NBA Finals, Lakers Celtics: How the Lakers can force a game 7

1 Comment

Thumbnail image for kobeglare.jpg

The Lakers are 48 minutes away from losing their second NBA Finals in three years. They’re also 48 minutes away from forcing a game seven in their building. Their backs are against the wall at the current moment, but this is a 57-win team who has only lost one home game in these playoffs. And they have the best player on the floor. How can the Lakers shake off what’s been plaguing them over the course of the last two games and put themselves a game away from a championship? Here are a few possibilities:
Get Pau Gasol going:

Sometimes Pau Gasol looks like the best big man in basketball. Sometimes he looks invisible. When Gasol and Bynum have owned the paint in these playoffs, the Lakers have been invincible. The Lakers can’t count on Bynum and his bad knee giving them good minutes in game six, so the onus is on Pau to fight KG and Big Baby for low-post position and on the Lakers to get him the ball when he does. Pau has looked dominant at times in this series. He needs to get back to what he was doing earlier in the series if the Lakers don’t want Tuesday night’s game to be their last.
Defense:

The Celtics are not a great half-court offensive team, but you wouldn’t have known that if you watched game five. Ron Artest needs to get on the same page as everybody else and get back to locking down Paul Pierce. He should make Paul Pierce wear him. Gasol needs to get tough with Garnett. Fisher needs to keep giving the same kind of effort that he’s been giving on Ray Allen. The Lakers have to swarm, play with energy, and play with passion on the defensive end. Pack the paint, play physical, and make the Celtics earn everything they get. 

Get Kobe going early:

Traditionally, Phil Jackson likes Kobe to distribute early and try and take over late. In game six, he may be well served by flipping the script. Kobe doesn’t need to try and throw in bombs early; he can attack off the drive, post guys up, or get into the middle of the lane and drive-and-kick. It’ll get the crowd into it, it’ll give the role players the confidence they need, and it will keep the Boston defense from settling in and demoralizing the Lakers and their crowd. The Lakers are comfortable playing from behind and know they can make a run at any time; Boston has trouble responding when they get put on their heels early.

Confidence From The Role Players:

The Celtics are up 3-2 because they have more rotation players playing with extreme confidence on both ends of the floor. When the Laker role players have the ball, they alternate between looking scared to do anything and forcing something because they panicked. The Boston defense is hard enough to score on when five players are attacking it; if only one or two players are making an honest effort to get it done, there’s no way to score on them. 
Artest needs to play with confidence, move the ball quickly, and work for garbage baskets. Fisher needs to get the Lakers into their offense, knock down open shots, and keep the Celtics off balance by driving the lane when they don’t pay attention to him. Odom has to be aggressive, especially on the glass and in transition. 
If the Lakers want to win these next two games, everyone from Kobe to Sasha Vujacic has to believe they can make the right play if they have to. That doesn’t mean everyone should be looking to jack up shots or force passes, but they have to have the confidence to make quick, decisive moves on the fly with all the pressure on them. The Staples crowd will help with that, but ultimately it’s going to be up to the players to find that confidence within themselves and turn this series around. 

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist tears labrum

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
Getty Images
Leave a comment

October:

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist‘s shoulder injury?

It’s bad.

Now:

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist‘s shoulder injury?

It’s bad.

Hornets:

Kidd-Gilchrist tore his labrum in the preseason, and the injury was expected to sideline him for the year. But he returned a couple weeks ago and helped Charlotte go 5-2.

Now, another setback. This is just awful news for Kidd-Gilchrist and the Hornets. He had worked so hard to get back.

Hopefully, this injury isn’t as severe and Kidd-Gilchrist can play again this season.

Report: Rockets working with Dwight Howard’s agent on trade

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - JANUARY 29: Dwight Howard #12 of the Houston Rockets leaves the game after he was ejected during the third quarter of a NBA game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Chesapeake Energy Arena on January 29, 2016 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. 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 J Pat Carter/Getty Images)
J Pat Carter/Getty Images
5 Comments

The Rockets have a lot of problems.

One of them is Dwight Howard.

Howard plans to opt out this summer, and he could command a max contract. Does Houston want to pay the 30-year-old center that much?

That question has become increasingly essential as Houston – losers of three straight and six of eight – has sunk out of playoff position. If Howard can’t help the Rockets achieve anything of note this season, determining his place past this season takes priority.

On that note…

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

The Houston Rockets have started contacting teams about trading eight-time All-Star Dwight Howard, league sources told The Vertical.

The Rockets are working with Howard’s agent, Dan Fegan, on possible destinations, league executives told The Vertical.

Working with Fegan is imperative. Because Howard can become an unrestricted free agent, teams will fear him walking in free agency and propose trades to the Rockets accordingly. That could sink Howard’s value below the threshold where Houston would trade him.

But Howard and Fegan can assure certain teams Howard would re-sign, which would make Howard more valuable to them – and boost their trade offers. The NBA forbids under-the-table agreements, but these discussions happen.

Teams could also look at Howard as a rest-of-season rental, but it’s tough to find win-now teams that need a center. And again, it’s less likely a team would value Howard as a rental enough to appease the Rockets’ trade demands.

For Howard, this could be a chance to secure a larger contract. His max projects to be about $170 million over five years if he re-signs or $128 million over four years elsewhere. Ideally for him, he’ll finish the season with a team he wants to re-sign with.

Is that Houston? He’s reportedly unhappy taking a backseat to James Harden, though he denies it. The Rockets’ dismal record certainly doesn’t engender confidence from anyone.

The Celtics and Rockets reportedly talked Howard trade, and the notion Houston won’t trade Howard looks outdated.

It’ll still take multiple sides to make a deal happen – the Rockets, a trade partner and, depending on the details, probably Howard. Those are a lot of hurdles.

But it seems Houston is ready to try clearing them.

Report: Patrick Beverley to drop from All-Star Saturday Skills Challenge title

Patrick Beverley
Associated Press
Leave a comment

Last season, the Rockets’ Patrick Beverley won the NBA All-Star Saturday skills challenge because of his jump shot. In head-to-head battles with the Hawks’ Jeff Teague and the Bucks (now a Sun) Brandon Knight, Beverley fell behind on the passing part of the competition but made up the ground by knocking down his jump shot at the end.

He was set to come to Toronto to defend his skills title but has been forced to back out due to injury, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

After tweaking his ankle Wednesday night in a loss to Portland, Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley will not travel to Toronto to defend his skills competition title at All-Star Weekend, league sources told The Vertical.

Beverley wants to rest the ankle over the All-Star break for the Rockets’ final push to make the Western Conference playoffs.

This has yet to be confirmed by the NBA, nor has a replacement been named, but no doubt Woj is accurate on this. No player would risk further injury for a skills competition.

The Rockets have lost six-of-eight, and with the loss to the Blazers Wednesday night have fallen out of the playoffs in the Western Conference. They will need all their players healthy, including Beverley, but they will also need a lot more than that to climb back in the race — they need to start playing defense, they need to stop becoming disinterested for large stretches of the game, and they need someone in that locker room to step up and be a serious leader of men.

Report: LeBron James might not play for Team USA in 2016 Olympics because Kobe Bryant won’t

Kobe Bryant (L) and team mate Lebron James of the U.S. sit on the bench during the game against France during their men's Group A basketball match at the London 2012 Olympic Games in the Basketball arena July 29, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Segar
REUTERS/Mike Segar
5 Comments

LeBron James admires Kobe Bryant.

How much?

Kobe pulling his name from 2016 Olympic consideration (perhaps an informed preemptive gesture just before the roster finalists were announced) might keep LeBron off Team USA.

Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report:

Bryant not pursuing a spot on the U.S. Olympic basketball team this summer is a very real reason James might also not join the team, according to NBA sources.

James is that disappointed the Rio Olympics will not serve as the final, ultimate celebration of Bryant’s career—and more so that James won’t have the priceless honor of being Bryant’s co-star teammate when it ends.

I don’t buy this.

Kobe said during the 2012 Olympics those would be his final Olympics. Two weeks later, LeBron said he wanted to play in 2016.

Did playing with Kobe on Team USA become more important to LeBron over the last few years?

I suppose it’s possible. Many got behind sending Kobe to Rio as a sendoff into retirement. Perhaps, LeBron got attached to the idea and became bitter once it fell through.

I just have a hard time believing LeBron would tie his decision so strongly to another player. Remember, he left one of his best friends, Dwyane Wade, in Miami to sign with the Cavaliers. Would Kobe’s presence really dictate LeBron’s outlook?

LeBron has been mum on his plans for Team USA. I’m sure the length of Cleveland’s playoff run and the toll it takes on his body will factor. He might not yet know what he’ll do.

The ball is in his court, which can be challenging. There has been backlash from media and fans against players who turn down Team USA, and LeBron could be trying to avoid that.

I trust Ding was told LeBron felt this way, but nobody – including me, including Ding – can know what’s in LeBron’s head. But this report strikes me as LeBron setting up the ability to attribute his absence to Kobe’s rather than facing the full brunt of reaction that comes to turning down Team USA.