What does Kobe Bryant expect from Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum?

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Kobe Bryant has just about had it with his teammates not showing up, and that’s pretty evident. When he refused to quit and played well with gastroenteritis in Game 6 and his teammates no-showed, you knew there would be consequences. Bryant has come too far and done too much to get that kind of performance from the supporting cast.

And talking to the L.A. Times about Metta World Peace, Bryant let it be known his feelings right now for the rest of the team.

“I expect him to come out and play with the tenacity that he’s known for,” Bryant told reporters after Game 6, a troubling 113-96 loss. “He’s the one guy that I can rely on night in and night out to compete and play hard and play with that sense of urgency and play with no fear. So, I’m looking forward to having that by my side again.”

via Metta World Peace satisfied with conditioning heading into Game 7 – latimes.com.

Ouch.

For his part, Pau Gasol did not take on the responsibility or accept fault. He pretty much just said “Whatever.”

“It’s a comment. It’s an opinion,” Gasol said. “A lot of times opinions are determined by the timing of things. Obviously we’re all happy to get Metta back tomorrow. Hopefully he’ll be a big contrbibutor. I’m glad Kobe relies on him that much.”

via Metta World Peace satisfied with conditioning heading into Game 7 – latimes.com.

Oh, dear.

That’s just awkward.

Look, Gasol’s going to have to live with this. He sulked in Memphis when he wasn’t winning, got gifted to L.A. in a lopsided trade (it working out for Memphis is inconsequential in relation to where the trade stood at the time) and won two titles. He won two titles because of Bryant’s fire and indomitable will, so he’s going to have to live with some vitriol when he fails as spectacularly as he has in this series. It’s a veteran team, you’re supposed to be able to rely on Gasol’s experience in a series like this, and instead, for a second straight year, he’s no-showed.

But what’s maybe most interesting from Bryant is the following quote:

“My type of competitiveness and energy level is not something I expect every guy to have,” Bryant said. “That’s not to say that they don’t have it; it’s just that Metta’s intensity is similar to my own. It’s a simple as that.”

via Metta World Peace satisfied with conditioning heading into Game 7 – latimes.com.

This is pretty amazing revisionist history from Bryant, who has questioned MWP’s performance and commitment throughout his time in L.A. as well, but more important is the first part. The question of whether Bryant really expects everyone to be at his level. For his part, I think he’s being honest. I think if players were to match his intensity, he’d simply become more intense. For Bryant it’s never been about being the best, it’s about beating other people. And there’s a difference there. He’s not just competing against every other team in the league, against his critics, against Michael Jordan, he’s competing against his teammates for who is the most driven on his own team. He wants them to be committed, just maybe not equally so.

But what he doesn’t want is for them to be lazy.

And yeah, Gasol is a target here, but a question has to be asked. Why is Bryant not dragging Andrew Bynum by his earlobe into huddles? Why is he not screaming and glaring at Bynum like he did for so many years to Lamar Odom? Why is he not demanding the same of Bynum he demands of so many? He doesn’t take shots at Bynum, he just says he plans on talking to him. I understand that not every player responds the same way, but Bryant’s never cared about that before. Why is Andrew Bynum different? It’s bizarre to see Bryant giving Bynum the same kid gloves treatment the Lakers organization does. And if he wants to channel his anger somewhere, that’s the first place it needs to go.

 

 

 

Damian Lillard defends Blazers’ coach Terry Stotts on Instagram

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It’s far too early for panic in Portland. This is a team most outside Portland thought would finish a little above .500 and maybe grab one of the back-end playoff spots in the West, and at 9-7 they are on that pace.

But after an ugly Portland loss to Sacramento (just a few games after a loss to Brooklyn where coach Terry Stotts benched center Jusuf Nurkick for most of the fourth), Trail Blazers fans were restless and started to slam coach Stotts on the Trail Blazers’ Instagram page.

I doubt Stotts noticed, but Damian Lillard did and jumped in to defend his coach.

Lillard added this (hat tip Mike Richman at the Oregonian).

“Because people think they know more about what it takes to get things done at this level … For our team than they actually do,” he said. “We’re in this position for a reason. And coach Stotts had two 50-win seasons here and four straight years in the playoffs for a reason –because he knows what he’s doing. They mention … our record is 8-7 and we’re having breakdowns late in games. Well those breakdowns are a missed shot here, a turnover there, a defensive breakdown here, giving up extra possessions, missed free throws. It’s things that players control. If we were down 30 every game, that’s different. But we’re in position to win games. And when it’s time to win games, that’s the players’ job. “

Lillard is loyal to those around him and has had the back of teammates and his coach before.

Lillard and his teammates went out Saturday night and got some revenge on the Kings, winning 102-90.

Portland’s defense has been surprisingly good this season, second best in the NBA. It should have been better with Nurkic in the paint, but this has been a radical turnaround for a team where that end of the floor held them back in recent years. While that lofty ranking may not stick all season, the Blazers are defending.

Now the Blazers are just having trouble scoring efficiently (18th in the NBA), which is a little about a less-efficient Lillard and a rough start on that end for Nurkic.  That end of the court should come around, Lillard and C.J. McCollum are too good for it not to.

 

Teammate spoke to Lonzo Ball about walking away from “fight”

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We see these posturing/shoving matches all the time in the NBA, and they’re pointless. Late in Friday night’s Phoenix win in Los Angeles the Suns called a timeout, then Tyler Ulis and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope got in one a shoving match. As happens, players from both teams raced into the fray to protect their teammate/break it up… except for Lonzo Ball, who looked at it and kept moving along.

I have defended Ball’s actions as mature (he’s right, nothing was going to happen), while others (fans and media) have questioned his leadership for not rushing to stand by teammates, pull guys out of the pile, and having a “band of brothers” attitude.

None of that matters, the only opinions that carry any weight are the ones in the Lakers’ locker room. What did his teammates think? Lakers coach Luke Walton said a teammate did talk to Ball, quote via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

“Someone on our team talked with him,” Walton said after the Lakers’ practice Saturday, without disclosing who it was. “It’s all part of the learning process.”

If his teammates were bothered, then there’s an issue. It’s more about perception than anything, again nothing was happening in that “fight,” but perception matters. It’s a small issue, but an issue. With young players this gets discussed, and everyone moves on.

Ball’s passing and energy on the court are things teammates love. As his game matures — and he eventually finishes better around the rim and, hopefully for him, finds his jumper — and he grows as a bigger threat on the court, his teammates will forget this ever happened. As will fans. But when you play for the rabid (and not always rational) fan base of the Lakers, and when your father invites publicity and with it scrutiny, things get blown out of proportion. Welcome to Lonzo’s world.

Marc Gasol kicks away Clint Capela’s shoe, earns technical

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Midway through the first quarter, Clint Capela literally came out of his shoe trying to move up to set a pick for James Harden. Just stepped right out of it. J.R. Smith wasn’t there to untie the laces or anything.

Capela turned around to go get his shoe, and Memphis’ Marc Gasol showed his soccer skills kicking the shoe away. That earned him a technical foul. Gasol could argue he just wanted to get something he could trip over off the court, but Capela was clearly coming back for it at that point. Gasol earned this one.

Capela retied his shoes and went on to have 17 points and 13 boards in Houston’s 105-83 win over shorthanded Memphis.

Stephen Curry scores 35, Warriors rally to beat 76ers 124-116

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Stephen Curry scored 35 points, Kevin Durant had 27 and the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors overcame a 22-point halftime deficit in a 124-116 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night.

Joel Embiid scored 21 points and Ben Simmons had 23 points and 12 assists for Philadelphia, which led 47-28 after one quarter and 74-52 at the half.

But the Warriors erased that large deficit with a furious rally in the third quarter. Curry’s 3-pointer got them within one point. He then made a pair of free throws to give Golden State a 90-89 lead.

The two-time NBA MVP hit another 3 and Draymond Green blew past a defender for a dunk to make it 99-89 going into the fourth.

A raucous, sellout crowd that chanted “Trust the Process” most of the night went silent while the Warriors put on a shooting clinic in the second half.

Even veteran David West came off the bench and made big shots in the fourth quarter to give the Warriors distance. He finished with 14 points. Klay Thompson had 16.

Embiid was coming off a career-best performance – 46 points, 15 rebounds, seven blocks, seven assists – in a 115-109 win at the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.

He seemed on his way to another monster game in the first quarter. Embiid embraced the frenzied fans and slapped hands with a guy sitting courtside after a dunk.

But the Warriors showed why they’re the best by stifling Philadelphia in the second half to improve to 12-4.

The Sixers, who lost 135-114 at Golden State one week ago, fell to 8-7.

Playing his first game since receiving a lucrative contract extension, Robert Covington had 20 points for Philly.

Back home for the first time following a five-game road trip to the West Coast, the Sixers showed no jet lag in the first half.

They jumped ahead 15-4 following a 3-pointer by Embiid. Covington stripped Durant and hit a 3 to make it 37-18, electrifying the crowd.

Durant’s dunk off Green’s alley-oop pass got the Warriors within 70-51 late in the second. But Embiid finished off the half with a dunk that sent the Sixers into the locker room up 74-52.