar DeRozan on the other end of the floor. Porter should be Washington’s starting small forward and part of a more dynamic offense this season. If he can shoot 3-pointers, John Wall can turn him into the next Trevor Ariza.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Based on all of the chatter coming from Summer League, coupled with the new regime in place in Chicago, Doug McDermott should have the stage to break out with the Bulls. I don’t know exactly what his role will be, but the opportunity for a floor-spacer with his skill set on a what should be one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference, is there. Like Jimmy Butler and Nikola Mirotic before him, “McBuckets” has a flag to carry in this department. There is a similar opportunity awaiting Mitch McGary in Oklahoma City and Aaron Gordon in Orlando.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: CJ McCollum broke out in the final month of last season with four games of 26 points or more, including three concluding playoff performances against Memphis in which he produced 26, 18 and 33 points. The Blazers will give him every opportunity to become one of the NBA’s top sixth men, based on their need for scoring in the absence of LaMarcus Aldridge.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog It seems like people maybe sort of forgot about him, after he suffered a season-ending knee injury, but I think Jabari Parker is going to have a big year once he gets completely healthy. With a big man (Greg Monroe) behind him, Parker’s defensive deficiencies will matter less, and his ability to score isn’t going anywhere. And coach Jason Kidd has shown time and again an ability to put players in positions to be most successful.