Saturday was vintage Kobe… or at least vintage 2012 Kobe.
He looked tired — as he has a lot lately, which is why we have all watched his shooting percentages drop — and started the game 0-for-15 shooting with zero points through three quarters. Yes, you read that right. Zero points on 15 missed shots.
Then he went 3-6 in the fourth quarter, scored 11 points and did this in the Lakers’ 88-85 victory:
For Lakers fans that is a vintage “don’t shoot that Kobe, no, no no no no…. YES!” moment.
He is no longer the Kobe Bryant from 2003. The athleticism has taken a step back but because he is smart and so fundamentally sound he can still get to his spots on the court and hit his shots. He is still a force.
Well, when he feels right. Right now Mike Brown is running him into the ground — only Dwight Howard has played more minutes than 33-year-old Kobe. He’s played more than Kevin Love, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, LeBron James and everybody else with younger legs.
He won’t admit it, but the minutes are clearly wearing Kobe down. You see it in his shooting percentages.
But Kobe’s unwavering self-confidence is still there — miss 15 shots and he is sure the next one will fall. He is sure there is nobody better suited on the planet to take the hero ball last shot. And that confidence, that belief that there is nobody better in the big moments, has upsides like that video above.
He can shoot you out of a game, or he can win it for you. But he always believes it will be the latter. Which is at the heart of what makes Kobe “Kobe.”
Watch Pacers fan boo Paul George during introductions (video)
He told plenty of people – including the Pacers – he planned to leave for the Lakers in the summer of 2018. Even after the Thunder traded for him, George spoke of the lure of playing for his hometown team.
Of course, George also left the door open to re-signing with Oklahoma City. He proclaimed he’d be dumb to leave if the Thunder reached the conference finals or upset the Warriors.
So far, Oklahoma City (12-14) doesn’t even look like a playoff lock, let alone a team capable of knocking off Golden State or reaching the conference finals. So, cue the inevitable speculation.
Rival execs still expect Paul to head for the Lakers in free agency
Do these executives have inside information into George’s thinking, or are they just speculating based on already-available information? Some executives are incentivized to drum up the Lakers threat, because they want to trade for George themselves now. If these executives insist George will leave for Los Angeles regardless, they might pry him from Oklahoma City for less.
There’s also a theory George is hyping his desire to sign with the Lakers so a team would have to trade less for him. That got him to the Thunder for what looked like a meager return (but hasn’t been). It might get him to a more favorable situation before the trade deadline without hampering his next team long-term. Of course, this theory isn’t mutually exclusive with George actually signing in Los Angeles. It could just get him better options to choose from this summer.
Surely, the Thunder are trying to parse all this noise. If their season doesn’t turn around, they should explore flipping George rather than risk losing him for nothing next summer. But they should also be wary that he’ll bolt for Los Angeles at first opportunity just because rival executives predict it.