Posts Tagged ‘Mike Bresnahan’

D’Antoni Drinking From Kobe’s Full Cup


HANG TIME, Texas — It turns out Kobe Bryant isn’t the only one thinking the experts will be eating crow when he and his teammates report for duty in the playoffs next spring.

While he isn’t quite cackling on national TV with Jimmy Kimmel, coach Mike D’Antoni insists that the Lakers can improve on their 45-37 record from last season. At least that’s what he told Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times:

“I don’t see why not,” he said. “I think we can be better because I don’t think we reached our potential last year. Our lack of defense came mostly from lack of energy from guys that didn’t feel right in their place on the team. Defense is energy, concentration and the desire to do it.

“If something is sapping that energy — distractions, injuries, not feeling good about the team — then you’re not going to put your heart and soul into it and it comes out on the defensive end. They just didn’t feel each other.”

It’s a simple recipe, really. You simply subtract a seven-time All-Star, three-time Defensive Player of the Year, five-time NBA rebounding leader — including last season when he wasn’t fully fit — and the kumbaya spirit of cooperation lifts the entire boat.

Of course, D’Antoni didn’t mention Dwight Howard by name and we think that’s a good thing, since there has been far too much dredging up the pains of the past by everyone in the Laker organization from team president Jim Buss down to the valet parking attendants at the Staples Center. It is time — way past time, in fact — for the Lakers to move on and part of that has to be adopting the old Stuart Smalley from the long ago days of Saturday Night Live: “We’re good enough.”

Can the Lakers be good enough in a Western Conference where they had to go to the final night of the regular season in 2012-13 to finally secure the No. 7 spot in the playoffs and where Houston (with Howard) and Golden State (with Andre Iguodala) would clearly rank ahead of them now in the pecking order. Then there’s the matter of teams such as Minnesota, Portland and New Orleans coming up from behind. The Timberwolves are rebounding from a season fraught with injuries, while the Blazers and Pelicans have made moves to improve their talent.

The Lakers still have the biggest question mark in the league on their side of the ledger, wondering when — and really if — at age 35, Bryant can return to his Black Mamba form. Until that time, they must rely on 39-year-old Steve Nash and 33-year-old Pau Gasol  to carry the load with aging bodies that both broke down last season. D’Antoni’ said he believes that Nash and Gasol will be 100 percent healthy heading into training camp, but this is certainly a time, for their own good and that of the team, that their minutes will have to be monitored closely and likely limited. The defending Western Conference champion Spurs have been able to get away with fewer minutes from Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili because young guys such as Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green are rising through the pipeline. That’s not quite the case with the Lakers, whose offseason additions have been Nick Young, Jordan Farmar, Wesley Johnson and Chris Kaman.

D’Antoni says he’s not going into the season looking over his shoulder in terms of his job security, especially after surviving a summer of blood-letting in the NBA coaching ranks.

“I’m sure it’s out there. If you don’t win, it’s there,” he said. “If you’re coaching in Fort Wayne, it’s going to be the same thing. I think the Lakers are a special case because they’re the No. 1 team that’s on ESPN. You just do the best job you can do and go on. If you get caught up in what they’re saying, you can’t do your job.”

Then he mentioned his peers in what was a surprisingly cranky, impatient off-season.

“Look at what happened to coaches this year. Eleven get let go. And three or four of them had the best years the franchise has ever had,” D’Antoni said. “So who am I to say they’re treating me bad? What about all those other guys?”
D’Antoni never feared for his job security despite the first-round playoff flameout.

“No, because Mitch [Kupchak] and Jim Buss were really supportive and great,” he said of the team’s front-office executives. “I couldn’t ask for anything better from the staff and franchise. I don’t want to be flippant, but you also have to have an attitude of, ‘To hell with everything. Concentrate. Go forward.’ You can’t get distracted by the noise.”

Phil Jackson: MJ Over Kobe!


HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Kobe Bryant will never escape Michael Jordan‘s shadow, not as long as basketball fans from different eras continue to measure one superstar’s greatness against another’s.

The argument gets some unique spice this time around, though, from none other than Hall of fame coach Phil Jackson.

Jackson’s new book, “Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success,” addresses the MJ-Kobe topic head on. The book is set to be released Tuesday but The Los Angeles Times received an advanced copy and highlights the Kobe-Phil-MJ dynamic in detail. Phil sides with Jordan in basically every instance, which kicked off a Twitter back and forth between Kobe and Phil that is sure to gain more steam when the hoops loving public gets their hands on the book, and throughout Phil’s book tour.

In the book, Jackson finally details what separates Jordan from Bryant, comparing the two superstars with a perspective no one else can match. He won all 11 of his rings (six with Jordan and five with Kobe) coaching one of them. My main man Mike Bresnahan of The Times serves up the good stuff:

“Michael was more charismatic and gregarious than Kobe. He loved hanging out with his teammates and security guards, playing cards, smoking cigars, and joking around,” Jackson said in the book, which was obtained in advance by The Times.

“Kobe is different. He was reserved as a teenager, in part because he was younger than the other players and hadn’t developed strong social skills in college. When Kobe first joined the Lakers, he avoided fraternizing with his teammates. But his inclination to keep to himself shifted as he grew older. Increasingly, Kobe put more energy into getting to know the other players, especially when the team was on the road.”

While Jackson coached, he often jabbed at Bryant’s seemingly annual appearance on the NBA’s All-Defensive team. Now we know why.

“No question, Michael was a tougher, more intimidating defender. He could break through virtually any screen and shut down almost any player with his intense, laser-focused style of defense,” said Jackson, who coached Jordan to six championships and Bryant to five.

“Kobe has learned a lot from studying Michael’s tricks, and we often used him as our secret weapon on defense when we needed to turn the direction of a game. In general, Kobe tends to rely more heavily on his flexibility and craftiness, but he takes a lot of gambles on defense and sometimes pays the price.”

Jackson made many of these same points during a Thursday night appearance on the “Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” He also talked about his near return to the Lakers after Mike Brown was fired, the ill-fit that he believes Mike D’Antonio to be as Lakers coach and his desire to return to the league as a front office executive and not a coach.

But the most interesting topic by far is his perspective on the differences between MJ and Kobe:

“Michael was more likely to break through his attackers with power and strength, while Kobe often tries to finesse his way through mass pileups,” Jackson wrote. “Michael was stronger, with bigger shoulders and a sturdier frame. He also had large hands that allowed him to control the ball better and make subtle fakes.

“Jordan was also more naturally inclined to let the game come to him and not overplay his hand, whereas Kobe tends to force the action, especially when the game isn’t going his way. When his shot is off, Kobe will pound away relentlessly until his luck turns. Michael, on the other hand, would shift his attention to defense or passing or setting screens to help the team win the game.”

Jackson’s most scathing observation of the two men involves the leadership qualities they possessed, and in Kobe’s case did not possess, and what kind of impact that had on their respective teams (and granted, Kobe was a youngster on those Lakers teams with Shaquille O’Neal):

“One of the biggest differences between the two stars from my perspective was Michael’s superior skills as a leader,” Jackson writes. “Though at times he could be hard on his teammates, Michael was masterful at controlling the emotional climate of the team with the power of his presence. Kobe had a long way to go before he could make that claim. He talked a good game, but he’d yet to experience the cold truth of leadership in his bones, as Michael had in his bones.”

You better believe we’re going to quiz Jackson on this topic on the Hang Time Podcast, he is scheduled to drop in for Episode 119 on May 29 with the crew, yours truly along with Lang Whitaker of the All Ball Blog and NBA TV’s Rick Fox.

In the meantime, there should be no shortage of debate fodder for everyone to chew on!

Sorting Out The Lakers’ Mess

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — This story gets better by the hour.

Barely a day after the Los Angeles Lakers’ stunning move to hire Mike D’Antoni instead of Phil Jackson, both men have expressed their own complete and utter shock at the choice the Lakers made.

D’Antoni, as bright a coach as the league has seen in his generation, was genuinely stunned to beat out Jackson, telling the New York Daily News all about it. His first reaction … “Are you serious?”

Jackson was blindsided as well and his version of how things went down, courtesy of our main man Mike Bresnahan of The Los Angeles Times, might serve as the most compelling narrative to date, complete with this statement:

“Saturday morning, [Lakers executive] Jim Buss called to ask if he could come and visit. I didn’t solicit or ask for the opportunity but I welcomed both him and [team executive] Mitch Kupchak into my home to discuss the possibility of my return to the Lakers as head coach,” Jackson said.

“We talked for over an hour and a half. No contractual terms were discussed and we concluded with a handshake and an understanding that I would have until Monday [today] to come back to them with my decision. I did convey to them that I did have the confidence that I could do the job. I was awakened at midnight Sunday by a phone call from Mitch Kupchak. He told me that the Lakers had signed Mike D’Antoni to a three-year agreement and that they felt he was the best coach for the team. The decision is of course theirs to make. I am gratified by the groundswell of support from the Laker fans who encouraged my return and it is the principal reason why I considered the possibility.”

It’s a fitting next step in a saga that promises to provide headlines and plot twists between now and whenever the Lakers’ season ends. That might be in the first or second round of the playoffs for the third straight season or perhaps it ends later, provided the masses of fans and pundits are wrong and the D’Antoni-in-Los Angeles experiment actually works.

Buss and the Lakers better be right on this one. Because it’s clear they played Jackson for a fool, undercutting him before he could react to an offer that technically was never made. It’s a public and disgraceful play by the Lakers and absolutely no way to treat a coach of Jackson’s stature. It’s also a move that could backfire on the Lakers even worse than the Brown hire.

While we wait for this thing to play out, we’re left to continue our deconstruction of the carnage that was the Lakers’ firing and hiring process, both of which seemed to have been done in extreme haste.

We’ve heard Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol‘s feelings about D’Antoni and what they hope becomes of this team in the near future. And we’ve read Kobe Bryant’s 53 words of wisdom on Facebook (complete with the “Mamba Out” sign off). We love the part where he tells us all that despite of a mountain of evidence to the contrary, the Lakers will be fine defensively and he cannot wait to get started with D’Antoni.

You’ll have to forgive me (and I’m not speaking for everyone here at the hideout on this) for being fed up with the complete and utter arrogance of not only Bryant, but also the Lakers’ front office. Bryant issued similar love for Brown and his staff, eventually, after he got over the sting of not being consulted on Jackson’s replacement. And we all know how that played out.

The Lakers can tell whatever white lies they want to make themselves feel better about the way this went down. But don’t expect me to swallow any more of it. Ill will between Jackson and the Lakers’ front office should never affect what is best for the team, the franchise and its devoted fans. If the Lakers really believe D’Antoni is the best choice, he wouldn’t be nearly as surprised as he is.

Magic’s Message To Kobe Bryant

ORLANDO — When the man many people consider the greatest Laker of them all reaches out to the man everyone else considers the greatest Laker of them all in an effort to mend fences and heal the franchise, you know things are serious.

Magic Johnson‘s message to Kobe Bryant is simple … go to the source!

And according to Magic, the issues Kobe has raised recently regarding Pau Gasol, trade rumors and any other drama begin and end with Lakers’ vice president of player personnel (and son of owner Dr. Jerry Buss)  Jim Buss and not Lakers’ general manager Mitch Kupchack.

“I think first of all we have to remember now it’s not Mitch’s situation anymore. He’s not running the team,” Johnson, a Lakers vice president said yesterday. “Jim Buss is running the team. So Mitch has to follow the direction of Jim Buss and what he wants. I wouldn’t say Mitch is the problem or anything. He’s going to do his job. But I think it’s great that you can see that Kobe is supporting his teammate. That’s a great thing.”

Folks who had a problem with Kobe blasting the front office earlier this week, and suggesting they either move Gasol or leave him alone so he can get back to playing comfortably and without the drama swirling around him, have to be furious with Magic for taking it a step further.


Kobe: Trade Pau Or Leave Him Alone!


HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Well, Kobe Bryant has apparently had enough.

He’s fed up with the Los Angeles Lakers’ front office and their handling of the trade rumors surrounding Pau Gasol, rumors that have been swirling since before Christmas.

With the Lakers suffering an ugly loss to the Phoenix Suns Sunday and Bryant’s mood darkening with every underwhelming performance by his team, he clearly cannot take it anymore. He lashed out at Lakers’ management and defended Gasol, who was almost traded in that three-team deal that would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers that was later squashed by NBA Commissioner David Stern.

In a nutshell, Bryant wants the Lakers to either trade Gasol or leave him alone so he can play free of the foolishness. More from Mike Bresnahan of The Los Angeles Times:

“I wish management would come out and either trade him or not trade him,” Bryant said crisply after the Lakers’ 102-90 loss Sunday. “It’s just tough for a player to give his all when you don’t know if you’re going to be here tomorrow. I’d rather them not trade him at all, but if they’re going to do something, I wish they would just … do it.”

Bryant sympathized with Gasol, sprinkling in expletives while talking about the situation of the four-time All-Star.

“If they’re not going to do it, come out and say you’re not going to do it,” Bryant said. “This way, he can be comfortable and go out and can perform and play and he can invest all of himself into the game. You can’t have one of our pillars not knowing if he’s going to be here or not. Do something. One way or another, do something.”

With the March 15 trade deadline fast approaching and the Lakers in the middle of the playoff pack in the Western Conference, Bryant knows that the window of opportunity for these Lakers is narrowing.


Still Trying To Make Sense Of It All


HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Like any player making a major transition at this stage of his career, Lamar Odom is still trying to adjust to his new environment in Dallas.

He’s still trying to figure out where he fits on a Mavericks team that vanquished his Lakers in the playoffs last season, still trying to understand how best to utilize his vast array of skills in the same role that earned him Sixth Man of the Year honors last season in Los Angeles, but on a team that already had its own explosive sixth man in Jason Terry.

He’s averaging a career-low 6.8 points per game, basically half of what he produced last year for the Lakers, while playing a career-low 20 minutes a night. He also averaging 5.0 rebounds and shooting a meager 31.2 percent from the field and a putrid 18.9 percent from beyond the 3-point line while trying to find minutes in a crowded small forward field that also includes Shawn Marion and Vince Carter

It’s clear Odom is still trying to make sense of the sudden nature of it all … the trade, the game and where he fits into it all now that the Lakers are in his rear view. Well, except for tonight, of course, when the Mavericks hit the floor at the Staples Center to face off against his former team (10:30 p.m. ET on TNT).


How Much Does Kobe’s Wrist Hurt?

HANG TIME TEXAS, Y’ALL – Maybe it’s from carrying the burden of the added leadership that Magic Johnson said would be required.

But the season hasn’t even begun and Kobe Bryant was forced to sit out Wednesday night’s game against the Clippers with a torn ligament in his right wrist.

According to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times, Bryant is listed as day-to-day.

The lunotriquetral ligament stabilizes two of the smaller wrist bones on the outside part of the wrist. It was unclear if it was a complete or partial tear.

“If it’s a complete tear, it’s more problematic,” said Keith Feder, a Manhattan Beach sports medicine specialist. “Without being privy to the MRI, these types of injuries can take anywhere from several days to several weeks to heal completely, but depending on the pain level and with support, the athlete could play.”

Lamar Odom is off in Dallas, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum are under the gun to produce, Chris Paul is suiting up down the hallway at Staples Center for the Clippers, nobody in the front office has yet figured out a way to get Dwight Howard into a purple-and-gold uniform and now Kobe – starting his 16th NBA campaign – goes into the jam-packed 2011-12 season with a bum wrist.

How much trouble are the Lakers in already?

Labor Talks: Finger-Pointing Season

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — If you thought October was filled with empty rhetoric from both sides and nastiness that prevents progress in the NBA’s lockout saga, wait until you get a load of the new narrative.

The only thing worse than yet another breakdown in lockout negotiations is the incessant finger-pointing that kicked off in earnest on what should have been the opening night of the season.

And it’s open season on any and everyone connected.


Innovative Therapy For Bryant’s Knee

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Kobe Bryant has opted for an innovative assist to relive pain in his oft-injured right knee, per a report from the Mike Bersnahan and Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times.

Bryant had the procedure done a month ago in Germany, according to the Times:

The treatment is a derivation of platelet-rich plasma therapy. PRP procedures are less invasive than many surgeries involving the knee and are viewed as either an emerging solution to knee problems or a financial gamble on unproven science.

Bryant, who turns 33 next month, has been bothered in recent seasons by an arthritic joint in his right knee. He has undergone three other knee procedures since 2003, including surgery last July to remove unspecified loose bodies.

He sat out an overwhelming majority of the Lakers’ practices this past season and saw his scoring, shooting percentage and minutes decrease in his 15th NBA season. He has three years and $83.5 million left on his contract with the Lakers.

A report by cited several other notable professional athletes as having undergone the same procedure, including Tiger Woods, New York Giants defensive tackle Chris Canty and Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee. There was a much more descriptive definition of the procedure.

The Talk Of The Town

LOS ANGELES — I knew Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers would be the talk of this town all weekend, but now it’s for all the wrong reasons.

A small group of us stood in the doorway of a downtown hotel sports bar to watch the final seconds of the Lakers’ stunning loss in Cleveland Wednesday night wondering if this was the final dagger for a team that’s taking a beating from all directions for their recent struggles.

“It’s a good thing it’s All-Star Weekend,” one hotel employee muttered as the crowd dispersed, “because these guys [Lakers] need the break.”

They are in need of something. And perhaps something more than what a few days of rest can provide. There have been some disturbing signs for Phil Jackson‘s crew through the pre-All-Star run, including this latest skid (three straight losses and a .500 mark in their last 10 games).

Instead of celebrating the weekend with the league’s ultimate star-driven showcase, there will be plenty of debate here about whether or not the Lakers are capable of defending their title for a third straight year as presently constituted. The Feb. 24 trade deadline is starting to look more and more like a drop dead date for the Lakers, who limped off the floor in Cleveland last night with a much uglier shiner than the 55-point beating they administered on the Cavs last month.

Rumblings that they might not be able to fend off challenges from the Spurs and Mavericks in the Western Conference and from either the Celtics or Heat in the NBA Finals are growing louder by the second.