Kobe Bryant has never lacked for confidence.
And although his Lakers are three games below .500 and 3.5 games back of the eight-seed Houston Rockets, Kobe is sure the Lakers can make the playoffs. And has no doubt that once there they can do damage. Basically because Kobe has no doubt.
From an interview with Sports Illustrated.
“It’s not a question of if we make the playoffs. We will. And when we get there, I have no fear of anyone — Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Denver … whoever. I have zero nervousness about that….
“But I’m not talking about just me. Us as a group. We will make the playoffs. And we will compete. And part of the reason I have that confidence is the Miami game [a 107-97 loss in Miami on Feb. 10]. We had control of the game. That was no fluke. We were playing very, very well. We were reading the defense, making the extra pass. OK, they have two great players [LeBron James and Dwayne Wade] who scored eight straight buckets and took control of the game. But we were right there. We can do it.”
The Lakers can make the playoffs, and it’s easy to picture that after the way Dwight Howard played and the Lakers as a team against the Celtics Wednesday. But they have not been consistent about that kind of play all season. And that’s the real challenge — the Lakers have started to find a flow an identity, but they can’t afford more setbacks. Or injured shoulders.
The Rockets remain on pace to win 44 games. Just to match that the Lakers would need to go 18-9 the rest of the way — and the Lakers have been on that pace lately, winning six of their last nine. During that stretch it has looked as if they are starting to figure out who they are and what they have to do as a group. They are starting to find an identity.
But they are going to need a sustained level of success we have not seen from them this season. It’s not impossible, but it’s not easy either.
That never stopped Kobe. He’s confident.
Four-fifth of the Chicago Bulls starting lineup this season is locked in: Rajon Rondo at the point, Dwyane Wade at the two, Jimmy Butler at the three, and Robin Lopez at center.
But who starts at the four? Taj Gibson? Nikola Mirotic? Bobby Portis?
Fred Hoiberg isn’t letting anyone know quite yet, via our friend Sean Highkin of The Athletic.
The conventional wisdom has been that Mirotic would get the start because with Rondo/Wade/Butler teams could just pack the paint, clog driving lanes, and force them to shoot jumpers. Mirotic shot 39 percent from three last season and could be a stretch four that opens driving lanes for the three guys who like to slash to the rim. The downside there is defense, which is why Gibson can’t be counted out.
Expect Hoiberg to try a lot of combos trying to figure out what works. That’s what preseason games are for.
It’s cool the 76ers had a baby-sized basketball for Jahlil Okafor to hold.
Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News:
Wait. That’s a regulation NBA ball?
Next summer, Stephen Curry will be a free agent.
With 100 percent certainty, he will be a max player.
With 99.9 percent certainty, he is not leaving the Golden State Warriors, if you talk to other teams around the league.
Still, when he heads to his hometown of Charlotte and a few other spots, he’s going to be asked about it. The topic came up on Tuesday, the first day of Warriors training camp practices, and Curry tried to shoot the idea of him leaving down. Here is the exchange, via Anthony Slater of the San Jose Mercury News.
Are you optimistic about your chances of coming back next offseason?
“Yes,” Curry said.
Kevin faced this a ton last year in almost every city he went. Are you gonna talk to him at all about that, how he handled it?
“Maybe,” Curry said. “But I’m not gonna let it distract me at all. I want to be back here. I like playing here. And that’s it. The rest of it is about what we’re gonna do this year.”
There are a lot of teams hoarding cap space and planning to make a run at free agents next summer, but no teams are setting their sights on Curry as happened with Durant. Where there was a sense around the league Durant wanted to look at his options and could be swayed, that is not the sense with Curry. He’s not going anywhere.
Maybe Curry plays the final couple years of his career back in his hometown of Charlotte, where his father played, but that’s a long ways off. At midnight July 1 next summer the Warriors will offer Curry a five-year max contract, he will sign it, and nothing will change in the Bay Area.
Chris Bosh‘s career with the Miami Heat is over due to recurring blood clots, according to team president Pat Riley. The Heat are ready to move on, although they don’t have many good options.
Chris Bosh wants to prove he can still play, something he reiterated Tuesday in his latest video for The Uninterrupted. “I feel right now that I can still play at that level,” Bosh said in the video.
When asked where he stood on this impasse, former Heat star and Bosh teammate LeBron James had Bosh’s back. Here is his quote, via Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel.
“I stand behind my brother Chris,” he said. “The most important thing is his health. Whatever decision he wants to do, I’m all for it. I support him in every way, shape and facet. It’s a difficult situation for him. I was pretty surprised to hear that the team was just done with him, for them to come out and say that. But it’s not like I’ve been there to know exactly what’s gone on. I’ve only seen it from the exterior. I wish the best for him, he has my support.”
Not sure what else LeBron would say, other than to have his friend’s back.
The resolution to Bosh’s situation is a long way off. The Heat will not play him, he will not retire, and no team is going to give up good players in a trade for a $75.8 million contract where the player may never set foot on the court again. There is going to be some kind of negotiated deal, likely with the league and players’ union pitching in. Nobody is sure yet what that deal will look like, however.