Utah Jazz v Miami Heat

Miami still figuring out how to use Chris Bosh


Every fanbase seems to pick someone on the team to be their whipping boy — the guy whose fault it is, even when it isn’t. Someone to be the lightning rod of fan wrath.

In Miami, it seems to have become Chris Bosh. And with the now national Heat fan base, he has taken incoming fire from all directions in the last few days, as the Heat have dared show they are still figuring it all out. Jason Whitlock was the most over the top, but his voice speaks for a lot of people. I think his conclusions are wrong, but he speaks for a lot of people.

I’ve compared Bosh to Pau Gasol before because I think it’s apt — not directly in terms of game, they are different in style and Gasol is far more polished; but in terms of situation. These are not guys who can carry teams on their own to titles, but if used right can be key cogs in getting the rings. They are very good second options. Or for Bosh, third option. But we then can’t get mad at them for not acting like option number one.

First, Bosh is not soft. Nor is Gasol. What they are not are classic bangers — you cannot match them up on a true, old-school center and expect them to act like Patrick Ewing. Same is true with physical power forwards. What you need to make either of them their best is a real center next to them — Gasol is freed up to do a lot when Andrew Bynum is along side to rebound and do the dirty work. Bynum is the banger, the guy who blocks shots. (Odom has been doing some of that lately.)

Miami has nobody like that. Not Joel Anthony, not Big Z. So Bosh is asked to do things that are not really in his wheelhouse, then he gets called out for not doing them well. What he needs is not to be asked to do them so much, but that is not the Heat’s roster right now.

That said, Gasol learned to stand his ground better, and Bosh needs to. Right now he is too tentative.

Secondly, the Heat have yet to figure out how to use him on offense. It’s something you could see at the end of the loss to the Jazz, as Zach at The Point Forward explains perfectly:

Bosh did not attempt a shot or draw a foul after the 5:11 mark of the fourth quarter Tuesday night despite being on the floor for that entire stretch — and being matched with slow-footed Kyrylo Fesenko, who clearly could not guard him. The Heat isolated for Bosh on back-to-back possessions a little more than four minutes into the fourth, and he blew by Fesenko both times, drawing two shooting fouls. He made 2-of-4 free throws, and then scored two minutes later on a gorgeous pick-and-roll with LeBron James.

After that? He acted the part of a classic big man role player. He screened for James. He set up a screen-and-dribble hand-off for James. He screened for Dwyane Wade on most of Wade’s drives in overtime. He acted as a decoy on Wade’s game-tying three-pointer with 17 seconds left in the game.

A $110 million decoy: That’s what Bosh was for the last 10 minutes of the game.

That is not all on Bosh — he’s a big, one of the ball handlers needs to call his number than get him the ball. If he has the mismatch, exploit it. Problem is, James and Dwyane Wade are walking mismatches, so they see that and call their own numbers all the time.

The Heat paid Bosh big-time money but we all knew he was option number three in the offense from the start. And that is not going to mean huge numbers on this team. His teammates need to do a better job of recognizing when he has the mismatch and to get him the ball in spots he can succeed. Still, at the end of the game you’d rather have James and Wade making the plays. They are better at it.

So Bosh is what he is. The third wheel. Not somebody you trade, somebody you need to learn to use better. But still the third wheel.

Byron Scott: Kobe Bryant “at peace” with decision to retire after season

Kobe Bryant
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LOS ANGELES — Kobe Bryant was never going to go quietly into that good night. He would rage, rage against the dying of the light — and torn Achilles, knee ligaments, shoulders, and everything else holding him back.

But now, the end is near, and Kobe will face the final curtain at the end of this season. And he is at peace with it, if you ask his coach.

“It was so matter of fact, and he was so at peace with (the decision),” Lakers’ coach Byron Scott said of when Kobe told him this season would be it. “After I thought about it, I felt better about that. It wasn’t like he was agonizing over it or anything, it was like ‘I’m announcing I’m retiring’ and just kind of went on from there.”

Bryant told Scott before anyone else in the Lakers’ organization, and told him sometime Saturday (when the Lakers played and lost in Portland).

“I said, ‘what?’ He just told me at a very awkward time; we started laughing about it,” Scott said. “He said ‘you looked like you were saying ‘what they hell are you talking about’ but it just caught me off guard.”

It’s been an ugly season for Kobe, his body can no longer do what he expects of it — he can’t get the separation, the lift needed for his shoots. He was shooting 31.1 percent on the season going into Sunday’s game against Indiana, and he started 1-of-11 from the floor Sunday night. Yet he kept gunning.

“I gave up hoping he would change his approach 15, 18 years ago,” Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak said. “He is what he is. And I’m thankful for it.”

Kupchak added hoped this decision would ease the pressure on Bryant.

“I would hope that he has more fun, and appears less frustrated, and also gets more appreciation,” Kupchak said. “He’ll get it at home, but on the road too, because people will have to recognize this is his last year and they are watching one of the all-time greats.”

Kobe got plenty of appreciation from Lakers’ fans on Sunday night with a massive ovation when he was introduced. Kobe had wanted to avoid a Derek Jeter style farewell tour, but with that announcement and the Lakers playing 13-of-17 on the road in December you can bet there will be some of that.

“One of the best ever to play the game,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said pregame. “I don’t know if there’s any one moment, just throughout the course of his career you didn’t want him to have the ball in his hands with the game on the line, period. Because you knew he was going to beat you.”

No doubt Kobe goes down as one of the game’s all-time greats — five-time NBA champion, MVP, two Finals MVP’s, 17 All-Star Games, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg — but what Scott ultimately wants is Bryant to leave the game on his terms.

“What I want from Kobe is basically his last game to be able to walk off the court, wave to the fans, and be able to go into the locker room standing up,” Scott said.


Here is Kobe Bryant’s letter given to every fan at Lakers’ game Sunday

Los Angeles Lakers v Portland Trail Blazers

LOS ANGELES — In a classy move — and one done in a very Kobe Bryant tone — every fan coming into Staples Center Sunday night to see the Lakers take on the Pacers received a letter from No. 24.

Inside a sealed black envelope, on quality, embossed paper, was this letter from Bryant (photo below):

When we first met I was just a kid.

Some of you took me in. Some of you didn’t.

But all of you helped e become the player and man in front of you today.

You gave me confidence to put my anger to good use.

Your doubt gave me determination to prove you wrong.

You witnessed my fears morph into strength.

Your rejection taught me courage.

Whether you view me as a hero or a villain, please know I poured every emotion, every bit of passion and my entire self into being a Laker.

What you’ve done for me is far greater than anything I’ve done for you.

I knew that each minute of each game I wore purple and gold.

I honor it as I play today and for the rest of this season.

My love for this city, this team and for each of you will never fade.

Thank you for this incredible journey.

It speaks to Kobe’s mindset over the years that he talked about the fuel from the rejection of Lakers’ fans motivating him. As a Los Angeles native (and former Laker blogger), let me tell you there was precious little rejection of Kobe from this fan base. There were questions and doubters early on, but even when Shaquille O’Neal was seen as the driving force of the team Kobe was beloved in Los Angeles. Something that continued through his trial in Colorado — Lakers fans have almost always had his back.

But Kobe finds fuel everywhere. Which is why he is a future Hall of Famer.


Jahlil Okafor tweets apology for recent off-court behavior

Jahlil Okafor

The off-court incidents have been piling up for Jahlil Okafor over the past month: first, an incident captured on video that showed Okafor getting into a fight with a heckler early Thanksgiving morning; then, a report that Okafor had a gun pulled on him in a previous incident; and finally, this morning’s report that the Sixers’ No. 3 overall pick in this June’s draft had been pulled over in recent weeks for driving 108 miles per hour in Philadelphia. Together, they aren’t a good look for the rookie.

On Sunday afternoon, Okafor apologized for his recent behavior in a series of tweets:

The recent incidents involving Okafor are surprising—going into the draft, he never had any red flags for maturity or off-the-court issues. He’s certainly saying the right things after the fact, and he’s only 19, so hopefully this is nothing more than a small rough patch where he’s made some bad decisions, and not an indicator of things to come.

Kobe Bryant announces this is his final season


LOS ANGELES — It has seemed like this has been coming for a while. Kobe Bryant has been frustrated; he hasn’t been able to produce like he expects — his play has been hard to watch — and the Lakers are a train wreck. All that surrounded him was talk of his play and speculation about the future he didn’t want.

Kobe made it official Sunday via the Players’ Tribune — this is his final season. He did it via a letter called “Dear Basketball.”

You gave a six-year-old boy his Laker dream
And I’ll always love you for it.
But I can’t love you obsessively for much longer.
This season is all I have left to give.
My heart can take the pounding
My mind can handle the grind
But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.

And that’s OK.
I’m ready to let you go.
I want you to know now
So we both can savor every moment we have left together.
The good and the bad.
We have given each other
All that we have.

It’s not coincidental this was announced a couple days before the Lakers travel to Kobe’s hometown of Philadelphia to face the Sixers. Also remember Kobe is an investor in The Players’ Tribune.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver quickly released this statement:

“With 17 NBA All-Star selections, an NBA MVP, five NBA championships with the Lakers, two Olympic gold medals and a relentless work ethic, Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest players in the history of our game.  Whether competing in the Finals or hoisting jump shots after midnight in an empty gym, Kobe has an unconditional love for the game.

“I join Kobe’s millions of fans around the world in congratulating him on an outstanding NBA career and thank him for so many thrilling memories.”

Kobe will go down as one of the game’s all-time greats. Few can come close to his resume: Five NBA titles, two NBA Finals MVPs, 15 time All-NBA teams, one MVP, 17 times an All-Star (and the All-Star Game MVP four times). And we could go on and on.

Good on Kobe for doing this now. After 55,000 NBA minutes his body has quit on him, and where his mind is still willing the flesh is clearly weak right now. He has not been able to adapt his game to the changing realities of what he can do.

Kobe has said he doesn’t want a “Derek Jeter Farewell Tour” but that will be the feel from here on out. Expect some special recognition at the All-Star Game in Toronto.

Ad we’ll all be watching for those flashes of vintage Bryant we have hoped to see more of this season.