Does Kobe's extension really extend the Lakers' title window?

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Thumbnail image for Bryant_miss.jpgRe-signing Kobe Bryant was a major objective for the Lakers this year, even if it was largely a formality, given Kobe’s stated desire to remain in LA and the fact that, let’s face it, there’s nowhere better for a basketball player to be. The weather, the celebrities, the night life, and an organization that will always be in a position to spend enough to win. Still, Mamba’s a tricky snake, so getting him on their side until 2014 is a great development for the Lakeshow. And Bryant is worthy of the reward of a long-term contract for everything he’s given the team and its fans.

That said, what really are the effects of this deal?

Yesterday our fearless leader tried to tell you through yellow-tinted shades that the Lakers’ championship window is open through 2014. Four more years of Laker dominance in the West, is apparently the summation of the effects of Kobe’s gajillion dollar extension. But how accurate is that?

Next two seasons? Absolutely. Bryant will be 33 at the end of the 2012 season. Jordan was 34 when he won his last with the Bulls. But after that? Pau Gasol will be 32 the following season as his already questionable physical presence begins to shrink. Lamar Odom will be 33. Lakers fans love to talk about the Celtics’ age tearing them down. Take a look at that plus-30 core.

But let’s focus on Bryant. This season fans have noticed significant dip-nights in his shooting, like last night’s abhorrent performance, luckily in a game where Lamar Odom destroyed the Jazz (more on him later today). They’ve also noticed a surge of turnovers, particularly in big games like the Denver showdowns and both losses to the Cavs. So if we take a look at the numbers, we’ll see a drop in … nothing?

Bryant’s field goal percentage, turnovers, points, and assists are all within range of his averages over the last four years. So no worries. Unless we examine some higher metrics. Don’t roll your eyes, stats-haters, just hear me out.

Bryant’s PER is the lowest it’s been since 2000. His effective field goal shooting (which factors in three point shooting) is the lowest it’s been since ’06. His usage, which measures how many possessions he absorbs, is the highest since ’05. So usage up, production down. His per 36 scoring (points per 36 minutes of play) is the lowest it’s been since ’05.

Even with his injuries this season factored in, that doesn’t help his case, because those injuries only become more likely as age catches up with him in his mid-30’s.

So surely he’s not able to get the job done like he used to… Oh. And oh. And oh

So we’re left with conflicting information. Bryant’s still the best closer in the game. He’s always managed to adapt his game to his changing body and do what he needs to, like adapting the post-game this year. He has an indomitable will. But on the other side, by 2012 he’ll be 34, with an aging roster, and his numbers have at least showed signs of a fade. The next two years are a lock, but after that is when things get dicey. So betting on Bryant to be in title contention for four more years may be a risky proposition.

But betting against him?

That’s just suicide.

Report: Bulls telling teams they plan on keeping Jimmy Butler

TORONTO, ON - MARCH 14:  Jimmy Butler #21 of the Chicago Bulls warms up prior to action against the Toronto Raptors in an NBA game at the Air Canada Centre on March 14, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Bulls defeated the Raptors 109-107. NOTE TO USER: user expressly acknowledges and agrees by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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The Chicago Bulls are trying to find their identity. They used to be a defensive team, but they went and got an offensive coach in Fred Hoiberg and by the end of the season had slid badly on that end of the floor. They are no longer Derrick Rose‘s team, but they didn’t have the personnel to run Hoiberg’s system. The Bulls need to figure out who they are and what players on the roster should be part of that team moving forward.

Expect Jimmy Butler to be part of that future. He’s the best player on the team, but he rubs some teammates the wrong way, and there have been rumors the Bulls would listen to trade offers.

The Bulls are telling teams they plan to hold on to him, reports A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com.

A league source tells CSNNE.com that the Bulls, while still open to listening to offers for Butler, are telling teams that are inquiring about his availability that their plan for now is to keep him in the fold.

And while there was some thought that a top-3 pick coupled with a few decent players might be enough to entice the Bulls to pull the trigger on a deal to trade Butler, CSNNE.com has been told such an offer would have to include at least one “legitimate, NBA starter” for the Bulls to even possibly consider trading him.

“And that might be a stretch,” the source indicated.

What is the hardest part of assembling a potential NBA title contender? Finding the elite, cornerstone player you need who can lead your team at both ends of the floor. The Chicago Bulls have that in Butler, he’s locked up under contract until at least the summer of 2019 on a good contract (a max before the TV deal money kicked in), why would they trade him?

Stranger things have happened, especially with the Bulls, but unless they want to tear it all down and rebuild — and they don’t — getting rid of Butler doesn’t make sense.

The better question is who will be around Butler come next fall.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 =

Watch all 25 threes from Cleveland in Game 2 win

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Apparently, all it takes is a little public discussion of LeBron James‘ “broken” jump shot to get him back on balance and knocking down the three ball — he was 4-of-6 from deep Wednesday.

Then again J.R. Smith was 7-of-13, Kyrie Irving 4-of-5, and as a team the Cavaliers knocked down a record 25 threes — while shooting 55.6 percent — as they wiped the floor with the Hawks in Game 2.

In case you’re curious where the Cavs were hitting from, here’s the team’s shot chart.

Cavaliers threes shotchart

Report: Rockets to interview Mike D’Antoni, Frank Vogel for coaching vacancy

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 28: Head coach Mike D'Antoni of the Los Angeles Lakers gestures during the game against the Sacramento Kings at Staples Center on February 28, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.  The Lakers won 126-122.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Houston Rockets aren’t in any rush to hire a new head coach, preferring to interview a wide range of candidates to find the right one. Jeff Van Gundy has been widely believed to be at the top of their list, now that Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks are off the market, but ESPN.com’s Marc Stein is reporting another name that has entered the mix: Mike D’Antoni, who last held a head coaching job from 2012 to 2014 with the Lakers and currently serves as the Sixers’ lead assistant.

The Pacers, meanwhile, haven’t made a final decision on Frank Vogel’s future with the team, but all signs seem to point to him getting let go in the next few days. And if that happens, Stein reports that Vogel will also be on Houston’s list of candidates.

Given the Rockets’ massive drop-off on the defensive end this season, Vogel would seem to be a better fit than D’Antoni. But it sounds like the Rockets aren’t close to finding a replacement for J.B. Bickerstaff, although it would make sense to have a new coach in place by next month’s draft.

Cavs set single-game three-point record in blowout win over Hawks

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On Monday, the Hawks played the Cavaliers close and even led in the fourth quarter, leading plenty of optimism that Game 2 would be equally competitive, that the Hawks had something to build on.

Nope.

The Cavs dominated from the start on Wednesday, with a 123-98 final score that was far closer than the game actually was — the Cavs led 74-36 at the half and led by as much as 38 at one point in the second half.

The Cavs also hit 25 three-pointers, which is the all-time record for a single game — regular season or playoffs. J.R. Smith hit seven of them, along with four each from LeBron James and Kyrie Irving and three for Kevin Love.

18 of Cleveland’s threes came in the first half, also a playoff record, and this was all Atlanta could do:

That’s the kind of night it was for the Hawks, who now trail 2-0 in the series as it heads back to Atlanta.