Even 1,300 miles away lying in bed, Kobe Bryant was still the story for the Lakers Sunday.
Kobe watched the game just like you did… well, his house is bigger than yours and he had more painkillers in his system than you did (probably). But he watched it on television (recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon) and tweeted about the game, just like I and you and a lot of others did.
Except Kobe’s tweets became the story. Because he’s Kobe.
During the game and during the halftime analysis they showed his tweets. Mike D’Antoni was asked about it after the game even (and said that right now Kobe is “a fan.”)
Kobe’s tweets sounded like the rantings of a lot of frustrated Lakers fans — he wanted the Lakers to pound the Spurs inside.
For Lakers’ fans (and Magic Johnson) who have never taken to D’Antoni — because he’s not who they wanted in Phil Jackson, an issue they should take up with management and not D’Antoni — this was a chance to pile on the coach more.
Thing is, it’s really hard for the Lakers to do what Kobe talks about without Kobe on the court.
These are the San Antonio Spurs we’re talking about, not some pushovers. They are going to take away what you want to do first — they made entry passes to Dwight Howard or Pau Gasol in the post difficult, they didn’t let the Lakers just set up what they want to do. If you’re going to beat the Spurs you have to do it with your second and third options (and as the playoff series moves on those will be more difficult as well).
Kobe was frustrated watching the game (like a lot of Lakers fans).
Kobe was late to the twitter game, just signing up for his account earlier this year, but because of who he is (and because it’s clearly him tweeting and not his PR person) he gained a huge following. Including among the media. He had no idea his 140 character breakdowns would become stories in and among themselves.
But Kobe learns from his mistakes.
Who doesn’t love a good dunk compilation?
Well, somebody probably just said “bah, humbug” but is that the person you really want to hang out with?
The fine folks at NBA.com put together the Top 10 dunks of October and November, and when Rudy Gobert dunking over Kristaps Porzingis is all the way down at 10, you know it’s a good list. Put off starting your Christmas shopping, at least for another 2:44, and watch the video.
Want to watch Chance the Rapper throw dodgeballs at mascots? Of course you do. How is that even a question?
Above you can see just that from Chicago Friday night (where Dwyane Wade, Jimmy Butler and the Bulls knocked off the Cavaliers). Benny the Bull is on his side as well, while the Cubs’ mascot and others try and stay out of the way.
I’ll take this over another kids’ dribbling contest any day.
That’s about the most Spurs play ever.
During the third quarter of San Antonio’s win over Washington Friday night, LaMarcus Aldridge saved the ball from going out-of-bounds on the baseline, he threw it out high to Manu Ginobili, who had to leap and save it from going into the backcourt. Two hustle plays. From there the Spurs whipped the ball around the perimeter, and it ended up back to Aldridge on the baseline, where he nailed the 12-foot jumper.
Eventually, the Spurs would get a Kawhi Leonard jumper to give them the victory.
For a team that is 13-5 and atop the Eastern Conference standings, the Cleveland Cavaliers haven’t been their intimidating selves consistently this season. There have been flashes during a 13-2 start, but mostly they win on talent, or when they flip the switch for a half, but they haven’t looked like a tested team working on building good habits through the first quarter of the NBA season. They have an elite offense, but their defense is surrendering 105.1 points per 100 possessions, 20th in the league.
It’s been worse the last four games. The Cavaliers had to come from behind to beat the Sixers, then got blown out by the Bucks and Clippers. Friday night, Cleveland lost to Chicago, giving the Cavs a three-game losing streak, and LeBron James had enough. He sent a message to his team through the media (from the Associated Press):
“We got to get out of the honeymoon stage,” James said. “You got to play the game, the right way. We’ve got to battle every night like we ain’t won nothing. Last year is last year. After ring night is over with, now it’s a new season and everybody is gunning for us every night and we have to understand that. The honeymoon stage is over. It’s time to play some real ball and be physical, especially in the trenches. Giving up 78 points (in the paint) is ridiculous. We’ve got to man up. Everybody.”
The Cavaliers would be far from the first team to have a championship hangover, and considering the five-decade title drought in Cleveland before that win we should have expected one of those “I can’t get off the couch, I’m just going to lay here and watch golf all day” kind of hangovers. As Gregg Popovich has said before, its human nature to let up after a big win.
However, the blowout loss at the hands of the Clippers Thursday — the only title contending team the Cavs have faced this season — should be a wake-up call. The fact is the Cavaliers are still playing well enough to beat everyone in the East, but their real tests come in the form of the Warriors/Clippers/Spurs out West. Right now it’s hard to picture the inconsistent defense of the Cavaliers lifting them past any of those teams in four out of seven games.
LeBron has been to six-straight Finals for a reason — he does not let up. And he’s going to have to shake this team out of its malaise to get them back to an elite standing.
It’s also the first week of December. It’s we’re having this same conversation the last week of March about the Cavaliers then it’s okay to start looking for the panic button in Cleveland. For now, trust LeBron to be the leader this team needs. Calling them out was just step one.