Posts Tagged ‘Ramona Shelburne’

Early Xmas: Could Kobe Be Back Friday?

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VIDEO: Kobe Bryant talks about his injury comeback

About those fancy wrapped boxes with the pretty ribbons sitting under the tree.

We can all guess that an impatient little kid named Kobe Bryant never paid one bit of attention to those tags that read: Do Not Open ’Til Christmas.

So why should anybody be surprised that Black Mamba Claus might not wait for the long-suspected Dec. 25 national TV showdown against LeBron James and the Heat to come down the chimney for his official return to the court?

According to Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com the countdown clock for Bryant to make his 2013-14 debut has just speeded up. That’s because Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni says it’s possible that Bryant could be in the lineup to face the Kings Friday night in Sacramento.

“I don’t want to anticipate anything,” D’Antoni said after practice Saturday. “Those are days that he can work and see, re-evaluate how he feels after the three days and then make a decision going forward.

“That doesn’t mean he will play Friday, doesn’t mean he won’t. But that’s the time you just evaluate, and I can’t tell you what type of evaluation that will be.”

But it does mean that Bryant’s recovery from the torn Achilles’ tendon suffered on April 12 could be moving at least slightly ahead of schedule. When the team announced his new two-year, $48.5 million contract extension on Monday, Bryant said that he was still “probably weeks” away from suiting up for the Lakers.

The Lakers held a light workout on Saturday and Bryant took part in all of the drills. After playing the Trail Blazers at home on Sunday night, the team is off until traveling to Sacramento on Friday. How fitting that Bryant could return against the Kings, who now have his old teammate/sparring partner Shaquille O’Neal as a minority owner.

“He’ll be listed pretty soon as ‘day to day,’ ” D’Antoni said. “And everybody knows that’s the way it is. When he’s ready to roll, he’ll go.

“We’ll have three days of practice, and then we’ll know better. We’ll have a better idea.”

After Midnight Free-Agent Madness





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Who’s waiting on Dwight Howard?

Not the Detroit Pistons, who have bypassed the Howard free agency sweepstakes for a chance to snag Josh Smith, the versatile forward who ranks as the hottest commodity on the market not named Howard in the first hour since free agency began at 12:01 a.m. ET.

Pistons boss Joe Dumars and his brain trust met with Smith and his camp shortly after midnight with the sides discussing a significant four-year deal that would see Smith join an already impressive young frontcourt group that includes Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond.

The Pistons would be the “surprise” team mentioned at the bottom of this report from Sunday morning and per Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, who highlights the Hawks’ willingness to work a sign-and-trade deal for Smith rather than re-signing him themselves.

Anything is possible now that we have crossed the threshold into what some folks like to call the NBA’s silly season.

Only in the minutes immediately after midnight do we find out that a guy like Chase Budinger, a fine player, could end up being targeted by more teams than a player the likes of Al Jefferson.

Crazy season is more like it. (more…)

Doc Rivers And The Clippers Courting?





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The idea of Doc Rivers coaching an All-Star point guard and big man during the 2013-14 NBA season is a given, right?

But will it be Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett … or Chris Paul and Blake Griffin?

Bewildered and confused Boston Celtics fans have to be wondering what the future holds with reports that there could be mutual interest between the Celtics’ coach and the Clippers, per The Los Angeles Times and ESPN.com.

It’s a speculation party that is sure to leave Celtics fans with indigestion as they await the fate of their proud (but clearly rebuilding) team. Rivers left the door ajar at season’s end, saying that he wasn’t sure what was in store with Rondo (knee injury), Garnett (age) and Paul Pierce (age, final year of contract) all in the crosshairs during a huge summer.

The idea of Rivers forgoing the final three years and $21 million of his deal with the Celtics was sparked by a nugget from ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard that indicated Rivers is contemplating a change.

While it wouldn’t be a complete shocker, it would confirm rumblings that began in May, when the Celtics were eliminated from the playoffs by the New York Knicks. Celtics boss Danny Ainge quieted that chatter early on, but the ensuing coaching carousel that has left the Clippers without a replacement for coach Vinny Del Negro has circled around to this possibility that Rivers could be a potential option, as ESPN.com‘s Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne detail here:

Sources told ESPN.com on Thursday that Rivers is highly intrigued by the idea of coaching the Clippers in the event that he and the Celtics part company after nine seasons together and one championship in 2008. Sources say the Clippers, meanwhile, would immediately vault Rivers to the top of their list if he became available as they continue a coaching search that, to this point, has focused on Brian Shaw, Byron Scott and Lionel Hollins.

The Los Angeles Times, citing several NBA executives, reported Wednesday that if Rivers decides he doesn’t want to coach in Boston anymore, the Clippers would be interested in him and he would become their No. 1 choice.

ESPN.com has also learned the Celtics and Clippers — in an offshoot of February’s Kevin Garnett-to-L.A. trade talks — discussed expanded trade scenarios that could have sent both Garnett and close friend Paul Pierce to the Clippers before the league’s Feb. 21 trade deadline.

Sources say those talks, before breaking down, were centered on Boston getting back both prized Clippers guard Eric Bledsoe and young center DeAndre Jordan and did not involve Clippers star forward Blake Griffin.

It is not yet known whether the Clippers intend to revive those trade discussions and pursue either Garnett or Pierce — or both — in conjunction with this month’s NBA draft. But one source familiar with the Clippers’ thinking told ESPN.com the club plans to be “very aggressive” and “shake every tree” in terms of upgrading the roster this offseason. Acquiring Garnett or Pierce — or both — would make Rivers even more of a natural coaching target for the Clippers.

If that’s not enough speculation for you, this all comes at a time when the Clippers are in the midst of interviewing Shaw, Scott, Hollins and Nate McMillan.

The Clippers also have to consider that whoever they select needs to be someone who will help them recruit Paul to stick around this summer in free agency. With rumors that Paul and Dwight Howard, this summer’s other marquee free agent prize, have been in contact about teaming up together in the future, the frenzy will kick into overdrive.

Rivers certainly has a history of coaching superstars in those sorts of situations and the respect that comes along with being a championship coach.

It should be noted that Rivers has been courted several times before during his decade-long tenure in Boston and in the end decided to stick with the Celtics. Orlando, where the Rivers family resides, tried to lure him back to Central Florida with an offer to run the Magic’s entire basketball operation. Rivers considered his options, but in the end decided that loyalty to his players and the Celtics outweighed whatever opportunities might have awaited him in Orlando.

It’s unclear right now whether or not he’ll have to make a similar decision about what to do with the Clippers, but that won’t stop the speculation from spreading.

The Return Of The Dwightmare?





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Here we go again.

The Feb. 21 trade deadline is fast approaching and guess whose name is at the top of the list, just like last season? That’s right, Dwight Howard.  The formerly disgruntled Orlando Magic star has apparently been replaced by Dwight Howard, the disgruntled Los Angeles Lakers star. The Magic’s Dwightmare of a year ago now becomes the Lakers’ burden this time around.

And that means the wheels are turning in front offices around the league, what with the prospect of Howard becoming available before he becomes a free agent at season’s end, which for the Lakers could very well be mid-April.

These latest developments thrust other teams into the thick of the Howard sweepstakes, with prospective summer free-agent players Dallas and Atlanta joining the usual suspects (the Lakers and Brooklyn Nets) in the conversation. The Lakers’ pitiful season is what has reignited the Dwightmare dilemma … plus the fact that Brooklyn was his preferred destination all along.

And depending on who you listen to and what you read, there’s a dizzying array of possibilities being considered by the different sides in this saga.

RealGM.com’s Jarrod Rudolph reports the Nets are ready to finish what they started last season and finally bring Howard to Brooklyn, with Brook Lopez (and a third team needed to help facilitate a deal) as the return piece. Of course, there is the obligatory return volley that says Lopez is safe, from Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News, the best part coming at the end: “It’s not the same as it was last year,” said a Nets source. “We don’t need Dwight.”

Interesting. But that won’t slow down the stream of rumors suggesting otherwise.

With the Lakers stuck in the 12th spot in the Western Conference playoff chase, no one outside of Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash should feel comfortable in that Lakers’ locker room.

And if Kobe’s words, tweets and facial expressions mean anything, something has to change. Because it’s clear, as ESPN.com‘s Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein point out, that the real crack in the Lakers’ foundation is the rift between its two biggest stars:

“Obviously, this isn’t working,” Lakers star Kobe Bryant told Yahoo! Sports after the Chicago loss.

“I’ve tried to go out of my way to get (Howard) the ball. Sometimes I end up looking like an idiot, because I get up in the air, I’ve got a shot, but I try to find him. But he thinks I’m going to shoot, so his back is turned. I’m trying to think about getting him the ball a lot — take care of him as much as I possibly can. It takes me out of rhythm a little bit, but I’m fine with that. If that’s going to help our team, I’m more than willing to do that.

“I’ve constantly tried to help him out, tried to talk to him,” Bryant continued. “Two o’clock in the morning, three o’clock in the morning. Texting him. Sharing reading materials. Anything to try and help him.

“He’s coming off a major surgery in a market where it’s just merciless; where there’s demands and responsibilities of athletes. It’s been tough on him.”

The blame in L.A. has been widespread, with both Howard and Gasol facing criticism for not battling through these tough times with the needed resolve. D’Antoni getting second-guessed with rising volume for not tweaking his spread-the-floor system to accommodate his marquee players and Bryant critiquing himself this week for missing too many shots on an 0-2 road trip that has spiraled into six straight losses away from Staples Center and three straight losses overall heading into Thursday’s game at Memphis.

If Lakers fans have to pick a side, Howard might as well start packing his bags now. In the past, they’ve chosen Kobe in landslides over former big man Shaquille O’Neal and ex-coach Phil Jackson, among others. Howard doesn’t stand a chance in winning over the fan base, the franchise and perhaps most importantly, the locker room.

It seems pretty obvious that Kobe and Nash have gone out of their way to make Howard feel as comfortable as possible and still these issues persist. With time running out on their season and that Feb. 21 escape hatch getting closer and closer, something has to give …

Dwight Repentant, Sort Of

 
Mr. and Mrs. America, from border to border and coast to coast and all the ships at sea.

News flash: Dwight Howard says he could have done some things better last season in Orlando.

Ya think?

On the eve of tonight’s first meeting with his former team at Staples Center, the 26-year-old lovable lunk turned Walter Winchell told Ramona Shelburne of ESPN/Los Angeles that somehow both sides were at fault when he spent the better part of the 2011-12 season jumping back and forth across the fence like a confused bullfrog.

“It doesn’t really matter to talk about it now. It’s over and done with,” he said. “There are a lot of things we both could’ve done, but at the end of the day, it happened just the way it was supposed to happen. There was a reason behind everything. We might not see it or understand it at the time, but there was a reason why everything happened the way it happened and I think it made both parties stronger.”

Of course, the fans of the 5-10 Magic, who watched their team again get stripped down to its chassis and left up on milk crates might disagree, but Howard says they have a place in his heart.

“I will always be grateful. They gave me an opportunity, Rich and the rest of the DeVos family,” Howard said. “They wanted me to come in, change the city and we did some great things, despite how everything ended. Our team and the organization, we opened up a lot of doors for fans and businesses around the city, with the new arena and all that stuff. We had some unbelievable years. There’s no reason for anybody to hold their heads on what happened in Orlando. At the end of the day, there had to be a business decision.”

Howard said he understands why fans in Orlando might have ill will toward him, but hoped with time they could forgive and understand why he requested a trade.

“It’s my job to let people know that when you get traded or ask for a trade from a team, it has nothing to do with a city or the fan base,” he said. “It’s a business decision. Yeah, it may affect people because that’s their team that they love and they want to see their team do good, but at the end of the day we only get one shot at this and I have to do what I believe is going to be best for me.”

Translation: Please don’t mention my 47 percent free-throw shooting when we get to Orlando on March 12.

PJax Is Not Walking Through The Door





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Hey Lakers, enough already.

Phil Jackson is not walking through that door. And the triangle offense that some of you seem to believe is the answer to all of your problems is the same triangle offense that didn’t save you last season. You remember that playoff sweep at the hands of the eventual champion Dallas Mavericks, right?

The Lakers go from one crisis to another trying to figure out why they aren’t the kings of the hill anymore, looking for any scapegoat possible to explain what everyone else has already figured out. It’s pretty simple — father time has caught up with you, fellas!

You are no longer the dominant bunch you were a few years ago. It happens. You’re not the first to experience this and you will not be the last. Just check in with your counterparts in Boston if you don’t believe it.

There’s no shame in admitting it. And you are welcome to battle until there isn’t an ounce of energy left in your bodies. But at least go out with a little dignity instead of throwing a tantrum every single time something goes wrong or you hit a little dry spell.

This reported “mutiny against Mike Brown‘s offense,” as reported by Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com, is the most childish move yet:

Brown’s effect on the Lakers’ defense has been undeniable, but sources say the team’s ongoing struggles on the road — with L.A. dropping to 6-14 away from Staples Center following a loss in Detroit and blowing a 21-point lead to the undisciplined Wizards — have some veterans longing for a return to the trusty Triangle offense preferred by Brown’s predecessor, Phil Jackson.

ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard recently reported that Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher called a players-only meeting after a win against Portland on Feb. 21 to address concerns about Brown’s style, as well as persistent trade rumors involving Pau Gasol.

While that meeting might have quelled some of the tension in the short term, these two latest losses have brought the issues right back to the forefront and perhaps even exacerbated the situation as the team nears the March 15 trade deadline, continuing to languish in the middle of the pack in the Western Conference.

Sources told ESPNLosAngeles.com that multiple players have continued to meet privately since the initial team meeting to discuss running elements of the Triangle offense again.

“The players want to unify,” one source with knowledge of the situation said. “They know how to win, and they want to fix this. I don’t know if they can, though. “

When you were riding Bryant’s masked man routine to three straight wins after the All-Star break, there was little-to-no grumbling about the offense and how bad it was. You lost two straight to bottom feeders and it’s back to throwing Mike Brown from the train. It’s ridiculous.

Save us all the headache and just play ball, fellas.

Billups Officially Done This Season





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The Los Angeles Clippers’ worst fears became a reality this evening when it was announced by the team that Chauncey Billups is done for the remainder of this season with a torn left Achilles suffered in the fourth quarter of Monday night’s win over the Orlando Magic.

An MRI on this afternoon in Cleveland, where the Clippers are as they wait for Wednesday night’s game against the Cavaliers, confirmed the severity of the injury.

Billups is set to return to Los Angeles Thursday for examination from the team’s medical staff, though a date for surgery has not yet been determined. A five-time All-Star, the Clippers claimed  Billups off waivers in December after the New York Knicks cut him to make room for the signing of Tyson Chandler.

Billups played a pivotal role for the Clippers this season, starting at shooting guard alongside Chris Paul, and averaging 14.9 points and 4.0 assists in 30.4 minutes per game. It’s a devastating blow for a Clippers team that leaned on Billups as much for his play as it did his leadership and championship experience.

“I feel sick for him,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro told ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Ramona Shelburne. “He’s such a pro. After the game last night it was bittersweet. Everyone was just quiet in the locker room, quiet on the plane. People know how much Chauncey means to us — his character, his leadership. Not only his ability to play at a high level, but his character and the intangibles he brings. That’s why we brought him here. I just feel sick for him.”

“It’s a tough one,” Del Negro said. “He was just getting everything figured out. He was playing great. He’d just hit three 3s in a row, then he turns the wrong way running back down the court.

“It’s tough, but we’re going to do whatever we can as a team an organization to move forward.”

if any team has the backcourt depth to weather the loss of a veteran star it’s the Clippers. Paul, Mo Williams, Randy Foye and Eric Bledsoe can all be used interchangeably in the playing rotation.

But losing Billups is about losing more than just minutes and a lethal scorer and efficient game manager. They’re losing one of the league’s most respected players, a guy that led the Detroit Pistons to a Larry O’Brien trophy, collecting The Finals MVP trophy along the way.

It remains to be seen just how they will make up for the loss of all the intangibles Billups brings to the party!

 

Real Rivalries Are Back For Good





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – All that chest pounding from Metta World Peace last night was genuine, raw emotion in a game filled with it, a rivalry (yes, rivalry) that demands it these days.

Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and the rest of the Clippers certainly aren’t afraid to embrace the challenge of picking a fight with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and the rest of the Lakers. The bodies on court from opening tip until the final whistle serve as proof that the games between these two mean more than anyone was willing to let on when Paul joined the Clippers instead of the Lakers last month.

And when Gasol touched Paul on the top of the head in the final seconds of the Lakers 96-91 win at Staples Center, well …  it was on:

“He touched the top of my head, and I didn’t like that,” said Paul, who nearly landed with the Lakers last month before NBA commissioner David Stern squelched the deal. “You know what I mean. I don’t know if Pau’s got kids, but don’t touch my head like I’m one of your kids. I don’t know what his intentions were, like, ‘I’ll treat him like little Chris.’ I don’t know if he’s got kids, but I’m not one of them.”

The best part is the Lakers and Clippers are not alone. The authentic nastiness that many of us grew up with, that made the NBA so special during the Showtime Lakers-Big Three Celtics era through the Bad Boy Pistons-Jordan Bulls era and beyond, is popping up all over the league.

(more…)