NBA finals: Kobe Bryant needs to create shots… but not just for himself

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kobeglare.jpgWe have reached that point in the series.

Faced with a 2-2 series tie after the Celtics’ resiliency was greater than the Lakers’ size and talent advantages, the popular sentiment is turning to “It’s Kobe time.” As we speak, sportswriters across America are preparing their statements about how Kobe Bryant needs to “step up” and “be the man” and all sorts of other things which don’t really take into account the elbow help from the Celtics bigs nor the fact that Bryant has used on average 31.5% of the shots of his team (per HoopData.com).

Now, it’s true that in the two losses for the Lakers, Bryant used 29.5% of the Lakers’ possessions versus 33.5 in the Lakers’ two wins, but we’re not talking a huge gap. Furthermore, Bryant’s Assist Rate (percentage of possessions ending in an assist) is higher in the Lakers’ two wins versus their two losses as well (13.6% in wins) versus 12.2% in losses).

Kelly Dwyer at Yahoo! does his usual brilliant job of bringing nuance and context to what Bryant needs to do, and argues that if the Celtics’ defense is going to neutralize the triangle and reduce the Lakers’ offense to screen and roll for a scorer, that Bryant needs to oblige them. By plugging them over and over.

I’m certainly not arguing that Bryant needs to shy away from the trigger. Far from it. It’s important that Bryant be a scorer. But this Lakers team is really at its best, Bryant, is at his best, when he’s working in at the elbow, and using his wide range of options: post, pull-up, drive and kick, drive and dump-off, drive, and cut. Bryant is one of the best passers in this league when he wants to be. It’s a function of his touch and control. And when he moves, the defense overreacts. In 2008 and 2009, he punished teams that chose to overreact to him by finding his teammates in the truest revelation of his maturity as a player beyond the guy who throws up 35 shots a game.

Can the Lakers win if Bryant goes Contra on the Celtics? Sure. If he’s in that zone, they can double him, triple him, whatever, he’s still going to drop 40. But if he contributes a complete game, not only will he do more damage, but he won’t exhaust himself. The Celtics’ defense can be solved using his scoring ability, but falling into the trap can produce what the C’s want, an inefficient night from Bryant.

TNT to cover NBA games with only former players, no traditional play-by-play men

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 19:  Grant Hill #33 of the Phoenix Suns looks to move the ball as Derek Fisher #2 of the Los Angeles Lakers defends in the first quarter of Game Two of the Western Conference Finals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on May 19, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. 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 Harry How/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK (AP) — TNT will use broadcast teams featuring only former players and no traditional play-by-play men during five NBA doubleheaders later this season.

The “Players Only” schedule runs Monday nights from Feb. 27 to March 27 and includes matchups such as Golden State-Oklahoma City on March 20 and Cleveland-San Antonio a week later.

Brent Barry will serve as the primary host of one team with Derek Fisher and Grant Hill, while Greg Anthony partners with Kevin McHale and Richard Hamilton on the other.

Lisa Leslie and Dennis Scott will serve as reporters.

Turner Sports says Thursday that Chris Webber will anchor the studio coverage with Isiah Thomas and Baron Davis, and that additional NBA players will contribute to the five-week program.

James Harden presents fan with game ball on her 100th birthday (video)

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HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden took some time out after the Houston Rockets’ win over the visiting Milwaukee Bucks to give a fan a present on a her 100th birthday.

Video shows Harden signing a ball for the woman and spending a few moments sitting next to her in her courtside seat and posing for pictures Wednesday night.

Harden told ESPN’s Doris Burke in an interview that he told the woman how “blessed” he was to be able to have a chance to meet her.

The Houston guard also put on a good show for the fan during the game, scoring 38 points in a 111-92 victory over the Bucks.

Paul George dunks on DeMarcus Cousins while getting whacked in the face (video)

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Kings center DeMarcus Couins appears set to become the first player to sign as a veteran designated player. The Pacers hope Paul George will follow.

But in the Pacers’ win over the Kings yesterday, George beat Cousins.

Not even Cousins thwacking George in the face could stop this dunk.

Report: Khris Middleton could return to Bucks before All-Star break

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 16:  Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks reacts during their game against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 16, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. 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 Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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The Bucks projected Khris Middleton to miss about 70 games when he tore his hamstring before the season. That extended absence often leads players just to shut down for the year, but Middleton vowed to return in time for the playoffs.

He might get back far sooner than that.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Sources told ESPN.com the Bucks think Middleton, who suffered a hamstring tear just days before the season began, “has a chance” to return to the lineup during a three-game homestand next month before the All-Star ‎break.

Whether Middleton ultimately makes his season debut before or after the All-Star Game, he is expected to be kept on a minutes restriction as he eases way his back from the injury, sources said.

The Bucks have started Tony Snell, who has held his own as an outside shooter. But Middleton will upgrade Milwaukee on Snell’s biggest strength and provide massive defensive improvement. After a strong start, the Bucks have really struggled lately on that end.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has led Milwaukee to a 20-21 record, though the team is better than its won-loss mark indicates. The Bucks will be even better with Middleton, who will rival Jabari Parker as their second-best player and fit seamlessly.