There was a time recently where Kobe Bryant was uncharacteristically racking up assists instead of points, and the Lakers, equally uncharacteristically, were actually winning some games this season.
Near the end of January, Bryant notched 14 assists in a win over the Jazz, another 14 in another win over the Thunder, 11 in a win over the Hornets, followed by nine in a loss to the Suns.
The 48 assists over a four-game stretch was the best of Bryant’s career, which had some in the media marveling at the way Bryant had changed his game to better accommodate the players the Lakers currently have on their roster.
LeBron James, however, isn’t exactly buying into Bryant’s so-called transformation.
LeBron James was asked if he’s buying it that Kobe Bryant has become a distributor. He said “no” and added more.
“Do I buy that?” James said. “No. He told you all before, he’s a scorer. He said it every day, ‘I’m a scorer and this is what I do.’ So I don’t buy it. No. You guys buy it, though. I see how you all go, ’49 assists in four games,’ whatever. You guys are going crazy about that. I don’t buy that. He’s a scorer.’’
Four games is a ridiculously small sample size, especially in a career as storied as Bryant’s, which is now in its 17th season. But those surrounding the Lakers have been searching, somewhat desperately, for anything positive to cling to during what has been a dismal season for the team thus far.
Since that stretch of 48 assists in four games, Bryant has regressed in that category, as expected. He has 25 total over his team’s last five games, including a zero in the Lakers horrific performance in Boston last week.
It’s worth noting that James isn’t simply opining about Bryant without reason — the Lakers come to Miami on Sunday to face the Heat in a nationally televised contest.
Three Things to Know: All-Star starters named, who should be in reserve?
Still, it was mostly the usual suspects and there were no surprises as the NBA All-Star Game starters were announced. They were picked by a vote of the fans (50 percent), players (25 percent), and selected media members (25 percent). Here’s the list.
Remember it is not East vs. West this year. LeBron and Curry, as the top vote-getters, will be the captains and select teammates in a playground-style draft, first from the starters listed above, then from a pool of reserves selected by the coaches to be announced next Tuesday. LeBron chooses first and what is Curry going to do when LeBron goes with Durant?
Picking those reserves is where someone will get snubbed — there is no way to pick just seven players per conference and not leave out deserving guys. Damian Lillard didn’t deserve to be an All-Star starter no matter what he thinks, but is he even an All-Star this year in the loaded West? There must be two backcourt, three frontcourt, and two wild-card selections for each conference. Here’s who I would pick:
2) The Cleveland Cavaliers win… over the Orlando Magic. By one point. After blowing a 22-point lead. “Right now we’re in Strugglesville,” is how LeBron put the Cavaliers right now. He’s right. Cleveland had lost four in a row and was 2-8 in their last 10 coming into this one, but Thursday night they were facing one of the flat-out worst teams in the NBA in Orlando, so easy win? Nope. It took a couple Isaiah Thomas free throws with 11 seconds left — then Elfrid Payton missing a contested layup with a couple of seconds left — to give the Cavaliers a 104-103 win.
Cleveland was up 22 in this one, but once again their defense isn’t good and when the offense isn’t firing on all cylinders they can be beaten by anyone. The Cavs shot 1-of-17 from three in the second half and were outscored by 16 in the third quarter, blowing another good first half effort.
There were bright spots for the Cavs. Derrick Rose returned to the lineup and after missing two months due to a sprained ankle, and he had nine points in 13 minutes on the court. And Isaiah Thomas had a strong night.
However, the play of the night — and maybe the assist of the season — went to LeBron.
3) James Harden returns, Rockets pick up win over Timberwolves. The Houston Rockets picked up a quality win at home over a Minnesota Timberwolves squad that is playing good basketball — and that’s not really the big news out of this one.
James Harden was back and starting for the Rockets. He missed seven games with a strained hamstring and the Rockets went 4-3 without him, which is not bad but they were not the same dominant team. Harden had 10 points and seven assists in limited minutes, and he understandably showed a little rust. His return this fast is a boost for his MVP chances if he can return to form — he and LeBron have been neck-and-neck as the frontrunners for the award this season, and the injury gave LeBron the chance to take charge of the race, but instead the Cavaliers have stumbled badly of late. Harden has a chance to take hold of this race, something that does matter to him.
Finally having Harden and Chris Paul healthy moved Eric Gordon back to his sixth man role and he thrived, dropping 30.
Gordon would be the frontrunner for Sixth Man of the Year, but he started too many games due to injury (half of them, coming into this game). If Paul and Harden can stay on the court, Gordon could repeat as Sixth Man winner.
Elfrid Payton slams chasedown block on LeBron James (VIDEO)
NBA All-Star voting is over, and now we have the results. The starters are in, and what’s left is for us to wait until they announce the teams after they are picked in double secret ceremony.
Of course, the NBA did release the full voting results via their PR website this week, and as such there are some head scratchers. My boy Patrick Redford over at Deadspin did an excellent job rounding up some of the players who got exactly one (1) vote from other players.
The gag here is that these guys presumably voted for themselves.
players who got exactly one all-star vote that was definitely them voting for themselves:
– Nerlens Noel – Gerald Green – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – Mario Hezonja – Kosta Koufas – Cam Payne – Langston Galloway – Luke Kennard