Orlando Magic v Los Angeles Lakers

Kobe Bryant; “I’ll kick everybody’s ass in this locker room” to turn team around

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Kobe Bryant is a little frustrated.

Okay, a lot frustrated. He’s pissed off.

And he should be after the Lakers Swiss-cheese defense was picked apart by the struggling Magic as they beat the Lakers Sunday night. The Lakers problems are not simple — it’s not just Pau Gasol not being comfortable, it’s not just Dwight Howard’s free throws, it’s not just Steve Nash being injured, it’s not just the bench, it’s not just the defense. It’s all of it together.

Kobe’s answer to any challenge is to work harder. That has been the modus operandi of his career and it has worked pretty well. And that is at the core of his rant after the Lakers ugly loss Sunday night, via Joe McDonald at Fox Sports West.

“I’ll kick everybody’s ass in this locker room if it doesn’t happen,” Bryant said after a 113-103 loss to the Orlando Magic at Staples Center. Yes, the 6-10 Orlando Magic. “It’s the attitude you have to have. Metta (World Peace) is the same way. Dwight (Howard) has it in him as well. Even though he smiles a lot, he cares a lot about this. Come hell or high water, this has to get done.”

Howard cares, but he still seems unsure of himself in this setting with this pressure. Insecurity was never Kobe’s problem. Howard needs to pick up that lesson from Kobe.

Bryant’s rant eventually moved on to Gasol and his struggles, with Gasol not feeling comfortable in Mike D’Antoni’s offense and not getting touches in the post. Kobe said he had to put on his “big boy pants.”

“Pau has to make some adjustments, obviously, to his game. He might not be posting up as much as he likes, but he just has to adjust.

“The reality is, I’ve adjusted. I’ve never run this many screen-and-rolls in my entire life. But I’ve worked on it. I’ve worked on handling the ball; worked on coming off screens and making plays. I’m used to being in the post much, much more. You have to adjust; you have to master what it is we’re trying to do here. Pau’s talented enough and good enough to be able to do that.”

Pau is talented enough, but he also was benched the final six minutes of the game (his second fourth-quarter benching under D’Antoni). Which is just going to fuel trade speculation. But the Lakers aren’t moving on that front yet, wanting to see if Gasol adjusts and how things look when Steve Nash returns (which is more than a week away).

Kobe wants that sixth ring. Badly. And with this roster he thinks he has a shot at it. His leadership style is tough love, but with the Lakers struggling expect a lot more tough and a lot less love in the short term.

J.B. Bickerstaff calls Rockets ‘broken team,’ ‘fragmented bunch’

Houston Rockets interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff rubs his head in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Houston. The Wizards won 123-122. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
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Rockets interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff has been unafraid to sharply assess his team.

But after last night’s loss to the Trail Blazers – Houston’s third straight defeat and sixth in eight games – Bickerstaff kicked up the rhetoric even further.

Bickerstaff, via Calvin Watkins of ESPN:

“We’re broken,” Bickerstaff said. “It’s that simple. We’re a broken team, and we all need to use this break to figure out how we’re going to impact change. If we don’t want to impact change, then we need to be made aware of that, too, and we’ll go in a different direction.

“We can’t continue to go out and play this way. It’s easy to see it’s a fragmented bunch. You can’t win that way.”

This is why Dwight Howard is on the trade block. The Rockets are so incohesive, there’s no simple solution in sight. This increasingly looks like a lost season for Houston, which should emphasize future planning – like dealing Howard, who can become an unrestricted free agent at age 30 this summer.

Yet, the Rockets are just a half game from playoff position. They obviously dreamed much bigger when the season began, but at this point, merely making the postseason should qualify as a success.

It’s Bickerstaff’s job to get them there, no matter how unlikely. He has certainly shown little fear in trying, whether it’s giving these quotes or pulling all five starters simultaneously shortly into a game. He’s trying to put his mark on this team.

The players just aren’t responding, not more than periodically, at least. From James Harden down, nobody plays with the requisite focus and energy.

Nothing in Bickerstaff’s assessment is surprising. It’s just surprising he said it so bluntly publicly.

Then again, that’s nothing compared to what veteran Houston guard Jason Terry said. Eric Ringering of 750 The Game:

https://twitter.com/ringering45/status/697664478993756164

Devin Booker to replace Nerlens Noel in Rising Stars at All-Star Weeekend

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker reacts after hitting a 3-point shot against the San Antonio Spurs during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
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Sixers big man Nerlens Noel — who has looked much improved this season once Ish Smith was feeding him the rock on offense — sat out the Sixers game Wednesday night due to tendonitis in his right knee. After he missed his rookie season with knee issues, you can understand why the Sixers want him to be cautious.

Noel is going to sit out All-Star Weekend as well — he had been scheduled to play in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night, but he is going to sit that out and Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns will take his place, the league has announced (Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic broke that story).

Booker has been one of the few bright spots for the Suns this season, averaging 10.6 points a game and shooting 40.3 percent from three.

He will play for the USA in the World vs. USA format of the Rising Stars Challenge (the former rookie/sophomore game, featuring first and second year players).

With Emmanuel Mudiay replacing Patrick Beverley, NBA reveals Skills Challenge bracket

Houston Rockets' Patrick Beverley (2) knocks the ball away from Denver Nuggets' Emmanuel Mudiay (0) in the first half of a NBA basketball game Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in Houston. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
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Out: Defending champion Patrick Beverley.

In: Emmanuel Mudiay Emmanuel Mudiay.

The NBA confirmed the Rockets guard would miss the Skills Challenge and that Mudiay would replace him. The league also release the bracket:

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My picks:

Quarterfinals

Semifinals

  • Isaiah Thomas over C.J. McCollum
  • Anthony Davis over Draymond Green

Final

  • Isaiah Thomas over Anthony Davis

NBA suspends Hassan Whiteside for elbowing Boban Marjanovic’s head

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Hassan Whiteside lost his cool and elbowed Boban Marjanovic in the head Tuesday.

The Heat center received a flagrant 2 and an ejection, and now he’s getting the rest of his punishment.

NBA release:

Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside has been suspended one game without pay for throwing an elbow and making contact with the head of San Antonio Spurs center Boban Marjanovic, it was announced today by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.

The incident, for which Whiteside was assessed a Flagrant 2 and ejected, occurred with 9:35 remaining in the fourth quarter of the Spurs’ 119-101 win over the Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena on Feb. 9.

Whiteside will serve his suspension when Miami plays the Atlanta Hawks on Feb. 19 at Philips Arena.

The suspension will cost Whiteside $8,921. As a result, the Heat – in line to become the first team in NBA history to pay the repeater luxury-tax rate – trim their impending tax bill by $24,534.

More importantly for Whiteside, this will be a strike against him for teams considering offering him a big contract in free agency this summer.