Lakers starters walk onto the court after a timeout during their loss to the Dallas Mavericks in their NBA basketball game in Los Angeles

Barkley says old, slow Lakers have no shot at NBA title


A few diehard Lakers fans are still clinging on to the hope they could win an NBA title this season.

Why? Why is the team itself still optimistic? Because they still have so much talent, something Kevin Ding explains at the Orange Country Register. That talent hasn’t been healthy or fit together all that well yet, the defense and bench are in question, but the possibility of what that talent could bring keeps title hopes alive in Lakers nation.

Charles Barkley would like to crush those hopes.

He was on The Dan LeBatard Show on 790 The Ticket in Miami and did not mince words when asked if the Lakers could win a title this year (thanks to Sports Radio Interviews).

“None. Zero. Zero chance. I think Oklahoma City, Memphis and the Spurs are the three best teams in the West. I still have my concerns. Everybody is on the Clippers’ bandwagon. I don’t like their half-court offense. I don’t like their free throw shooting. I love Chris Paul. I said it for years. I thought Jason Kidd was the best leader in the NBA. I passed that mantle, in my personal opinion, to Chris Paul, but I don’t like their half-court offense.”

Earlier in the interview Barkley reiterated what he said on TNT — the Lakers look old and slow.

It’s hard to see the Lakers even getting above a six seed after the hole they have dug themselves. They are not catching OKC or San Antonio, and despite Barkley’s concerns they are not catching the Clippers in the regular season either. (I don’t share Barkley’s concerns about the Clippers, but we will see where they are come March and April.) The West is deep with good teams and while I expect the Lakers make the playoffs they have made their playoff road much more difficult.

Barkley sees what we all do out East — the Miami Heat are the best team and look like a force of nature when they are focused. The Knicks have had some backsliding of late and they still might be the most likely second best in the East (maybe if the Pacers get Danny Granger back and Roy Hibbert out of his slump they can step into that role).

League executives, players wince watching this Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant
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Over the last few days, we’ve written in more detail about Kobe Bryant‘s shooting troubles. He’s jacking up threes his fastest pace ever, he can’t create space to get off clean shots, he’s hitting 31.1 percent overall and 19.5 percent from three. There are flashes of vintage Kobe, but they are fleeting (and mostly because poor shot choices are falling). Byron Scott is still in Kobe’s corner, saying they just need to get the veteran better looks.

However, talk to people around the league about Kobe and you hear some variation of the phrase “hard to watch.” After 20 seasons, more than 55,000 minutes on the court, and coming off two major injuries, Kobe clearly is not the same player everyone admired for so long.

Over at the Los Angeles Times Mike Bresnahan and Broderick Turner got a number of sources to wince about Kobe for a story — except nobody wanted their name attached to attacking a legend of the game.

“Man, I don’t want to see Kobe go out like this, looking this bad and not able to do what he once could do,” said a retired guard who faced Bryant. “He doesn’t have anything else to prove to anybody. He was one of the greatest. I know he’s owed that $25 million, but he should just walk away now. He ain’t got it anymore.”

“He’s one of the few players in NBA history to have gotten everything possible out of his body. Now his body has nothing left to give,” (an Eastern Conference executive) said. “But that’s life in the NBA, in professional sports. At some point, the body just can’t do it anymore and Kobe’s body can’t do it anymore.”

One West scout said Bryant looked “disinterested” at times. A current player in the West went a step further.

“Yeah, I’ve seen him play and it’s disgusting,” he said. “He’s one of the best of all time. But he really hasn’t played that much in the last two or three years. He’s got nothing left. It’s sad to watch because he used to be so great, and I mean great.”

Kobe is not going to walk away mid-season, and nobody wants an injury to force him out of the game.

But it’s hard to see how anything is going to dramatically change. Kobe may shoot a little better than his current but it’s not likely going to change in a meaningful way. Which will just make things hard to watch for a full season.

Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver

Manu Ginobili, Harrison Barnes, Tim Duncan
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The Spurs are 12-3 and comfortably in second place in the West, they have the best defense in the NBA allowing just 93.8 points per 100 possessions, and they have a top-10 offense to go with it.

So, time to start making sure guys are rested.

That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.

Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.

What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.

Brandon Armstrong impersonates Ray Allen (video)

2014 NBA Finals - Game Five
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Ray Allen is retired-ish, but he’ll always be running through screens – in our mind and in this video.

Celtics draft pick Marcus Thornton gets beer dumped on head during Australian game (video)

Marcus Thornton, Will Cherry

The Celtics drafted Marcus Thornton with No. 45 pick in the 2015 NBA draft. That essentially entitled him to the required tender – a one-year contract offer, surely unguaranteed at the minimum.

Thornton rejected that, which is almost always a mistake.

Rejecting the tender is a favor to the drafting team, which gets to keep the player’s exclusive rights for a year. If Thornton tries to join the NBA now, he’s stuck negotiating with only the Celtics.

By accepting the tender, the player typically gets one of two outcomes. He either plays on that contract and draws an NBA salary or he gets waived. But even getting waived is better than rejecting the tender, because at least the player becomes a free agent and can negotiate with any team.

Players who reject the tender go to another league and play for less money. In Thornton’s case, that mean Australia.

How’s that going?

(Almost) never reject the required tender as a second-round pick.