Kobe is slowing down. It’s obvious. He’ll be 33 next season and he’s not as explosive as he once was. It is a credit to Kobe that his numbers — shooting percentage, PER, points per game, whatever ones you want — don’t really show the decline. You only see it in that he took 3.5 shots at the rim per game last season, down from 5.1 a game three years ago. Although part of that is last season Phil Jackson cut down his minutes per game to the lowest since his sophomore campaign (but still almost 34 a game).
His knees are low on cartilage. His fingers bend at weird angles. How much longer can he go, performing at a reasonably high level?
About three-to-five years, his father Joe (a Sparks coach in the WNBA) told Mark Medina at the Los Angeles Times.
You can’t put it on age. All players have injuries, even young players have injuries. You learn to deal with pain and you learn how to understand your body. You also understand your game. When you’re a student of the game, a lot of players rely on their athleticism. Once you get older and their athleticism is not there, then you don’t know how to play. But Kobe knows how to play and understands the ABC’s of the game. He understands the scouting report and how players are going to play and he understands his teammates. When you understand the game, it goes back to playing chess. You know how to move the pieces and you know how to move the ball…
All players have injuries. It’s part of it and how he can manage it. He’s been doing a good job with that. Nobody is going to run and jump [like] when they were 18 or 19. It’s impossible for people to think that. As long as he’s enjoying the game and keeps the two seven-footers [Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum], I still think he has three, four or five more years to play at a high level…
The issue is going to be when the media talks, he can’t get 30 [points] anymore, but he’s averaging 25 [points] and five [assists]. The expectations they’ll put on him or say he can’t do anymore, that’s going to be the biggest challenge, dealing with it. The important thing is as long as he’s enjoying the game and enjoying the challenge and still in the race to vie for a championship. That’s motivation enough. If you’re with a team that has no shot at making the playoffs, then mentally you’re going to be down and the energy level isn’t going to be up or you’re going to want to be traded. As long as he’s enjoying the game and it’s a challenge for him, I think he’ll continue to play.
As for what Kobe thinks of new Lakers coach Mike Brown… Kobe’s dad isn’t talking either. But in the end, Brown is the coach and if Kobe wants another ring he has to be on board and everybody has to row the same way or it’s not happening. Kobe knows that, too.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have signed forward Derrick Williams to a second 10-day contract.
The NBA champions have been impressed with Williams, a former No. 2 overall pick, and it’s likely they will sign him for the remainder of the season when his current contract expires. The Cavs announced Wednesday they signed Williams again. He has averaged 9.8 points and 3.0 rebounds in 22 minutes for the Cavs, who have been bringing him off their bench with their second unit.
Before signing as a free agent with Cleveland on Feb. 9, Williams played for Miami this season before being released.
The Cavs returned from the All-Star break Wednesday and will practice before hosting the New York Knicks on Thursday, just a few hours after the trade deadline.
The Hornets are essentially two different teams with and without Cody Zeller.
They’re 22-17 when he plays and 2-15 when he doesn’t. They play at a 62-win pace with him on the floor and a 29-win pace when he sits.
So, with Zeller banged up, Charlotte traded for Miles Plumee. But Plumlee hasn’t provided much, just 3.2 points and 3.8 rebounds in 13.4 minutes per game in five contests.
And now he’ll add even less.
The Charlotte Hornets announced today that center Miles Plumlee underwent a Magnetic Resonance Image (MRI), which revealed a second-degree calf strain in his right leg. Plumlee will be out for Charlotte’s game tomorrow at Detroit and will be re-evaluated in two weeks.
The Hornets incurred significant long-term costs ($37.5 million over the next three years) to use Plumlee as a short-term bandage. Without him providing even that, this situation looks bleak.
Depending on Zeller’s health, this could turn Charlotte — 2.5 games and three teams out of playoff position — into sellers before the trade deadline. At minimum, it makes the Hornets less likely to buy.
The Bulls reportedly reached out to the 76ers about Jahlil Okafor a few weeks ago.
After unfulfilled intrigue and maybe a trade that fell through, Okafor remains in Philadelphia. And Chicago apparently still wants him.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:
As constituted, the Bulls already have a few interior bigs: Robin Lopez, Taj Gibson and Cristiano Felicio. But one or more could go in an Okafor trade or another deal.
Okafor would make the Chicago younger, confusing its direction with Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade already in place.
Perhaps, the Bulls are pushing for a trade only because they’re offering so little. Okafor’s low-post game offers intrigue. At the right price, he’d be worth adding, no matter the fit and direction presented.
Maybe the 76ers don’t go for a lowball offer, but that’d be worth trying considering their center logjam with Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor. Otherwise, Chicago ought to tread carefully when pursuing Okafor.
The 76ers have played like a 64-win team when Joel Embiid and Ersan Ilyasova share the court and a 20-win team otherwise, using data from nbawowy!.
That’s helpful for Philadelphia, which is learning what type of player — a stretch four — works best with its franchise player.
But the Hawks can use more than just a lesson in the idea of Ersan Ilyasova. They can use actual Ersan Ilyasova.
And Atlanta will get him.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:
Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated:
Atlanta stills sound intent on keeping Paul Millsap, so Ilyasova will likely back him up. Ilyasova should work particularly well with Dwight Howard, whose interior play was a key factor in ushering in this stretch-four era by covering for the lighter power forward next to him.
In the last 21 months, Ilyasova has been traded five times: from the Bucks to the Pistons to the Magic to the Thunder to the 76ers and now to the Hawks. They can probably count on the veteran to settle in quickly as they try to improve their position in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff race. Atlanta is fifth, closer to third than sixth.
Both Ilyasova and Splitter have expiring contracts. The advantage of Splitter, who has missed the Hawks’ last 90 games, is that his full compensation counts toward the floor apparently without Philadelphia actually having to play all of his salary.
Plus, those picks could help the 76ers in a season where they can win something meaningful — like the Hawks have decided this season is for them.