Kobe Bryant stops practicing with the Lakers. Again.

4 Comments

It was during the Colonel Kurtz-like decent into darkness that was the Lakers play around Christmas that Kobe Bryant decided to do something very Kobe — fight through his knee pain and swelling because he needed to practice with the team again. That knee had kept him from practicing all season but it was no longer going to be an issue, he decided. As if one can just decide that.

The Lakers were lacking energy and cohesion, and practice is where those things are earned, so Kobe returned to push his teammates in practice.

Well, that time is over.

Kobe went back to not practicing with the Lakers Monday, according to Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register. Kobe shot and did some work on the side but was not part of the Lakers intensive practice. Phil Jackson was good with this.

…“it’s time for him to be back” to individual strength training and avoid extra “wearing, tearing on the court.”

“It’s not an issue,” Jackson said. “He has to work with what sustains the effort he can put on the court (in games).”

The Lakers have won four in a row and six out of seven. Sure, those wins primarily have not been against the most stellar competition the league has to offer, but considering the Lakers have lost at home to the Bucks and Pacers and Grizzlies, Lakers fans should just gladly accept the wins with a smile.

The energy is up, so it seems Kobe’s practice return did the job. For now. Next week and through the end of the month Los Angeles will get tested against better teams, then in February there comes the seven game Grammy road trip, which will be the midterm for the Lakers and Kobe’s knee.

Marreese Speights opts out of Clippers contract

Harry How/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Clippers are unraveling.

Of course, whether they can re-sign Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are the big questions. But they also must deal with smaller matters in free agency – like Marreese Speights.

Speights will opt out, his agent tweeted:

The Clippers will hold Speights’ Non-Bird Rights (technically a form of Bird Rights), allowing them to give him a starting salary up to $2,540,346 without using cap space or the mid-level exception.

The 29-year-old Speights, a stretch five who takes charges, fits the modern NBA. He could probably get more if he seeks it.

The Clippers won’t have cap space unless they lose Paul and Griffin, and at that point, re-signing a veteran like Speights is of little use. So, it would likely require the taxpayer mid-level exception or Speights taking a discount to keep him.

Luc Mbah a Moute can and likely will also opt out, and he’ll fall in the same Non-Bird situation. The Clippers would likely prioritize their mid-level exception for him – if it’s enough for either player.

Keeping Paul and Griffin is of the utmost importance, but that’s not the Clippers’ only challenge. Even if they keep those two stars, assembling even a decent supporting cast will difficult. Possibly losing J.J. Redick is the main issue there, but handling Speights’ and Mbah a Moute’s roster spots will also be pivotal.

Warriors struggle to get Zaza Pachulia’s 2017 NBA Finals hat on his big head (video)

Leave a comment

Zaza Pachulia became the villain of the Western Conference finals when he injured Kawhi Leonard and torpedoed the Spurs chances of upsetting the Warriors.

But his teammates stood by him – then shared this fun moment with him after Golden State won the West.

Reporter asks Spanish-speaking Manu Ginobili whether he just announced retirement (video)

Leave a comment

Manu Ginobili received an emotional sendoff in the Spurs’ season-ending – and maybe Ginobili’s career-ending – loss to the Warriors last night.

The postgame press conference featured a lighthearted moment when, after the Argentinian guard answered a couple questions in Spanish, an American reporter – not wanting to miss big news – asked whether Ginobili had just announced his retirement.

No, Ginobili assured the reporter. He says he plans to take a few weeks to consider his options.

Warriors make most dominant playoff run ever to NBA Finals

5 Comments

Moses Malone famously predicted the 76ers team would go “”Fo’, Fo’, Fo'” in the 1983 playoffs, sweeping all three rounds in four games. Philadelphia didn’t quite do it – sweeping the Knicks, beating the Bucks in five then sweeping the Lakers for the title.

Thirty-four years later, an NBA team went “”Fo’, Fo’, Fo'” for the first time.

Golden State swept the Trail Blazers, Jazz and Spurs in four-game series. But with an extra playoff round, the Warriors’ 12-0 run merely gets them to the Finals.

It’s the ninth undefeated run to the Finals, third since the league adopted four playoff rounds in 1984 and first since the first round became best-of-seven. The Lakers went 11-0 in the playoffs en route to the Finals in 2001 and 1989.

By winning an extra game and outscoring opponents by 16.3 points per game, Golden State now claims the most dominant postseason run to the NBA Finals ever.

Here are the top paths to the Finals, with Finals results, by playoff…

Record (point difference per game in parentheses):

image

Point difference per game (record in parentheses):

image

This doesn’t guarantee Golden State a championship. The Cavaliers (10-1, +11.9) are on track for an elite run to the Finals themselves, and they have LeBron James.

But the Warriors put ridiculous expectations on themselves by signing Kevin Durant to join a 73-win team featuring Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. I’m unsure a Golden State title this year will be properly appreciated, but so far, the Warriors are doing all they can to clear a bar set unreasonably high.