Posts Tagged ‘Mike D’Atnoni’

Kobe, Lakers Won’t Go Without A Fight


HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Love ’em or hate ’em, Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers are a must-watch down the stretch of this season, for reasons that were ridiculously obvious during a historic (for Bryant) Wednesday night in Portland.

Bryant played the entire game, scored a season-high 47 points and finished with an unprecedented stat line as the Lakers rallied from an early 10-point deficit to beat the Trail Blazers 113-106 and move a full game ahead of the idle Utah Jazz for the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference playoff chase with just three games to play.

The Lakers have won four out of five to continue their season-defining playoff stand, a charge led by the wicked Bryant, who torched the Blazers with 47 points, eight rebounds, five assists, four blocks and three steals — filling the box score in a way that no player before him has. (He also outdueled Portland Rookie of the Year favorite Damian Lillard, who was spectacular himself with 38 points and nine assists.)

Whether the Lakers make the playoffs or not, Kobe is going to make sure their final three games are played with an intensity and at a pace that is playoff-worthy. That’s just who he is and has been his entire NBA career. There have been times when his individual drive and focus have been detrimental to his team (early in his career for sure and again later, when he and Shaquille O’Neal battled for control of the team). There’s no Phil Jackson around this time to balance the scales.

All that said, there is no player I’d rather watch under these extreme circumstances. The Lakers’ season goes into the category as one of the greatest crimes against the game if a crew with Kobe, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash doesn’t find its way into the postseason.

Would it have been nice to see the same sense of urgency in December that we all saw last night? Of course. In or out the postseason, a CSI crew will be needed to comb through the scattered wreckage of the Lakers’ regular season. There’s no way it was supposed to go down the way it has.

Kobe’s fingerprints will be all over the wreckage, along with those of Howard, Gasol, Nash, Jim Buss, Mitch Kupchak and just about anyone else inside the organization you want to throw in the mix.

Even after Bryant saved the Lakers’ bacon in Portland, the reviews seemed somewhat mixed from some of his teammates, per my main man Dave McMenamin of

“It’s bittersweet,” Pau Gasol said when asked about Bryant’s dominating performance against the Blazers, in which he played all 48 minutes in a non-overtime road game for the first time in his career. “Because, I think it’s spectacular and it’s very impressive and it’s remarkable to be able to play 48 minutes and score 47 points. That’s incredible. On the other hand, I’m a player that likes to see a little bit more ball movement and better balance. I’ve always been [like that]. That’s just how I perceive this game.

“But again, he was incredible tonight. He scored a tremendous amount of points that I never scored in my life. So, like I said, it was very impressive and it’s not something that you do every night, of course.”

It wouldn’t be necessary every night if the Lakers had worked these issues out earlier in the season. They’ve been riding this roller coaster since training camp, with established veterans trying to sort out their roles — first under Mike Brown and since those first five games under Mike D’Antoni. (more…)

D-Will In The Danger Zone?


HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — A mere three or four seasons ago, the best point guard in the NBA debate was divided two or three ways. You were either in the Chris Paul camp, the Deron Williams camp or the someone else camp.

But those first two guys, both products of the 2005 NBA Draft, were staples. You either loved the leadership, craftiness and feisty attitude that Paul brings to the party or the size, skill-set and shot-making component Williams possessed.

All that was before Derrick Rose slugged his way into the conversation, and won a MVP trophy that neither Paul nor Williams has. (Older mainstays like Steve Nash and Tony Parker belong in the conversation but are rarely included in conversations about the future of the position for obvious reasons.) It was also before guys like Rajon Rondo and Russell Westbrook began to emerge and grow. And since then, All-Stars Kyrie Irving and Jrue Holiday have led the youth movement at the position.

Blasphemous as this seems to say out loud, Williams is in real danger of falling behind the pack. His possible demotion is due to a combination of injuries, uncharacteristic play and the fact that his contemporaries seem to be leading rising teams while he’s the bandleader of a mismatched Brooklyn bunch that can’t figure out exactly what they are.

No one is disputing that Williams is one of the best the league has seen during his time in the NBA. But in the what-have-you-done-lately world of the NBA, two seasons of substandard play, as judged by the lofty bar Williams set himself, makes the slippage hard to ignore.

Williams is sitting out the Nets’ final game before the All-Star break, the first he’ll watch from home since 2009, due to synovitis (an inflammation of ankle joint linings) in both of his ankles.  He received PRP (platelet rich plasma) treatment on both ankles and it scheduled to return next week.

But take a look at his work in the 50 games he’s played this season —  averaging 16.7 points, 7.6 assists and 3.3 rebounds while shooting just 41 percent from the floor. His scoring average is his lowest since his second season in the league, when he was with Utah, and his assists his lowest since his rookie season. In fact, he’s seen his assist numbers decrease in each of the past two seasons, a decline that followed four straight seasons where he averaged double-digit dimes.

Nets general manager Billy King still believes in his prized point guard, the man who immediately assumed face of the franchise status when King snatched him from the Jazz in a surprising trade deadline deal in 2011. He told Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News as much, insisting that Williams can regain his status among the top two or three point guards in the league as soon he gets healthy:

“I’ve seen it,” the GM said. “He’s done it.”

King ratcheted up his defense of Williams when pressed further. .He admitted Williams has “not had the best year,” but attributed that mostly to injuries, exhaustion and a lack of explosiveness.

He compared the circumstances to Carmelo Anthony’s last season, when the Knicks forward struggled with an elbow injury and Mike D’Antoni’s system.

Amid speculation that Williams has also been slowed by weight-gain, King said the three-time All-Star is just one pound heavier than when he was dealt from Utah.

“You’re digging. You’re digging. And you’re asking valid questions, but (the inflammation to Williams’ ankles) is not a concern,” King said. “Kobe’s had the blood-platelet spinning on his knees, and guys have had it. It happens. So let’s not make this a bigger issue than it is. Let’s let him get through this, have a week off and get back to playing basketball. Let’s not put the dirt on him and say his career’s over at 28.

“I think the same questions were asked last year about Carmelo Anthony when they were struggling and people were writing him off, saying is he’s not the same player. I think he bounced back this year.”

…  “Am I confident he’s going to get back to being Deron Williams? Yes.”

Williams needs all the believers he can get. Because the Nets, a team that continues to come up in trade talks with the Feb. 21 trade deadline looming, have to get things right as the postseason nears.

They’ve spent boatloads of cash and made a splashy entrance in their new arena in Brooklyn. The expectations rose with each and every headline they made in putting this team together. If they’re going to come anywhere close to realizing those expectations, they’ll need Williams to get back being the point guard we all saw during his Jazz days.

The Curious Case Of The Lakers And Spurs

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — History will decide whose era (and empire) reigned supreme over the NBA and ultimately which franchise — between the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs — gets to stamp this generation in the league as “theirs.”

The case for each franchise is strong. There are Hall of Fame players, all-time great coaches, championship banners and lasting memories on both sides of the divide. It’s up to each observer to make their own determination as to whose body of work is stronger.

At a legends brunch during All-Star Weekend years from now, you’d love to be at the table with Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan as the conversation cranks up (with Duncan no doubt choosing to opt out of the conversation and Bryant no doubt proclaiming the dominance of his Lakers).

But there is no doubt that one outfit is handling the final years, months and, perhaps days, of their dominant era much better than the other. The Spurs remain mighty, among the Western Conference and NBA’s best while the Lakers are in the midst of one of the biggest meltdowns we’ve seen of a proposed championship team.

The two teams we’ll see on the floor tonight in San Antonio (8 p.m. ET, ESPN) couldn’t be more diametrically opposed. The Spurs are going about their business as always, oblivious to the outside world that loves to ignore them this time of year, all while plotting another deep playoff run in the twilight of the Duncan-Manu GinobiliTony ParkerGregg Popovich era.

Bryant and his crew, two-time MVP Steve Nash and injured bigs Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol, are limping through the meat of their season and staring at the very real possibility that this superstar experiment could end up with a burned down laboratory and a trip to the lottery. That’s a fate no one expected when the Lakers’ front office put this group together.

Yet that potential outcome has to be acknowledged at this stage of the season by the most experienced members of the Lakers’ contingent, as Dave McMenamin of details here:

The 38-year-old Nash also admitted he has seriously considered the possibility that the Lakers, despite all their preseason hype and championship aspirations, might not even make the playoffs this season.

“That motivates me every day,” Nash said. “There’s no guarantee [that the Lakers make the playoffs]. I think three or four weeks ago, people would have said, ‘Ah, it will get better.’ Now I definitely don’t think there’s a guarantee it will, so the only remedy is continue to work hard and give yourself a chance for it to get better.

“I obviously think with time, and that might mean through the summer, we can get better. But for this season, it’s definitely going to be a challenge to turn this around. … We got a number of things we got to try to improve on to get better, but one thing that we can’t accept is to take our foot off the gas and accept things. We got to continue to fight.”

Kobe Bryant, who entered the NBA in the same 1996 draft class as Nash, can commiserate.

“We were walking around at shootaround, and we just kind of looked at each other, and I said to him, ‘We thought it was going to be easier this year for once,'” Bryant said with a laugh.

Bryant refused to succumb to the circumstances, however.

“[Nash] is a little more reasonable than I am,” Bryant said. “That’s how we kind of bounce off of each other. I’m as stubborn as a mule. I’m going to keep driving this thing forward and so is he, but he tends to have more perspective than I do.”

It’s fair to say that Kobe’s stubborn streak might have cost the Lakers several more titles than the five they’ve accumulated during his time with the franchise. Had the Lakers kept their hoops trinity of Shaquille O’Neal, Bryant and Phil Jackson together as long as the Spurs have maintained their championship nucleus, there wouldn’t be an argument as to whose era it was.

The Spurs stuck to their beliefs — that you keep the core intact, exchange the periphery pieces when needed and always keep an eye out for young and emerging talent. The Lakers, meanwhile, have never been afraid to gamble big on the quick fix, cashing in at times (with the acquisition of Gasol, which led to back-to-back titles) and eating it at others (like now).

History will document both sides, their moves and each and every respective success and failure.

But right here, right now the verdict seems simple.